Betty Who Trumps Hate

If there’s one thing that Australian singer-songwriter and bona fide pop star Betty Who wants, it’s a head mic like Britney Spears. “Don’t tease; I really want one.It’s the next step.” She laughs before getting serious. “I know that I don’t look like Britney did when she was 16, and I know that I will never be Beyoncé. But I know that there are things that these girls serve you that for my entire life I’ve wanted to do.”

Since 2013, Betty Who has indeed been working to recreate some of the magic of her idols. Starting her career with the release of the flawless EP The Movement, the singer’s song “Somebody Loves You” went viral that same year after it was used in a video that saw Salt Lake City resident Spencer Stout propose to his boyfriend Dustin Reeser in a Home Depot. The video was picked up by major news organizations, as was Betty’s song, and the singer soon signed a record deal with RCA Records.

Things developed quickly from there, and by the end of 2014 Betty’s debut album Take Me When You Go was released. While that should have been the dream, things weren’t quite working out. The album was only officially released in three territories, and despite the initial excitement around the singer’s exuberant pop music, things seemed to go quiet rather quickly.

“I have been very disappointed by decisions that were made in the past by people that weren’t myself,” she tells me, recalling that time in her career. “There are a lot of people who make decisions about my career and life that I don’t think should be able to, but they do, and their word is law. So, in the most diplomatic way possible, I’m really disappointed in some people, and I continue to be. But I continue to have high hopes,” she says, before quipping: “It’s my daddy issues coming through. You keep waiting for them to turn around and say, ‘We’re really proud of you and we love you,’ and it never happens.”

In the following three years, things haven’t been easy. There have been tears, there has been anger and self-pity, and there has been strife. But above all, there has been determination, much of which has manifested itself in her new album The Valley. Released earlier this year, you wouldn’t think that this joyous, emotional and celebratory record had been born through years of struggle.

“I can’t tell you how many songs that didn’t make the album were much angrier,” she says of the collection. “But they didn’t make the album because I didn’t want them to. I can use my art for therapy for only so long, but, at the end of the day, it’s much more important to me to portray myself as an artist that brings joy to sad situations instead of manifesting them.” As she puts it to me, she’s angry at “the man in the high castle” and not at her fans. “So The Valley is the antithesis of that, but in spite of it rather than instead of it — I made the record I was most proud of despite everybody making me feel shitty about myself.” As they say, love trumps hate.

Over 13 tracks, The Valley explores this joy — from the effusive “Some Kind of Wonderful,” the poptastic “Mama Say” and the duplicitous “Human Touch” if you’re a pop fan, there’s something here for you. What’s more, Betty teamed up with writer du jour and LGBTQ activist Justin Tranter for the album’s stand out moment “Make You Memories.” “Justin is adorable,” Betty gushes. “I think he’s brilliant and it’s not just because he’s a great writer. It’s also because, genuinely, he has this energy that makes you feel like you’re awesome. I truly believe him to be one of the most wonderful people in the industry because, while he knows so much, he’s not jaded. It’s nearly impossible to come by.”

Along with working with Tranter, the singer was joined by her long-time collaborator and songwriting partner Peter Thomas, who helped create fan favorite tracks from the past like “High Society” and “All of You.” Together, they helped Betty Who begin to heal.

Part of this restorative journey, Betty says, came from letting go of the expectation of others and focusing on what was actually important to her musically. “I had to relinquish a long time ago that anyone except for myself was going to validate what I did,” she states. “But for what it’s worth, despite the strife that I’ve gone through with the music business, I have been fairly left alone to make the music that I want to make. I can’t name a single moment on the album that’s there because someone told me to put it there. I take criticisms and suggestions, but I decide if I want to listen to them.”

Likewise, there was a burning desire to return to the aspirations of her childhood: her dreams of becoming a fully-fledged fucking pop star. Which is how we find ourselves talking about Britney Spears and her legendary head mic. “I made an indie-pop record for my first album because I thought it was cool, but now I don’t give a fuck,” she says, before jokingly adding, “I want to do exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, which is to make anything as good as the Britney self-titled third record. What an album. I want that Live in Las Vegas HBO special with the water and the see-through cowboy hat.”

Watching Betty Who perform live, it’s clear that she’s living up to her fantasy. Flanked by four shirtless male dancers, she is serving you what she calls “pop realness,” something we both agree is distinctly lacking in today’s market of alt-RB and bore-worthy guitar wielding singer-songwriters.

