V Interesting

The Buffalo Billions, Get Dragged, Be GLAAD

Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content

Oh, you thought the World Cup was expensive? V shows you how billions of dollars are spent annually on sports, and that’s just in the United States. Plus, they’ll break down the risks posed by AI-generated art — and how, on the other hand, there’s nothing to fear about drag performance, despite what some people say. They’ll then chat with GLAAD’s Chief Communications Officer, Rich Ferraro, to share the importance of supporting and normalizing queer stories in the media year-round, not just during Pride month or after a crisis.

Follow Rich’s work with GLAAD on TwitterTikTok, and Instagram at @glaad.

Keep up with V on TikTok at @underthedesknews and on Twitter at @VitusSpehar. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.

For a list of current sponsors and discount codes for this and every other Lemonada show, go to lemonadamedia.com/sponsors.

Joining Lemonada Premium is a great way to support our show and get bonus content. Subscribe today at bit.ly/lemonadapremium.



V Spehar, Rich Ferraro

V Spehar  00:01

Hey friends, it’s Tuesday, December 13th, 2022. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed.

V Spehar  00:20

I’m V SPEHAR. And today, we’re talking money, money, money, where do the billions of dollars for sports stadiums come from? And who’s really profiting off those AI selfie generators? Plus, what’s up with fandom? What drives us to care so much about industries and celebrities who have no idea who we are. And then we are joined by the fabulous Chief Communications Officer of GLAAD and my former classmate, Rich Ferraro. We’re going to talk about everything he’s seen and done for queer people in media over his extensive career. All that more on today’s V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together.

V Spehar  01:08

Okay, friends, we’re gonna kick it off today with a little sports talk. I know not my usual beat. But here we are. Because today and tomorrow are the semifinals of the World Cup. There’s been a lot of talk about how much money Qatar spent on this year’s World Cup, contractors had to create completely new transit and lodging systems, they had to build seven stadiums from the ground up, they had to install powerful cooling systems because even in the winter, Qatar can still reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit. And as we know, this labor and these conditions lead to the death of many migrant workers. Some estimates say that all this work clocked in at $200 billion. And some other people say it may even be closer to $300 billion. Even without the exact numbers, news outlets have resoundingly called this the most expensive World Cup ever. But countries spend a ton of money on sports every year, all year. So today I want to talk about where pro teams spend their money and where it comes from, because it is a big business. One huge area of spending for sports, the salaries. We can’t all be Cristiano Ronaldo, who is reportedly about to make $200 million a season. But in big US leagues like the NHL and the NBA, player salaries are still in the millions. Same goes for their coaches. These teams also have lots of other expenses. You got marketing staff for games, equipment uniforms. So who pays for it? Where does all this money come from? For one corporate sponsors bring huge amounts of money. And in recent years, the NFL alone has been making well over a billion with a B, dollars in sponsorships annually. And Spotify recently paid FC Barcelona to have its name splashed across their stadium and the soccer jerseys $75 million a year for that one. And we haven’t even gotten into what the commercials cost. Timing of an ad determines the cost. But here are some of the specific price tags. And last year’s NBA season, the insurance company StateFarm paid $14 million for ad spots. For Major League Baseball ads can range from the 1000s to the 10s of 1000s per commercial. Now, what’s kind of always like confused me, right, is how we pay for all these services like State Farm Insurance. And we keep our money in a bank like Bank of America. And then those businesses get to use our money to invest in things like putting their names on stadiums, and they don’t even give us a discount on tickets. A family of four could spend up to $1,000 to attend a single NFL game. And let’s be honest, it’s going to cost them more than that. Because you gotta get yourself a snack. You need a beer and you absolutely need that little helmet ice cream sundae that’s the serotonin must have. Why even go to the game if you’re not going to get the little helmet ice cream sundae. And you know, we got to talk about the stadiums themselves. Sofi Stadium in California might be named after a personal finance company that also happens to make a ton of money off student loan servicing, but not even they had enough money to build the stadium alone, they still had to get $5 billion in funding from the owner of the LA Rams. Most of the highest level teams though. They play in venues that were at least partially funded by taxpayers. That’s nuts, right? A private utility that’s supported by the public. And we’re not talking like chump change. Okay, it’s very expensive. The new Buffalo Bill stadium will reportedly cost $1.4 billion to build with local and state taxes covering more than half of it and they didn’t even put a dome on the field. It snows like seven months out of the year here and we’re just gonna have open skies on this billion dollar field. Now, you might not want to pay for any of this, especially 14 bucks every time you want to get a beer. But something comes over us and we love these teams. So many of us still cough up the money put on our jersey and our hat even get there early, because sports are a business but they’re all still kind of like a religion and a family, and we just can’t help ourselves can we? Go bills.

