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Key West has been one of the world’s leading LGBTQ vacation spots for decades. It’s a place of offbeat, picturesque charm, elegant Victorian architecture, a balmy year-round climate, and an open, genuinely welcoming atmosphere. The subtropical island, located 125 miles southwest of mainland Florida at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, has welcomed diverse groups of people since the early 1800s. In fact, the official motto for Key West and the entire Florida Keys is “One Human Family,” proclaiming equality for everyone.
“Key West is truly unique in its distinctly natural and quirky beauty and refreshing tropical weather,” said Pony Charvet, LGBTQ sales manager for the Florida Keys tourism council. “LGBTQ guests visiting have known for a long time that this island paradise offers a sanctuary from mainstream judgment.”
The main thoroughfare, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, is Duval Street. It’s lined with fine art and photography galleries, eclectic shops, and restaurants known for fresh “dock-to-dish” seafood.
The famed “Pink Triangle,” centered around the 700 and 800 blocks of Duval, is home to an entertainment cluster of LGBTQ bars, clubs, and shops. The area also contains four permanent rainbow crosswalks installed by the city.
During Key West Pride 2003, the street was blanketed by a 1.25-mile-long rainbow flag sewn on the island by Gilbert Baker, creator of the original rainbow flag, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the banner’s debut. About 2,000 volunteers carried it the entire length of Duval — from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean — in a sea-to-sea demonstration of openness and pride.
In the Atlantic just 7 miles off Key West lies the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, offering diving and snorkeling in clear aquamarine waters. Other pastimes include watching dolphins in the wild on eco-tours, exploring a boutique museum devoted to playwright and longtime island resident Tennessee Williams, and hopping on a bicycle and pedaling around the colorful Old Town historic district.For many LGBTQ visitors, the island’s spirit and sense of community are its biggest attractions. We sat down with Pony Charvet, a 26-year Key West resident as well as the tourism council liaison, to find out more about those intangible elements that resonate so strongly.
Q: Some 250,000 LGBTQ travelers visit Key West each year. What draws them?
A: Key West for many years held a mystique as a tropical paradise where those of ‘alternate persuasions’ could live open, free, and safe. Pre-Stonewall, this was introduced by people like Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Leonard Bernstein, Christopher Isherwood, and Don Bachardy. So many LGBTQ young people, after getting beat up one more time, dreamed of someday living on a tropical island where they would be safe and free.
Post-Stonewall Key West became legendary and almost mythical in many people’s minds. The Village People help cement this with their hit song "Key West." ‘I’m headin’ for Key West, the key to happiness’ became a dream for many — and that mystique continues as those who visit return home and tell stories of their adventures that could only happen in Key West.
Q: What can LGBTQ visitors expect to find and experience when they come to Key West and the Keys?
A: What makes Key West unique is that it’s an island of differences. The experiences that can be had on the island are as diverse as the LGBTQ community. Want the all-night party? Done. Want peace and serenity in a place of beauty? Done. Want to connect with your tribe and experience a chance to be immersed in your community — or experience a rugged adventure outdoors? Done and done. The list is endless
Q: What are some of your favorite things about the Key West community overall and Key West’s LGBTQ community?
A: People fall in love with the diversity and true community they find here. In a normal city, everyone stays in their little bubble — rich, poor, black, white, yellow, old, young — but here, the island is so small that we live and thrive amongst one another. What I love about the LGBTQ community is just that sense of community… and those who see the love and magic that is our community.
Q: These days a lot of places are vying for the gay visitor dollar — but Key West has been welcoming and embracing LGBTQ+ residents and visitors for more than 75 years. How does that history set Key West apart from other destinations?
A: Key West isn’t vying for the tourist dollars; we’re looking to welcome friends — those we know and those we haven’t been lucky enough to meet yet. Here we put people first, not money.
Q: What role do you think Key West’s authentically accepting heritage plays in its LGBTQ tourism success?
A: The same role the sun plays in creating life on earth.
Q: Are there any specific events or times of year when Key West is especially appealing to the LGBTQ community?
A: January 1 through December 31. As diverse as our community is, we have something that will appeal year-round.
Q: When you have friends in town, what are the MUSTS you tell them to do?