Just before we part, Betty lets me know that while she’s leveled her own expectations, she is actually happy. “There are so many factors into making something successful, and I know that I work hard enough to be there. But there are also many other factors that go into it that are out of my control. So, if those aren’t lining up for me…” she pauses. “I’ve had to become at peace with the fact that maybe they won’t. But for now, I’m happy that I got to make the music that I wanted to make, regardless of support or affection.”

She pauses again, and then laughs: “You can totally hear my daddy issues coming out again.”

Betty Who’s album The Valley is available now. The singer will be playing at various Pride events across the United States this summer.

Far From Equal: A Community Grows in Tunisia

I can still remember very clearly the first meeting I attended. It was during the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in 2014. Chouf (شوف), a new feminist LBT organization, held a secret gathering to commemorate its creation. A secret event was set up through Facebook, and only people who were invited could get in. The ATFD, another feminist organization, offered their space for the event. We were all excited, but also petrified that the police would come.

Before that day, I wasn’t aware of any LGBTQ people organizing in Tunisia. But as I started to become more involved, I discovered there was an organization called Damj (دمج), which had opened its doors in 2011 and officially registered with the government. They were actively working to change the law that makes homosexuality illegal here. Just as Chouf was getting off the ground, a group called Mawjoudin (موجودين) was being created and was registered by the end of 2014. Things haven’t been easy; the safety and security of our members have been very big issues. But today, things have improved considerably, and the community continues to grow.

At the same time, Tunisia has emerged as one of the world’s most promising democracies. In 2011, the whole nation stood up against the dictator who had been ruling for over two decades, attracting a lot of international attention. What was called the Jasmine Revolution brought hope and a determination for a better life and opportunities. Then in 2014, a new constitution came into effect, protecting and guaranteeing the rights of all citizens equally.

But, of course, the reality on the ground has been a bit different. A lot of what we have witnessed for the past six years is a whitewashing of Tunisia’s image, despite the numerous human rights violations that have occurred. As queer people, we are faced with an everyday struggle to be recognized as equal citizens. Lesbian, gay, and bi people specifically, are still persecuted under article 230 of the penal code which states that homosexuality is criminalized and punished by three years in prison.

Most people arrested under this article are men. To prove they’ve had gay sex, they are forced to undergo an invasive and humiliating anal test. National and international human rights organizations have denounced this practice, labeling it torture, but Tunisian officials have continued to use it.

This is not to say that there has not been enormous social progress. Although society has been witnessing the rise of Islamism and conservatism during the past years, the calls for hate and murder of homosexuals by some religious figures have not deterred more and more people from opening up to education and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The media has also helped address LGBTQ issues, whether on TV, radio, or in written form. Although not all platforms have been allies, the issue is being put out there; the dialogue has started and it is strengthening our community. It took some time before the terminology used on some channels changed from “perverts” and “pedophiles” to the correct Arabic terms for “gay,” “lesbian,” and “trans.” More time is still needed to build a progressive, respectful media, but we have come a long way and for this we are proud.

Despite the lack of authority over these hate speeches and the limited legal achievements, queer people of Tunisia have built a great community – a young and determined community, striving to end all injustice.

Take a Deep Beth: Our Fave Gossip Tracks

It was back in 2007 that Beth Ditto was featured on what is still one of the most iconic magazine coversof our generation. Wearing nothing but a snarl and a slick of red lipstick, the unapologetically fat, queer trailblazer posed alongside a headline which read “Kiss My Ass!” – a nod to the body-shaming that came when Ditto became a household name. As the powerful voice of Gossip, she sent shockwaves through a (still) male-dominated industry. Over the course of 16 years, the band built a lengthy back catalog, which eventually resulted in global success. Last year, as confirmed in an interview with Pitchfork, they decided to call it quits.

Now, Ditto is back without the band to release Fake Sugar, her debut full-length LP. April saw the release of lead single “Fire,” which is only a teaser of what promises to be a musical return to Ditto’s Southern roots. It’s a brooding, slow-building banger which erupts – in true Gossip style – into an anthemic chorus. Just weeks later, she released the strangely seductive “Ooh La La,” a foot-stomping, guitar-driven offering littered with French lyrics and anchored by an irresistible melody.

The production may be glossier and the song structures more conventional, but Ditto’s powerhouse vocals have been the definitive driving force behind Gossip’s singular sound for 16 years. In anticipation of Fake Sugar, we scoured through their discography to bring you the best cuts you might not have heard.

