After a year of toxicity, anger, and anxiety, we need a cleanse. It’s important to clear out that bad energy and focus on the positive. To release serotonin and bring me to a happier place, I like to flood my social media feeds with strong and beautiful people who are doing incredible things to make this world a better place. To that end, nothing makes me happier than seeing representation of Queer People of Color (QPOC) in the media, taking up space, and setting the bar for excellence. This year, you should revel in the talent and extraordinary work of QPOC. Writers, artists, activists, leaders, we are all of it and we should be celebrated.
To start 2021 right, here is a list of 15 Queer People of Color who are influential in the LGBTQ+ community and that you should follow for your daily dose of inspiration. Basque in their work, like their posts, engage with them. Get to know them and amplify their voices because they’re putting in the work.
D’Lo is a queer/transgender Tamil-Sri Lankan-American actor/writer/comedian whose work ranges from stand-up comedy, solo theater, plays, films and music production, to poetry and spoken word. D’Lo is currently in development on a scripted series based on his life that is set up at BTR Media and Paul Feig’s Powderkeg Media. He recently performed his solo play To T, or not to T? at The LGBT Center. His tv/film credits include co-starring in the HBO series LOOKING as Taj, on the Amazon series TRANSPARENT, the Netflix series SENSE 8 and USA’s Mr. ROBOT. Through his works, D’Lo advocates for the queer and transgender South Asian community and for sharing our own narratives in any way we can.
Gabriel Gastelum is a Photographer and Creator based in Los Angeles and working everywhere. His works celebrate all iterations of life from models, drag queens, musicians, actors, and beyond. Not to mention major commercial campaigns! Gabriel emboldens the world through his own lens, with character, sense of humor, and great lighting! Gabriel also shows his ability to think creatively through his transformation into Gabriel the Queen, his drag persona. A “Bearded Puta” as he calls her, she serves colorful looks and a hairy mug for days. Gabriel’s platform elevates the queer experience, honors body positivity, and reminds us to find a little levity in this chaotic place and time.
Daniel Giron is a vogue sensation, Father of the House of Ada, premier kiki house of the Pacific Northwest. You may recognize Daniel from being immortalized as a meme with the floor performance in the sand heard ’round the world. Daniel uses his social media not only as a platform to educate on ballroom culture, but to activate and create change through movement. They shatter gender norms and use ballroom as a means of resistance and equity within communities of queer people of color (QPOC).
Ramiro Gomez, Jr. is a Los Angeles-based Mexican American artist whose paintings depict the invisible working class that are dismissed by wealthy homeowners as well as addressing issues of immigration. While Gomez’ work opens dialogue about class and race, it is her own openness in asserting gender nonconformity that sets her apart in the art world. Her voice is louder than ever as she has pivoted in placing herself front and center on social media. Still she keeps true to the importance of the subversion of her artwork.
Brandon Kyle Goodman is a writer on Netflix’s hit show Big Mouth and an actor on Amazon’s Modern Love among other major projects. His podcast, Black Folx, is a weekly conversational podcast where he has one-on-one conversations with different Black folx of various identities about their life experiences and how being Black has shaped them. He also hosts Do The Work, a podcast about race and personal relationships. Each episode is an intimate conversation between two people who know each other well — family, old friends, lovers or colleagues. They are brought together to have real conversations about race. Through his work in the media, Brandon is breaking barriers and ensuring people of color are well represented.
féi hernandez is an Inglewood-raised immigrant trans non-binary visual artist, writer, and healer. féi is an Advisory Board Member of Gender Justice Los Angeles and was one of the artists for Forward Together’s 2019 Trans Day of Resilience Campaign. They are a Co-Founder of ING Fellowship which provides mentorship to Inglewood youth working on projects to counteract gentrification and was also a femmetor for the 2019-2020 Seeds of Liberación (SOL) leadership development program for young transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGI) people in Los Angeles. They are a certified Reiki and Akashic Records practitioner who utilizes a decolonial approach to ancestral energetic healing. féi’s debut poetry collection, Hood Criatura, released in December 2020.
Sam Jay is an Emmy-nominated stand-up comedian and writer. She is a staff writer for Saturday Night Live and has performed stand-up on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents and The Comedy Line-Up. Jay’s first hour long comedy special, 3 in the Morning, was released on Netflix in 2020 and gave her more notoriety as a heavy hitter in the comedy world. Her comedy knows no bounds, as she takes shots at anyone and everyone, unapologetically and with side-splitting appeal. Her comedy celebrates queerness, in a hilarious way, but does not glare a light onto it or make it anything out of the ordinary, “That’s why representation matters, man…I didn’t realize you could be black and gay and, like, fly and shit,” Jay says in her Netflix special.
