The Influencers

LGBT people have an increasingly visible influence on all our lives, as Paul F Cockburn reports.

IT: Tim Cook (CEO Apple Inc.)
Steve Jobs is credited with dragging Apple from near bankruptcy in 1997 to being (according to Forbes in 2016) the eighth biggest public company in the world. Yet a significant player was Timothy Donald Cook, head-hunted by Jobs from Compaq in 1998 to help move Apple into the consumer market. Cook reduced costs and made long-term investments ensuring stable supplies for the company’s successive “blockbuster” products—iPods, iPhones and iPads. He was Jobs’s chosen successor in 2011. Three years later Cook became the first Chief Executive of a Fortune 500 company to publicly identify as gay.

Other: Joel Simkhai (Grindr); Jon “maddog” Hall (Exec director, Linux International)

TV: Ellen DeGeneres (Talk Show Host/Producer/Spokesperson)
First known for her stand-up comedy, and then her self-titled sitcom Ellen (1994 – 1998), DeGeneres’s regular “gig” is now her five-days-a-week, hour-long syndicated TV talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which has attracted numerous Hollywood stars—and awards—since its debut in 2003. The 2014 Oscar™ ceremony host remains arguably the only woman to have come out twice on television as a lesbian—as herself, on a February 1997 edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show, and then as her sitcom character a couple of months later (in “The Puppy Episode”) to… “therapist” Oprah Winfrey!

Other: Rachel Maddow (News anchor/Political Commentator); Harry Levin (founder TMZ)

Celebrity: Caitlyn Jenner (TV Personality/Olympian)
The former athlete and “all-American hero” Bruce Jenner, who famously won the 1976 Olympics decathlon, enjoyed a successful career in TV (most recently in reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians), film, auto-racing and business. In 2015, however, Jenner attracted significant global media attention on announcing—on TV and through a US Vogue cover interview, that she identified as a trans woman and would assume the name Caitlyn Marie Jenner. Described by Time magazine as “the most famous transgender woman in the world”, Jenner has undoubtedly helped push trans visibility into the mainstream.

Other: Graham Norton (Chat show host), Steve Grand (singer)

Music: David Geffen, Music/Business
David Lawrence Geffen’s influence on music, theatre and film is significant, from publishing albums by artists including Donna Summer (The Wanderer) and John Lennon (Double Fantasy) to backing the original Broadway runs of Dreamgirls and Cats and being the “G” in film studio DreamWorks SKG, which he co-founded with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1994. While remembered for once buying a $300 million, 454-foot yacht, he’s also highly regarded for philanthropic donations supporting medical research, AIDS organisations and the performing arts. He donated significantly to prevent the anti-Equal Marriage “Proposition 8” from becoming law in California.

Other: Sia Furler (singer/songwriter/Producer); Sam Smith (Singer)

Film: Lana & Lilly Wachowski (Filmmakers)
The Wachowskis, formerly the Wachowski Brothers, are sibling film directors, screenwriters and producers best known for 1999 film The Matrix and its subsequent sequels. Other works include their 2006 adaptation of the Alan Moore/David Lloyd comic strip V for Vendetta, 2012’s Cloud Atlas, and the Netflix science fiction series Sense8, the second series of which is expected to arrive in early 2017. Common themes in their work include “transcending archetypal boxes” including stereotypes of race and gender. They now both identify as trans women: Lana (formerly “Larry”) completing her transition in 2008, and Lilly (formerly “Andy”) in 2016.

Other: Gus Van Sant (Director); Bryan Singer (Film Director)

Campaigning: Kasha Nabagesera (Campaigner)
The “founding mother” of Uganda’s LGBT civil rights movement is an accountant by profession but has excelled in human rights advocacy since the age of 21, speaking not just at international forums on the plight of lesbian, bisexual and trans women but also on Ugandan television. She has repeatedly emphasised how international law must be respected and highlighted consistently those international covenants that successive Ugandan governments have ratified yet failed to implement. She has received both death-threats and numerous international awards, including the prestigious Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Prize (2011) and the International Nuremberg Human Rights Award (2013).

Other: Ruth Hunt (CEO Stonewall); Peter Tatchell (The Peter Tatchell Foundation)

Writer: Russell T Davies OBE, Writer/Producer
He’ll always be remembered as the man who successfully revived Doctor Who for the 21st century, but larger-than-life Davies also gave us two iconic LGBT TV series—ground-breaking Queer As Folk in 1999, and its 2015 “spiritual successor” Cucumber, both broadcast on Channel 4. His “quite detailed, but very succinct” scripts are notable for their imagery and often exuberant playing with form. When asked what Davies’ greatest contribution to British television drama was, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce said simply: “Saving it from extinction.” Davies’ next project is set during the early years of the 1980s AIDS crisis.

Other: Joe Holliday (author/campaigner); Rikki Beadle-Blair (playwright, filmmaker)

Sport/Film: Tom Daley (Diver) & Dustin Lance Black (Writer/Film Producer)
Thomas Robert “Tom” Daley was barely 14 when he attracted significant public attention and affection as one of the youngest competitors at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics—although he had made an impact within the sport from the age of nine. Daley has subsequently won numerous medals at successive Commonwealth and Summer Olympic Games, while building a significant media profile. In 2013 Daley announced through his YouTube channel that he had been in a relationship with a man since earlier that year; this was later confirmed as the American screenwriter, director, film and television producer Dustin Lance Black—best known for the film Milk.

Other: Jason Collins (Basketball player); Keegan Hurst (Rugby player)

Theatre: Sir Cameron Mackintosh (Theatre Producer)
Cameron Mackintosh’s influence on musical theatre is unparalleled; his numerous productions in a near 50-year career include the three longest-running shows in history—Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera and Cats. He also owns eight theatres in London’s West End, and is co-owner of Music Theatre International, the world’s largest owner of secondary rights to musicals. He has produced both original shows—Little Shop of Horrors, Martin Guerre and The Witches of Eastwick—and successful revivals—including My Fair Lady and Oliver! Openly gay, he is a patron of London-based HIV charity The Food Chain.

Other: Sir Ian McKellan (Actor/Producer/Campaigner); Dominic Cooke (Theatre Director)

Finance: Inga Beale (CEO Lloyds of London)
British businesswoman Inga Kristine Beale started her career at the Prudential Assurance Company back in 1982, when the financial industry was still predominantly male-dominated. She subsequently worked for General Electric’s insurance division, turned around Swiss reinsurer Converium, was Group CEO at privately held insurer Canopius, and in December 2013 was announced as Lloyd’s first female CEO in the insurance market’s history. Openly bisexual, Beale was instrumental in the launch of internal LGBT employee group Pride@Lloyds and supports LGBT insurance employee network LINK. She played competitive rugby into her 30s. She married Swiss jewellery designer Philippe Pfeiffer in 2013.

Other: Peter Thiel (Entrepreneur/Investor); Daniel Winterfeldt (Partner, ReedSmith)

First published in Pride Magazine, #22 Spring 2017.

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