“Heartbeats”

Gossip (then known as The Gossip) made its debut with an eponymous EP released in 1999, but That’s What I Heard is their first full-length release. At just 24 minutes long, it’s an uptempo introduction to the unique mix of blues and punk rock, which sets them apart from their contemporaries. This brief, punchy highlight is just one of many tracks worth listening to from their debut.

“(Take Back) The Revolution”

The band followed up the momentum from their debut with Arkansas Heat, another concise yet well-executed EP which spawned this highlight. It’s ten minutes long, but when things truly kick in, it’s a glorious reminder of the queer body-positivity that makes them so anomalous. “All you do is criticize my body, my hair, and the clothes that I wear,” screams Ditto, hinting at the vital discussions she would later bring into the mainstream.

“Nite”

Ditto’s powerhouse vocals take center stage on this down-tempo track lifted from their 2003 album Movement. It’s a song about loneliness, which expands over stretched-out guitars and builds up to a screaming yet cathartic crescendo of “No, no, no!” Get drunk and sing along – I promise it feels right.

“Yr Mangled Heart”

It was in the mid-2000s that Gossip truly broke into mainstream consciousness, releasing Standing In The Way of Control, a stellar album more driven by dance and disco than ever before. The title track is a clear standout, as is “Jealous Girls,” but the full-throttle screaming of, “I don’t want the world / I only want what I deserve” just about elevates “Yr Mangled Heart” above the others.

“Men In Love”

When I started writing this list I promised myself I wouldn’t include singles, but this should be an exception purely for its incredible video and the fact that, in comparison, with their other hits, it’s criminally underrated. The song itself unfolds at a relentless pace, slowly building up to a cheeky chorus consisting of the lyrics: “Na, na na na, men in love…With each other.” The video sees Ditto with a beehive, driving a school bus full of people dancing, making out with each other and recreating the sweaty, frenetic vibe of every queer bar you’ve ever been dying to go to.

“Get Lost”

In 2012, the band brought Xenomania – the production team behind Girls Aloud’s impressive discography – on board to create A Joyful Noise, possibly their most musically diverse album and, of course, their last. With its influence rooted firmly in disco music and catchy, accessible melodies, “Get Lost” is an infectious slice of euphoria whose spacey, synth-driven backdrop is the ideal backdrop for Ditto’s irresistible vocals.

Ditto’s new album Fake Sugar will be released on June 19th.

Next Level Chill: The Best Spas to Visit ASAP

Some of you guys think summer is three months of perpetual party time. Like a non-stop tequila tidal wave of semi-naked dancing on random islands. But how will your body cope when you’re constantly running out of sunblock, a hangover just becomes the way you wake up in the morning, and you legit can’t find your phone (again)? Plan ahead for some TLC to avoid burn-out, and we all know the best way to slow your roll is at a spa. But you can’t just pick any spa. Treat yourself to one that will melt your troubles away and make for an unforgettable experience. Check these picks out:

Canaves Oia Luxury Resort – Santorini, Greece

This stunningly beautiful, luxury boutique resort is the perfect spot to unwind after partying hard at nearby Mykonos. Their spa has been relaunched this year to include an infinity pool and Elemis treatments.

Aire de Barcelona – Barcelona, Spain

A great place if you only have a couple of hours to spare and need a quick fix. The hamman will bring out all the nasty toxins you’ve built up. Need a fresh face for work? Try the Ami Iyök ritual with a facial and corporal treatment.

Gondwana Game Reserve – Garden Route, South Africa

How about a wild escape from the world? This new “Bush Spa” in South Africa offers just that; a tent, a table, and some very talented spa therapists. And while you’re there you can check out the locals, including lions and elephants.

Liquidrom – Berlin, Germany

Liquidrom is a thermal spa that uses special lighting effects with classical and electronic music to create a unique, relaxing environment that resembles a nightclub without the chaos. Check out their DJ nights through the summer.

Yaan Wellness Energy Spa – Tulum, Mexico

One of the most talked about spas this year is a creation from former rock photographer Bobby Klein, one of the first Westerners to practice acupuncture in LA. Take advantage of their life-coping strategy sessions and treatments developed with local Mexican tribal leaders. Opt for a Bedouin tent if you need to save a few bucks.

Bamford Haybarn Spa – Belmond Royal Scotsman, Scotland

One of the most unique spa locations in the world is launching this year and comes in the form of a train carriage that travels through Scotland and Great Britain! Pass sweeping glens, towering peaks, and black-mirrored lochs (lakes for the rest of us) onboard this “Country House on Wheels.”