V Spehar  05:08

Simply put fans are wild, especially the bills mafia. And if you’ve never been a sports fan before, but you want to check out a team, you want to maybe become like a bandwagon fan. Go ahead and check out my tic tac where I covered the bills game this past Sunday and I teach you how to be a bandwagon fan. Here in Bill’s country, we are always accepting new fans. But besides that, when it comes to fans forking over fistfuls of cash to watch their favorite teams lose, look no further than Americans traveling to Qatar to cheer for the underwhelming us men’s soccer team. Fans will do where and pay anything it seems for the teams they love, even if the team is not that good. And there’s actually some science to this, the science of fan behavior. Now sports fandom gets a lot of attention in this discourse. But there are obviously fans of lots of other things like bands, movie franchises, actors, Viking lore, and we all love to obsess over it. And there are a few things that explain why so many of us are fans of something. There’s biological pleasure associated with feeling excited, laughing or winning a game. And as animals we seek pleasure. Plus, there’s a whole market of objects that serve to extend that high sports teams and sci fi and bands all have merchandise events, and spin off content that allows you to relive your emotional high over and over and over, or at least tide you over until the next exciting event comes along. The psychologist and Professor Lin Xu Burness has written a lot about the science of fandom for Psychology Today. She points to research that shows fandom has other benefits too. For one, she writes that Anissa patient is a common and healthy part of fandom. Separate from experience itself, the anticipation can release hormones like dopamine over time, this positive emotional pattern can increase a person’s well-being. So yeah, go ahead and look forward to ComicCon, or VidCon, or the hockey playoffs or whatever 23 minute TV showed Episode You’re waiting on. There’s also the perk of finding community liking the same thing as a stranger creates what’s called linked lives between the two of you. It’s a commonality that can bridge differences which is useful when forming relationships at any age, and the right amount. You can even feel community with the thing or character you’re a fan of that itself can buoy you through periods of isolation as long as you’re clear that Will Byers is not actually your friend. The strength of that kind of one sided connection has been studied for a long time. For decades, researchers have shown how hormones and fans can link up with the sport they’re watching. testosterone levels in the stands can increase in step with the levels of the athletes. And testosterone is often released specifically when the fans experience challenges, like a defeat or a close call on a game, some folks might call this parasocial a term that I really dislike. But for many of us, it feels real because it is real. The feelings we have about our favorite band or our favorite TikToker or, you know the Buffalo Bills, they’re strong and they’re meaningful. And that is real. I mean, NYU School of Professional Studies even teaches a class on the science of fandom. And now I’m starting to wonder if our politicians and political strategists didn’t maybe like take a page from the sports fan playbook. A lot of similarities here, guys, and while it’s perfectly reasonable for me to deck my entire home and Bill’s merch and make up excuses for why every game they lose wasn’t their fault. I’m not so sure decking your home and Trump flags or wearing Biden’s aviators or sporting one of Hillary’s pant suits or god forbid one of Rick Santorum sweater vests or making up conspiracy theories when your fantasy league political player loses is healthy. That said, Go Bills.

V Spehar  09:00

Who made your new profile pic? I’ve seen them. I know you did it. I mean, I can tell someone didn’t take your new profile pic because I can see that one of your fingers is missing. And you’ve definitely never been to art basil. And I’m pretty sure most of you are not astronauts or lions or any of the other things that are showing up these days. There’s been a lot of buzz lately about these kinds of images made using artificial intelligence. In recent years, there’s been a lot of apps that use AI to create altered photos or avatars like faceapp and photo AI, and this year is no exception. There has been a surge of AI generated selfies posted on social media in the past few weeks, specifically from an app called Lensa. But people are also sounding the alarm on the practice, especially as they learn more about how AI works. Now, before AI can spit out a visual it has to observe a bunch of examples. Engineers are constantly training or feeding these algorithms on publicly available content. Think images posted to an artist websites or museum archives, newspaper photos and the contents of the billions of articles that are on the internet. It’s pretty understandable that all kinds of creatives are upset with this practice. Some artists have pointed out obvious similarities between their own proprietary art, sometimes copyrighted art, and these AI generated portraits. Even if AI isn’t ripping off one specific style, the understanding is that it stole the input that is now informing its output. It used real people’s labor ideas and skill without crediting those people. Let’s be honest, though, a lot of AI generated art still kind of sucks. But this technology is always improving. And artists are wary of what it will be capable of in the future. illustrators have already expressed deep concern that people will one day use AI to replicate their work instead of citing or buying it directly from them. If the technology gets better, that sounds pretty possible. And remember how it gets better. By looking at other people’s art. It doesn’t just come up with them out of thin air. It scans the composition and color palettes of real existing things. TechCrunch reported that lenses parent model in particular was trained on over 2 billion images from across the internet. And when it comes to algorithms that create the likeness of humans, where do you think they’re getting all that? Maybe you’re unmoved by the rights of artists. Maybe you feel a little differently about the thought of your own face being stolen. So when it comes to face altering apps or voice generators, think about everything helping those along. It’s your selfies on social media. All the audio of your voice on TikTok, lenses says itself in its terms of use that you sign off on, that the pictures you upload will be used to further improve the algorithm.

V Spehar  11:48

You are paying them 7 or 12 bucks and you are giving them your face your likeness. The professor Dr Chanda […] also pointed out how these AI products benefit financially. If you post any of the images that lens have made for you, you give the company permission to use them in their advertising. So yeah, you don’t want to be a free spokesperson for somebody else’s business. We got to read the fine print here. And remember, you’re not only making the computer stronger, you’re putting yourself out there for strangers to use how they want. Okay, my friends, we cannot leave the show on an art is spooky note. So we’re gonna learn about something a little bit more fabulous. Now, let’s talk about the art of drag. Drag is the art of taking on an exaggerated form of gender. There are drag queens who imitate and celebrate femininity and drag kings who do the same for masculinity. There is nothing inherently sexual about drag your gender is just one of many ways that you may choose to express or define yourself. And drag is a fun way that people create a persona for the stage and can highlight parody or celebrate different things about being human. Creating your own character is a trademark of modern drag. But more generic drag has been part of performance for centuries. Beginning in the early 1600s. In Japan, male performers started carrying out the tradition of Kabuki in which they portrayed female characters through acting and dance. A little later in that same century, you could find tons of Englishmen performing as women in plays. This was all largely because women straight up weren’t allowed to participate. So not the best circumstances, but we got some good art out of it. And did you know that the US military even has a long history of drag shows? Yes, sir. That is right. And while Harpy Daniels is the reigning is queen of drag stars, a term lovingly given to active duty Navy sailors who perform in drag, you might be surprised to know that even Ronald Reagan love to cabaret. Yes, old Ronnie starred in a 1943 feature film that aired all across the United States called this is the army. It recreated drag performances and musical reviews often performed for the troops overseas. The music was by Irving Berlin, and the film was the highest grossing musical film of all time, until it was surpassed by White Christmas in 1954. And fun fact, all proceeds from the film about military drag reviews was donated to the army emergency relief. Now, I love some military propaganda art, but it is not the troops that are responsible for the success of drag. The author Frank DeCaro has traced the more recent mainstreaming of drag to the 1980s and 90s in New York City.

