Tag Archives: LGBT

CARLTON WILBORN STRIKES A POSE

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In 1990, Madonna’s back up dancer Carlton Wilborn seemed to be on top of the world. He appeared in videos like “Vogue”, danced on the Blond Ambition Tour (the most iconic in Madonna’s 30+ year career) and was featured prominently in its behind the scenes documentary, Truth or Dare. This groundbreaking film set the precedent for the reality shows of today.

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Carlton became a fan favorite – meeting Madonna’s daring challenges on and off stage. He played along, but it wasn’t all fun and games. Carlton was secretly living with HIV – and he didn’t want his status to affect what people thought of him. More importantly, while others on the tour were living it up, he worried about his health. Fearing he might get sick, he worried if his body was going to hold up against a grueling schedule that entailed traveling around the world and performing shirtless in the rain.

25yrs later, Carlton along with the surviving dancers are the subject of the documentary Strike a Pose which premieres tomorrow on Logo – 9/8c.  The film is a dramatic tale about overcoming shame and finding the courage to be who you are.

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In 1990, I  was in high school and as a major Madonna fan, I knew all of the dancers’ names. Like Carlton, I had a secret; I was struggling with my sexual identity. Back then, there weren’t many images of gay men portrayed in the media – I identified with the dancers. They provided me an image of what a gay man could look like – Madonna’s dancers were beautiful, masculine and had killer bodies. They made me feel like I was OK.

Carlton went on to join Madonna on her 1993 tour The Girlie Show. He also enjoyed success as an actor and author. But in spite of his success, he was dealing with deep personal issues like the aftermath of being an abused child, sexual identity and sex addition. Carlton made a decision to seek help and to confront his demons head on by tapping into his higher consciousness though various teachings of spirituality and faith.

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Carlton shifted his energy toward helping others by working as a life coach. When I caught up with him to discuss his journey, he said, “Starting my training at Kabbalah was really my first structured personal development work. It came on the heels of “M” – she knew I was going through some things. She was taking classes at the time and through her encouragement; I joined her. I ended up staying with it on my own for a couple of years. I’ve learned the importance of taking ownership of where one’s life is. I’ve finally gotten to a place where I am courageous enough to celebrate Carlton! In our lives, we are given so many tools and if you can’t take that shit and make it work – there’s a problem.”

Through his books and Danceformation teaching system, Carlton hopes to reach the young LGBT community – who he feels “culture does not lend itself to areas of self-improvement or spirituality.” http://www.mydanceformation.com

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I AM MICHAEL

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“I Am Michael”  directed by Justin Kelly and Executive Produced by Gus Van Sant filmed in 2015 made the rounds on the film festival circuit winning rave reviews at Sundance. Two years later, the film earned a distribution deal.  The true story based on Michael Glatze, a former LGBT advocate and San-Francisco based editor of the gay magazine XY, abandons his “homosexual” lifestyle to become a Christian pastor.

We  hear stories about men living heterosexual lifestyles who engage in DL activities or leave their families for the same sex. But rarely to do we see the flip side. James Franco plays Michael with ease. His performance as a gay man in a relationship who enjoys partying and threesomes is comfortably effortless.

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Franco’s partner played by Zachary Quinto  is his support system and biggest cheerleader. However,  Michael is never satisfied. He seems to want more out of life and has a deep desire to help gay youth on a grad level. He wants to change the world.

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Michael is neurotic often having panic attacks. He lives in constant fear  he will die of a heart attack. Due to a health scare, Michael turns to prayer. One is left  to assume he thinks God saved him. Michael becomes obsessed with reading the bible. He seems lost; you can see it in his eyes.

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As Michael rejects his former life, he is deeply conflicted with feelings of lust for other men. That doesn’t stop him from marrying a fellow bible student played by Emma Roberts. She accepts  him and his past. Their chemistry feels awkward, somewhat forced.

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I don’t know if Michael truly becomes “heterosexual” – the point being it doesn’t matter. “I Am Michael” is about removing labels and  self discovery.  A topic Franco embraces with delight.

“I Am Michael” is showing in select theaters and is available on iTunes and OnDemand.

Tyler Glenn’s Ex-Communication

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The title of gay icon has largely been owned by female pop divas like Beyonce, Britney, Madonna, Mariah and Gaga. Well, that’s about to change. Neon Trees frontman Tyler Glenn just dropped the gay anthem “G.D.M.M.L. GRLS” (God Didn’t Make Me Like Girls). The third single from his up-coming solo debut album Ex-Communication, due out November 11th.

Tyler is digging deep and bearing all – owning his journey on the deeply autobiographical release. Openly gay artist rarely offer a personal perspective, tending to lean on sexually ambiguous themes and imagery. The gay male voice virtually non-existent in pop music.

Tyler, a Mormon, questioned a religion that ultimately does not accept who he is. Tyler struggled with sexuality and tried to adapt to the expectations of the Church, family and friends. When he came out as gay, he experienced an ex-communication of sorts. Glenn dedicates half the album to this difficult time and the other half on a relationship with a cheating boyfriend. A relatable experience for many gay men.

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With lyrics like “I’ve been freaking out, Cause I can’t keep it up and I’m scared.” “I tried to kill myself and I’m not the only one.”  Glenn unapologetically writes from the heart. Tyler is using his star power to advocate for self love and to shine light on the high rate of LGBT suicides among Mormon youth. Glenn’s new music is a bold and noble act of gay empowerment.  Check it out!

http://www.tylerglennmusic.com

Photos via Tyler Glenn Twitter: @tylerinacoma 

Mother, May I Sleep With James Franco?

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My New Years resolution was to work with James Franco. I wasn’t sure in what capacity, but I was determined to manifest it. About two months later, I read in Variety, James Franco was producing a remake of the 1996 cult classic  Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?  The orginal starred a teenage Tori Spelling involved in a dangerous love affair with a guy who turns out to be an obsessed psychopath (Ivan Sergei).

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20yrs later, the Lifetime updated classic features Tori Spelling as a mom,  her daughter Leah (Leila George) is seduced by a lesbian vampire. What campy fun!

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I saw a notice on LA Casting that production was looking for people with upscale Halloween costumes for an upcoming scene. I jumped at the opportunity. I ransacked my closed and this is the best I could come up with.  I submitted several photos and with much delight – booked the job!