Aqualux Hotel Spa Suite – Lake Garda, Italy

This gay-friendly hotel is the perfect place to unwind near vibrant Milan. The spa’s facilities are vast, and packages come with your own personal trainer if you need a little encouragement to get back on track.

Six Senses Zil Payson – Seychelles, Indian Ocean

Luxury brand Six Senses have finally opened their spa at their latest hotel located in the Indian Ocean. Eco-orientated, the spa has a heavy focus on sensory experiences with a breath-taking oceanfront location.

Thanks to Oliver Broad of travel agency RB Collection for giving us the lowdown.

Hired ‘N Out

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released the 15th Corporate Equality Inbox rating workplaces on LGBTQ equality. Over 500 major companies spanning a variety of industries earned a top score of 100 percent and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.” You can read the full report here.

We caught up with a couple of executives from two companies on the list – Jolen V. Anderson, Chief Diversity Officer at Visa, and Sharon Silverman, Group Vice President in Human Resources at Macy’s – to talk about being out in the office and how LGBTQ candidates can actually use their diversity to their advantage to stand out when seeking employment.

For Anderson, diversity and inclusion mean more than just checking off a box. “Today, diversity and inclusion are business imperatives, and companies who get that are winning in the market,” said Anderson. “The global marketplace and workforce are changing faster than ever, and that is reflected in the demands and expectations of our consumers, merchants, clients, and employees. Our workforce must reflect that diversity of thinking to understand how to tailor our products and services to meet those demands and expectations.”

Grindr: So, now that companies are expected to be as diverse as their consumers and clients, how are companies recruiting diverse candidates?

Silverman: Key things we look for on a candidate’s resume include leadership in diversity-focused groups, philanthropy, service-minded experiences and community involvement. Candidates can stand out by amplifying these areas and experiences during their candidacy.

What’s it like being out in “Corporate America” today?

Silverman: Our diversity is celebrated today. It’s a great feeling being able to join in celebrations with my colleagues and have my family – my spouse and our children – participate with my heterosexual colleagues and their families.

Anderson: We believe that differences and unique attributes contribute to our company’s success. It’s important that our employees feel like they can bring their authentic selves to work every day.

What type of training and support exists for fostering inclusivity in the workplace today?

Silverman: Macy’s, like many companies, offers employee resource groups so employees can meet people like themselves and find community. The resource group at Macy’s heavily influenced company policy around family-leave benefits. So, in addition to organizing events like Drag Bingo and participating in the Pride March, employees help shape policy and climate within the company.

Anderson: We have LGBTQ+ and Ally employee resource groups across our global offices –called Visa Pride- and are committed to key issues like Marriage Equality, signing the Amicus Brief and urging Supreme Courts to strike down prohibition laws.

Any other advice?

Silverman: Networking is no longer optional. Employers rely much more on personal referrals than ever before. Make sure you’re attending events, getting in front of employers and asking your friends to refer you.

Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie living in Manhattan. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Move On: Why Being Jaded Makes You Unattractive

“I’m a bitter, single, old queen.”

I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve had friends say this to me. Maybe not with these exact words, but in words that describe the same sentiment: I’m too old to find love, and I’m over all gay men.

Many gay guys love to boast how they “hate all gay men,” or “gay men are the worst.” They wear their jadedness on their sleeve like a badge of honor.

It’s a sign of maturity to them. They’ve seen and experienced so much that they think they know the so-called “truths” about gay men: We’re all shallow, only looking for casual flings, liars, cheaters, incapable of a healthy relationship, and so on and so forth.

Now, they believe this about all gay men because that’s the type of gay man they’ve had the misfortune of dating. They’ve had their hearts broken more times than they’re able to count by guys who seemed different. Guys who seemed like they wanted something more, who seemed like they were “the one.” Only to learn that during their relationship, they were getting lied to the entire time.

This sucks. Plain and simple. I’m not going to pretend that it’s fun to get ghosted by a guy you thought you really hit it off with. It is, of course, incredibly painful when you reveal your true self to someone, only to be immediately rejected. And there are few things in life more devastating than having the man you love leave you for another man.

When you’ve experienced this type of repeated rejection, for years on end, it’s difficult to not become jaded. But that’s exactly why being jaded is not the symbol of maturity that so many gay men think it is. Being jaded is easy. It’s giving up. The mature thing is to keep dating with a changed approach and to keep your head held high. Adults don’t give up when they encounter challenges. That’s something toddlers do.

