Tag Archive | "Dino Thompson-Sarmiento"

Congratulations To This Year’s FENUXE 15!


By D. David Kinney

Atlanta is a great place for gays to live and work in the South and that’s not by happenstance. Every day thousands of gay Atlantans wake up to pursue their passion for making our home and our world a better place. To recognize the incredible amount of good that our community members do FENUXE created the FENUXE 50 and FENUXE 15 awards. The FENUXE 50 awards honor Atlanta’s favorite gay and gay-friendly businesses, and the FENUXE 15 awards recognize individuals who make a positive contribution to Atlanta’s gay community through their work, volunteerism or art. So we asked our readers to nominate gay Atlantans they felt deserved recognition, and it is our honor to recognize fifteen of these outstanding individuals here as this year’s FENUXE 15. You can also read about the 2014 FENUXE 15 in the digital version of FENUXE here.

WORK – Whether you own a business, manage a store or simply work nine to five, thousands of gay Atlantans are helping make workplaces more gay friendly and helping educate employers on the benefits of equality in the workplace.

VOLUNTEERISM – “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference,” Tom Brokaw once said. Truer words were never spoken. Atlanta has many wonderful opportunities for people who want to get involved and make a difference – especially right here in the gay community.

ART – Art can do more to change hearts and minds than just about anything. Whether it’s through the poignant words of a film, creative rap lyrics or drag, there are hundreds of Atlanta artists bringing positive exposure to the gay community.

The FENUXE 15 are presented in no particular order. They’re all outstanding and we’re in awe of their accomplishments and passion for our community.

Brian Sharp – Atlanta Police Department:

Brian Sharp is not only a highly respected Senior Police Officer, but he is also the LGBT Liaison for the Atlanta Police Department (and a talented singer, too). “My work allows me to work directly with individuals and organizations to better understand their needs, while offering them a unique link to an often misunderstood profession,” Brian told FENUXE, “I love to go out and talk with people and share my story. It allows us to connect on a more personal level, and people see that police officers are just like everyone else. My partner and I are both officers and we share the same struggles as anyone else, and I think most folks relate to that on some level. At the end of the day, my work allows me to be out and show that it is ok to be who you are no matter what.” Additionally, Brian has developed LGBT training for law enforcement officers while working with the Atlanta Police Department. “I have had the amazing opportunity to share this training not only with our officers and civilian staff, but also with other local law enforcement officers that work with our community here in our great city,” Brian remembered, “To date I have trained officers from several agencies including Spelman College campus police and Georgia Tech campus police.” However, Brian is just getting started. The U.S. Department of State recently asked Brian to travel abroad and share his expertise. “I am traveling to El Salvador June 14 – 21 to train officers from six different countries at the International Law Enforcement Academy,” Brian revealed. “The training will include LGBT sensitivity training, as well as bias and hate crime identification and investigation.”

Randy Prophater – Team Friendly Atlanta:

Randy Prophater is the chair of Team Friendly Atlanta, which is part of the Mr. Friendly movement, where he works to combat the stigma of HIV. In addition to fostering dialogue with community members one-on-one, he also recently organized a town hall meeting at the Phillip Rush Center to discuss pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). When we asked Randy where his passion comes from he replied: “I was once described by a friend as a Crayola Crayons 64-pack. I loved that he was unable to define me with a single word or a single label. Just like that box of crayons, I have a variety of colorful words that describe me. Son, brother and boyfriend. Spiritual, passionate and creative. Recovering Crystal Meth Addict, dyslexic and HIV+. No one single term defines me. Nor should others be defined by just one term, least of all their HIV status. That is why Team Friendly Atlanta is so important to me, I want everyone to be able to be themselves, without any single word, term, or label holding them back from being themself, their whole self. All 64 colors.”

Joey Helton – AID Atlanta:


Joey Helton believes Atlanta’s future is bright and he works hard everyday as the Chief Development Officer at AID Atlanta to make sure it stays that way. “AID Atlanta seeks to expand its target population from HIV positive individuals to also include historically underserved populations, including minorities, youth, low-income individuals and the LGBT community,” Joey detailed to FENUXE when asked about the future of AID Atlanta, “The health condition of the population in metro Atlanta indicates a strong need for primary care and behavioral health services, with a high prevalence of chronic diseases and poor overall health conditions. AID Atlanta is viewed currently as a provider for HIV/AIDS testing, counseling and treatment, and will need to shift perspectives and payer mix to support its new service delivery model.” It’s a big challenge for the organization but it helps motivate Joey. “I love a challenge,” he told FENUXE, “The word ‘no’ is not in my vocabulary. I prefer to hear ‘not know.’”


