By Megan Wadding, April 2018 Web Exclusive.
The largest multi-fandom media and entertainment event for LGBTQ women and their allies is returning to Las Vegas for its second year.
ClexaCon, a celebration of LGBTQ women and characters in TV, film, web series, comics, books and more, will take place April 5-9 at the Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Hotel Resort.
The event, which serves to connect actresses, directors, producers, writers, comic book illustrators, visual artists, academics and fans from all over the world to celebrate the best of LGBTQ T.V. and film, and discuss how to improve representation across all media platforms, will include a series of panels on a variety of topics, workshops, a charity cocktail party and a three-day film festival.
Ahead of this year's event, Echo caught up with Danielle Jablonski, one of ClexaCon's three co-founders and co-directors, and here's what she had to say.
ClexaCon co-founders and co-directors (left to right) Holly Winebarger, Danielle Jablonski and Ashley Arnold. Courtesy photo.
Echo: How did this idea come about? Was there a specific moment when you realized the need (and want) for this type of event?
Jablonski: We were all fans of the show called "The 100" on The CW in 2016. The character Alexa was killed off, and in a really problematic way. The original idea was actually to do something positive for fans of that show because there was so much negativity and disappointment around about how that character‘s arc was played out. We wanted to do something to integrate the fans together, to celebrate the good things about that show. Also, as 2016 progressed, we found that more clear female characters were getting killed off of shows – sometimes one or two a week. We just felt that it made more sense to make this a bigger event, that celebrated all LGBTQ women and celebrated good representation and how we could improve it, because there’s obviously so many bad stories out there and so much bad representation.
Echo: Can you explain where the name “ClexaCon” came from?
Jablonski: So, it was Clarke and Lexa, [two lesbian characters on "The 100"], and their ship name is 'Clexa.' ClexaCon was originally going to be a smaller event for the fans of that particular show, but then we just kept the name.
Echo: How would you describe the purpose, and ultimate goal, of ClexaCon?
Jablonski: I would say the ultimate goal is to empower queer women to make sure that we get better LGBTQ content on TV, in film and across all media. Our No. 1 [goal] is to create a community that allows queer women to come together and have a safe space for three to five days each year, because we are often lacking in spaces where we can do that.
ClexaCon 2017. Courtesy photo.
Echo: From where did you draw inspiration for the event? Did you and the other co-founders model it after Comic-Con at all?
Jablonski: We absolutely [modeled it after Comic-Con]. Most of us are attendees at other conventions, so we definitely took ideas from different conventions. We took what we thought would work for different audiences at different events. We generally find most events that are not specifically queer, [in most cases] it’s actually really hard to find any queer content at all. So we really wanted to provide that kind of environment, a Comic-Con type of event that was just all about queer stuff.
Echo: Who would you say this event is geared toward?
Jablonski: We have such an international community. We have something like women from 42 countries coming to the event this year. It is one of the few places where queer women from around the world can come together all in one space. [We hope to continue] encouraging and supporting queer women to become content creative and to support the people who already are in the industry and working to educate our allies about your representation so that they can do a better job, too.
Echo: How do you believe representation of LGBTQ women has changed in the past few years, on television and in film? Have things gotten better?
Jablonski: I think 2016 was a particularly hard year. An incredibly high percentage of all queer female characters were killed off on T.V. Shows. But I think it has always been fairly bad. It’s starting to get better. Now we’ve seen more positive queer female characters on TV, more in the last year than we have seen in a while. I think that’s also partly in reaction to the outrage about how bad it was in 2016. People have been standing up and saying, 'That’s not good enough,' and, 'We need to do better.' Now I think people are starting to pay attention to that message.
ClexaCon 2017. Courtesy photo.
Echo: What are some of the best shows for LGBTQ women right now?
Jablonski: My personal favorite TV show right now is "One Day at a Time." I think that’s an incredible show that has a done a really great job with their queer characters. I'm also really excited that the actors who play the queer characters and also the two show creators are coming to ClexaCon on to speak. It’s going to be a fantastic panel. Also, [the show has] Latinx representation and they talk about mental health and queer representation. It’s just such a great show. My other personal favorite right now is "Black Lightning," because they have the first-ever queer black woman superhero, which is incredible. I’m really excited about where they’re going to be taking that.
Echo: Why do you believe that good representation of LGBTQ woman in the media is so important to the community?
Jablonski: I think it has always been important to see ourselves or presented in a positive way. We spend so much time with media and it’s such a big part of our lives, especially when we are young and coming out. Sometimes TV and film are the only places we see people like us, and the way we see ourselves on screen forms the ideas that we have about ourselves and our futures. Giving young people images of strong, together characters – who aren't killed off for stupid reasons – is really important. I think it’s also important for people outside of our community to see us as real people and real characters on the screens, because sometimes they also don’t necessarily know queer people in real life and sometimes what they see on TV, they believe.
Echo: There will be many workshops and Q&A sessions at ClexaCon this year. How were topics chosen?
Jablonski: All of the main stage panels are related to TV and film ... specifically, the queer representation in them. We have over 100 other panels, and for those, we have an open call for submissions. People got in touch if they thought something was an important topic that they’d like to do. If there were areas or issues that we [wanted to include] that hadn’t been submitted, we went out and found experts in the field who are able to speak to those issues so that we have lots of diversity and lots of topics. We have crazy fun stuff all weekend.
Echo: What are some examples of the different panels and workshops being offered this year?
Jablonski: We have a lot of panels, as well as workshops for people who are interested in getting in to the industry, developing skills or networking. We have a writer’s workshop, a production workshop, a illustration workshop, YouTube workshops, all kinds of educational things so that people can learn some skills and get their foot in the industry that way.
ClexaCon 2017. Courtesy photo.
Echo: How were films chosen for the film festival?
Jablonski: We have an open submission for films. We also work with U-Fest and OutFest ... they are our film festival partners. We take open submissions and we also work with then or if there is a specific film that we want to share with our audiences, then we would reach out and try to get them.
Echo: What sort of feedback did you get from attendees last year's ClexaCon?
Jablonski: Most of the feedback from last year was incredible positive. We were really lucky for a first year that the people were so happy with it. The most common feedback was really that people were so thankful to have such a welcome, safe space for queer women. That also wasn’t necessarily a party atmosphere. We had this massive space that was full of thousands of where women and people really appreciated that. There was such diversity in the content.
Echo: Cocktails for Change is your charity event of the weekend, and the True Colors Fund is the beneficiary. What else can you tell us about it?
Jablonski: [Cocktails for Change] is a Saturday night event where we have nearly all of the main celebrities ... and we will have 100 attendees [who will] get a lot of time with all of the celebrities in that kind of environment. A portion of those proceeds go directly to the True Colors Fund.
Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Hotel Resort
3801 S. Las Vegas Blvd.