These gay men are conflating life experience (which they absolutely do have from dating multiple guys), with how they respond to their experiences. Just because you experienced something doesn’t automatically make you mature. Being mature requires going a step further: analyzing and learning from your mistakes and experiences.

Nevertheless, becoming jaded is a natural biological response. Jadedness is a manifestation of what psychologists call “learned helplessness.”

The idea behind learned helplessness is simple. When a person repeatedly endures a painful or otherwise aversive stimulus (rejection from various men), and no matter what he does (he dates different types of guys, goes to therapy, becomes more communicative with his partners, etc.) he’s still unable to avoid the aversive stimulus (rejection from gay men), he will eventually give up trying (stop dating altogether).

He feels that no matter what he does, the bad thing is going to happen, so why bother trying? That’s why it’s called learned helplessness because, in essence, he’s learned through repeated experiences to become helpless.

So I don’t mean to call all the jaded queens immature. What they’re feeling is natural. It’s arguably expected. But let’s not flaunt being jaded with pride.

It’s okay to let our past experiences with men shape us. It’s necessary to learn from our mistakes. But don’t let these past negative experiences define who you are as a person. Don’t let them depress you or discourage you from meeting new guys. Don’t be proud to be jaded. Because at the end of the day, being jaded doesn’t do yourself, or anyone else, a service.

Eivør Can Sing It Any Way You Want It

Although you may not have heard her name before, Eivør is arguably the best-known musician to come from the Faroe Islands, a remote yet beautiful cluster of islands nestled in-between Norway and Iceland. The artist has spent 16 years crafting an impressive and extensive back catalog. This year, for the first time, she will officially release an album in the United Kingdom and embark upon a brief tour of the country, effectively bringing her singular vision to a new audience.

Sonically, this vision is rooted in a blend of organic and electronic soundscapes. It’s a diverse record; songs propelled by experimental throat singing and beatboxing sit neatly alongside highlights like the irresistible first single, “In My Shoes,” whose universal message of acceptance was written in reaction to the ongoing debate surrounding LGBTQ rights in the Faroe Islands. Ahead of Slør’s English release, we reached out to Eivør to discuss the evocative power of language, the beauty of creative collaboration, and the fact that she is, deep down, a self-described love addict.

You’ve been releasing music for 16 years now, but Slør will be your first UK release. Why now, and do you feel nervous at all?

It’s a mixture, but mostly I’m just really excited about it. I’ve been working in a lot of Scandinavian countries, so it has just naturally taken time to expand my touring territories – I’ve mainly been in Germany, Holland and other Scandinavian countries. I was given the opportunity to release the album and tour in the UK, so I took that chance – it’s good! I was surprised actually, I had heard from many bands that you come over and initially play to a small audience as an unknown artist, but most of my shows are already sold out. It’s a lovely surprise to get such a warm welcome.

The album was initially sung and released in your mother tongue, Faroese, and seemed quite personal and linked to your own identity. How difficult was it to translate those sentiments into English?

Yes, it started a whole year ago – I just started to play with the idea of translating some songs, around two or three, into English because I thought they could sound cool. I’ve sung in Icelandic and some other languages before, and I’ve always loved languages. To me, switching between them is like switching to another instrument, it sounds so different. It started as a playful idea, but I’m a bit manic when I get started on things – I just couldn’t stop! I didn’t stop until I had translated – or, rather, rewritten – the whole album. It’s like a new interpretation because there are some things you can’t directly translate. A poet friend of mine, Randi Ward, got really excited about it and helped too, so we just thought we should fully go for it.

Can you tell us about the message behind the first single, “In My Shoes”?

It’s quite a personal song to me; I always write from my own feelings and experiences. It’s about finding your way in life, doing things to your own tempo and doing things you believe in. While I was writing this song, there was a debate in the Faroe Islands – which has been going on for years – about gay rights, which really affected me when I wrote this song and a few others.

What’s the story behind the music video?

Kirstin Helgadóttir, who directed and produced the video, actually had this idea of having a drag queen dancing a quirky dance. It immediately made me think of Dennis – I felt his strong character and touching life story would be a good match to interpret the essence of the song. We contacted him straight away and he was really keen to do it, which I was so happy about because I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. I’m so glad that Kirstin came up with the idea, as I hadn’t really thought about it. I love to get input from other artists to help create something you maybe wouldn’t have thought of yourself.