V Spehar  14:35

Several performers organized an event called wig stock and the visibility that it created pushed a wider movement into motion. This built on previous drag balls and ballroom culture that people of color began in the city in the 1970s. […] was held for almost two decades ending in the early 2000s. Only a few years later, the drag queen RuPaul launched the reality competition show RuPaul’s drag race and I Honestly, the rest is history. I would think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know about RuPaul or drag race. The show is now gearing up for its 15th season. Drag Race in particular has lifted up drag performers into other professions and even further into the public consciousness. former contestants have gone on Comedy tours have serialized TV shows they’ve started their own businesses and modeling careers. Drag Race alum she Angela even made history by being the first contestant on Dancing with the Stars to perform in drag. When you look at all of this, how can you not be an AW? No, listen, I hate that I have to address this but of course we do. There’s no evidence of drag performers being a harm to anyone and especially not to children. I mean, have you actually ever seen a drag queen story our they’re the cutest things on earth and the books are like all about kindness and believing in yourself and loving yourself. If there’s any good news, it’s this. Despite attacks, there is no sign that the tradition of drag reviews and drag queen Story Hour is getting snuffed out. Mrs. Kasha Davis, who you’ll remember from one of our first episodes, which aired back on June 17, is still hosting her children’s program Imagination Station, which is like a Mr. Rogers style educational show produced and filmed right here in Rochester, New York. And at a drag show in Moore County, North Carolina. Last week, performers took the stage despite a group of protesters gathered outside and they kept performing despite the power outage A few hours later, people attending the drag show just turned on their flashlights and they let them shine on the Queen’s because after all, the show must go on. It can feel like we are alone. Sometimes the supporters are members of the LGBTQIA plus community. But we’re not. We’re not. We’ve got Rich Ferraro and the good folks at GLAAD leading change in the media and providing guidance to some of your favorite companies to ensure this world is a safer, kinder, more rainbowrific place we’re going to catch up with Rich right after the break.

V Spehar  17:20

Friends, Today we are talking to Rich Ferraro who is the Chief Communications Officer at GLAAD and executive producer of the GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD is the world’s largest LGBTQ plus media advocacy organization, working to increase media accountability and community engagement while ensuring authentic LGBTQ stories are seen heard and actualized, Rich, thank you so much for being here.

Rich Ferraro  17:44

V, reunited it feels so good.

V Spehar  17:48

I know for folks listening at home you might not believe this. But Rich and I we

Rich Ferraro  17:54

went to high school together just a few years ago too, just a few years ago.

V Spehar  17:57

I know it was so recent. What do you remember about high school like cuz? Were you out in high school?

Rich Ferraro  18:03

I was.

V Spehar  18:06

It was me, you and Thompson Minetti those were the only gay people I know.

Rich Ferraro  18:09

Right. Right. So I felt like I was one of if not the only out person in high school. And I remember, I brought my boyfriend at the time to prom. And it was a thing. Like I had to have meetings with teachers and everyone had to go on stage to buy their tickets for the prom. And there was this hesitation. And this uncertainty of when I went up and wrote down the name John, as my dates name, a guy’s name. Would they sell me the tickets, and there was uncertainty to have meetings going into it. And then we did go. And it was a lovely time. But it was such a frightening time for me. And it didn’t need to be. And it’s a bit of a full circle moment. Because I’ve worked with now young people who are in their own situations and cities around the country now through my work at GLAAD, and gotten to help them to manage that and to get media attention and the public pressure. But it’s like we should have been able to just study and enjoy high school or go through normal teenage things not have to worry about being LGBTQ like fighters from the get go. But I thought our high school at that time really, diversity was not valued diversity was not something discussed. I also remember in for graduation, they separated they’re very binary, which no school should be if they separated guys and girls on each side of the stage or graduation and I didn’t have a lot of friends who were guys. In fact, I didn’t have any close friends. All my friends were like amazing allies who I’m still in touch with today. But I spoke with them and I said I really want to sit with my friends and I don’t have a lot of girlfriends. And headmaster at the time said how could it be you went through four years of school and you didn’t have more friends and I Hold him, that’s more the environment that you created, then I created it. So that’s more your problem. But in the end, they made me they did not allow me to sit where I wanted to. So I felt like there were these moments in high school where I was learning to find my voice as a queer activist. And it was something that I didn’t seek out. But in order to live my life, I needed to do that.

V Spehar  20:22

I think being gay, at least what I see. And we’ll get more into this at a younger age is more accepted because of people like us who grew up and we’re like out, and we’re, I mean, our age group, honestly, is the first young gay people I ever knew. And I didn’t even know us until we were like in our mid-20s, right prior to that, it was like, I don’t know, my mom’s like older gay guy, friends and whatnot.

Rich Ferraro  20:45

I got a message on Facebook a few years ago from someone who was younger than us went to the same high school, but saw me being out and was this amazing message about how it helped him come to terms with who he was. And I think that’s what we have to do as queer people like, just by being visible just by being out. That is helping our queer community that’s helping younger people and one like breaking down doors for like homophobic and transphobic. And folks who don’t support us and getting in their face, but to just by being out it shows like we you become Laverne Cox has this amazing phrase that I was used possibility models for people. And I think just by being out in high school, I was a possibility model like we were possibility models for future generations, like you don’t realize it until you’re old like us now.

V Spehar  21:31

You don’t I know, because I do remember, like, if I would see you in the hallway, I would be excited to see you. And like, you probably had no idea that I was like, oh, my God, it’s a gay person. I’m gonna be friends with them. Or there’s something there. You know, when we were in high school, I used to just think as soon as I can move to New York City, I can be who I want to be, I can be myself, right. And I think a lot of queer kids and a lot of queer people had that idea to once I get out of my small town, once I get to New York City, there’s gonna be so many more people like me, that’s what I’m going to thrive on and be able to be myself. And I wonder, are kids still having that dream of having to leave where they are to be who they are? Or has the world become a little bit more kind? A little bit more opportunity?

