Tonight, Out magazine will honor its 100 most influential people in gay culture with a big bash at Cipriani Wall Street. Kathy Griffin must be on a cruise ship somewhere, so Tori Spelling and Tim Gunn will co-host the camp affair, where the five people on the cover of Out’s December issue—Jennifer Hudson, Mary-Louise Parker, Bryan Batt, Thom Browne and Bill T. Jones—will be among the bellini-sipping award-winners this evening. Annie Lennox is expected to make a special appearance, and Chaka Kahn and Kat Deluna will perform.
We spoke with the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Aaron Hicklin, today to learn more about the selection process behind this year’s honorees.
He talked a lot! Here’s what he said:
There are five people on our cover that are getting honors this evening. And three of them are gay men: Bryan Batt, a gay actor who plays this very gay ad executive in Mad Men, which is, if you’ve got any kind of understanding of the way Hollywood works, is like a real rarity. I mean, it’s either straight men playing gay or gay men playing straight, but rarely is a gay man playing a gay character.
Then we have Bill T. Jones, who is there for lifetime achievement. He’s somewhere in his fifties now. And he’s a guy who—like everyone on this list in a sense—is very committed to his craft, but also lives his life with a certain sense of integrity, which is what the list likes to applaud.
And the fashion designer Thom Browne, which plays on the magazine’s fashion sensibility, but again a designer who obviously has no issues about being out with his sexuality. He’s very much progressive in terms of his work.
As far as the two women on the cover, they’re there—Mary-Louise Parker is entertainer [of the year] and Jennifer Hudson is breakthrough [artist of the year—mainly because they connect quite powerfully with gay audiences. You know, Parker herself has taken lots of roles in what we’d probably consider gay-interest movies, such as Longtime Companion to Angels in America and even in her projects that are non-specifically gay, like Weeds, she definitely connects and appeals to gay audiences. Mainly because her roles are sort of subversive and not in any sense orthodox, and I think there is a natural appeal there to it there to gay audiences.
Jennifer Hudson—it’s really the more flamboyant nature of her work in Dreamgirls, it’s a musical and it was a stage musical long before [it was a movie] that many gay men loved and kind of lionized. And her kind of story in a sense, her Oscar sort of really connected to a lot of gay readers that we also wanted to appeal to in this list. Plus, she’s following that role with Sex and the City, which is kind of like icing on the cake for a lot of our readers.
In terms of the list itself, I think it’s full of really sincerely considered honorees. People from the writer Edmund White, who’s obviously a New Yorker or someone who lives in New York, to performers like Beth Ditto, who is a vocalist for the band Gossip. These are not obvious people, and they’re not people who would make it into mainstream magazines. They make it into ours because we’re really in a sense about honoring people who are essentially under the mainstream radar.
A lot of people weren’t happy with our selection of Perez Hilton, who shot looking very much like Rembrandt in the issue. But, you know, Time magazine once put Hitler on the cover for Man of the Year, so it’s not really what this list is about. It’s about honoring the breadth of gay achievement across the board. It’s not even about influence or power. It’s really sort of a reflection on the year and the people who came to attention through one means or another, and usually because of their successes in their field. And I think it’d be very hard for anyone to argue that Perez Hilton hasn’t been extremely successful in his field.
I would say one name on here that people have raised [as being controversial] is Michael Rodgers, who is a blogger, Blogactive.com is his blog, and he is the one who exposed Senator Larry Craig a year before he was actually caught in the men’s room at the Minneapolis airport. But, I guess, because he was a blogger and maybe a gay blogger maybe he wasn’t listened to by some of the mainstream media. But he was there very early.
But we don’t really make any apologies for anyone we include on here.