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Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat

Leah on the Offbeat Becky Albertalli Love Simon LGBTQ BOOK

Leah on the Offbeat – 4/5 Stars

“I swear, people can’t wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn’t diet. Is it that hard to believe I might actually like my body?”

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli is the bisexual story I have always wanted to read. Not that I knew it existed until a few weeks ago, or even know that I needed it in my life before then. But now that I’ve read it, it’s like it was something I’ve been missing. If you liked the first book in this series, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, or it’s movie counterpart, Love, Simon, you will love this book. It focuses on Simon’s best friend, Leah Burke, who is confident in her sexuality. She’s bisexual; and from the very beginning we know this to be true. She has only told one person, her mother. Leah spends her senior year struggling with college applications, prom dates, and crushes. Leah has never been kissed, so when a friend of hers asks her to prom, she finds herself feeling obligated to go with him. It’s clear that this isn’t really what she wants. She has her heart set on someone else, even if she doesn’t know it yet.

“It has to be easier for people with penises. Does this person get you hard? Yes? Done. I used to think boners literally pointed in the direction of the person you’re attracted to, like a compass.”

This book keeps you laughing on every page. Leah’s hilarious narration makes real life situations more interesting. I always found myself relating to her inner-monologue. She says what we’re all thinking. She calls people out when they deserve it and is the modern-day hero we’ve been looking for. She’s also human, she has flaws. She easily lets her feelings get the best of her. The story begins with Leah’s disinterest in a girl that used to be her friend. A girl upon who she develops a crush. A straight girl. When things don’t turn out the way she wants them to, she gets angry and defensive. The teenage angst is so relatable (we’ve all been there). It’s easy to get angry when someone doesn’t (or is incapable of) liking you back. But, this book isn’t just about Leah and her crush. It’s about all relationships. Leah struggles to come to terms with her mother’s relationship and we get to see more of Simon and Bram together, who are just as cute as they were in the first book.

“…That’s why bi girls exist, Garrett. For your masturbatory fantasies.”

Leah and the Offbeat, while focusing mainly on Leah’s sexuality, isn’t only about that. It’s about so much more. Leah is so much more than just a bisexual. She’s funny, smart and has a huge attitude. I loved watching her grow as a person throughout the book.

I’m a sucker for a good romance so I was dying to know how everything would unfold. I couldn’t put it down. There were some slow parts of the novel; but there weren’t any scenes where I was bored. Everything that was in the book was important. Nothing was there just to fill up the pages. It’s well written and the story flows nicely together.

You’re not fat. You look amazing. Because fat is the opposite of amazing. Got it.”

This is the most honest high school story I have ever read. I always felt like I was witnessing real conversations, like I was hearing them in passing in the high school hallway. Everything about this book is very authentic. It was easy to get lost in the story. Leah, especially, is very real. She reacts like any moody teenage girl would and I could easily picture her being a real person. She is three-dimensional and much more than just her sexuality. Leah is a character I have definitely fallen in love with.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Leah on the Offbeat. From the first page, I knew it would be a good read. It started off with a bang and held my interest the entire time. I would definitely recommend this book.

Were-About-It Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat

Read Kathy Griffin’s Power Pride Portrait Statement Here

Kathy Griffin Pride Portraits Laugh Your Head Off LGBTQ Comedy

While in Houston for her Laugh Your Head Off tour, comedy queen Kathy Griffin stopped by Pride Portraits to pay our friend Eric Edward Schell a visit, snap a few pics, and make a statement about her relationship with the LGBTQ community.

(HOUSTON) – While in town for her stand-up performance at Jones Hall Monday, August 20th, stand-up comic and comedian Kathy Griffin let friend of About Magazine Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits backstage before the show (you can visit Pride Portraits’ site by clicking the photo below). While there, Schell snapped a pick and Griffin made a statement about her relationship to the LGBTQ community. The photo snapped by Schell was released today (in which she wears the very same dress from her scandalicious Trump head photo), as well as her powerful statement about resistance and the LGBTQIA community:

KGPP-page-001 Read Kathy Griffin's Power Pride Portrait Statement Here
Photo by Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits.

“What defines resistance for me as an ally to the LGBTQIA is actions. There is nothing like doing actual door-to-door canvasing. I think the most important thing is educating people of all communities, especially the LGBTQIA community. Elections are every year. I have friends who get excited for the Presidential election every four years and the truth is, thanks to this crazy administration, that it’s the down ballot, it’s the local Attorney General, it’s the local Lt. Gov. They are actually the deciders of our human rights and our civil rights. As you know, nationally the GOP has been trying to dismantle the progression of minorities, in my opinion, since the civil rights act of 1965. They have been slow and methodical and played a long game. What I admire about the LGBTQIA community is that it’s a community that knows how to mobilize. I always say as a feminist, “We’ve got to learn from the gays, as women we bitch and moan, but gays actually get legislation done, they write bills, put candidates up and get them elected.” So honestly it’s about getting mobilized. Things like the bathroom bill, that isn’t a federal law, that’s somebody on a local level. I believe in what I lovingly call voter fraud, which is when I take to my own social media and I say, “All right gays, it’s not rock the vote, its vote for whoever I fucking tell you to vote for.” With this President it’s shirts and skins. We can’t keep playing nice. I don’t care about getting into the heads of angry white Republican men; it’s a fake narrative they’ve been given. In terms of the gay community, I don’t put anything past the GOP. I’m scared for equal marriage, but I fear we need to be worried about basic rights. We have a lot of work to do in the trans community too. For November 6th, we have to go back to basics; we need people to realize they can loose their rights. We need to make sure black people can get to the fucking polls. Educating people about what gerrymandering is. We have to start thinking long game.”