Rich Ferraro  22:12

Yeah, I think that queer people in rural cities and rural spots in the US are claiming their right to exist where they are. There’s an amazing book by Samantha Allen, an awesome author, who’s also trans, where she interviews people from around America. And then there’s really great HBO show called we’re here hosted by Chef Angela, Bob, the drag queen, and Eureka. And they go around to small towns, they find queer people there. And they have them participate in a drag event at the end of the episode, and you meet like the people in their lives. But what’s so important about the show is that these are queer people who are not only proud of being queer, but they’re also proud of being from Selma, Alabama, or whatever the local town is, like, you can’t take that you should not take that pride away from those queer people. But it’s about making an environment where they can thrive. And I think right now, in the last few years, there have been these disgusting and false and wrong narratives about queer people, that many on the right wing are really driving forward. And the way to defuse those narratives is just by being out by being who you are, and showing the world that we’re not threats to kids. We’re not trying to change anything about your life, except maybe turn down the damn hate. But we’re just trying, we’re just existing, and we’re proud of being queer. But we’re also proud of being from your local towns, it shouldn’t have to be that you need refuge cities for queer people in America. And more and more, if you look at what happened, what’s happening in states like Texas, families with trans youth are fleeing, because they’re not safe in their states. That’s such a massive problem in the country today. And it’s something that we all need to address, especially like elected officials. But they’re seeing it still as like, well, queer people are threats. Well, there’s no nothing threatening about an amazing family with a 13 year old trans son in Texas. That family should not have to leave Texas because other people don’t know don’t understand and are ignorant to trans youth and issues facing trans youth. But right now they are and I think that’s it’s such a big issue that I think if fair minded Americans viewed it that way, instead of just viewing the disgusting talking points that are in political advertisements that got to know trans people, the world would change. I’ve been at GLAAD for almost 15 years. So I did a lot of work on marriage equality. And the moment we’re all flipped, is when people started to realize, Oh, I know, I know. Gay and lesbian couples. I know that those guys I like them. They’re part of my family or when grandmas used to would suddenly realize, Oh, my grandson’s gay. I want him to have a husband. Like once you get to know LGBTQ people, you come to understand the common humanity between us all and that’s what breaks down to fear tactics that many on the right wing trying to move forward. And it’s why I think our stories are one of the frontlines to change and I’ve seen that firsthand and in my work at Cloud, because that’s where our mission is rooted in.

V Spehar  25:07

I have to tell you, as out and proud and working in this world as I am, and have been for the last, like 15-20 years, I find myself getting overwhelmed when things like pride come around, or something like that happens and I feel like I’m probably not alone in this where I’m like, be gay, but just be safe, gay, be happy gay, be don’t rock the boat gay. And I know that that isn’t exactly right. But I’m still in a place even in my journey where I’m so afraid, Rich, I’m so afraid all the time, that I’m gonna be the wrong kind of gaze, or I’m gonna or somebody’s gonna see something, and they’re gonna be like, no, no, now I’ve changed my mind about everything. Because I saw this one thing that scared me as a person who doesn’t have a lot of experience with gay people, maybe in a town that doesn’t have a lot of gay people. And now, and now I don’t believe it anymore. And I feel tricked. What do you say to folks who are scared to be out?

Rich Ferraro  26:03

Yeah. When you can’t hold back who you are, it shouldn’t change who you are for the better of the queer movement or anything like that. living your truth is what’s going to help people, I think coming out, it’s a super personal decision, you have to make sure when you do so you’re surrounded by love and support, because it’s not easy. And it should be on your terms. I, I can can’t believe the last week in my life. But I was on the ground in Colorado Springs, helping a lot of the survivors who were attacked at the club Q shooting. And our role there was around the media, because the reporters who descended into Colorado Springs were, for the most part, not all of them. But many of the national reporters were incredibly aggressive in dealing with these survivors who were dealing with immense grief, showing up to their homes and calling them nonstop and asking probing questions. We got to play interference, because we’re an organization that works with the media. But a lot of their survivors felt this responsibility to be public with who they are, to speak out. And I was like, your responsibility. You’ve already done that by being out in Colorado Springs, you don’t owe anyone to be out there in national media unless you really want to. And if you think that it’s what, what’s in the cards for you, I think it’s for people, we feel this responsibility to fight for the next generation to fight for queer rights. And a lot of it is done just by living your life. Because when people get to know you, that today in America is an act of resistance to be out and queer and proud of that, that in itself is activism. So you know, as someone who works for an LGBTQ group, we do need your help, we need a lot of help. But you shouldn’t have that responsibility or feel that you need to because I think just by being out, you can help others in your own community.

V Spehar  27:55

It’s unfortunate that we even have to talk about this and that we’re talking about it again. But as you just mentioned, there was recently a shooting at a queer nightclub in Colorado Springs, devastating, preventable tragedy, and victimize a community that has already suffered so much. And the thing that I am hearing a lot from folks who are kind of like reflecting on what happened is, there were street people who died in the shooting as well, there were a lot of straight people in that club. Being a queer club does not mean that every single person in there is queer that the queer diaspora and the places that we occupy and the ways that we celebrate is a mix and mingle with all different types of identities. Now, when you got there, and you and your team are with the community after this tragedy, how did you triage even like, who to help first how to kind of like, harness back the narrative?

Rich Ferraro  28:48

Yeah. And you know, we were on the ground there, there were other groups like one Colorado, the statewide equality group, and then Inside Out Youth Services, which is based in Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak pride in the owners of club Q as well. So and PFLAG as well has a chapter near Colorado Springs. So there were other organizations there as well. There were also a lot of mental health counselors. For the survivors, the city had stepped up to provide some of that counseling to the folks who needed it. Again, our job was around navigating the media on it. So it was a matter of speaking with the survivors, letting them know what happens when you do become a public person. Some tips like locking down your personal social media channels, not picking up the phone if you don’t recognize the number, and then really helping them because the media really wanted to hone in on the tragedy. And when I found out about club Q is they are this beautiful divers, to your point. Queer and straight people like beautiful family, like really close knit. This was not only a bar or a club, it was also a community center and a lot of ways so I wanted to make sure that that story got told not just the story of the horrific tragedy at The hands have an assault rifle, right? But I was like, How can we tell the story of queer people in Colorado Springs, which is a very conservative and you know, conservatives not a bad word, I’d say it’s more anti LGBTQ in some parts of Colorado Springs than just conservative. But um, how can we tell the story of the community here, not just a tragedy, and then also connect it to the bigger issues in society that drives hate and discrimination against LGBTQ people. So last week, we released a poll of GLAAD queer Americans and 48% of the overall community, including 72% of trans people who responded, say that the current political environment makes them feel for their public safety. Half of queer Americans fear for their public safety, and that is preventable.