Brian Isbell – For the Kid in All of Us:


Brian Isbell is known throughout the gay community for his hard work and dedication to For the Kid in All of Us, the organization behind Backpack in the Park and the Toy Party. However, you may not know that he is also the Starbucks corporation’s district lead for community service. In the past three years he and the Starbucks AIDS Walk team have raised for $12,000 for AID Atlanta. “With the current fight for equality it is important that the general public sees the good that the LGBT community is capable of, rather than judging us on the typical gay stereotype,” Brian explained to FENUXE, “For 21 years I trained and showed American Quarter and Paint horses. I was fortunate to win several world and national titles. While exciting and rewarding, at the end of the day all those trophies and titles weren’t making a difference in the world. I knew I wanted to do something that would make a difference in both the gay and straight communities.” As always, Brian was incredibly humble and included: “I have to thank the current and past For the Kid board members and presidents Alex Wan, Frank Bragg, Jorge Esteban, Chris Bess and Alison Hall. I would also like to thank the numerous volunteers that donate their valuable time year after year to help For the Kid achieve its goals. Lastly, I have to thank Kevin for his unconditional love and support.”


Jeff Graham – Georgia Equality:


“I’ve led marches, been arrested, helped win elections, passed legislation on both a state and local level and secured tens of millions of dollars for HIV medications and other services for LGBT folks,” Jeff Graham, a hero in the Georgia gay rights movement, remembered. Yet, despite all of the incredible things he has done for our community he remains incredibly humble and points toward our community’s success instead of his own. “Some of the success that I am most proud of was the opening of the Grady Infectious Disease Clinic on Ponce de Leon, the elimination of the waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and the creation of the Phillip Rush Center. None of those was done as an individual but by working closely with others who are just as dedicated to making a difference as I am.” Now that’s truly the hallmark of an inspirational leader! And now more than ever Georgia needs his leadership as LGBT equality takes center stage in the political arena. “When it comes to LGBT equality, there is a tremendous amount of need in our city and in our state. Georgia Equality is in a period of growth. As we are able to expand our staff, we will be in a stronger position to influence policies and laws that will benefit all LGBT Georgians. We’ve developed several very strong collaborative partnerships with both local and national organizations that share our vision of equality. Working together, I see a bright future for Georgia Equality and the community that we serve.”

Rick Westbrook – Lost-N-Found Youth:

Rick Westbrook isn’t a man who minces words. At a community meeting a few years ago he raised the issue of Atlanta’s homeless LGBT youth crisis and declared that something had to be done. Shortly thereafter Lost-N-Found Youth was created and the organization made a promise to our community: “Lost-N-Found has promised the community that we will address the ever growing problem of our homeless youth, and we are stepping up to do that,” Rick told FENUXE. Indeed, they’re tackling the issue head on and have met their initial goals ahead of schedule. As promised we have opened a Youth Center to address the needs of the youth on the street. We have also opened a Thrift Store containing all of the gracious donations given to us that allows us to help fund our programs, and we are in the process of renovating a house at 5th and Juniper that will allow us to increase the services we offer threefold,” Rick detailed. It’s hard work, but Rick is motivated by the positive impact he can have on LGBT youths. “It’s simply mind boggling the amount of youths that need us. My mind says we cannot save them all, but my heart says we are going to try our best. [It’s] the look in the eyes of a youth when the wall breaks down and they realize that our community loves them just the way they are. Then to see the youth actually grow when they are with us and then get their life back,” Rick revealed.

Cindy Abel - Atlantis Moon Productions:

Woven throughout our history there is a rich tradition of storytelling, and despite the endless forms of modern entertainment at our disposal we continue to hold storytellers near and dear to our hearts. Cindy Abel is an Atlanta filmmaker, speaker and writer. Yet, above all, she is a master storyteller. Whether you’re reading her blog on Huffington Post or watching her critically-acclaimed film “Breaking Through” from Atlantis Moon Productions, (a production company she formed to develop projects that “launch conversations and impact popular culture”) it is clear that Cindy has a gift for capturing an audience and she uses her gift to affect positive change for the LGBT community. “I initially taught, then added writing and speaking, then led teams combining words and pictures and now with film, those elements have motion and a soundtrack,” Cindy reflected, “But it’s always been about stories. That’s how many of us learn while also being transported into the world of possibilities. As I look at my life now – filmmaking, speaking and writing – I can see how each step has led me to this place. When a young person whispers to me that “Breaking Through” helped them realize they can be all of who they are and want to be, or an older person sobs that after 53 years of living in shame, he finally gets there’s nothing wrong with him, or a mom in a rural area tells me she now has hope for her son – that’s all the motivation I need.”

