Images of Shonda Rhimes, Little Richard, Janet Mock, Miss J. Alexander, Audre Lorde, Racquel Willis, Jarrett Lucas
(Clockwise from left to right: Shonda Rhimes, Little Richard, Janet Mock, Miss J. Alexander, Audre Lorde, Racquel Willis, Jarrett Lucas) Credit: X/, AP Photo/Mark Avery, Ian West/STRPA, STRPA, STREVT, Courtesy Racquel Willis, Courtesy AtlanticLIVE; Francesca Roh/Xtra
Heroes & Icons
4 min

Role models to celebrate, according to Black and brown queer people

Black and brown voices rarely get the recognition they deserve. These queer and trans educators, writers, activists and journalists share their role models

Some of the most inspirational people in history have been queer people of colour. From writers to filmmakers to artists, many of them have put their lives on the line to make sure that other LGBTQ2 Black and brown people were not only recognized, but respected.

I understood this when I first learned about Little Richard. The singer-songwriter provided me with an image of a gender nonconforming individual thriving in pop culture, someone who looks like myself. I have always been enamoured by Little Richard’s energy and the ways in which he captivated a room. But more than that, I was captivated by how confident he was.

Little Richard
Little Richard Credit: AP Photo/Mark Avery; Francesca Roh/Xtra

From his “tell it like it is” mentality to the ways that he owned his identity, I have always seen Little Richard as a beacon of light for queer people of colour. He was so open about who he was and that inspired me to strive to live my life authentically.

For Pride Month, I spoke with some Black and brown LGBTQ2 educators, activists and journalists about their queer inspirations and what it means to be unapologetically yourself in a time when our identities are under attack.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde Credit: STREVT; Francesca Roh/Xtra

I would say the Audre Lorde, not just because folks know her name, but because she showed up in ways that I continuously strive to do and hope I am doing. She wore multiple hats and did a lot of beautiful things. But what she never did, ever, was forget where she came from—nor did she forget what her goal was or whom she was speaking to. She was bold, she was genuine, she was beautiful, she was someone that kicked down doors and I am so thankful that she shared those gifts with us. Because, honestly, I am sure she has changed the lives of many.

Jimanekia Eborn
Trauma specialist and sex educator

Miss J. Alexander

Miss J. Alexander
Miss J. Alexander Credit: STRPA; Francesca Roh/Xtra

J. Alexander, affectionately known as Miss J, has long been a possibility model of mine. From his very first season of America’s Next Top Model, the runway diva extraordinaire has been an ever-present example of what Black queer authenticity can look like. He embraced his gender nonconformity and Black AF features and dared others to say something. He knows his power and wasn’t afraid to show it.

Tre’vell Anderson
Journalist, media critic

Raquel Willis

Racquel Willis
Racquel Willis Credit: Courtesy Racquel Willis; Francesca Roh/Xtra

I am inspired by the countless Black and brown trans women who lead lives that are bold, unapologetic and beautiful. Media extraordinaire Raquel Willis is an example of the women who keep me fighting for liberation.

I first met Raquel at the Transgender Law Center where she founded her initiative, Black Trans Circles. Her organizing and communication taught me so many skills that I’ve used in my own programs and organizing. When she moved on to Out’s executive team, she again affected our movement forever. Wherever she is, whatever she is doing, I am moved to know the strength and magic she holds throughout this world.

Juniperangelica Cordova
Organizer, activist

Janet Mock

Janet Mock
Janet Mock Credit: Ian West/STRPA; Francesca Roh/Xtra

Janet Mock is someone who I have the pleasure of knowing personally, and someone whose career accomplishments continue to leave me in awe.

Navigating spaces as a Black trans woman in and around pop culture as a journalist, a two-time New York Times best-selling author and with the many other hats she wears in the television industry, Janet set the blueprint.

As she continues to break down barriers and carve her unique path, her work and her achievements serve not only as a guiding light, but also as motivation for me to keep going.

She is the quintessential possibility model.

Shar Jossell

Ryan Murphy, Jenji Kohan and Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes Credit: X/; Francesca Roh/Xtra

My queer inspirations aren’t all within the LGBTQ2+ spectrum. I am invigorated by the career and library that Ryan Murphy, Jenji Kohan and Shonda Rhimes have created.

While they may not all be within the queer family, their sentiments are radical and unapologetic. They are at a place in their careers where they can play in various genres and approach subjects without batting an eye.

I admire the breadth of their works and find them to be an inspiration as I envision a future where I am running my own shows on television, leaning into my experience as a gay Latino.

Raymond Perez
Television writer 

Jarrett Lucas

Jarrett Lucas
Jarrett Lucas Credit: Courtesy AtlanticLIVE; Francesca Roh/Xtra

It’s got to be Jarrett Lucas, the executive director of the Stonewall Community Foundation.

Jarrett’s been at Stonewall for more than 10 years, transforming the LGBTQ2 community foundation into a leading resource for queer people and super-serving communities of colour.

He’s spent his adult life on the frontlines of protests, being arrested for civil disobedience and finding ways to make space and push change for the most marginalized among us.

He recently published a piece for the organization called Black Pain. Black Power.—a must-read for anyone in leadership or community building—describing the trials of often being the only Black face in his professional space and the value of Black leadership, shaking up the very white nonprofit world.

If you don’t know his name, learn it. History will call him one of the great Black, millennial, LGBTQ+ leaders of this time. I already do.

Jarrett Hill