V Spehar  31:02

There’s been this wave of anti LGBTQ legislation that is fueling hatred. And it was like this past year, there was a record set for state bills seeking to curtailed LGBTQ rights. Talk about like, what risks this truly presents for us?

Rich Ferraro  31:20

Yeah, and it’s the bills. It’s also the political language, like we just finished a midterm election where trans youth were political pawns, they were treated as political pawns. And they were smeared and ads, drag performers are also under attack. And these lies about drag performers being threats to children and other it works. And people are believing them. So it’s on all of us as queer people to defend and to speak the truth. There were almost 125 either protests or attacks, or threats of violence around drag performances this year, almost 125. And it’s in almost all 50 states. And I was a publicist for RuPaul drag race season eight. I’ve done a lot of work with the drag community and drag artists everywhere. The lies that are put out about drag performers, the lies that are put out about gender affirming care for trans youth, which has been deemed safe and necessary by every leading medical institution in the country and in the world, like the well, World Health Organization, these lies these, this misinformation. It’s infecting Americans who are not from the queer community, it’s infecting them with a with fear against queer people, and with hatred. And I think it’s being driven not only by politicians who are running on this, because they know it’s a way to get headlines, and they are putting out political ads, because they don’t have things to say about how they can help you in a financial way, how you can help on an economic way, or help protect you against gun so you can go to a Walmart and be safe. They think that by demonizing trans youth and drag performers and queer people, they can score political points. And I think that we need to as a community respond really aggressively to those attacks, and to call out the lies and misinformation. But the other party that I think is complicit in that is social media platforms, Twitter, and meta. All of them, we do a report each […] called the Social Media safety index, where we grade them on LGBTQ safety. So it’s about their content policies when it comes to anti LGBTQ hate and harassment, or threats of violence, and then how much they’re enforcing it. And guess what, they’re not doing a great job. And I’ve been forcing it. And I’ve been one of the people who for years will flag content that is vile, that is just pure hatred. And it’s been really disappointing to see across the board, many of those companies refuse to act and enforce their own policies. So all of the social media platforms in our report failed this year, a cloud, we’re not afraid to call out companies when they’re not doing good by the community. But then we also try and help them do better. So we’re trying to consult with them year round with other organizations as well, to do better because social media can be such a great place for queer people. It’s where now we have community that I didn’t have in high school, on some AOL chat rooms, but they need to do a better job of protecting us as well.

V Spehar  34:26

One of the things that GLAAD does is to sort of figure out are we being represented is inclusion expanding representation and advertising and such and television programming, but it has fallen behind a little bit even with more people openly identifying as queer, or as part of the LGBTQ plus community in some way. Can you talk a little bit about the visibility project you’re working on?

Rich Ferraro  34:49

Yeah, yeah, and even TV and film, I think there’s a long way to go to so in TV, we do a report each year about the state of queer characters on television screen. main cable over 600 queer characters at the start of this TV season. Amazing. But guess how many were trans? About 30 was how many were non-binary like single digits. These are identities that we need to humanize that we need to tell more stories, because then kind of takes the wind out of those anti-trans bills and the bills that target folks with different gender identities or expressions. Once they can say, Oh, I know someone like that on TV, or in my own personal life. So I think that the TV and film industry has a better job to do in terms of the diversity of queer representation, more trans and non-binary characters, more characters living with HIV, there were less than three characters living with HIV on TV, though, it’s still an issue facing queer Americans and others as well. And more LGBTQ people of color, because I think gone are the days where we can be defined by Mitchell and Cameron on Modern Family who did a lot of great work to educate folks out there. But that’s not the queer community, we are from all backgrounds. And I think that needs to be reflected, not only for queer people to see ourselves represented, because we know like, I remember what it was like to watch queer spoke in high school I used to hide in my room, and like, try and make it so my mom didn’t see that I was watching at it.

V Spehar  36:20

I was watching, but I’m a cheerleader. Another classic movie.

Rich Ferraro  36:26

And in advertising our visibility project, we launched it at the World Economic Forum in Davos in early 2020, right before COVID. And we launched it because in advertising, the representation is even lower. However, there’s a lot of data that shows that the general public trust brands more than they trust media more than they trust the politicians playing them. And more than they trust any other kind of like NGOs or any other cultural institution. They trust brands right now. So we set at GLAAD, well, there’s a lot of energy from brands, you certainly see it during pride month, everyone wants to throw a rainbow up on social media or have panel discussions for employees. But we’re like, how can we bring that pride year round? And advertising which is so pervasive, like I think like if the whole world was watching POWs on FX, it would be a different world for trans people, right? But the whole world is not watching pose or queer centered stories. They are seeing brands though. So if we could work with the advertising industry to increase the number of queer people and brands and casual ways because we have families just like everyone else that could reach people and influence how they think and how they perceive the community. Now, on TikTok.

V Spehar  37:41

The brand thing is everywhere, right? Because when you’re a tick tock are the only way that you can monetize your channel is if you’re taking ads in some form. I as a political tick talker, don’t take as because it’s just not something that I think occurs to brands that like fits in. But there is a trans woman who is doing exceptional with brands has more deals than any other trans woman, honestly I can think of and that is Dylan Mulvaney who is new to the scene this year doing incredible work. I mean, she is catching just all of the flak from every single possible angle. She is just like out here on the tip of the spear in some ways, when it comes to tick tock representation and working with brands. She has deals with Tampax with Kate Spade with highly feminine, traditionally highly feminine products and brands. And she has gotten a ton of acclaim. She does it well, she’s a wonderful actress. She’s a great brand model, lovely person. And then she gets Caitlyn Jenner, who of course is a member of the community, too, so head on directly attack and degrade her. And that makes other people think that it’s okay to do that. So how do we deal with some of the infighting in our community when it comes to opportunity and when it comes to presenting a cohesive, positive narrative?