Steven Shipp – BB&T:

As a Vice President at BB&T Bank, Steven Shipp understands how important it is for major corporations to understand the needs of the LGBT community. “As our community evolves with more acceptance, LGBT couples are able to get married and that ‘modern family’ grows, the importance of having a partnership with a financial institution is crucial to helping these modern families reach their dreams and goals whether that’s to have children, plan for retirement, or, in some cases, continue to grow their business,” Steven explained, “I love being able to help people and make a positive impact in their lives! When I work with retail and small business clients to help them accomplish their dreams of growing their business, buying a new home, or even something as simple as opening a checking account to manage their money I feel like I am truly helping them reach their dreams and goals as their financial partner. Many small business owners don’t have the time in their day to stop what they are doing and focus on administrative tasks while running a business. Their relationship with their banker and partnering with a bank that understands their needs is essential for their success. My team and I are committed to making this happen in the Atlanta market.”

Michael Shutt – Emory University:

Emory University is a great place to be a LGBT student and Michael Shutt is a major reason why that is true. As the Assistant Dean for Campus Life and the Director of the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life, Michael has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. “My work is very complex as it straddles a space between being an activist and an administrator in a large organization,” Michael explained, “Both at Emory University and at other institutions of higher education throughout the country, LGBT support services programs continue to evolve into more complex organizations. Most started out as points of crisis and were established to support the problems LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff faced on campus. Today, there are still issues of access, equity and inclusion that must be addressed. We must therefore be engaged in ending injustice on and off our campuses. At the same time, we must utilize the amazing strengths of our community to change the world. For example, I hope the Emory University Office of LGBT Life plays a role in recruiting and retaining the best students, scholars and researchers in the world. This sets us up to cure cancer, eliminate HIV, end violence and create a world where everyone can thrive. This means we must support a fully inclusive, accessible, and equitable environment while building a community that values and affirms everyone. If we can do this, the rest will be easy!” It’s a large undertaking, but if anyone can help Emory realize this progress we’re confident that Michael can. He has an impressive history of successfully helping LGBT students. In fact, in 2005 he helped create the first LGBT center at a public university in Georgia and served as its founding Director while at the University of Georgia.

Dino Thompson-Sarmiento – Spotted Dog Agency:

Whether he’s serving as a Senior Advisor for the GLAAD Leadership Council in Atlanta or as the CEO and co-founder of the Spotted Dog Agency, (a branding, marketing and film production company here in Atlanta) Dino Thompson-Sarmiento is a hard working advocate for the LGBT community. “Atlanta has a rich and important history that reflects humanity’s arduous and challenging growth process,” Dino opined to FENUXE, “Our city embraces change and as difficult and sometimes painful and scary as change can be, Atlanta continues to open doors and take risks for the betterment of our society.” Yet, Dino isn’t someone willing to stand on the sidelines and wait for change to happen slowly. He is determined for his life to have a positive effect on society for the LGBT community: “I’m motivated by how I feel when I go to bed. Did I do my best? Did I help change the world for the better? It’s my legacy. I don’t have children so my impact in the community is what I will leave behind.”

J Tyler – Musician:

Justin Tyler Ellingwood moved to Atlanta just over a year ago, but he has already captured the attention of Atlanta’s gay community through his art. You may know him better by his stage name – J Tyler – Atlanta’s gay rapper. He’s a natural entertainer and performs at different venues throughout the metro area. J Tyler also frequently performs at benefits raising money for LGBT charities and has a loyal gay fan base. However, things weren’t always so easy for the rapper. “A lot of people don’t know that I started from below the bottom and had to work my way to being stable before even thinking about pursuing my dreams,” J Tyler recalled during an interview with FENUXE, “Luckily, I had help getting pulled up to where I was able to get out there and perform. But I was focused on my dream the whole time. And it’s all thanks to people like Brent Star, Monica Van Pelt and Ruby Redd. They’ve given me the opportunity to step into the Atlanta spotlight!” For more information about J Tyler and to hear his music you can check him out on MTV.com and on Soundcloud.

Dr. John Ouderkirk – Piedmont Avenue Health & Wellness:

Dr. John Ouderkirk was born in San Diego, however, he was quickly drawn to the East Coast. First he went to North Carolina where he obtained a degree in psychology. From there he went to Washington, DC where he earned his Doctorate of Medicine and did his residency in internal medicine. And finally he conducted a fellowship in infectious disease medicine in New York City. Dr. Ouderkirk has devoted his life to providing state-of-the-art HIV care and since 2001 he’s been treating Atlantans at Piedmont Avenue Health & Wellness. “My medical office is a safe haven for transgender, gay and lesbian patients,” Dr. Ouderkirk said in response to what excites him about his work specializing in HIV, “I want them to feel at home and not like they’re being judged for who they are. I feel that Atlanta is an oasis in the Southeast where all types of people can come together and get along.” His patients appreciate his medical skill and attention, and the future is bright at Dr. Ouderkirk’s office. “Piedmont Avenue Health & Wellness is growing by leaps and bounds, he explained, “An infusion center is our latest venture. I have a new physician starting next month and hope to expand to three to four physicians in the next year.”