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We filmed the following Saturday night at Griffith Park. As I stood on my patio, I stared at the Hollywood Hills. I was satisfied to know Mr. Franco was waiting for me.

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When I arrived, I went through hair and make up. Shortly after, a PA took me and the rest of the background talent to set. We were given our marks. I was placed next to the DJ with cocktail in hand. I looked straight ahead and Mr. Franco appeared through the slits in my skeleton mask. My heart began to race. He looked at me and took notice. I could have died and gone to heaven.

I had a blast dancing the night away knowing Mr. Franco was watching on the monitor. I did whatever I could to catch the attention of the camera. I danced with men, women and a little person.  James came out from behind the camera to give direction to his cast of Night Walkers. He walked next to me as he instructed the girls how to creep into the room. Our arms rubbed against each other.

James Franco appeared nothing like his wild Instagram persona. He was the quiet professional – completely focused. He is handsome and confident but looks like he needs a vacation. I’d be happy to join.

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During a break, I spotted Tori Spelling standing to my left near the buffet table. She wore a white dress with pink feathers in her hair! This was another surreal moment: I grew up watching Tori on 90201!! And now…I was working with her?? Wait, what!!? She’s an icon in my book.

Next up, a pivotal scene. Tori rushes out of the party to look for her daughter. The AD placed me right behind her. When Tori reached her mark, I was instructed to swing open the door, run and rip off my mask to investigate the screams. In dramatic fashion, I complied take after take. You will have to watch to find out what happens next….It’s not pretty.

When I got home that night, as I lay in my bed. I thought I had been dreaming. In a way, I was.

Dreams really do come true…

Here’s a clip – see if you can spot me!

Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? is currently showing on Lifetime and is available OnDemand.

ICE T’s Transphobic Tweet

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I got into a riff with rapper Ice T this morning over an insensitive transphobic photo posted on his Twitter account.

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Transgendered Americans are being subject to hateful anti-trans bathroom laws, are combating discrimination and are even being murdered. This type of behavior is totally irresponsible and dangerous.  Myself and a handful of others called him out. His response to one follower, “fuck you.” I would post the tweet, but he blocked me.

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Everyone is entitled to think what they want and view the world as they see fit. A person in the public eye has a bit more responsibility to set an example. There seems to be a trend that being “PC” is uncool; that people are too sensitive. I wonder how he would respond if someone posted a hateful tweet, about his gender, race or identity? One does not have to support the Trans movement, but don’t mock it either.

***I was informed this morning the tweet has been since removed from Ice T’s Twitter page. The purpose of writing about the incident is to educate and raise awareness.  I mean no ill will towards Ice T – I only ask he be more sensitive because the seriousness of the issue.

Exclusive: Richard Simmons Is Fine!

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Richard Simmons wants you to know he is just “fine!” For 40yrs, the flamboyant ball of energy has motivated thousands of people around the world to lose weight and live their best lives possible.  At 67yrs old,  Richard is taking a much needed break from the public eye. When you give so much of yourself sometimes you need to slow your roll to honor yourself and your body.  As a public servant and advocate for healthy living, Richard is doing just that.

Rumors have surfaced Richard is being held against his will by staff members at his Hollywood Hills mansion. Friends have expressed deep concern since Richard has seemingly cut off those closest and has not been seen at a public event since 2013. TMZ reported police were even sent to his estate but found nothing out of the ordinary.  http://www.tmz.com/2015/12/17/richard-simmons-disappeared/

simmons_gatePhoto: Andy Martino

I too have been concerned. I don’t know Richard personally but I’ve been a fan for years. I can still remember dancing to my parents Sweatin’ To The Oldies VHS tape in our living room. And let’s not forget those Deal A Meal commercials. 🙂

Before celebrities were outed for being gay by bloggers like Perez Hilton, Richard was the biggest cheerleader for being your true self without having to identify who you sleep with. He was and continues to be an inspiration to me.  I was beyond ecstatic when Richard and I became friends on Twitter also around 2013.  He would often send me words of encouragement. Those would also come to a stop, raising my suspicions that something was wrong.

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I reached out to Richard’s publicist Tom Estey and he assured me, “Richard is fine and enjoying his time away from the public eye while still tending to his flock on a daily basis. His desire to live a more private life for a while in no way will affect his desire and need to help others.”

That is great news – sometimes what we perceive as “wrong” is the right thing for others. It is important to respect peoples’ privacy. Richard’s businesses are doing well, and if he wants to run the show from behind the scenes that is his prerogative! If he has a change of heart, we will be here to embrace him with open arms.

 

Straight Up

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More and more, I am finding myself less attracted to gay men with eyes focusing on the straight ones. I gave up chasing after straight guys in college after one left me with a broken heart. But I am finding myself fantasizing about walking down that road again and reminiscing about the one that got away…

“Jeff” stood in the doorway and held his hand in mine. He pulled me closer and gave me a gentle kiss on the lips. I looked at him and said, “I want more,” and he kissed me harder before returning to his dorm room across the hall. In that moment, everything was perfect. The young man I desired for two years was mine – if only for a fleeting moment.

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The next day, he avoided me. I understood, but my heart was crushed. I had never been in love or had anyone I cared about feel the same. Now that I had experienced it, I had to let it go. He was graduating in two weeks and was set to marry his long time girlfriend.

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I first spotted “Jeff” on a typical snowy day in the art building on the SUNY Oswego campus. He had an athletic build, olive skin and the most beautiful crystal blue eyes. It was love at first sight. Fortunately, the art department was small and getting to know each other would be unavoidable. We shared a night class and slowly became friendly.

The following semester, I studied in London. While I was away, “Jeff” began to hang out with one of my girl friends. I was filled with jealously, but when she wrote he had asked about me, I melted with excitement about returning to campus. Being somewhat of a stalker, I got ahold of a floor plan and moved in a few doors down the hall from where “Jeff” would be living. I was determined to get to know him better. I wasn’t aware of his sexuality and I didn’t care. It was about what I wanted.

Soon enough, we become buddies. As we grew closer, my feelings deepened. I was a shy virgin and could not express my longing. It killed me to learn he had a fiancee. While I wasn’t sure what our relationship was, we clearly had chemistry. People began to notice how happy he would act around me – almost giddy.