You’ve talked about LGBTQ rights, but many artists deliberately try not to be political – why was it so important to you, to use your platform in this way?

I’ve never really seen myself as a political songwriter – I was always the type to stay away because I never wanted to narrow my songs down to a certain political view or anything. I like people to have their own interpretations of my lyrics and songs but, in this case, I felt it was a really important message. Some places in the world are way ahead of others in terms of LGBTQ rights, and human rights in general – why not paint it out?

You grew up in the Faroe Islands before moving to Reykjavik and, now, Copenhagen. Do your identity and your experiences consciously influence your music?

I think so. I get inspired by the environment around me, but also by my roots in the Faroe Islands and the experience of growing up in such a small place. For most of my adult life, I’ve lived away from my birthplace, but it still has a really strong influence on me – when I write songs, I tend to visualize Faroese nature and values. I guess it’s a big part of who I am and the way I think, as is that urban mentality that comes from living in big cities. It’s a balance.

It seems to filter into the music – there’s a strong mix of organic and electronic.

Yes, that’s very much how I see the soundscape of this album. The melodies and themes are very inspired by my roots, but the production has a very “big” sound to it.

Do you have any favorite songs?

It’s always tricky – it’s like picking a favorite child! It depends on which mood I’m in, but I do like to sing “In My Shoes” because it embraces many situations. It doesn’t necessarily only talk about being gay or straight, but just about being a person with the freedom of choice to go your own way. There’s another song called “Salt,” which is also amongst my favorites.

“Surrender,” the second single, is very different from the first – was it a conscious decision to show that versatility?

It is a bit different I guess, isn’t it? “Surrender” is a love song that has a different vibe to it. I’m like a love addict! Most of my songs are about love in some form, but “Surrender” is a song about seeing another person behind the curtain; behind that mask that we all carry around.

Your recent Jools Holland performance was both left-field and extremely powerful. What made you decide to perform “Trøllabundin?”

It was actually a request. I guess they wanted one act that was a bit more experimental, so that song was their preference. It’s funny because that’s actually one of my old songs which I decided to re-record because its shape has changed so much as I’ve played it live over the years. My songs do usually change shape because I like to keep them alive and allow them to walk their own way. The new recording is a mixture, and I love to perform it because it’s a combination of traditional Faroese singing and new things that I’ve been experimenting with, like throat singing and beatboxing. I think I recorded it for the first time around ten years ago without these elements, so those are new things that I’ve added.

It’s interesting – I was listening to Slør in its original form, and it struck me that listening to a song in a language you don’t understand really forces you to focus on melody.

I like to listen to songs in foreign languages as well. It lets you create the meaning of the lyrics yourself, and it has a completely different sound. It allows you total freedom of imagination.

Prolific: Mickey Boardman

Prolific is an exclusive video series spotlighting unique queers around the world who are pioneers in what they do. These game changers are prolific, and these are their stories.

Mickey Boardman has been the editorial director and advice columnist for Paper Magazine since 1993. His writing has been featured in multiple publications, including the New York Times, Out, and German Vogue. He’s also been a frequent commentator for shows on VH1, E!, and more. In New York, his colorful personality and fashion choices have made him an iconic and legendary fixture on the fashion/social scene. Check the video and read more excerpts from his interview with us below, where we dive deeper into his feelings about America, his definition of success, and his charity work in India.

Grindr: What does it mean to you to be very American?

Mickey: Well, I’m very optimistic. I think anything’s possible. I think you can create yourself completely, and I think that’s a kind of American sentiment; America at its best. Perhaps that doesn’t reflect the current state of America, but I think America at its best is all about optimism and totally creating yourself in making your dreams come true

Where would you say America is going now?

I would sayI’m hoping that America is in the last throws of evil racism, hatred, and white supremacy and that this will make us all band together and fight against those things. I think hopefully we’ll learn something in the sense that us – meaning people on the left – calling anyone on the right who supports Trump stupid and racist isn’t necessarily a way for them to see the light or for us to come to an agreement. But I think we’re in a really difficult, dark, and horrible time, but we will survive and thrive, and this is life.

Where are you going?

Well, I’ve had the same job for 25 years and I’ve lived in the same apartment for 24 years. So, I’m probably going to the retirement home next.

Who are the people that have helped you along the way?