Jerry Henderson – Joining Hearts:

Jerry Henderson first got involved with Joining Hearts after attending one of their events several years ago. Little did he know at the time that he would eventually rise within the organization to become the Director of Marketing for the them today. He remains faithful to the organization because the work hits home for him. “It’s personal to me as I have friends with HIV and I’ve seen their struggles,” Jerry explained to FENUXE, “I knew I had to do something so I started volunteering. Last year, I wanted to take a bigger to role to promote and educate the community and was elected to the Board of Directors by my peers.” In his role as Director of Marketing, Jerry believes he has a clear mandate from the group’s Board of Directors and donors: “We want to build upon the 26 years of Joining Hearts history and to take it to the next level.” In conclusion, Jerry offered a call to action for Atlanta’s gay community: “I challenge the community to get involved and do something to make Atlanta a better place.”

Dr. T. Douglas Gurley – T. Douglas Gurley MD:

When Dr. Gurley began his career he was working for a large HMO here in Atlanta, however, he wasn’t happy with their standards. Between pressuring doctors to spend as little time as possible with patients to the unfriendly and sterile environment, Dr. Gurley knew there was a better way treat patients. So over a decade ago he hung his hat at his own practice specializing in HIV care and his patients couldn’t be happier. The difference is noticeable the moment you walk in the door. Dr. Gurley’s office is peaceful, tasteful and incredibly inviting. “We have a lot of different types of people who come here. It’s not just HIV people,” Dr. Gurley explained during a recent interview with FENUXE, “It’s botox, primary care, etc. I think a lot of people with HIV want to come and experience a warm environment and not feel like they’re visiting an HIV clinic. I don’t want them to be sitting in the lobby and feel like everyone knows they’re HIV. People can be tense or nervous when they’re coming to the doctor and that’s not a good time to interview someone and get their real emotions.” If you are HIV positive finding the right doctor can make all of the difference in the world. So we asked Dr. Gurley what the most important factor is when picking a physician: “I think the main thing is that you have to find a doctor who is educated and will fight for you.”

Angelica D’Paige – Entertainer:

From lighting up stages throughout Atlanta with her signature performances to being crowned the reigning FENUXE Queen of Queens, Angelica D’Paige is a force in Atlanta’s LGBT nightlife scene. We all know she is wickedly talented, however, did you know she frequently uses her talent to raise money for LGBT groups? “When an opportunity to help an LGBT charity presents itself and I’m available I try my best to help out our community,” Angelica told FENUXE during a recent interview, “I’ve done a lot of things for Lost-N-Found Youth, AID Atlanta and even the Armorettes. We work together a whole lot and I work with Ruby Redd every week at Ruby’s Redd LIght District.” In addition to lending her talent to do good, Angelica also promotes community unity. “I truly believe that we have to stick together and work together as a community to make things right,” Angelica commented, “I believe that Atlanta is a family-oriented kind of place. Whether it be a heterosexual family or a gay family, drag family or club family, Atlanta is a family-oriented place. You’re always going to belong somewhere, and you’ll always feel like you belong to something in Atlanta. I think there is a true sense of community wherever you are in Atlanta.”

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HBO Tackles Prop 8 In Award-Winning Film Airing Tonight


By Dino Thompson-Sarmiento

The riveting HBO documentary “The Case Against 8″ takes an in-depth look at the historic federal lawsuit filed in an effort to overturn Prop 8, California’s discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage. Shooting over five years, with exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the powerhouse legal team of David Boies and Ted Olson and the four plaintiffs in the suit, directors and producers Ben Cotner and Ryan White have created a powerful emotional account of the journey that took the fight for marriage equality all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Case Against Prop 8″ won the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award in the U.S. Documentary category and the SXSW Audience Award in the Festival Favorites category.

FENUXE Magazine chats with Ryan White, Atlanta native and “The Case Against 8″ film director and producer.

Ryan WhiteHow do you expect or desire to impact society with this documentary?

Our goal in making the film isn’t to impact society or change people’s minds — our goal was to make a character film about the journey that these four incredible plaintiffs took part in for five years, and hopefully by the end of the film our audience feels like they went on that journey too. If we’ve done that, then we’ve done our job well. And our audience can decide in the end when they watch the two couples get married if they feel like it’s a right that they deserve.

In your opinion what are the top two reasons that folks refuse to support same sex marriage (SSM) even when they have LGBT family and friends?

I think there are many reasons people don’t support same-sex marriage, and what’s important is to keep those conversations going. Don’t close people off, because as David Blankenhorn exhibits in our film, there’s a lot of power in someone changing their mind. I have seen a lot of my own friends and family change their mind on the issue over the last few years, and I think we’re at an incredible tipping point in the country as we watch public opinion polls continue to move.