The night of the kiss, he drunkenly whispered that he had kissed a boy once. I said, “I’ve kissed a girl” too. With that, we laughed. I asked him if he loved me. His response “I lust for you!” I wanted him to love me, but his admission of lust was validation for what I had suspected. I said, “You don’t love me just a little?” – He nodded “yes”. We walked home from the local bar silently that night, until we reached my room and shared our first and last kiss in the doorway.

18 years and numerous heartbreaks and disappointments later, I am still looking for love. I thought moving to West Hollywood would be an opportunity to throw myself into a new dating pool, but I am seeing only the same stereotypes I found in New York. When I walk down Santa Monica Blvd., go to gay bars or cruise online, I am again confronted with the bear, the otter, the muscle head, the steroid queen, the fashionista, the coupled, the partnered, partiers, leather daddies and self proclaimed “pigs.” I may get heat for making such generalizations, but I am turned off by the options available.

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Recently, I’m finding myself again increasingly drawn to straight men. I perceive straight men as being self-confident without trying hard to fit in. Straight men seem to have it all and appear able to do what they want. These days, straight men can be sensitive, sport a man bun, get mani/pedis and be fashionable without forgoing a sense of sexuality identity. Perhaps it’s simply the forbidden fruit syndrome? Maybe we should just stop putting labels on ourselves?

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I’m not giving up.  At the end of the day, you never know when love will strike – it just happens and it could be with anyone. Love does not discriminate. As for “Jeff”, last I heard he got divorced. The struggle is real.

Equality In Hollywood. Just Kidding.

empirePhoto: Fox (Empire). Openly gay actor Jussie Smollett as Jamal Lyon (left). 

For decades, Hollywood has unequally represented the LGBT community. Today even with prominent LGBT characters popping up this season on Fox’s Empire and Scream Queens there is a lack of LGBT characters being represented on television. According to GLAAD’s annual Where We Are On TV report, “there are only 35 LGBT characters being represented, compared to 881 Straight characters.”

As a new gay actor in Hollywood, I’ve discovered not only is there an imbalance of LGBT vs. straight roles, it can be totally confusing figuring out which roles to go for. For example, while combing through countless casting notices that read “30-40yr old males to play role of dad.”  I ask myself, “would I be believable as a heterosexual dad?” I usually breeze over these notices, I automatically think, the “dad” is straight. But in reality, he could be gay too OR be equally played by a gay man!

Although the numbers are stacked against me,  I booked several jobs working as an background actor. For one job, the Casting Director  asked “if I was comfortable” playing gay. I chuckled and  thought to myself “I have no issue with being type cast.” In fact, I welcomed it.

We ended up shooting an additional scene that day and to my surprise, I was paired with a female to portray a heterosexual couple on a date. For some reason, it gave me an odd sense of feeling validated — to think the Assistant Director saw me as straight. Yes, I have the ability to transform, this is acting. However, I questioned why I felt surprised by being cast in the role. I often wonder if straight actors playing in gay roles ask themselves similar questions?

Nick Jonas who played two gay characters on TV this year, recently told USA Today that he doesn’t consider “whether the character is gay or straight, but about what the story is and what the audience is going to get out of it.”

Nick-Jonas-Careful-What-You-Wish-For-capaPhoto: Fox (Scream Queens), Nick Jonas. 

Well said, but there seems to be a double standard.  If a heterosexual actor portrays an LGBT character they are referred to as “courageous.” On the flip side, if a gay actor plays straight they are rarely referred to as “brave.”

Actor Milo Ventimiglia (who took his first LGBT role at age 18), has spoken on the topic. While disucussing his gay following and playing LGBT roles, Milo once told The Advocate a producer said, “It’s very brave of you to consider something like this.” Ventimiglia challenged this notion and replied, “Why? It’s a great role.” “I tend to lean toward a good role despite any stigma that’s possibly attached to it.  The fact that people are still worried about stuff like that just baffles me.”  Milo is right, it is baffling!

Milo-VentimigliaPhoto: Fox (Gotham), Milo Ventimiglia. 

Although there is an imbalance in roles and stereotypes to combat, I’m learning to remain open and not to let anyone’s perceptions (including my own) stand in the way of pursing my dreams. Hopefully, we will continue see our lives equally reflected in the future.

GLAAD’s CEO & President, Sarah Kate Ellis notes, “We’ve witnessed tremendous progress in television since GLAAD began tracking the presence of LGBT characters 20 years ago, but there is still a great deal of work to be done and many new and exciting stories to be told. We will continue to applaud networks and streaming services telling these stories – and hold their feet to the fire when they don’t.”

GLAAD’s full 2015-2016 Where We Are On TV report: http://www.glaad.org/whereweareontv15

Jody Watley Keepin It Real: Exclusive Interview

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I still remember hearing “Don’t You Want Me” and “Looking for a New Love” blasting out of car windows in Brooklyn. Jody Watley was on fire with a self-titled solo album that infused R&B, Pop and Dance.  The 1988 “Best New Artist” Grammy winner’s musical style, fashion sense and artistry remains not only relevant but serves as an point of  reference to artist of the day like Rihanna and Solange Knowles.

Jody Watley’s independent creative spirit has taken her full circle, relaunching the group that kick started her over 30yr career. But before reaching global success, an ambitious teenaged Watley landed a spot as a dancer on the television show Soul Train.  As her popularity grew, she was selected by Soul Train creator Don Cornelius to join the hit R&B group Shalamar.

jodywatley_shalamar_1977_fierce_originalJody Watley makes her mark as original female lead with Gary Mumford and Jeffrey Daniel in 1977.

Today, with a Shalamar reboot and multiple creative collaborations underway, I had the privilege to sit down with Jody to discuss her incredible journey.

Was it always your intention to perform music?

Yes. I’m thankful for being prepared for the opportunity when it came in the form it did – Soul Train was the right show for that moment through Don’s vision as well as his vision to create Shalamar and ask me to be a part of it. I’d been preparing for it since I was a little girl dancing and singing in the mirror in my Mom’s high heels and fabulous clothes. Being onstage with music legend Jackie Wilson, my godfather, who brought me onstage.  Yes, I was born to do this, despite being very shy. Music is a gift in my life – it’s a gift to all of us…even those who don’t have aspirations like this…I can’t imagine life without music. For those who have no idea what Soul Train was – as an iconic show in television history – head to Youtube!

