Photo: Sharon McCutcheon
Tim Cook might be the first name that comes to mind when you think openly gay CEO. In fact, before Cook came out, there were no openly gay CEOs in the Fortune 500. But there are countless other women (and men) challenging the status quo of what it means to be an entrepreneur. We love the below women who have forged their own path. Created their own careers. And continue to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Being inspired keeps up alive. And YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous, currently clocking 2.2 million followers on the video platform and 2 million on Insta, is nothing short of inspiring. Born Gregory Lazzarato, the middle of three brothers, Gigi began sharing YouTube videos from her bedroom in Toronto in 2008. They were confessionals, makeup tutorials, and normal goofy videos with high school friends. At the time Gigi identified as a gay male, receiving support from both her parents. Her brothers appeared in videos alongside her as well. It was after losing her mother to cancer that Gigi posted a video officially identifying as transgender. That was December 2013.
She’s spent almost a decade in front of the camera. She edits all her own videos. She’s taken acting classes and made a few moves in the world of cinema. As to who she wants to work with? “Any major star would be amazing,” she says. “I really love acting.” But she’s also broken barriers, working with major brands like Pantene and Crest- what she calls “pinch me moments.” “When I signed the deal for the Crest campaign for 3D White, I bawled my eyes out to my dad, but it shows what you put in, is what you get out.”
“Being a transgender woman I know the hardships that the people in my community go through,” she says. “I think it’s important to get my story out there for the world to see. We saw this with Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox– they’re huge media icons but they made transgender a household topic and that’s really powerful. It changes people’s perspective.”
In the world of YouTube there are those considered to be “top of their game.” Beauty blogger Ingrid Nilsen is one such name. Her charm and smile are infectious. As is her honesty.
In her coming out video titled, “Something I Want You to Know,” Ingrid told her subscribers the she was gay. The video has over 15 million views to date. “I’m gay,” she tells the camera, laughing and crying, “it feels so good to say that.”
Though it felt “natural and important” to her, it was also “a big step in bringing my audience closer and letting them in. I didn’t want to hide. I didn’t want to shut them out.”
“YouTube has been a space where people can be themselves, and be themselves in whatever light that is that day and receive acceptance,” she says. “I think that’s why it’s why it’s so accepting of the LGBTQ community. It’s rooted in authenticity and acceptance at its core.”
We think it’s maybe a little too obvious about how much we fan girl over writer and influencer Nicolette Mason, but the sharp-witted bloggers is the real deal. “I never thought working for a fashion magazine was ever in the realm of possibility for me,” said blogger and writer Nicolette Mason. “I had the education and the background, but there was no one who looked like me. No one I could look to as an example,” she shared. “When Vogue Italia reached out to me and asked if I would be a contributor and a year from that point Marie Claire asked me to come in as a columnist and I penned a column for five years– it was so amazing and surreal to know that my voice did have the potential and ability to be part of the mainstream.”
Nicolette says, “It’s the job of content creators and media creators to reflect our real world.”
Rachel Berks, founder of Otherwild
Otherwild Founder Rachel Berks didn’t set out to open a boutique shop slash graphic design studio (making her an official slashie), but when the graphic design world and a brief stint at William Morris designing presentations for fast food companies didn’t align with the vision she had for her future, she shifted gears. Otherwild was born in LA in 2012 and just opened a second location in New York this past May.
Now she’s focussed less on fast and more on building community and offering an inclusive space for the LGBTQ population. It’s the glue that binds Otherwild’s followers together and also sets her apart as a business owner. You might recall Rachel as the unapologetic force that brought back “The Future is Female” shirt after seeing the image on HerStory’s Instagram, which focusses on the herstory of lesbian imagery. She’s also committed to representing the multi-dimensional and expansive queer community.