Does the issue of raising children within LGBT families strengthen or weaken arguments for SSM?

I think it strengthens the argument. Kris and Sandy are wonderful mothers of four great boys. All they want is for their family to be treated equally under the law. As Justice Kennedy pointed out in the oral arguments, someone has to speak up for these children with LGBT parents, because often their voices are lost in the politics surrounding the issue.

What can individuals do to help the movement of equality?

I wasn’t particularly active in the No on 8 campaign, probably because no one really thought that it would pass and I took that for granted. Following the lawsuit the past 5 years has given me a whole new perspective on activism, and the biggest way that manifests I think is by telling our stories. Kris and Sandy and Paul and Jeff lived openly and honestly about who they are — and they were willing to do it in a very brave and public way — and I think that humanity holds a lot of power in winning people over on marriage equality.

Prop 8 is California-centric, how exactly will it help or hinder other states decisions?

Some version of Prop 8 still exists for 31 states around the country. Each of those states currently has a lawsuit waging challenging the ban. So, while Prop 8 was California-specific, the arguments that were made in court — that this violates the 14th amendment and the human dignity of LGBT people — are the same principles that LGBT people nationwide are experiencing and deserve to be heard.

Can you describe why SSM is not the same as domestic partnership and why the more than 1,138 federal rights to civil marriage are so important to same sex couples?

I think the word marriage is a lot more than a word. Benefits aside, when LGBT kids grow up feeling different because they and their relationships are classified in a different way by their government, they can’t help but feeling the weight of that discrimination.

Tune in to HBO tonight (June 23 at 9 p.m.) and watch this informative documentary. For a sneak peek take a look at the trailer below:

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Flöt Spa – Salaciously Splendid


By Dino Thompson-Sarmiento and Dean Boswell,

Come with me, and let’s seal ourselves in futuristic zero gravity pods.  As the hull doors are lowered upon us, we will lie suspended and silent, as though free of both time and space.  We will allow warm salt water baths to melt away our earthly concerns and leave us in a state of absolute euphoria.  

What may sound like a dream sequence or a Sci-Fi film backdrop is now a delightful reality in Midtown Atlanta.  Flöt Spa on Piedmont Avenue offers patrons the opportunity to spend 50 glorious minutes in one of the most tranquil environments imaginable – all at the price of a regular massage.  

Last week, I ventured into Flöt Spa to try firsthand what so many have been talking about.  Not entirely sure what to expect, I was quick to let the staff at Flöt know I was a newbie.  I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first, but the professional team at Flöt put me at ease right away.  I was shown to my private room where my own Flöt capsule was ready and waiting.  As soon as I entered the warm water filled with Epsom salt and closed the pod door, I realized why everyone has been raving about Flöt.  The hour that followed was one of the most serene of my life; I found myself in the realm of complete relaxation.  Better still, after just the one session at Flöt, I noticed that muscle aches I’d had for months had completely disappeared.    

As I found myself descending back to reality, I imagined that there must be some health benefits associated with floating.  I decided to call a good friend of mine, Atlanta physician, Dr. John Ouderkirk of Piedmont Health & Wellness, to ask him if he would be willing to try Flöt and offer a professional opinion.   After very little persuasion, I must say, he agreed to try a session of floating.   Just like me, Dr. Ouderkirk found himself feeling completely rested after only one session.  He called me the same day and said, “That was an amazing experience.  I highly recommend Flöt sessions to reduce stress.”

If you have not yet had the chance to Flöt, I suggest you book your appointment before the waitlist becomes impossibly deep.  If you prefer to work your way up to a full Flöt session, you may also enjoy a massage or Reiki session at Flöt.  Whatever your preference, Flöt Spa offers affordable stress relief in a relaxed setting.  Be sure to check their website often for specials. 

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FENUXE Chats With The Guys From HBO’s “Looking”


Join FENUXE’s Dino Thompson-Sarmiento as he chats with the leading men of HBO’s new show “Looking.” The show documents the lives of three friends making their way through life and the San Francisco gay scene.

The show has been compared to other HBO favorites like “Girls” and “Sex and The City” only this show features a cast of gay characters. The similarities are there, but where “Looking” finds its true originality is in the fact that it isn’t about coming to terms with being gay or showing the audience a big coming-out story. The characters’ sexuality is presented matter-of-factly, which is truly refreshing and new. The qualms and queeries of the “Looking” characters are more universal and deal with issues such as getting older, finding your place in a relationship and, of course, finding love.

If you haven’t checked it out yet you’re missing out. You can currently watch the first five episodes on demand through your cable or satellite provider and the HBO GO app. 