By 1987, it was clear you arrived. Your solo debut alum “Jody Watley” became a huge success. Were you surprised or did you feel like you were poised for something great?

Yes, I was surprised…I thought Terence Trent D’Arby would win the Grammy because he was offered a performance slot and was more embraced by critics. I feel it was my blessing and reward for stepping on faith – from a successful group, just to be happy is what I’ve always said – and get control over my life.  Everyone said I would fail. There was an article written back then that said my future would be questionable or up in the air.  Winning the Grammy was a sucker punch to the doubters – some are still bitter about it.  People have no idea what I was actually going through at the time. That win was everything. I know some still hate me for it to this day, which is their problem, not mine. I’m thankful to the executive who put me on the ballot in that slot and that the rules at the time made me eligible. It was a first glimpse at who Jody Watley really was…despite being in Shalamar for 6 years.  Nothing will ever make me NOT believe in myself. I know there is a force always with and within me.

The entertainment industry can be surreal – can you share any “pinch me is this really happening” moments?

Surreal – and shady (laughs out loud).  Every day that I’m doing what I love, being onstage, receiving love from strangers. Most recently, getting mistaken by the paparazzi for Diana Ross in Beverly Hills – that was surreal. They got a tip there was a black woman with big hair buying groceries. I laughed about it. I loved her growing up and she told me she was a fan of mine when I met her some years ago – that was a moment! Being followed on Twitter by Depeche Mode – totally awesome. Erykah Badu telling me how I was an inspiration…there are so many…I’m grateful for the journey and still having a blast on my own terms, soul and enthusiasm intact.

The super stylish video for 1989’s “Real Love” was directed by the famous film director David Fincher.  What was it like collaborating with David?

Awesome. I told him I wanted to do a fashion video come to life – put me on the runway! He nailed it. It’s cool to know you collaborated with someone before everyone else discovered their brilliance. The thing about me that some miss is although I was a dancer, my videos weren’t built around that. No one could copy me. It was more about the style, attitude, giving face to the camera…mixed in with some freestyle…but nothing choreographed. I’ll have my Kanye moment and say to this day – few videos touch mine from that period. I laugh and say ‘You beta work Ms. Jody” and  I mean, “Still a Thrill” in Paris, France…no black girls were giving that…and still not…it’s like Grace Jones doesn’t get the props she deserves as a trailblazer and neither do I…but it’s cool because it’s not really about that…the people that know – know.

Back then, “your look” was unique in that you mixed vintage and street styles with high fashion. And let’s not forget those signature large hoop earnings. How did you develop your sense of style?

I think I’m still unique – there’s only one Jody Watley, (laughs). I’ve just always wanted to be authentic – be myself and that how I stood out especially at that time. I didn’t want to be another run of the mill R&B singer. Pushing the fashion envelope not the sex envelope was my thing – attitude and style. My first influences were my parents – both very flamboyant yet chic. My mom was the first woman I saw wear dolman sleeves when I was little and I remember it vividly. My Mom always had Vogue and Harper’s in the house..so fashion was in my bones. At one time I also wanted to be a designer. But I’ve been blessed to be able to be my own stylist, designer, etc..writer, business owner – I told my Mom at 5 I was going to have my own modeling school. It’s not a modeling school, but I run my own business.  So to everyone, I say dream big and keep adding dreams and goals and going after them.

What I love about your video “Friends” is that it takes place in an all-inclusive club – straight, gay, and transgender people, of all races, body shapes. What made you want to project this imagery?

Again – just wanting to be authentic. The type of club I would go to all types of people serving and living in the music. My label at the time was very concerned about having drag queens, (underground NYC icon Connie Girl), a transgender (RIP Codie Ravioli) and all of the various real people that were assembled. I fought for the collaboration. I never liked hiring models to portray a role – give me the real thing. My friend Tyrone Procter who appeared in my “Still A Thrill” video helped me coordinate it – filmed in New York by first time video director Jim Sonzero. I think it was a quietly ground-breaking video – it was about acceptance and all people partying together, b–boys, hip hop (Eric B & Rakim) invited their crew. As well I was wearing Gaultier couture…that I personally flew to Paris to get after seeing the runway wrap up on Style Elsa Klensh! No stylist, that’s what also separated me from others.

While it’s important to reflect on our past, let’s talk about the evolution of your music. You have done everything from R&B, Pop, Dance to Jazz. Do you have a favorite?

No – I love it all and the fact that I’ve never been hung up on making hit records. I realized I’m a true artist in that I’m willing to venture off of the expected path creatively and always do what makes me happy and fulfilled. There is no failure in trying and going for it. I’m proud of the continued diversity of my work after all of these decades and those that continue to follow know that…others never evolved with me. That’s common, and I understand that aspect as well. I’d like to mention recent collaborations with Dam-Funk, I’m a guest vocalist on his new collection “Invite The Light” on a song called “Virtuous Progression.” As well French Horn Rebellion’s “Dancing Out” and “Cold Enough” which is a fresh take on 80’s synth pop – lighthearted and fun. I’m also on the new Teddy Pendergrass “Duets of Love and Soul” re-imagining some of his greatest hits. I recorded a song with Groove Armada as well, though that project didn’t end up coming out. We hope to do something together in the future.

Speaking of evolving sounds, on “Midnight Lounge” (2001) you dove into electro-pop. How did you arrive there?

I was inspired by the underground music scene starting with 4hero’s ‘Two Pages’ from the UK…seeing how formulaic and corporate pop/r&b was becoming..I didn’t want to be chained to that and ‘Midnight Lounge’  was a product of that. It’s probably my best critically received record…which was cool. 

By the way, I first heard “Midnight Lounge” on one of my first visits to LA – I purchased it at Virgin and played it in my friend’s car. Later on, while in a parking garage, there was a small earth quake! I never experienced one, it was scary but we turned on the car and continued listening. I felt at ease – true story!