Well, there were always people who gave me positive reinforcement when I was being who I was. I remember in high school I had this teacher, Mrs. Bathka, who was my freshman year English teacher. She was the first person who encouraged us. She gave us writing assignments and said, “Totally go be yourself, go crazy, don’t think it needs to be normal or follow any preconceived idea of what you think an essay should be.” And I totally just went with it. She loved it and praised me in front of the class. It’s so amazing when someone gives you praise for doing something you’ve worked on and poured your heart into because it makes you want to do more and excel more. Everybody needs to feel a little pride in who they are and in what they do.

You were talking about praise and doing a good job. Do you think you’ve done a good job?

In general, I think that I have done a good job. Obviously, there are times when you don’t always give 100%, but I tried to give as much as I could. I feel like, in general, my life is a big success. Whether you’re a garbage man or you work at a magazine, whatever it is you do, if you are excited to do it and feel fulfilled, then you are a big success in my eyes.

Do you make a point of giving back or trying to help?

I do a lot of charity work in India. I haven’t really done much that’s gay-oriented, but I’ve done stuff with housing charities in New York that helps people with AIDS and HIV. I need to find charities that help with these kinds of situations. In a way, I feel that just going to these places and being gay, or talking to guys on social media from countries where it’s very difficult to be gay, is some kind of help or support to them. But it’s certainly not enough. I mean we all should do more and demand equal rights for LGBTQ people and give money and work with charities around the world.

You said you have been 20 years sober. What warranted that decision?

I have a very addictive personality. I either eat the entire box of candy, or I don’t eat anything all day. I have a very hard time saying no. For a lot of my life, I would drink at a party until I either passed out, threw up, or got kicked out. I also was the type who would cry and make a scene; I was not fun. I also was a drug addict. I wanted to do drugs at the least appropriate time. I didn’t want to do drugs on a Saturday night; I wanted to do drugs at work during an important presentation, which is crazy. I just got to a point where it wasn’t fun anymore. Nobody thought that it was fun or cute and it was really affecting my life.

Would you say you weren’t at peace?

When I was younger, I would say I wasn’t at peace. When I thought being gay had ruined my life I was not at peace, but it’s like Glynda in the Wizard of Oz – I had the power all along to be at peace, I just had to accept myself. That’s really the secret to everything; you have to accept who you are and love who you are. I know that sounds like Oprah Winfrey’s network, but that’s the truth. Once you do that, everything else will fall into place, and until you do that, you can never really be happy. If you think there’s something wrong with you, no matter how rich you are, how successful you are, or how many friends and things you have, you’ll never be happy because deep down inside you feel like you’re bad.

And do you still have the insecurities now that you had when you were younger?

I have the same insecurities that I think anybody has. If I’m interviewing someone who I’m a big fan of and I’m a bit nervous, I think, “Oh, I’m not worthy!” but I know for a fact that I can interview anybody, talk to anybody, and do whatever job is assigned to me. I’m confident and relaxed in a way only a middle-aged person can be: someone who has seen it all, who has lived through it all, and knows there is no shame in asking for help or needing to re-do things.

If you could go back and change anything, would you?

Some things I would possibly change would be if I have ever hurt anyone, or made them sad, I would try not to do that because that’s not a good thing to do. I haven’t spent my life intentionally trying to hurt people, but people have been hurt along the way for a variety of reasons. Also, I would have made out with more cute boys.

What legacy would you like to leave behind?

Well, I would like people to think that I was fun to be around, and think positively of me. I’d like them to think that I’ve done my best to make things better, to help people wherever I could and make the world a more positive place. I want others to think fondly of me, in a positive and constructive way, not just like, “Oh, we liked him.” but that I had a positive impact.

So who is Mickey?

I’m hopefully a rainbow emoji or the smiley face emoji that’s winking with the tongue out. You know, I’m a Libra, so I like beautiful things. We hate conflict, and we hate people being disappointed. I love harmony, peace, diversity, and people coming together in a positive way, whether it’s for fun, or work, or whatever. That, to me, is who I am. I am sparkle, I am a sequin, I am a giant paillette.

Play With Him: The Ultimate List of Video Game Hunks

Video games dispense such a rich vein of female objectification that it’s time to provide a little balance by paying homage to some of the hottest man candy in the gaming world. Whether they are saving the universe or kicking super-villain butt, these chiseled Adonises always look damn fine while doing so. Put down your joysticks and join us for the ultimate list of digital hunks. Let the catcalls and whistles begin…

Dante (Devil May Cry, DmC)

The Devil May Cry’s fan base was torn in two after the game was rebooted and the main character Dante redesigned into a younger, alternative self. Some longtime fans have criticized the new kid on the block for the angsty emo look and for trying too hard to be cool. Has the character really lost the effortless swagger that the white-maned devil hunter had in the original series? What looks better, long or short hair? In all honesty, who cares! Whether you are #TeamOldDante or #TeamNewDante, one thing is certain: this hellraiser is one fine slice of heaven.