Rich Ferraro  38:54

Well, I think when that infighting is rooted in hate and puts people in danger, we have to call it out as a community which many organizations have done specifically with Caitlyn Jenner, who, when she first spoke out about being trans that Diane Sawyer interview was groundbreaking right? It was the first time a lot of people in America met a trans woman and was so powerful. And now the things that she says especially about trans youth about amazing trans women like Dylan like it’s very harmful not just to those individuals but to the community as a whole. And she repeats a lot of garbage talking points from anti-trans people that are not rooted in fact, like if you think about trans youth and sports and some of the misinformation around that. And I think with Dylan like having her tell her story on tick tock like that could be lifesaving for some young trans women around the country and around the world. So I do hope that Dylan while she’s facing disgusting and ugly hate also sees that she’s helping a lot of people by telling her story worry that there’s value in that, and that I’m very happy that brands are going to her and other trans people because trans people are family friendly, like They’re our neighbors, they are parts of our family. So I think that it goes back to the Visibility Project A bit to the power of brands, affirming the existence of trans people working with them standing by them, that can go a long way and the consumers of those brands and the employees.

V Spehar  40:28

I have to tell you, trans people are great influencers, non-binary people, I have spent so much money at Victoria’s Secret and I have to tell the story. When I was young, I was terrified of Victoria’s Secret. First of all, when I was in my high femme days, that was like everything I wore was like the shelf bra with the skinny tank top straps. The early 2000s Was it was a very disastrous time for all kinds of things in Victoria’s Secret was at the center of my trauma. And then as I sort of grew up, I like vowed off of it. I was like I will never buy Victoria’s Secret again. And then this year, Victoria’s Secret comes out with not one but two queer models. One is Olivia Ponton, who’s their new version of an angel. They don’t have angels anymore. But the new one of that incredible, very out model. The other one, their name is escaping me right now, but was modeling on TikTok a new line of gender neutral clothing for Victoria’s Secret. I pulled my wife into the car, we drove to the mall, I was like I’m buying all of this stuff. I’m buying every single thing that that person was wearing. Because I want Victoria’s Secret to know that I am back baby, I’m back and I’ve got adult money. And I’m here. Because you’re showing the nipples. I look great in it. I’ve got all my little matching sets now and whatnot. And I’m but women’s clothing and so long. And it just is the thing that to the point that it’s important to kids, it’s important to adults, it’s important to older people to so often when we’re talking about the future of things and how they’re getting better. We are talking about young people and how adaptable they are. But older people are adaptable to and we’re seeing so many folks that are coming out late in life. And I’m so proud of them. And this is something that’s big on TikTok too, and has big support. But tell me about folks who are coming out late in life, like where can they find resources to find themselves represented?

Rich Ferraro  42:14

Yeah, Sage is a really great organization services and advocacy for LGBT elders. Also, looking into your local queer community center link is a network of nearly 200 community centers around the country. And they do have great support groups for queer people who come out later in life. Many of them do programming for those individuals. And I think it’s really finding a champion when you come out later in life. And I’ve been that champion for some folks who’ve come out later in life, so that you have someone to speak with. So that as you’re telling your friends and family who have known you for their whole life, for your whole life, about your authentic self, you have camaraderie you have support to go to because they might not always respond great. And at first, but you don’t have to think about their response. You have to think about living your life and being true to who you are. But and I think also like going on the streamers and finding queer movies like we’ve workedreally hard at GLAAD to make sure that Netflix has an LGBTQ channel, make sure Hulu does as well, so that you can find yourself represented. Like I said, we’ve got a long ways to go in terms of diversity of that representation. But I think finding those queer stories of people living out and proud and living their best lives and being proud of who they are, can be helpful for folks who come out later in life too. And finding your local queer bars, things like that finding community is what we do magically as queer people like, a lot of us, some of us have biological families, birth families, and then we have our chosen family. And that was what gave me hope on the ground in Colorado Springs is just how that chosen family of the club Q family, how strong they were, how diverse they were, how there was so much love in between these folks before what happened in the shooting, and now after and how they’re still standing united.

V Spehar  44:01

And if you’re listening, you don’t have to qualify your queerness for anyone, okay? If you were married to a man before and now you’re not and you have children, and now you’re queer, or now you’re trans. You just are, that’s okay. It was all valid. It’s all valid. And you don’t owe anybody an explanation for how you identify now, and you don’t need to deal with anybody’s crap being like little See how it’s possible. See it, Jerry see it because I’m living it. Rich, you have an incredibly impressive track record. And even a couple times now we’ve kind of just like touched on different places you’ve been, but you have really been, I mean, witness to just queer history over the last 20 years. What is that like for you? Like, how are you personally doing as like, kind of the queer historian of our generation really?

Rich Ferraro  44:49

No, there are many others as well.

V Spehar  44:51

I think but you’ve been the publicist. I mean, you’ve been the strategist. You’ve been behind the scenes, essentially, moving this forward.

Rich Ferraro  44:59

Oftentimes I still feel like that, that high school kid who had to eat lunch in the bathroom sometimes because like kids in Shelton high school would throw French fries at me and garbage like that. So I think I’m driven by that though. And I think I’ve gotten to meet such amazing people in the 15 years, I’ve been at GLAAD and the work that we’ve done here. I’ve gotten to do major media moments. And like when New York past marriage, I worked on some of the media around that when marriage equality moved forward nationwide to help with some media on that I’ve gotten to work on when the Boy Scouts and that their ban on queer people, both scouts and adults in scouting, I was on the ground where they had this vote. And it was a bunch of like, old, I’m guessing mostly straight, white dudes and Boy Scout uniforms and a huge convention center in Texas. And there I was, with my, you know, Rainbow gear, ready to talk to the media about this vote when they ended the ban on queer youth and scouting. But I think the media is such a powerful tool, and it’s how the world perceives us. So what GLAAD does and what’s kept me here for so long. And what drives me is that if we could get the media to tell our stories better and fairly and accurately, and be that resource for them, and to promote the queer stories that need telling the world is going to change and I’ve seen that firsthand. Over the years I’ve gotten to do that. And I’ve also got to meet like just amazing queer icons like Laverne Cox on I worked on a documentary with her in a team at MTV called Laverne Cox presents the T word. We won an Emmy Award. It was the first trans focused documentary to win an Emmy Award in the daytime Emmys meeting like people like Wilson Cruz, who I grew up with, like I remember watching my so called life, and then getting to work with him. He was a staff member of GLAAD. And now of course, he’s on Star Trek and on every magazine cover and all over Instagram, like looking buff and amazing, but he’s such like an activist at heart and to learn from people like that about using your own voice and organizing others to use their voice and giving the microphone to those people. I’m just happy that I have a microphone at GLAAD and through other connections that I could give to people whose voices and whose stories are going to change. That’s what’s super exciting to me.