Pony Charvet and a Key West Conch Shell
Photo courtesy of Carol Tedesco of Florida Keys News Bureau
A: Get out on the water. Get IN the water! Get a bike or take a walk, slow down and experience the joy of living for a short time on “island time,” relax by a pool and start a conversation with someone new.
Check out the amazing comedy scene, dance the night away and walk home at sunrise, listen to live music at an open-air venue under the stars. See what it’s like to eat fresh seafood that was probably swimming in the ocean only hours earlier. And finally, remember that you haven’t experienced Key West until you have blown a conch shell!
If you haven't heard of Kim Chi, she is the first Korean-American on RuPaul's Drag Race and was named one of the most powerful drag queens in America. Kim Chi was runner-up on Season 8 of RuPaul's Drag RaceRuPaul's Drag Race and was sent home by Bob The Drag Queen later in the season. Well, since then, she's been quite busy. She started her own makeup line and has been making appearances all over the place. Now, she's teamed up with none other than Trixie Mattel to do a limited edition makeup collaboration.
We got in a little chat with Kim Chi where she talks about life, love, the runway...nah, just kidding. She did take some time out to answer a few questions for us on what it was like being on RPDR, what one product she can't live without, and so much more.
All of the products are cruelty-free and 2% of all sales to The Trevor Project. If you haven't checked out Kim Chi's beauty line, you should, the KimChi Chic Beauty line is stocked with a ton of makeup products and that bowtie is pretty cute too.
Q: What brought you to the decision to start a makeup line?
WTHighlight Double Diamonds makeup
Photo courtesy of KimChi Chic Beauty
A: The options were very limited for good affordalbe makeup, so it was important to me to create quality makeup that every makeup lover could enjoy.
Q: What does the collaboration between you and Trixie Mattel look like?
A: Putrid. Pungent. Audacious. It is a perfect representation of both Trixie and my style!
Q: Where and how did the two of you meet and subsequently become BFFs?
A: She stalked me on Facebook and forced me to book her in Chicago. Haven’t been able to get away from her since!
Q: What makeup product can you NOT live without?
A: Definitely eyeliner. The KimChi Chic Beauty Stage Proof Liquid Liner and The Effin Liner never leaves my makeup kit.
Q: Can you give us some makeup tips?
A: Don’t be afraid to experiment. It's okay to wipe away mistakes and start over if needed.
Q: How has appearing on RuPaul shaped your lives, career, and outlook?
A: It has made me the 17th most powerful drag queen in the world according to some list by a famous publication. Kidding again! It gave me this really amazing platform to live out my wildest dreams, connect with people all around the world, and hopefully inspire others like myself. It showed me the importance of holding on to your passions and living life authentically.
Q: What are your top 3 charities to support?
A: Seniors Fight Back, The Trevor Project, Elton John Aids Foundation
Q: What 2 things would you say to an aspiring drag queen?
A: Success doesn't happen overnight, be patient and prepare to spend a lot of money!
Q: How big of a difference is it between your drag queen persona and non-drag queen persona? Or is there? Do you sometimes forget when you’re “on” or “off”?
A: It depends on whether I’m wearing a wig or not. Kim is a little louder, snarkier, and outgoing than Sang.
Q: What’s next? You have the appearances, the collaboration, the friendship…What is on the horizon?
A: Lots of touring, more KimChi Chic Beauty launches, and one day...hopefully, retirement!
Q: What would you be doing if you weren't a drag queen performer and makeup entrepreneur?
A: Before doing drag I was an art director, so probably something similar relating to fashion design, art, or something similar.
KimChi Chic Beauty
KimChi Chic Beauty and Trixie Mattel Makeup Line
Photo courtesy of KimChi Chic Beauty
You can see the limited edition Trixie x Kim Chi Collab BFF4EVR on KimChi's Chic Beauty site. It's a fun and whimsical product line. The limited edition includes 5 different products with various shades and colors to choose from as well as a KimChi and Trixie Girl Fan or purchase the entire line in one bundle.
"Nobody's Gonna Be Their Best Until They're Authentically Themselves." — Vanessa Nygaard, Head Coach of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury
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.