 

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Jennifer Holliday Coming To Atlanta Botanical Garden


Broadway’s original Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday is coming to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for a concert benefiting Actor’s Express. Holliday will join “The BeHip Allstars” and a six-piece jazz orchestra for a magical evening of song called “Broadway in the Garden.”

Jennifer Holliday recently sat down with FENUXE’s Dino Thompson-Sarmiento for an exclusive interview before her big show this Sunday.

Want to watch Dino’s full interview with Jennifer Holliday?

Tickets are available for purchase here or call (404) 875-1606.

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BREAKING: Brandon Rudat’s Contract Not Renewed at CBS Atlanta


Dwayne Kinney, Digital Editor

FENUXE has confirmed this afternoon that CBS Atlanta will not renew Emmy award-winning reporter Brandon Rudat’s contract. Gay Atlantans have been watching the sexy gay reporter since he joined CBS Atlanta in May 2010. He was the morning anchor on Better Mornings Atlanta from 5 a.m. – 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.

In an interview with FENUXE’s Dino Thompson-Sarmiento, Rudat said, “I love every part of the fabric of this Atlanta community. They have welcomed me with open arms. What they say about the South is so true. People here have treated me with such love. I loved giving so much of my time to local charities and helping the fight to end bullying especially those kids who are so afraid to come out and be proud of who they are. I’ve been blessed with such an amazing life that my faith will lead me to where I can help make a difference. I love this city with all my heart and I truly mean it. I’ve met the most amazing people here who have forever impacted my way of life.”

Ironically, Rudat was nominated for an Emmy this year for “Best News Anchor.” In 2007 Rudat won an Emmy for exposing a fire chief who was also a convicted child sex offender. Rudat was recognized as a FENUXE 50 in 2012 by this publication.

Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.

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Governor McGreevey: Second Chances; The Worst Didn’t Define Him


Interview by Dino Thompson-Sarmiento, Senior Writer
Edits by Berlin Sylvestre, Staff Writer

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was in Vatican City, staring up at the illustrious art laminating the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, attempting to make my penance with God for being gay when I realized: “Hold on a sec. Michelangelo, a known homosexual, painted this!” I was in the holiest of holy places for Catholics beneath the most revered piece of work ever bestowed upon this religion … and it was rapturously created by a gay man’s hands. The realization hit me like a stack of Bibles: Homophobia is human error. Being gay is not a mistake; I am not a mistake.

The ego is a very real thing and it’s perhaps no more pronounced than in public figures like actors, models, and politicians — especially the latter, whose lives are a wax and wane of high praise and mud-slinging on every radio and television across the globe.

It made sense that former governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey was apprehensive to speak candidly at first. After all, this was the formerly married man and father of two who, in the midst of a gay love affair, was outed by the press and virtually forced to resign in a highly televised press conference. This was a man who made the snickering jackals of media giddy with easy-target glee. Gov. McGreevey, though in love, was a broken man.

In more recent times, McGreevey has come to realize that life isn’t defined by our past … that there’s always a way to restart our own narrative. After a very public divorce, the fallen governor went through seminary school and received his Master of Divinity degree. His new mission? Helping prison inmates — most notably, female inmates — realize that they, too, can break the bonds of a sordid past and start anew.

Documenting his sojourn was acclaimed filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, whose skeptical eye has so fearlessly captured political scandals, fallouts, and campaigns that she earned six Emmy nominations for her work. Her 2013 documentary,“Fall to Grace,” recently aired on HBO but is a soft departure from the cynicism of her earlier works. The two came together with FENUXE to give us an intimate look at the new life of Governor Jim Edward McGreevey and to expose the American prison system’s fallacies.

Why did you want to do “Fall to Grace” and why now?

McGreevey: Alexandra wrote me and presented the idea. My partner, Mark O’Donnell, was against it, but Alexandra was interested in focusing on the [imprisoned] women with whom I worked. She felt this story would highlight second chances. At the time, five percent of the world population was incarcerated and twenty five percent of those prisoners were in the U.S.

Pelosi: I had never met [McGreevey] and I honestly thought he was being a cynic in trying to become a priest, but as I got to know him, I saw his sincerity.

Gov. McGreevey, when did you first know you were gay?

McGreevey: Some time between five and six, I knew I was different but I didn’t know how. At eight or nine, I recognized I had feelings for the same sex.

Why not lead an authentic life if you knew?

McGreevey: My religious traditions taught me that being gay was sinful and damnable … and that played a big role. I didn’t want it. On one level, I didn’t want to be authentic to something damnable. To the world, Liberace was different. I didn’t wanna be that man. Being called ‘gay’ or ‘homo’ were cutting because they were true. I made a decision based on the teachings of the church and on self-preservation. The closet seemed like a far safer place.