V Spehar  47:33

And tell me about the GLAAD Media Awards. This is a huge part of your work and like you said a huge part of like putting LGBTQ stories on a big platform. What’s the GLAAD Media where it’s grown quite a bit.

Rich Ferraro  47:45

And I grew up with award shows like I loved watching the Tony Awards and the Oscars and the speeches and all of that. Next year will be the 34th annual GLAAD Media Awards. And we hold ceremonies in New York and LA and our and I worked with such an amazing staff at GLAAD. They’re driven they’re passionate, they’re queer, they are ready to change the world. And we select nominees in over 30 categories in English and Spanish. From Hollywood to news, we just added a podcasting category this year. And it’s all about queer representation that moves the needle. And our goal with it is to recognize amazing queer content, but also to raise the bar for what that queer content looks like. Because I also, I left GLAAD and I went to now Paramount but then it was Viacom. I worked at MTV. And I’ve worked with a lot of entertainment companies. I know the power of trophies to incentivize executives who are green lighting decisions about what programs are on the air and what programs they put out the same thing in newsrooms. So the GLAAD Media Awards are this incentive for queer content, and we get to raise the bar so that each year it’s not the modern families winning though did win in year one. When it was first introduced, it was quite groundbreaking to have a queer couple raising a child on broadcast TV at that time. But this year, our award winners are focused on trans and non-binary story. So if we, we get to tell the industry chair, if you want to win a GLAAD Award, which many of them do, here’s what you have to do. You have to tell diverse stories you have to tell fair and accurate stories has to be organic, too. We’re not asking for special stories. We’re just saying that queer people exist in the world. So if you’re telling the story of whether it’s the StarTrek’s of the world, or programs about high school, like the reboot of Saved by the Bell has to include queer people today. And then we get to also give a stage to amazing celebrities and newsmakers so that they could speak out about queer issues.

V Spehar  49:50

GLAAD focuses so much on joyful rhetoric, which I really appreciate, because it’s just so often as a queer person you’re met with like, trauma, just discrimination. And then it’s like GLAAD is this place that’s like, No, we have to focus on queer joy. And we’re going to tell those stories. Why is it important for glad to take that approach when centering queer communities and their stories.

Rich Ferraro  50:17

It’s fun, it’s real. Queer joy is real. And we are our community is we’re joyful […]. So sending that message at a time when it can be really dark, dark political and cultural time is necessary, because we don’t, we’re not defined by just by the discrimination that we faced. And I think when we start to realize that, and if we can mute some of the attacks and some of the hate that comes our way, and focus on speaking to each other as a community, that’s how we’re going to help a lot of young people and a lot of queer people who feel isolated as well. We also have a line of kids’ books that are really joyful with little Bebo. I was just gonna ask about that. Yeah, tell me about the books, little V books is a kid’s book publishing company. And we have over a dozen now one stories of queer history. So there’s a little picture book about Harvey Milk and some leaders in the LGBTQ movement over time. And then really sweet stories about a young kid who has a little trans brother, and what that means for them, because these things are happening. It’s not that we’re driving an agenda. It’s like we’re reflecting reality. There’s a great story called prints of night, which was our first book about a prince who falls in love with a knight and they defeat a dragon. Like, just like any other kids on school, like, yeah, I know. Like, I hope it gets made into a movie as well. But I’m like, I think just like other books, and I was like a total bookworm and I was a child. But queer youth deserve to see their stories represented. Also, like parents who are queer, who are raising children, their families deserve to be to see themselves represented. So my boss, the head of GLAAD, Sarah […], she’s married, and she and her wife, they have two kids. And growing up, there were no stories for them to read where the kids could see themselves. Until the book publishing industry has made that a priority or is starting to, and they actually, Sarah Kate and her wife, Kristen, wrote a book called All Moms that was released this year, just about all different types of parents. Because that’s changing. And it’s not anyone driving up, the world is changing. It’s so important that the media reflects that. And there are those who oppose that. And were glad stance is we get to defend the media against those attacks.

V Spehar  52:40

Is there an international component to this too? Are you working with people abroad? Is there a GLAAD England, GLAAD Australia, GLAAD global.

Rich Ferraro  52:47

I wish, we’re actually and we’re a relatively small staff. So we’re just a few dozen people, some people think we’re hundreds of staff members. Now it’s just a few like hard working queer folks who work day and night sometimes. But I always see our work as it has an international reach. When we do there’s an arm of GLAAD that does behind the scenes consulting work on scripts, and on casting and on not only Hollywood, but video games and Spanish language press, news media, etc. So that has a reach because film and TV and gaming is like America’s largest cultural exports that can reach queer people, even in some countries where being LGBTQ is still criminalized. So I think our work has a big reach. We also do trainings for activists so that they can learn how to do GLAAD media advocacy, which is a unique brand of advocacy. We’re not we don’t do direct services. Our work is to work with media, whether that’s social media companies, news, entertainment, gaming, and then to connect them with the right stories and to help those stories get told fairly and accurately. So we train folks, we train people in Australia as they fought for marriage equality a few years ago, we’ve done trainings around the world, even in countries where it’s criminalized, to be LGBTQ, to teach them how they can better work with the media and some of the best practices we have and some of the resources we have, as well. We also work on some international events like the Olympics to drive queer inclusion and to talk about queer inclusion there. And then the World Economic Forum in Davos, which is where kind of all the heads of business and heads of state convene, to talk about social justice issues and other economic issues, etc. But queer visibility was super low there. And some queer leaders in corporate America and groups like GLAAD have really worked together to raise queer visibility at business conferences around the world so that our issues can be there when they’re talking about what needs to happen with gun violence and racial equity in gender equity and all of the other social issues that are talked about abortion like Black Lives Matter. When they talk about those issues. They need to talk about LGBTQ but it’s not unless there are queer people that pushing for that, but they will.

