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She’s not new to the WNBA. She’s been a player, drafted in the league’s second year, and played perhaps her best ball in Portland and Miami. She’s also been a league coach, for the Washington Mystics. But she’s never before been a head coach of a WNBA franchise, let alone one as decorated as the Mercury, which has three championship rings and just missed its fourth last year. She’s also stepping into the coaching shoes of arguably one of the most successful coaches in league history, her friend and former teammate Sandy Brondello. So while there are some big shoes to fill and there’s pressure, to be sure, there’s also a huge upside to the job.
The Phoenix Mercury boasts a roster loaded with talent and chief among the All-Stars is a player who is widely considered perhaps the most dominant player in a generation, maybe ever, to play in the WNBA — Brittney Griner, or “B.G.” as she’s known around the league. For the uninitiated, Griner is so dominant that if we lived in a different world, LeBron would be considered the “B.G.” of the NBA.
Coach Vanessa Nygaard on the court
Photo courtesy of Phoenix Mercury
“When you need a bucket, she’s a bucket,” Nygaard says of Griner. “When things weren’t working well, we’d just throw it into her and she’d get you points.”
If you’re wondering why the name Brittney Griner rings a bell, it’s because you haven’t been living under a rock the last few months. She is the player who’s been locked up in a Russian gulag and, for the last several months, used by Vladimir Putin as a pawn in a dangerous, high-stakes game of international chess. The Russian President is using Griner to pressure the U.S. to get whatever the hell it is he’s trying to get — and let’s be honest, nobody, not even Putin probably, has any idea what that is anymore.
At this point you might be thinking geopolitical security coupled with European war negotiation strategy is outside of a WNBA head coach’s job description — and you’d be right — yet here we are. But hey, Nygaard went to Stanford, so we’re all good, right?
All kidding aside, to say that it hasn’t been a distraction would be like saying Vesuvius wasn’t a concern to the residents of Pompeii. (Google it, you’ll get it later.) Trying to keep reporters interested in how your players are posting up in the paint while all that’s going on hasn’t been easy. Nor has it been a breeze to completely re-invent an offense, or ask a group of All-Stars to suddenly fill roles that are different than what made them All-Stars in the first place. Yet she’s done this, navigating her team to the brink of a playoff berth while getting to know them and a new coaching staff.
Then there’s the human side, getting to know a new area and the fun things that go with it, like monsoons and haboobs. So it’s understandable that Coach hasn’t had time to figure out some of life’s necessities, like, where she should get her first haircut in Phoenix, which was precisely where she was coming from when our interview started.
“I had been getting my haircut in L.A.,” she said, during the first few moments of our Zoom call. When she saw the puzzled look on my face, she explained that her family was still living in Los Angeles when the season started and she would visit a lot. So, she would just get it cut there. Now that her family has fully moved to Phoenix, she had to finally find a new place.
It’s the little things.
Over the next 30 minutes, Coach Nygaard and I would have an illuminating discussion about a variety of topics. While she was born not far from where the Mercury play, it turns out we both went to high school about 30 minutes apart, in the northern part of San Diego county. I graduated two years ahead of her but our high school sports teams would have played each other, though not in Girls Basketball. That’s because until Coach Nygaard’s mother got involved, her high school didn’t have a girl’s basketball team.
During our wide-ranging interview we would talk about that and how Title IX may have changed the game 50 years ago, but what’s needed now for that change to be fully realized is enforcement, perhaps on the local level, to make sure every kid gets the same opportunities she had. Coach Nygaard shared how she followed her mother’s example years later, becoming an advocate herself for a team she coached at the High School level, making sure “separate but equal” wasn’t applied.
We would also talk about why representation matters. Coach Nygaard is an out and proud woman playing in the WNBA. That’s important to her. She’s aware not everyone is as lucky as she’s been.
“I never thought of myself as being a visible member of the LGBTQ community, or anything like that,” Nygaard, said. However, the coach believes that when people are in positions like hers, it’s important to accept the reality that they’re role models.