How does this piece compare to your documentary “The Trials of Ted Haggard”?

Pelosi: Both these men were imprisoned by the church, but in Jim’s story, the worst didn’t define him. He didn’t let that one thing define who he is.

Do you feel that, by positioning yourself to help rehabilitate prisoners, you’re healing yourself somehow?

McGreevey: At some point early on I did. The dean of the seminary I was attending suggested I do this. I’ve met people who’ve been in prison for fifteen, twenty years and they’ve lost so much of themselves … so much of their person that I question the goal of prisons. [Imprisoning people] is like soul-letting as opposed to blood-letting. It’s very dispiriting.

What’s your ultimate goal?

McGreevey: I want to bring these prisoners’ stories to life. We need to surrender judgment and look at them through gentler eyes. I am that imprisoned woman. I want to restart the narrative of these lives. Most of us make mistakes. We all fall down, but we get up. We are God’s beautiful children.

How do you think this documentary is going to affect the public?

McGreevey: Awareness. My aspiration is that we raise the question about how we imprison people in this country. Nearly 70 percent of released prisoners will commit a felony within three years. What we’re doing is not working. Addicts are not being treated. Hence, the United States Department of Justice has given the [Community Reintegration Program] money to help people with addiction through 2015. In the end, we’ll end up saving money, as there will be less repeated offenses.

Pelosi: [The prison system] is definitely broken. It doesn’t make sense to lock up addicts and Jim has proved this through his rehabilitation project.

You have a wealth of knowledge on the American political platform in being Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, filming numerous political documentaries, and writing books on the subject. Has the media turned our political campaigns into freak shows? How would you describe the American political system?

Pelosi: I have great respect for politicians, but all professions have bad apples. Media spotlighting can be dangerous.

Don’t you think that when politicians supply the media with salacious scandal we owe it to the public to disclose these events?

Pelosi: Well … John Edwards was a fraud and he needed to be revealed.

By having an affair while in office, Gov. McGreevey, do you think there was some part of you that wanted to get caught or was it the thrill of getting away with it, satisfying the ego you mention in the movie?

McGreevey: It was a combination of many factors, including loneliness. You just can’t be authentic in the closet.

What advice would you give men who are living dual lives today?

McGreevey: Each individual has to make his or her own decisions. I traveled the country and was amazed to see gay men in the closet all over the place. Most people try to do the best they can. I will say … living openly is far healthier. Honesty equals self acceptance. Some say you’re only as sick as your secrets.

Why’d you pick a career in the Episcopal church?

McGreevey: I love the understanding of failure and redemption. Faith is a powerful tool to change the narrative of your life. It’s helped me find the gift of my life and a sense of gratitude for it. I first approached it as a cerebral decision, then a journey of heart and the acceptance of self.

Are you happy with who you are today Gov. McGreevey?

McGreevey: Yes, and I’m grateful for a loving partner, family with whom I work, for the women behind bars, and for the opportunity to shed light on their world. Being gay is a great gift. It’s allowed me to have compassion for others.

What’s your greatest achievement?

McGreevey: My two extraordinary daughters and my loving partner.

How does your mom (Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi) feel about your career, Alexandra?

Pelosi: *moment of hesitation, then under her breath:* You’ll have to ask her. But she’s like any mom … she’s proud. She’d be proud of whatever I’m doing.

Back to ego: Is this documentary part of a lust for recognition and has it been satisfied?

McGreevey: When you look at this world, money and power isn’t permanent — it’s just temporary. Self love and self acceptance are very important. We’re precious valuable children of God and we serve others in distress. When we realize we’re healing others, we begin to recognize the gifts we bring to the world.

Do you feel many gay men have this affliction because they’re not learning to love themselves because they are gay?

McGreevey: Many of us have a healthy sense of shame, feeling that because we’re gay, we’re not good enough. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. The church has been so wrong on so many issues. Ironically, so many gay religious leaders have lived the blessing and burden of being gay. How we transform the gift of being gay is through the services of others.

Governor, thank you for being so candid. I hope it helps many of our readers out there realize that they do have a second chance, that they can get back up after falling from grace.

And it was with tears in his voice that the genteel and enlightened Jim McGreevey thanked FENUXE for also being a platform to transform lives. You can watch “Fall to Grace” anytime on HBOGO.com as the former governor follows Alexandra Pelosi inside a women’s correctional facility and uses his experience with hardship to counsel women back into God’s light and feeling their own sense of worth and purpose.

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HBO Documentary Hits Close to Home


HBO’s documentary “Gideon’s Army” premieres Monday at 9 p.m. as part of the Docs Summer Series 2013. “Gideon’s Army” is about three young attorneys, who work right here in the deep South, as public defenders “challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point.” They know that the system doesn’t give everyone a fair shake and they’re trying to right the wrongs one case at a time. “Gideon’s Army” was an official selection in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It was won the editing prize at the festival. 