Awesome! It’s a very chill record and one of my best as a full length – and good vibes so I’m glad it put you at ease! If people don’t know it – I hope they continue to discover it.

Last year, you returned to the dance floor with the EP “Paradise” and the lead single “Nightlife” – The music sounds current yet classic Jody Watley. Is that what you set out for?

Yes – finding a way to bring my love of dance / electronica the best of it, with classic disco soul which is where I began as an artist – how to make it work. I love it. ‘Sanctuary’ is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written and recorded and that says a lot because all of my songs are so special to me…early on no one realized I was a songwriter as well…writers always want to make women in music someones ingenue – and I’ve never been that. With the craziness, violence, and hatred so prevalent today – ‘Sanctuary’ has taken new meaning for me…in the midst of encouraging others to be fabulous (whatever that might mean to someone) and living life ‘today’, get out of the rut one might be in..inner Paradise…it’s in the music…how you feel within – loving yourself…creating an environment of love…it begins at home…within you and us all – and where we go after a long day, a trying day….a safe place for our children to those who have them…for ourselves, in our relationships and so on.

‘PARADISE’ will be re-released through Spectra Music Group with new artwork, track listing and a previously unavailable song, so it’s temporarily unavailable digitally now.

You have influenced many pop stars of the day but is there anyone on the pop scene or elsewhere who inspires you?

Thank you for the acknowledgement. There are more underground artists I’ve gravitated to like Little Dragon, Foreign Exchange, Bonobo, Andreya Trias, Erykah Badu is also really awesome to me – though not a pop star, she’s always intriguing and doing her own thing. I respect that “damn what people think” attitude – that’s what being an artist is. I think FK-Twigs is cool, outside the box which the UK allows more so than here in the States. It’s too bad we can’t have an American singer / artist like Adele get that global support.  A similar artist trying to get signed here to do the same style would struggle to get support. People tell me all the time Solange Knowles reminds them of my early solo years which is cool. In the commercial pop realm, I like Rihanna and have bought her records – if I were still doing commercial pop/r&b I would love to duet with her – the video would be hot – fashion fabulousness – she does high low style very well and always changes it up visually as well as her music. I love that…my niece who just turned 21 and a few others said especially the imagery for her new record and a few others seemed to be inspired by Jody Watley.

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I see my influence a lot.  Even if the artists don’t know where it came from, their stylists do. It’s especially cool to see all of the artists get featured in fashion magazines, and cover features..that door was opened a little wider by me…with early features in Harper’s Bazaar, RollingStone, Vogue.  When I did first-of-their-kind celebrity ad campaigns like GAP,  I had to fly myself to the sessions because the label was like who cares about fashion magazines and ads for jeans? What does that have to do with selling records?  I think they found out!  I pitched a fashion line back then that was met with a collective of blank stares. So, to the girls today I say – the time caught up, so YES, do it, do it all.  So many opportunities are now available if you’re smart or have savvy people working with you. You don’t even need big hit records anymore – just a lot of blog coverage, who are you dating or sleeping with that’s famous, who’s beefing, who’s making the most money, who got married and how much he’s worth…those are the things that grab attention most times now. Celebrity stuff…and the gatekeepers of the industry decide whose turn it is.  But that’s another story!

I’m inspired by life, art, the sky…real people just doing their thing.  A lot of things people take for granted, a flower in bloom, the sound of laughter, a banging house record. I’ve taken up coloring again, adult coloring I guess it’s called. It’s therapeutic!  I’m currently working on an art deco fashion book. I love to cook and I’m also inspired by that.

What’s up next for Jody Watley?

I became the trademark owner for Shalamar.  Shalamar was always a place for new talent to emerge, so that’s what I’m doing with Shalamar Reloaded today.  The male lead Nate Smith has his own style and Rosero McCoy is a renowned choreographer.  They’re both the full package –  singers and dancers who look good and fit into the now. We’ll be building something new and not just pimping the past. I never want to do what I’ve already done. This was unexpected…but life brings things to us we weren’t looking for – but it feels perfect. You have to be open to the guiding hand of the universe. Maybe because in high school I never got to hang with the hot boys – and now I do at this stage in my life. Thank you universe! But like I said – most of all they are fun to be around – we laugh a lot and genuinely enjoy each other onstage and off. What a gift that is.

1442268235Jody with Shalamar Reloaded’s Nate Smith (left) and Rosero McCoy (right). 

The video for our current single ‘SlowDance’, directed by new film talent Damien Sandoval – it’s so beautiful, cinematic and modern. On the fashion front, I’m featuring vintage Junya Watanabe denim and vintage Gaultier.  I continue to make new goals and plans, and of course in life we never know what unexpected opportunities may present themselves.  Stay tuned! One of these days my memoir will make a great movie.

Lastly, what advice would you offer for those who want to break into the business?

Living life for me continues to mean being grateful, enthusiastic, and challenging myself to continue to get better as a human being, artist, writer, entrepreneur and hopefully as an inspiration to others to believe in yourself. Damn the critics, haters, wannabes and naysayers!

I say do you and carry on.  I’m an example of defying the odds. I feel like I’m never the girl everyone is cheering for, but everyone watches just the same. Maybe some are waiting for me to fail, even after decades in this business. I’m still here being my own sort of fabulous. It’s still not for everyone because I’m never status quo and never fitting a formula. This is always my message to others.  Do you! Live your life, laugh and love.

Talent isn’t enough – damn a sense of entitlement or instant gratification – work hard and be distinct from others. Go get it, be smart and keep growing. Learn the business – and most of all enjoy the journey, revise, rethink…whatever, just don’t get stuck. Also don’t give a f— what people think, as long as you’re not doing something abusive, violent or harming others. There will always be lessons, joys, hardships and triumphs.  As long as I’m here there will always be more to do – new goals, new dreams, new mountains to climb. It’s called being alive!

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Photo by: Albert Sanchez

Official Jody Watley:
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Follow on Twitter!
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The Girl Next Door: Call Her Caitlyn

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Photo via E!