“We don’t all have families that are supporting and loving and accepting of us,” she said. For those people, especially for young kids, it’s important to see some positivity is possible at the end. “I’ve had success in my career. I have a loving family. It’s important to see that there is joy, there are good things to come… For me, that’s the only reason why I would say anything or why I would be front-facing in any way — to provide some hope for that kid who may be at home and feel like, ‘ugh, I can’t do this anymore.’”
But more than offering hope, being allowed to be who you are, to be your authentic self, is about being your best self, Nygaard said in our interview. “Nobody’s gonna be their best until they’re authentically themselves,” she said. As a player, Nygaard believes she wasn’t her best until she knew she was allowed to be who she really was.
This is a universal truth that isn’t just shared in the locker room. It reaches the upper-most echelon of the organization, perhaps one of the most progressive in the league, which, to be clear, is saying something.
Mercury President Vince Kozar feels it’s important for the organization as a whole to make sure the LGBTQ community recognizes the Mercury as both resource and partner. “As an organization, we pride ourselves on being as inclusive as possible – whether that’s centering women or historically marginalized communities. And the reality is we’re a product that provides visibility and representation for groups that need that, one of which is the LGBTQ+ community. We have athletes who are out, outspoken and living very authentically. We want to show up for them. We want to tell their stories because we know those stories impact folks everywhere.”
That visibility and authenticity is a big reason why Nygaard is thrilled to be a part of the Phoenix Mercury. Another reason she loves stalking the sidelines of the Footprint Center, the Mercury fans known as the X-Factor.
“Our fans are free to be themselves,” Nygaard says. When you come to a Mercury game, she says, “You’re not going to see just one kind of fan. You’ll see families there with young kids. You’ll see older gay couples. You’ll see just random basketball fans who just love basketball. You’ll see all kinds of people.” Ultimately, Nygaard says, “Everyone is there to just support the Mercury.”
But one thing Nygaard is especially proud of: “Our Pride night.” She swears “It’s the best in the history of sports.”
Kozar may agree, and he has some bragging rights to back it up. “We were the first local sports organization to have a presence at Phoenix Pride, the first to march in the Pride parade, the first to host a Pride Night at a game, and the first to sign local organization ONE Community’s Unity Pledge in support of non-discrimination in public accommodations and the workplace. And if that made even one person feel like they were seen or not alone or valued or that our games were a safe space, then every bit of it was worth it.”
Many of the Mercury players are themselves part of the community. In fact, Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle, took center stage to advocate for her spouse’s release during the WNBA All-Star game in June, a reality that was not lost on Nygaard. During our interview, we talked about the fact that its willingness to put a queer person center-stage on its biggest night sets the WNBA apart from other professional sports organizations — but maybe not for long.
While other pro leagues can now boast out athletes who are active and playing, it is true that few have done more than the WNBA to embrace them. What is also true is that within the WNBA, few have franchises that have done more than the Mercury to make those players and coaches feel at home
Maybe that’s the real X-Factor.
With podcasts on nearly every topic imaginable recently, you'll know that there's something out there for you. They're such a great way to relax and learn something or to have something on in the background as you do chores. As you'd imagine, there are plenty of podcasts out there that explore LGBTQ+ themes or are created by LGBTQ+ creators. Here are some of the best LGBTQ+ podcasts that you need to check out right now.
Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness
Photo courtesy of Apple Podcasts
This podcast, hosted by Queer Eye superstar Jonathan Van Ness, is all about wanting to know more about the world around you. Every episode they sit down with an expert to talk about their field, so they can learn more about it.
Recent episodes have covered things like the Milky Way, Latin culture, how viruses spread, and so much more. It's a fascinating listen, one that you'll be sure to get a lot out of even if you knew nothing going into an episode. It's a lot of fun too, and you'll be sure to laugh as you learn.