Chris Jordan, better known as CJay, is co-host of one of the hottest podcasts out now, Can We Kick It, which he co-hosts with friend Paress. Together the besties catch up as they discuss stories and people in the news and the world today that inspire them, intrigue them and sometimes piss them off. The podcast exudes positivity, while keeping it real in acknowledging that we are all human. CJay is also co-host of Straight Talk with Ross Mathews, where he sits in on the weekly discussions and crazy antics and voices his thoughts in the segment called “The Blackness”. CJay is also an event producer and social media manager. He reminds you on the daily to “Protect Your Magic”.
Kalaya’an Mendoza is a Queer Disabled Filipinx Immigrant who mobilizes for Black Lives Matter, the trans community, and social justice. He is the co-founder of Across Frontlines, an organization that works to protect human rights defenders around the world from state and non-state actor violence. He is a nonviolent direct action organizer, a Tactical Safety and Security for Human Rights Defenders Facilitator and a disaster preparedness expert. By educating protestors and demonstrators, Kalaya’an is part of a team of people who show them how to remain secure and healthy while taking action. Through his platform, Kalaya’an shares how people responsibly show up in solidarity for Black lives and liberation in this moment as Asian Americans, the ins and outs of nonviolent direct action and being Queer & Asian.
Damien Navarro became the first openly gay Latino Executive Director of Outfest in 2019. Beginning his career as a start-up entrepreneur, Damien now oversees daily leadership and oversight responsibilities for Outfest staff and programs, fundraising, finance and administration, staff supervision, and external relations–in addition to two annual film festivals that bring global quality films that empower LGBTQ+ through storytelling. Damien’s position at the executive level sets precedent for Queer People of Color (QPOC) to take up space in institutions with that have lacked representation. Through his posts, Damien provides reminders of the possibilities for leadership in organizations that celebrate the LGBTQ+ experience.
Thai Nguyen is a fashion designer and owner of Thai Nguyen Atelier in Orange County, California. The Vietnamese born designer has created pieces for major names in the industry, including Jennifer Lopez, Ali Wong, and Anika Noni Rose, just to name a few. His major source of inspiration for fashion is his bridal business which he has curated specifically for the Vietnamese community who wanted to stay in touch with. You may recognize Thai from one of the most heart-felt shows on Netflix in 2020, Say I Do! The life makeover show featured three fabulous gay experts, Jeremiah Brent, Gabriele Bertaccini, and Thai Nguyen, as they worked with eight couples who worked through roadblocks and were able to have the wedding of their dreams. Thai’s experience in fashion made him the Fairy Gown Mother. Thai’s own experience as a gay may in a long-term relationship became a pivotal moment in the show when he shared that he cannot bring himself to marry his partner until he has his parents’ approval. Thai instantly became a spokesperson for those in the LGBTQ+ community who find themselves in difficult situations with their families because of who they are and is using his platform to empower others.
Camille Ora-Nicole is founder and president of The Queer 26, a non-profit multimedia organization supporting LGBTQ+ creatives in the fields of Fashion, Film, and Music. The organization strives to keep Queer People of Color (QPOC) in the forefront, thus creating more opportunities within our communities in the arts. Camille is an artist and designer who has used her time and resources to build opportunity and equity for QPOC. Her tenacity serves as a constant reminder to keep going and strive for something greater, forging your own path when you come to a roadblock. The Queer 26 is an experiment in living freely and happily through the arts, and creating a new way to live for ourselves while changing the world at large.
Bamby Salcedo is the founder of the Los Angeles-based TransLatin@ Coalition, an organization formed by Trans Latin@ immigrant leaders who have come together in 2009 to organize and advocate for the needs of Trans Latin@s who are immigrants and reside in the US. During the 2018 World Series, Bamby and other activists unfurled a giant trans pride flag with the word’s “Trans People Deserve to Live” as a response to the Trump administration’s plan to define gender as binary only using the gender assigned at birth. Bamby considers herself a miracle, someone who was not meant to be here, but is grateful to be alive and doing important work. Bamby has numerous awards for her courageous work for the trans community.
Julio Torres is a Salvadoran writer, comedian, and actor. He is best known as a writer for Saturday Night Live and as the co-creator, writer, and executive producer of the HBO series Los Espookys. Julio’s talent and sense of humor is a basis for sharing his colorful view on life. In 2019, his comedy special My Favorite Shapes, depicts Julio’s unique qualities as a storyteller as he examines his favorite shapes, which include a plexiglass square, an oval that wishes he were a circle, and a self-conscious cactus. Not only do we get the creativity with which Julio creates hilarious characters and storylines, but he inspires other people of color to be themselves and take action when necessary. Also, his favorite color is clear.
Dorian Wood is a multi-disciplinary non-binary artist. Their music transcends and shakes you to the core. Through music and art Dorian sends messages of solidarity and obliterates societal norms and expectations of gender and sexuality. Dorian is a force that celebrates the beauty in every body and shares love through song and performance and physicality. Their work has been showcased in concert halls and performance spaces around the world. Dorian’s short film Paisa, made its debut at Outfest in 2019. The film is an immersive fever dream that celebrates the beauty of queer brown sensuality, body positivity, and individuality.