It may have taken Caitlyn Jenner 65yrs to reveal herself but she has arrived and SHE is taking the world by storm! Caitlyn has quickly become a transgender advocate, fashionista and America’s “IT” girl. Tonight I Am Cait premiered on E! and we got to see a glimpse into her world. Caitlyn is no stranger to reality television but instead of being on the sidelines, she is front and center. She is natural, comfortable and relatable.  Her beauty deeper than any look put together by her team of hair and makeup people. Caitlyn has a big heart; raising awareness on trans-youth suicide and overall acceptance.

Heart felt moments included a visit by her mom Esther, sisters and daughter Kylie. Caitlyn’s mom is brutally honest about having a tough time trying to make sense of her child’s transition.  While it hasn’t been easy, Caitlyn’s mom remains supportive and proud.  On the other hand, Caitlyn remarks how  stepchildren Khloe, Kourtney and Rob Kardashian have not been to the house. “Maybe them not being around is, you know, kind of their way of saying, I don’t really agree with this or what,”  she says.

Jenner talking about her own thoughts of suicide and visiting a mother of a transgender teen who took his life were heavy. Sentiments lighted up when Kim Kardashian West and husband Kanye came over for a peak in Caitlyn’s closet. Jenner joked how she should wear the same dress as  ex-wife Kris  – headline reading  Who Wore it Best.  

Caitlyn Jenner is bravely teaching us that all humans deserve respect and should be able to live freely with dignity.  I Am Cait airs Sundays, at 8pm EST on E!

Your Doctor Is Likely to Be Biased Against LGBT People

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Photo via Advocate.com

I was taken aback by a recent health article that appeared in The Advocate  STUDY: Your Doctor Is Likely to Be Biased Against LGBT People. http://www.advocate.com/health/2015/07/20/study-your-doctor-likely-be-biased-against-lgbt-people  According to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health, “implicit preferences for heterosexual people versus lesbian and gay people are pervasive among heterosexual health care providers.”

I wanted to share my personal account of experiencing this bias  while visiting a dentist many years ago. I was just starting out in my career and was looking for a new dentist. With the recommendation of a coworker, I made an appointment with a dentist in walking distance from our Rockefeller Center location. I figured my visit would routine; X-rays and a cleaning. But instead my “routine” check-up turned into a frightening ordeal.

My gums had been bleeding slightly and I also noticed a few white spots in my mouth. I explained this to my new dentist and she said “let’s take a look.” When I opened my mouth, I noticed her face change. She said, “The white spots were of concern and that I needed to follow up with my medical doctor immediately!” The concern being the spots, in her opinion were associated with Candidiasis. A yeast infection in the mouth; a symptom of a possible HIV infection. Wait, did she just say “HIV?” I was shaken to my core, I only had a few sexual partners and had played safe. I know there are always risk but thought “how could this happen to me?” I felt sick to my stomach and returned to work dazed and confused.

I took the dentists advice and made an appointment with my medical doctor right away. My doctor could tell I was visibly up-set. I explained the ordeal and upon examination he said, “open your mouth.” I followed his command – he said “do you see any white spots now?” I didn’t, they were gone. My doctor thought the white spots were more likely be attributed to the overuse the mouth wash I had been using. But as a precaution, he ordered an HIV test. It would take two weeks to get the results. My doctor was livid at the dentist and demanded I give him her number. He said, “She should have not made such an assumption and should have asked to speak with him first about my medical history.” He called her and told her off.

I felt relieved but being a hypochondriac, the next two weeks are a living hell. I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through, I didn’t want to worry my friends and family. So I kept it to myself. I would go to work and go right home after. I remember laying in my bed thinking if I was positive how was going to move forward with my life. How would I treat the disease? What would I say to my sexual partners? How would I tell my mom? My follow up appointment could not come soon enough.

The agonizing two weeks had passed and I fought myself back at my doctor’s office. The results were in – I was HIV negative. When I received the news, it felt like I could breathe again. But my sentiments quickly turned to anger, thinking I had been profiled and discriminated against because of my presumed sexual orientation by the dentist. I decided to write her a letter detailing my discontent. By writing the letter, I felt as if I was taking my power back. How dare she be so presumptuous?

A couple of days went by and I received a response with no apology. It turns out, I owed her office two dollars; due to a mix up with my co-pay. I sent her two dollars in cash and in a hand written note, told her where to shove it. I told my co-workers what happened and asked them kindly to boycott her office. It’s been almost 15yrs and I have not experienced bias by another health care professional. I still have the same medical doctor as well, he earned my trust and respect for standing up for me.

There are great medical professionals out there who are not biased. But if something like this happens to you there are protections under the law. If you feel a health care provider has discriminated against you, you may file a civil rights complaint with U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/office/index.html

Olivia Newton-John: Catch Her (If You Can)

Olivia Newton John Truscello Studio  Las Vegas, Nevada All Images By Denise Truscello Jan 30 2014 Photos By Denise Truscello
Photos 1 &2  By Denise Truscello

For almost a half century, Olivia Newton-John has been making music and movie magic. With 100 million albums sold, four Grammy Awards, numerous Country Music, American Music, Billboard and People’s Choice Awards, an Emmy Award, ten #1 hits and more than 15 top 10 singles and star of the most successful movie musicals of all time, Grease, Olivia has earned her crown of the famed Las Vegas strip.

Newton-John is currently holding court at the Flamingo Las Vegas, performing her retrospective residency “Summer Nights,” which earned an extended run through January, 2016. The production features an eight-piece band and takes fans on a journey through her accomplished life and career. Performing notable hits from the early years as well as favorites from “Grease” to the idyllic “Xanadu” and her ’80s workout anthem “Physical.” At 66, Newton-John is a force to be reckoned with. https://www.caesars.com/flamingo-las-vegas/shows/olivia_newton-john#.VZ6JRUau8m0

Hits and accolades aside, Olivia has used her celebrity to raise awareness on LGBT issues from AIDS to marriage equality. In 1992, Olivia fought and won a public battle with breast cancer; she is a survivor. Olivia’s ability to overcome, to triumph and carry on has cemented her legacy as a beloved icon.

Olivia Newton John REH April 7 2014 Photos By Denise Truscello

Her show should be called “Catch Me If You Can” because it was not easy getting Olivia to slow down to speak with me. I caught up with the Superstar while on holiday to discuss her activism, career, wellness and her friendships with legendary Vegas headliners past and present.