Making Gay History Podcasts
Photo courtesy of Apple Podcasts
The problem with a lot of recorded history is that the stories of many LGBTQ people have been buried over the years. “If you want to know more about the history of your culture, then this is the podcast that you want to be listening to” says Anna Peters, an LGBTQ writer at Elite Assignment Help and Revieweal. “You'll find out a lot about the people who lead the way for LGBTQ people today.”
Host Eric Marcus, who also wrote the book Making Gay History, dives into the history of the people who made history but aren't given the recognition they deserve. That includes people like Jean O'Leary, Vito Russo, and Del Martin to name a few.
Girl That's Scary
Photo courtesy of Girl That's Scary Podcast
If you're looking for a podcast that gives you everything that's new in horror with an LGBTQ+ twist, then this is going to be the podcast for you. As a bonus, it's a black run podcast too. Hosts Jazzmin and Kathleen, aka Jazz The 40oz Connoisseur and Kat Daddy, spend each episode riffing on and laughing about the horror that they love.
The podcast has become popular as it has such a fun vibe. It's clear that the hosts are having a great time, and many feel that it's a great show to listen to just when you want some friendly voices in your ears.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Podcast
This podcast uses an interview format to talk to people from the LGBTQ community, whether that's big names or just everyday people, living their lives. Co-hosts Kathy Tu and Tobin Low make every episode fun and interesting, creating a light-hearted vibe that's easy to listen to.
“You'll want to make sure that you tune in, as they speak to people that aren't usually put in the spotlight,” says blogger James Farmer, from Essay Services and Custom Writing Services. “That lets you hear stories that you may never have heard before.” In recent episodes, you'll hear about the lives of black trans people, the gay and lesbian island kingdom in Australia, and much more besides.
Buffering the Vampire Slayer
Photo courtesy of Apple Podcasts
Who doesn't love a good recap podcast? This podcast takes queer favorite Buffy The Vampire Slayer as its inspiration, watching one episode of the show and dissecting it in every podcast episode. The hosts also aren't afraid to get into deeper themes like queerness, gender, the patriarchy, and more.
As well as the episodes, the hosts have even created their very own fan songs about the show, too. These are all on Spotify, so you can go listen to them if that interests you.
Lovett or Leave It Podcast
Photo courtesy of Apple Podcasts
This show is hosted by Jon Lovett, an openly gay MC who takes you through the weekly news cycle and makes it less stressful and even funny to listen to. He's joined by a rotating cast of guests each week, all who contribute to the antics going on.
These are just a few of the best LGBTQ podcasts out there right now. Take a listen to learn and laugh with the hosts, and maybe find your new favorite show.
As Thailand continues to relax its Covid-era entry requirements and affordable luxury remains as prevalent as ever, Southeast Asia’s LGBT-friendliest nation couldn’t be more appealing for a romantic wellness getaway in 2022. The Land of Smiles, whose economy depends heavily on tourism, consistently devised creative pandemic solutions that have protected its population throughout the global crisis while still allowing travelers safe entry to the natural bounty and rich culture that has long made it a bucket-list destination, better positioning the country to welcome back a steady influx of guests anxious to escape the most emotionally draining two years of their lives. Whether your ideal Thai-tinerary is set on the Andaman Sea to the west, the Gulf of Thailand to the east, or in the central capital of Bangkok, here is where to stay to find romance or wellness on a restorative vacation this year.
COMO Private Villa
Photo courtesy of COMO Point Yamu
The dazzle of Phuket’s picturesque coastline and neighboring islands is undeniable, and a stay at one of COMO Point Yamu’s private hillside villas overlooking Phang Nga Bay offers exclusive respite between days spent at each. From indulgent baths for two in your spa bathroom’s soaking tub to champagne sips at sunset in your private infinity pool overlooking the bay, you could easily sequester yourselves in serene seclusion at the property but do at least step out to explore a couples treatment at COMO Shambala spa. For the ultimate romance on the water, splurge on a private yacht charter from Blue Voyage Thailand to explore some of the region’s best beaches and islands while your personal crew prepares drinks and bites throughout the journey. If you have an important question to ask your special someone on this vacation, the stunning sunsets at sea provide an ideal backdrop!