FENUXE’s Dino Thompson-Sarmiento sat down with the gay parents of one of the defendants and Travis Williams, one of the three public defenders featured in the documentary.

Want to watch the trailer before tonight’s premiere? You can watch it below:

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Condo Development Returns To Midtown


Dino Thompson-Sarmiento, Senior Writer

Location. Location Location. And boy does the new condo building at 7th and Peachtree have a hot midtown address.  It’s within walking distance to dozens of great restaurants, shops, nightclubs and office buildings. Plus, it has easy access to the Interstate and the Atlanta BeltLine. This building is screaming buy me — buy me now!

The new condos will open sometime in 2014 and will be called Seventh.

This is the first major new condominium development in Atlanta in several years. The developers saw the rising interest in condominium and designed this building to complement the area. Seventh will continue Midtown’s successful evolution into a live-work-play community and is just in time as our economic recovery is driving up the demand for luxury condos.

The stylish new building will feature 23 two and three-bedroom condominiums. Plans show that the condos will average around 2,000 square feet per unit. The homes will have spacious open floor-plans, top of the line designer appliances, and incredible finish packages.

With only two or three condominium units per floor, two penthouse units, and about 4,700 square feet of ground-floor retail these properties will be a hot commodity on the condo real estate market. Buyers who sign contracts before the building is finished will be able to select from a variety of finishes, appliance upgrades, flooring options, etc. The developers are eager to work with buyers so that each unit is tailored made.

Who is their target market? You guessed it! The gays. These $600K luxury condos are designed with us in mind – And why not? We demand the very best and here it is.  www.seventhmidtown.com

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EXCLUSIVE: Honey Boo Boo star “Uncle Poodle” reveals: “My [HIV] test results came back positive.”


Honey Boo Boo's Uncle Poodle

Uncle Poodle


By Dino Thompson-Sarmiento

Lee Thompson faced a harsh reality when he was diagnosed with HIV in 2012. Now, Thompson – known to the world and his niece Alana (aka Honey Boo Boo) as Uncle Poodle – wants to lend his star power to combat bullying in schools and promote safe sex.

Dino: Lee, when did you find out about your HIV status?
Lee: I was adamant about getting my HIV status checked on a regular basis. On March 16, 2012, I tested negative. Then, in May of 2012 my test results came back positive. I knew it had been my boyfriend who infected me. I later learned he had been HIV positive and was not taking medication and had not bothered to tell me about it. I was advised that I should press charges and, hesitantly, I did. It was the right thing to do.

Dino: What happened to your ex?
Lee: He is serving a 5-year sentence. I would have been cool with his HIV status if he had been honest. I don’t have an issue with the disease. I would have known how to protect myself.

Dino: What is your message to folks having unsafe sex?
Lee: They are damn fools! They are playing Russian roulette; they are playing with their lives and that of their sexual partners.

Dino: When did you figure out you were gay?
Lee: When I was 16 I knew it. I went to my mother and told her. A mother almost always knows.

Dino: How did your immediate family take this news?
Lee: My mother was supportive from the beginning. My father struggled with it for about four years. I think one of the main reasons was that he wanted grandchildren from me. But when I was about 20 he told me he accepted me as I was.

Dino: Did you also come out in school? What were the repercussions?
Lee: I came out in school around 11th or 12th grade. It was definitely not easy for me. On a daily basis I was bullied in one way or another. There was name calling and physical harm all the way to the vandalizing of my car. Being bullied was just a part of my every day.

Dino: What do you advise youngsters to do if they are realizing they may be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?
Lee: My advice is to seek out their parents or an adult they trust. I would not advise them to go public or share the information with their schools until they feel safe and comfortable. They will know when the time is right.

Dino: Do you have plans to contribute to anti-bullying campaigns as you did with GLAAD and promote safe sex, possibly even do talks in schools?
Lee: Definitely! I know what it is like to be bullied. I know what it is like to live with HIV. I can help and I want to.

Dino: What are your future plans in the television industry?
Lee: I want to have my own television show and highlight what it is like being gay in the south. I think I have a good story to tell.

Dino: One last question: where did the nickname “Uncle Poodle” come from?
Lee: From Alana. She calls all gay men “my poodles” and I am her Uncle Poodle.

I applaud Lee for his extraordinary giving nature and his bravery on standing up to bullies and living his authentic life. It hasn’t been easy for him. He has survived physical attacks — including a broken jaw and broken ribs — accepted his positive HIV status and helped prosecute the culprit, his former lover. In addition, he has overcome the challenges of instant fame. Yet, his focus is helping the LGBT community push forward. This is a man to be reckoned with. I salute you, Poodle; we should all be so lucky to call you uncle.

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