Hi Olivia, you have publicly advocated marriage equality, performed at numerous Pride events and even recorded a song promoting safe sex. I’m curious, what prompted you to speak up on LGBT issues?

Well, my LGBT fan base has always been one of my most devoted and loving throughout my career. I feel as an artist it is important to use the world stage (so to speak) to bring awareness to issues that really matter to me and that have an impact on everyone.  I recorded “Love and Let Live” which was important to me because I was losing so many people I knew to AIDS – it was terrible — so that song was my way of using my voice to bring awareness to the topic, which in 1988, was still taboo to speak about. As for marriage equality – love is love – no one has the right to judge or deny couples who love each other the ability to make a marriage commitment. I was thrilled when I learned of the recent Supreme Court ruling!

Over the years, your music has touched and inspired so many, “Magic” has a powerful message of finding inner strength. Where do you draw your strength?

I draw my strength by the love and support of my husband John, my daughter and my dear friends who have been with me through thick and thin! I’ve been so lucky to have had some wonderful songwriters and producers in my life, especially – John Farrar who is a lifelong dear friend. He wrote or produced most of my hits, including the song “Magic” which has such a universal and positive message. In fact, my daughter Chloe Lattanzi and I just recorded a new dance version with some new lyrics, produced by the amazing Dave Audé to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Xanadu which was released in movie theaters back in 1980. Where has the time gone??

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Vegas being a mecca for many icons like Celine, Cher, Bette and now Britney, Mariah and soon JLo. Do you feel there a comradery among performers?

Absolutely! We all know each other. Unfortunately, we work at the same times and it can be hard to see each other because of our schedules- I admire them all. Cher and I shared the same manager for years – so we go way back. Bette and I have known each other a long time too- Bette’s daughter and my daughter went to school together and we were part of a “mom’s group” for many years when they were very young. Britney was my next door neighbor in Malibu and we would see each other in the neighborhood! I love Celine and JLo is going to be a wonderful addition to Vegas. I look forward to catching up with the girls, if we can make it work! A few weeks’ ago Mariah invited me over for a Memorial Day BBQ. It was great to catch up with her – what an amazing singer songwriter she is- it was an unexpected and fun night!

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A portion of every ticket sold to your shows in Las Vegas will benefit the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in Australia. In addition to traditional medicine, why is something like a wellness center important?

Thank you for bringing this up. Every person who attends my show is actually helping someone going through the cancer journey. Isn’t that great? When I went through my journey back in 1992, I was lucky enough to have access to resources that many people do not -that help heal your whole person – body, mind and spirt. Though I did have traditional chemo treatments, I coupled them with complimentary therapies which we are now offering at the ONJCWC. http://www.oliviaappeal.com/

Headlining your own Vegas show must be pretty vigorous. How you do get “Physical”?

It’s a tough schedule but I really am loving being in Vegas. The only challenge is the dry air – that’s usually a singer’s first comment about Vegas. I stay hydrated, drink lots of water and tea! I love to walk and take hikes with my husband and my dog Raven in Red Rock Canyon. It’s so beautiful out there – if you come to Vegas you should try an afternoon away from the Strip to take in the area’s wonderful natural beauty. Being in nature is something I need to do every day – I need to be out in Mother Nature! And, of course I try to eat healthy and organic foods!

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Is a Vegas show something you always wanted to do?

I’ve been playing Vegas since the early 70s! I have to say I’ve performed in so many different showrooms here through the years and I’ve had fun but, never saw myself doing a residency. But, oh my goodness Vegas has changed – it used be just casinos and gambling. Now it has amazing restaurants, spas, shows and wonderful shopping! My husband and I are really loving it here and, it’s the most normal “job” and schedule I’ve ever had! There is no traveling, I get to sleep in the same bed every night, and have a regular schedule – it’s lovely!

What’s the most fun part of the show for you to perform?

Well, I have so many great moments every night – every show is special and to sing and play with my band – the best in Vegas I may add! – is always fun! I take the audience on a musical journey with me through my career. I’ve been lucky to have had some wonderful songs in my career that I hope touch the audience in some way!

As an actress and having starred in one of the most iconic films of all time, was Grease just a blast to make? It sure looked like a good time!

It was a very special time in my life. The energy on that set was magical – we had no idea it was going to become the ongoing success it has!! We truly had so much fun – it was a summer I will never forget!

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In Grease, we saw you transform from the “sweet and innocent” Sandy to the “bad girl” Sandy, which one do you identify with more?

Oh, I think there’s a little bit of both of them in all of us…don’t you? But, I’m not going to tell you which one I identify with more! (Laughing).

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What can fans expect next?

I’ll be in Vegas working on my show. I’ll be promoting my dance single with my daughter Chloe. I’m working on a new CD too. Of course, I have ongoing events to raise funds for the Wellness Center. That’s all keeping me pretty busy! But right now, I’m going to enjoy the rest of my holiday!!

Ian Ziering Is Kicking Ass For The Greater Good

IanZiering_0951(8x12)Photo: Gabriel Goldberg

We all remember Ian Ziering starring as Steve Sanders on the iconic 90’s teen drama, Beverly Hills 90210.  25 yrs later, Ian is enjoying a resurgence that started when he danced his way back into American homes on Dancing With The Stars in 2007.  At the age of 49, Ian became a Las Vegas headliner at Chippendales when he joined as celebrity guest host. Ian was asked to return to the show in Summer 2014 for another sold-out run. He also appeared on the recent season of Celebrity Apprentice.

Most memorably, he starred in the small-budget SyFy Channel film Sharknado that became an instant science fiction cult classic that even received a theatrical release in movie theaters around the world. The following year, he reprised the role of  Fin Shepard in Sharknado 2: The Second One. The third installment, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! premieres July 22 on SyFy.

I had the opportunity of interviewing Ian and what I discovered was an extremely thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive man. I was a bit nervous but Ian put me as ease with his enthusiasm…

Phone rings.

Hello.

Hi Ian, this is Daymz, how are you?

I’m doing great. How are you?

I had a bit of a crazy morning but I’m settling in now. Thank you for taking the time to talk. Let’s get started if that’s OK with you?

Yeah man, let’s do it.

With another Sharknado installment on the way, what can fans expect from Part 3?