Partially under development on the island’s interior, the sprawling Tri Vananda wellness community primarily offers luxurious private homes on its 230+ acres of mature nature (only 15% will be developed and no vehicles are allowed—it’s strictly golf carts here), but it’s already offering wellness retreats that allow you to take advantage of its integrative wellness programs, wetland nature reserve, all-organic farm, and world-class restaurant, Jamba, which serves artful plates of zero-waste recipes from Iron Chef Thailand winner Rick Dingen. Here, you’ll find a lush paradise within Phuket rarely discovered by the flocks of tourists who spend their days entirely on the sands and sea around the island’s famed coastline, and you may find new sides of yourselves, too.
Soneva Kiri private villa
Photo courtesy of Soneva Kiri
Just off Thailand’s eastern coast in the Gulf of Thailand, the tiny island of Koh Kood is home to dozens of accommodations, but the unrivaled luxury of Soneva Kiri brings superior romance that won’t be topped elsewhere. Book the property’s charter jet to arrive at the tiny outdoor airport on Koh Mai Si before a quick boat ride to the resort’s welcome pier for maximum exclusivity. From here, check in to a personal beachfront villa that not only contains your own stretch of sand on a quiet bay, but comes equipped with private outdoor living space that includes covered dining and kitchenette; a full-service outdoor spa bathroom including two outdoor showers, a whirlpool tub, and massage chaise; and sprawling decks with soft and hard seating along a swimming pool larger than many homes (consider booking a floating meal here for a truly special experience). While you’ll never feel crowded by the property’s other guests, you can escape them entirely with a meal in Soneva Kiri’s signature treepod. Hoisted to the canopy in an oversize bamboo nest enveloping your table, your meal here is delivered by acrobatic servers on a zipline as you gaze out from the treetops across the water, equally inspiring by day or night.
Relax and rejuvenate at RAKxa
Photo courtesy of RAKxa Wellness and Medical Retreat
Bangkok may be better known for bustling activity and raucous nightlife than for wellness and tranquility, but Bang Krachao, just 30 minutes from the city center is an artificial river island oasis known locally as the “green lung of Bangkok,” and here you’ll find a wellness facility unlike any other. The brand new RAKxa Wellness & Medical Retreat experience is an ultra-personal journey that begins with comprehensive health assessments including medical consultations, wellness consultations, and a fitness assessment. From here, an individualized program ranging from interdisciplinary spa treatments to medical wellness regimens like cryotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy is scheduled around your mindful meals and relaxation among the gardens, by the pool, or in your villa retreat.
Villas are designed for total tranquility by day with open spaces, neutral tones, and private gardens complete with grounding trails, and the villa’s smart system monitors not just temperature, but humidity, carbon dioxide level, and air quality for an ideal interior. The discrete kitchenette is stocked with a daily regimen of teas and juice boosters to regulate body and mind throughout the day, and blackout curtains surround the plush bedroom for uninterrupted sleep (even the smart system’s screen comes with its own blackout hood for bedtime). Programs here can include as little as one night, but 5- and 7-night itineraries are more effective whether you have targeted goals or just want to completely reset and recharge together.
You’ll need to head back into the city in order to depart and, if Bangkok’s popular dinner cruises aren’t your style, opt for a swanky dinner aboard Sirimahannop, the permanently docked three-masted ship serving elegant meals with the charm of yesteryear and the culinary prowess of today. The chic experience is a perfect re-entry to the busy city that still offers enough privacy for a romantic farewell dinner in Thailand.
Club Skirts presents The Dinah — the annual music festival and pool party weekend and the largest lesbian event worldwide — is taking over Palm Springs from September 21st through the 25th.