V Spehar  55:02

You said in another interview that I was listening to that dei diversity, equity and inclusion is not a crisis response, it is something that you have to do all year round for folks who maybe don’t even know where to start, like, how do you even start to recognize where you can improve DEI in your world?

Rich Ferraro  55:20

Yeah, especially if you’re in your workplace, I think is an important spot, even in schools. And I think what I was speaking about there is that there are some companies that come in their crisis, where they’re their career employees are saying, why are you not speaking out about the don’t say, LGBTQ bill that’s being moved forward of the bills that would ban gender affirming care for trans youth? Like, why are you not speaking out on this? And I think if you get to that point, it’s too late. Like right now is the time where if you work in DEI, or if you’re in a school or university, where DEI is a priority, like queer inclusion has to be year round. And it’s not just in those moments of crisis about speaking out about a certain bill or about an awful crime like club Q. I think real dei is about holistic. So what are your forms look like? Do? Are they? Are they safe and appropriate for non-binary people are for trans people? What is your demographic data look like? Are you counting LGBTQ people who feel comfortable to be counted? Are you properly resourcing them. And then like, in terms of brands, a lot of them do a lot of work during pride month, like we talked about, but I always tell brands, like, in addition to this beautiful pride campaign with a lot of cute rainbows, like half the meeting and pride month about what you’re going to do for queer people outside of Pride Month in terms of visibility, how are you including queer people in Black History Month? How are you including queer people and Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or the holidays, like my favorite ad ever was a Pantene ad, which was the trans chorus of that lay, singing nice holiday song. And then you saw them each go home for the holidays. And for some people that meant home to their birth families, for some people that meant home to the LA LGBT center because they were living there, or their chosen families. But it was this idea that like, it was groundbreaking got a ton of media attention, because no one had thought to say, oh, yeah, trans people celebrate the holidays, too. So it’s like, if you’re a brand and you’re thinking about LGBTQ visibility, when you do it outside of Pride Month, you get more attention, because it shouldn’t be unexpected, but it is today. And the community sees you not only as marketing to us during pride month, but as joining our movement. And that means telling our stories around

V Spehar  57:32

what’s next for GLAAD, what’s on your vision board for 2023 and beyond.

Rich Ferraro  57:38

And hey, we’re still working with folks on the ground in Colorado Springs to think about some tributes to those lives lost into the queer people who are now starting to organize on the ground there. We have a report coming out later this month about the state of inclusion, our annual report the state of inclusion and film, which we are really invisible on mainstream film still today. Like if you don’t look at like the streamers if you just go into the movie theaters. So I think some attention to change, because we know those stories can educate so many people. And then our biggest one of our biggest programs right now is social media advocacy, where there’s so much good stuff like yourself on social media, but there’s so much hate and harassment and misinformation and lies. So how can we better build pressure for the social media companies to begin enforcing their own policies when it comes to trust and safety. And I think we’ve seen through Colorado Springs, and just various protests, like protesting of pride festivals and drag queen story hours that what’s happening on social media is trickling into real life. And that’s alarming. It’s frightening, it’s violent, and the social media companies really need to step up. So you’ll see a lot from glad about calling on them to do that. And we need all the help that we can get on that.

V Spehar  58:55

Well, I am certainly very glad to hear that. And I am dedicated to being a part of that change and helping you. So Rich, we’re sitting here, you know, two decades after we run those Shelton high school halls and have led such unique strange lives to get to this point. And I’m just feels very full circle to be sitting here with you again today. But I want to know, like, if you could tell a little Rich, and little V maybe, how it turned out what would you say to them?

Rich Ferraro  59:25

You give me all the feels right now. I felt really alone. And I think a lot of queer people do. And to tell them that there is this beautiful, diverse community where you will find yourself and you will find your chosen family and that the world is going to change and it’s going to change for the better. I think in high school, I never thought that I’d see a day where gay people could get married. And now we’re seeing that. I think in high school trans visibility was so low we barely knew the word transgender. And now we know we’re meeting In trans people, we’re seeing them live amazing and successful lives. So knowing that, as the future goes on, the world gets better for queer people. It’s not easy. It’s a fight. But if you can step up and be a part of that the world’s gonna change for the better and that other kids, other young people won’t have to go through the feelings of isolation, the feelings of bullying that you did. So I think about that a lot. I think about younger me in high school, and I just, it’s what drives me to go to work at GLAAD every day, I want to make sure that I’m doing my part. So to help people who are in that situation because it’s avoidable. And I just want to tell them that they’re loved and that queer people are amazing.

V Spehar  1:00:46

They are indeed and I would have loved to hear that all those years ago, and I’m so glad to hear it now. Rich, it is such a pleasure to chat with you. I’m sure we are gonna stay in touch. We’re now we’re back in we’re back in the fold, baby. Maybe […] high school would like invite us back to the keynote speakers for their graduation. I would totally do it. I feel like they’re ready now.

Rich Ferraro  1:01:09

I’ll be there with you.

V Spehar  1:01:13

I gotta tell you guys, you got to be kind to everyone you meet forever, because you may end up interviewing somebody you went to high school with later in life, and they will be the coolest person ever. And you’ll want that reunion to be as wonderful as this one was. And might I add this is the only high school reunion of any type you will ever catch me doing ever. Okay, high school is not a place I want to revisit. But something you might want to visit is me next week right back here where we interview Emily Hanford, a journalist who just did a fantastic podcast called sold a story. That podcast explores the facts behind why kids can’t read properly. We’ll have her here next week to tell us all about it. Leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550. Follow me at underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube and guess what pals? There’s more V INTERESTING with Lemonada Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like Kareem Rahma talking about how he found his way onto the Drew Barrymore show. You can subscribe now in Apple podcasts. I will see you next week.

CREDITS  1:02:24

V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.

Spoil Your Inbox

Pods, news, special deals… oh my.