Skin health is an important issue for everyone but it is especially important to the LGBTQ+ community. Finding a health care doctor that understands your medical history, gender identity, and sexual orientation is difficult. It's very important for a healthcare provider, including dermatologists, to have a better understanding of the needs of the LGBTQ+ population.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the number of melanoma deaths in the U.S. is expected to increase this year by over 5 percent. Studies show that gay and bisexual men are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer due to indoor tanning and unprotected sun exposure. Even transgender people dealing with acne due to hormone therapy are susceptible.
We spoke with dermatologist Dr. Cuong Le with the U.S. Dermatology Partners to find out the ins and outs of skin care health. Dr. Le treats patients of all races and provides a safe space for LGBTQ patients. Education and understanding are his main concern and here is what he had to say regarding LGBTQ skin health:
Q: Why Is It Important To Moisturize?
A: Everyone should be moisturizing daily and make it a part of their routine. Moisturizing helps repair the skin barrier- which can be damaged in certain diseases like eczema or if you are using products that contain ingredients that can dry or irritate your skin. Moisturizing also helps hydrate the skin. This can make your skin look plumper, fill out fine lines and wrinkles, and healthier.
Q: What Are the Proper Steps To Moisturize?
A: Moisturizers work best if applied to damp skin. In the morning, wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply a moisturizer, and then apply sunscreen. At night, wash the face with a gentle cleanser and apply the moisturizer to damp skin. If you have toners, serums, retinol, or retinoids, they would usually go on before the moisturizer.
Q: Does Moisturizing Matter by Gender?
A: Everyone should be moisturizing regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. There might be a difference in how dry or oily the skin is - but even then that doesn't matter. Both dry skin and oily skin will benefit from moisturizing. Something else that might play a role is how complex your skin care regimen or routines are but that is specific to each person- not necessarily a gender or sexual orientation.
Q: What Are the Best Ingredients for Moisturizers?
A: Some ingredients to look out for are ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. Humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid attract water. Ceramides help repair the skin barrier. Petrolatum is an occlusive that helps retain moisture in the skin.
Q: What Are the Worst Ingredients for Moisturizers?
A: There are some things that you should avoid if you are looking for a moisturizer. Fragrances, parabens, and dyes can be allergenic or irritating to some people with more sensitive skin. It might be good to avoid them if you are not sure. Night creams can contain retinol - which can irritate the skin and cause redness, peeling, and make products sting when applied. If you want to use something with retinol in it, I would introduce it slowly so your skin can get used to it. Some night creams also have AHAs or BHAs- these are weak acids that can also be irritating especially if they are overused.
A good skin care regimen does not have to be complicated and can consist of just a gentle cleanser, a good moisturizer, a good sunscreen, and retinol or retinoids.
Good Skin HealthPhoto by Good Skin Club on Unsplash
Based on the interview from Dr. Le, we put together a little skin care routine that is very easy to follow and you can add to it as your skin care health needs. Remember, the different seasons also play an important role in skincare. During the summer months, you will most likely need a lighter moisturizer while during the winter months, you'll need a more thicker and richer moisturizer.
For Proper Skin Health, Start with a Basic Skin Care Routine
Every morning you should use the following routine:
- Cleanse. Use a mild cleanser to remove dirt and grime that has built up overnight.
- Moisturize. Use a moisturizer that works with your skin type and for the time of the season.
- Sunscreen. You should be protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
Your nightly skincare routine should look something like this:
- Cleanse. Again, use a mild cleanser to remove dirt and grime from the day.
- Toner. Refresh your skin without stripping it of natural oils.
- Treat. Use a product such as serums, spot treatments, or retinol to help repair skin damage, treat acne, or whatever your skin health needs may be.
- Night Cream. Use a thicker moisturizer that will help with skin repair and hydrate your skin while you sleep.
What Skin Care Products Do You Need?
There are plenty of skincare products out there. It really comes down to your skin type and skin health. At the minimum, you should have a mild cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. You can build from there. For instance, if you wear makeup, then having a makeup remover will clean a lot of the residue from your face before actually cleaning it. The cleanser will then remove any leftover residue that the makeup remover didn't get.