Now celebrating its 31st year, the star-studded weekend will kick off a five-day party known to draw in upwards of 15,000 women from around the world.
This year, for the first time ever, the event will take place in Palm Springs’ most iconic hotel, The Margaritaville — formerly The Riviera — famous in the ’60s for its role as celebrity central, drawing the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr., and Sonny and Cher.
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
“I think it is definitely a rite of passage and a bucket list item,” said Mariah Hanson, ”and it’s a beacon in a way. I think that what we create there is so magical and so inspiring that you hear about it and you want to be a part of it because it’s life-changing.”
Hanson explained that the magic is intentional. She said along with her staff, they set to produce an event that is diverse, welcoming, and life-changing.
“We create a world for five days where people are united by the common theme of just acceptance and diversity and living in a world you want to live in,” Hanson said.
Hanson said she is proud to offer what she says is one of the “most diverse, inclusive, celebratory events.” She said The Dinah recognizes that our community is very diverse, and she wants everyone to feel welcome.
The festival includes various performances by nationally-renowned recording artists, massive pool parties with world-famous DJs and go-go dancers, red carpet events with celebrity guests and musicians, and meet-and-greets with lesbian celebrities.
The Dinah pool party
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
While in previous years, the Dinah events centered mostly on pool parties, the Dinah of the past decade has flawlessly amped up the pool parties, while also simultaneously becoming an enormous music festival, drawing in huge superstar artists over recent years, such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Chaka Khan, Meghan Trainor, Iggy Azalea, Eve, Salt ‘N Pepa and more, many of them while they were just on the cusp of hitting the big-time.
Hanson explained that she has a formula, a set of ever-changing criteria, that she uses to book acts. She has a knack for finding artists to perform at the Dinah who is on the cusp of enormous stardom.
“My favorite example is Lizzo, who headlined the Sunday afternoon pool party in 2017,” said Hanson. “Nobody really knew who she was, and she’s a major star now. No one will ever see her in that small of a venue.”
Hanson has another incredible all-female entertainment line-up again this year.
“I’m excited to offer the lineup we have. I think it’s powerful. It’s almost all queer except Taylor Dane, but she’s welcome because she’s so cool!” said Hanson.
Taylor Dane, 80s pop icon, is taking over the stage at Friday night’s Black & White Ball and is bringing her full band for a special Dinah performance. The GRAMMY-nominated powerhouse’s groundbreaking debut single "Tell It to My Heart" turned her into an overnight star in 1987. She followed the smash hit with 17 Top 20 singles including “Love Will Lead You Back.” Co-headlining Friday night is a breakout hip-hop artist, Haviah Mighty, who is poised to follow the footsteps of Lady Gaga, Bebe Rexha, Iggy Azalea, and Lizzo. She is the first Black woman to win the Polaris Music Prize.
On Saturday night’s Hollywood Party, Fletcher, one of the most electrifying queer artists to burst onto the scene, takes center stage. The GLAAD-nominated artist has a slew of hit singles including “Undrunk”, “Bitter”, “girls girls girls”, and “Cherry.” Her new single “Her Body is Bible” is out now and her debut album is being released this month.
“You don’t want to miss any of these acts,” Hanson said.
Club Skirts The Dinah pool party
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
All of the weekend’s pool parties, night parties, and concerts will take place at the Margaritaville. The opening and closing parties will both be held at AsiaSF, a new hotspot to both kick-start and close the weekend.
Hanson said she is excited for the Dinah this year and hopes it will, as always, be an amazing experience for all who attend.
Hanson said her message for attendees, other than to pace themselves, is always the same.
“Don’t be afraid to meet new people. Don’t be afraid to reach out and share your stories and listen to other people's stories because there’s people from all over the world coming.”
Hanson negotiated some great rates with the host hotel, Margaritaville, and it currently has a waiting list. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the Dinah discount and to add your name to the waiting list.
For more information and for tickets, please visit The Dinah.