We haven’t changed the formula, its still sharks in tornadoes but we changed the background. We’re not in New York this time, we’re gonna be in Washington D.C. and the storm takes us all the way down to Orlando, Florida. It’s a family movie. It’s about a guy that will do anything to keep his family safe. It’s going to be out of this world – and that’s a huge hint for ya!

It looks like it would be a really fun movie to make.

It’s a lot of fun! There are more cameos. There will be a lot of surprises. It was not only fun to make but also to watch.

From the moment of receiving the script for the first film to now did you ever imagine it would develop into this wildly popular franchise?

No, I could have never have imagined this. The secret sauce that makes Skarknado special is elusive. Major studios spend tons of money trying to generate this type of buzz.

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Your character Fin is notorious for saving lives with a Chainsaw. You started an apparel brand ChainsawBrands.com that plays off that theme with the intent of spreading light and positive actions thought the world. Please explain.

The chainsaw to me, in my character development, is a tool used to overcome obstacles to breakthrough to the next level, to achieve something greater. Last year after Sharknado 2 came out, Tara (Reid) launched a “Shark” inspired fragrance. I thought that was fantastic. I wanted to come up with a brand for myself. Also after I did Apprentice, it opened my eyes to the business potential that is out there.

I wanted to do something for myself but I always felt success unshared is failure and that’s why a portion of the proceeds goes to others in need. I also wanted to find other ways, besides acting, to provide for my family. Everything I do these days has a philanthropic aspect. When you focus on giving and not on getting it seems to come back to you in other ways.

That’s for sure, it’s definitely an exchange with the universe. To receive for the sake of sharing is what I’m all about too.

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Being that you are a former celebrity host at Chippendales, it’s no secret you are in excellent shape. What’s your workout routine?

Well, I want to die young, but late in life. Eating right, exercising and taking care of myself is the key to having the best chance of accomplishing that. You have to be accountable and set a goal. Accountability keeps you focused, using things like a vision board is incredibly useful. I work out five days a week, its hard work but I want to stay sexy naked as long as possible. I don’t get any complaints from my wife (laughs). I also have a two year old and a four year old; I want to dance at their weddings. It’s not just about me anymore. 

I commend you. Your fans both straight and gay appreciate it. 🙂

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 30:  90210 reunion Shannen Doherty, Ian Ziering and Jennie Garth at CHIPPENDALES at Rio Hotel and Casino on June 30, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Shannen Doherty; Ian Ziering; Jennie Garth
Ian with 90210 alum Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth at CHIPPENDALES at Rio Hotel and Casino. Photo by Denise Truscello

You and your wife, Erin, attended LA Pride with your daughters this year (which is amazing)! My father would not have done such a thing. What do you hope your children will learn from their early exposure to the LGBT community?

Ya know what, love really conquers all. It’s the most motivating force in the universe and it’s not gender specific. I’m sorry to hear your father was not supportive. But you can’t blame him, he’s from a different generation where it was not as acceptable. But that’s changing. I want my kids to know we are all the same, that what really counts is the type of person you are and how you treat others. No one should have a say on who anyone wants to love or be with. In this day and age, love is difficult to find. If you find true love, God bless you. I’m teaching my kids to do their thing. Everyone has to do their thing.

I’m like that with my niece and nephew. I’ve never tried to conceal who I am. They accept me as I am. Over the years, I’ve seen major change happen and I hope we keep moving in that direction.

You can’t stop it – it’s natural, it’s a natural evolution and progression. 

IanPridePhoto via Instagram: @IanZiering

Thank you, Ian for your encouraging words. It’s because of people like you who are helping lead the change. I love the way you think!

I’ve evolved to a place in my life where I just want to be a good person for my family and everything else is just noise. I can’t always be right but I try my best in everything that I do. Thank you as well, if you have any further questions, send me a text and I’ll make myself available. 

I took Ian up on his offer, not to ask a question but to rejoice. The following day after our interview, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages in all 50 states. Ian was right on the money, the revolution and evolution of love is unstoppable!!

Follow Ian on Twitter and Instagram: @IanZiering

www.ianziering.com

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! premieres July 22nd 9/8c on SyFy.

Bitch You’re Madonna, Now Act Like It

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Madonna, we need to talk. You are the Queen of Pop, an icon and legend. You look incredible, inspire so many to express themselves, to stay fit and live by their own set of rules. You are cool without trying, bitch your Madonna! But your latest video for “Bitch, I’m Madonna”  has me confused. The blond and pink hair, grillz are more costume then chic. There is nothing wrong with being provocative and sexy at any age, but it seems you are desperately pandering to the youth market?!? 🙁

That said, the video is a rip off from your appearance on Jimmy Fallon, nothing really new to dig into. Besides Nicki Minaj, who actually appears on the track, why on earth do Beyoncé, Kanye West, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus make cameos? In fact, they didn’t even appear live in the video; opting to film elsewhere and were edited in after.  Chris Rock, Alexander Wang and Rita Ora did show up for filming, but I ask again, why?

You’re Madonna and still know how to have a good time, we get it. However; you don’t need gimmicks, Miley Cyrus or sock puppets. Sorry, Madonna…..you lost me with this one. I still LOVE you though.

Adam Lambert Poised for Success with Upcoming Release

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It’s been three years since Adam Lambert released new music and frankly speaking, I haven’t been compelled to listen since his 2009 hit single “Whataya Want from Me.” It’s not that Adam lacks talent, he’s got plenty of that. His voice and showmanship a standout since his days on American Idol. Lambert, one of the first American pop artist unapologetically open about his sexuality, has contributed to the advancement of equality and social acceptance in the LGBT community. Perhaps, this over-shadowed what he was doing musically?

Fast forward to 2015, Adam Lambert is back with a new album The Original High, which drops June 16th. The album is currently is available for preview via an advance stream on Amazon and it is pure fire. Adam is serving up a mix of dark house-inspired beats with insightful ballads. Standouts include the tile track “The Original High” where he reflects back on a summer in Hollywood with a past love, “Another Lonely Night” which could easily compare to Sam Smith, the sexy “Underground” and the hit lead single “Ghost Town.”

Adam not only sounds amazing, but he looks great too! The Original High should undoubtedly be added to your summer play list.