Joel (The Last Of Us)

The ultimate DILF of video games, Joel from The Last of Us, is one of those characters that you cannot forget easily, as he is not your average hero: he is a ruthless killer, broken and worn down by the pain he had to endure in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. However, while it is true that Joel is a hardened fighter, we also get to see him caring for others by becoming the devoted guardian to Ellie, humanity’s last chance. And to add magnetism to his persona, he is adorned with an impeccably styled beard and the right amount of rugged appeal to make this yummy daddy the only person you would like to have by your side (until the world ends).

Gladiolus (Final Fantasy XV)

Final Fantasy XV is fronted by a group of babes, but “Gladdy Daddy” – as he is known in the unbridled territories of fanfiction – definitely holds the top spot as the hottie of the gang. Not only does he have abs of steel and a husky voice that caresses your soul every time he speaks; Gladiolus is a loyal friend and sweetheart too, as he will protect you on the battlefield and then pitch you a tent for a cozy sleepover under the stars. The boy is so lovely that we can forgive him for the spiky mullet and designer beard, right?

Bigby Wolf (The Wolf Among Us)

With the handsome features of a young Clint Eastwood, this Big Bad Wolf is the lawful sheriff of Fabletown. Under his disguise, however, hides a ferocious and easily enraged animal that can come bubbling to the surface at any time. In a world of fairy-tale romances and vanilla princes, it is the growling beast who gets your attention, and Bigby Wolf is no exception.

King (Tekken)

You don’t need to have a kink for furries to lust over this guy: inspired by legendary Japanese wrestler Tiger Mask and Mexican luchador Fray Tormenta (remember Jack Black in Nacho Libre?), King is one sexy kitten. He has dedicated his life to fighting and saving orphans from the streets, but I am sure that deep down he just wants to settle down and to find someone who would play with his tail, and maybe, one day, make cute little cubs with.

Nathan Drake (Uncharted series)

Nathan Drake has got it all: he is a charming adventurer, a fun-loving jackass, and he is probably the closest thing we have to a modern-day Indiana Jones, only better looking. Any situation he is placed in, he will find a way out, make you laugh, and look freakishly cute while doing so. Basically, Nathan Drake is the guy you want to not only bang but get pancakes with the next morning because he is just a good hang.

Zangief and Hot Ryu (Street Fighter)

Muscle giant Zangief may not be a classic beauty, but I dare anyone to remain indifferent to the sight of those hulking tights or one of his signature crotch-smacking wrestling moves. Want to see more of the hirsute tovarisch outside of fighting arenas and steamy NSFW Tumblr blogs? Zangief can be admired in all his masculine glory (and iconic red panties) in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, representing it for the thick and juicy hunks out there.

It seems that beards in video games are on trend, as Ryu has stopped looking so serious and started sporting a fresh lumbersexual look in the latest Street Fighter. “Hot Ryu” is a Muscle Mary in the making, and as you can see in the video below, he is not afraid to let his hair down and try new cheeky moves in the fighting arena. You go, girl!

Geralt Of Rivia (The Witcher)

When he is not fighting giants or riding around on his horse, witcher Geralt of Rivia has got to find some spare time to work out his lean swimmer’s physique, as I cannot believe you can get to that age looking that good. This silver fox spends enough time in and out of bathtubs or sorceresses’ beds to let us appreciate his manly scarred torso and perky backside. Feel free to ogle them as he is running around casting spells. Slaying monsters has never looked so alluring.

Kaidan Alenko & Jacob Taylor (Mass Effect)

It would be impossible to talk about the hottest men of gaming without mentioning the boys of Mass Effect. They are intrepid intergalactic soldiers with superhuman powers and an apparent disdain for their uniforms, as it seems they are not capable of keeping them on for too long before they start to fornicate like rabbits. Life in space must be pretty lonely, and players have the option to spark “romance” between the characters, including some steamy space cadet action between Sentinel Kaidan Alenko and Commander Shepard. Cosmic stud-muffin Jacob Taylor, on the other hand, is such a flirt that even the most adventurous space amazons end up glitching with a seizure once they cuddle up against his silky skin.