The 57-year-old comedian made headlines last year and sparked public outrage after posting a photo of herself holding what appeared to be President Donald Trump’s head covered in blood (but was really a Halloween mask doused in ketchup). The stunt lost Griffin many connections and gigs, including her annual New Year’s Eve hosting gig at CNN with former friend Anderson Cooper. The photo made Kathy Griffin famous in a brand new way, as she became the only comedy icon in all of American history to be personally attacked and targeted by a sitting President of the United States (something Donald Trump is known for doing on Twitter since his inauguration). While many of her Hollywood friends spoke out against her, many came to her defense. Recently Gilmore Girls & Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creator Amy Sherman Palladino told the Hollywood Reporter she was shocked by how Griffin’s colleagues “[…] hung that girl out to dry […]”. After a public apology she has since renounced, Griffin has made a terrific and successful comeback without an agent or manager, as she recently told Houston’s OutSmart. She sold out Jones Hall last night to a standing ovation and a very-pleased crowd.

kathy-griffin-trump Read Kathy Griffin's Power Pride Portrait Statement Here
Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

Griffin, who has won two Emmy’s for her previous reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and one Grammy for her comedy album Calm Down Gurrrl. Since her earliest days as a stand-up comedian, Griffin has been an outspoken proponent of the LGBTQ community through her comedy, film work, and advocacy. In the time that has passed since her photo last June, however, many have come around to Kathy Griffin’s bold statement with the Trump head.

Regardless of what’s been said or done, Houston’s LGBTQ community is happy to have Griffin on our side and welcome her back anytime.

Pride Portraits is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit run by LGBTQIA Houstonian and advocate Eric Edward Schell, whom you can contact and follow by using the links below. Schell is an outspoken activist for LGBTQIA rights in the community as well as on social media and through his work. His nonprofit has worked in the past and continues to work with and photograph companies, individuals, and organizations throughout the country such as SXSW, HEB, Alyssa Milano, Monica Roberts, Beto O’Rourke, and many more. The mission of Pride Portraits, as stated on their website, is as follows:

Our mission is to visually represent the LGBTQIA community one photograph and story at a time. Visibility for our community is key to promote the humanization of a community that is dehumanized every single day.


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Magic in Montrose: The Broad’s Way

One of the most underrated drag/live singing performances in Montrose is at Michael’s Outpost every Monday night.

(HOUSTON) — After leaving an event last night, I went out into Montrose waiting for something to happen. I wasn’t sure what it was I was waiting for; but I knew that if I could be patient, it would manifest. Was it that I was going to meet a man? Would I run into some old friends I hadn’t seen in years? Or was it just that I might get drunk and find myself having a good time amongst strangers? I couldn’t ascertain the specifics of this premonition, but I knew that if I could wait it out, something magical would happen.

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Regina Blake-DuBois

So, I made my rounds. I started first at Guava Lamp, where I had one drink and chatted with a few friends. Fun, but nothing particularly magical about it. I jumped over to Ripcord, where—as per the usual—the Monday night crowd was light and quiet (just the way I preferred my bar scenes). I had another drink there before deciding I was barking up the wrong tree. Nothing unusual was taking place in Montrose proper; and I therefore forged my way toward Richmond for a glass of Cab at Michael’s Outpost.

And that’s where it happened. It was there that I found myself sitting in a half-full bar where before me stood a trope of entertainers performing songs from some of Broadway’s seminal hits throughout the recent decades.

Be still my beating, gay boy heart.

Hosting The Broad’s Way was the lovely Regina Blake-DuBois, a drag queen I’d seen perform a handful of times and whose performances I’ve always enjoyed. Rolling out the remainder of the cast was singer Scott Lupton, drag king Richard Long, songstress Chaney Moore, and queen Mia Opulent Love, each performing showtunes from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

Let me just interrupt myself to say that while, yes, this is a drag show, it isn’t just a drag show. It’s actually the only show in Houston that incorporates drag queens, kings, and live singers. And when those performers and doing the best of Broadway, there’s nothing more that a theatre-geek gay boy who has seen Wicked onstage nine times like myself could ask for. (Pause to add that I was disappointed I didn’t catch Regina on one of her Wicked performance days, as she states they are frequent).

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Chaney Moore

I entered late in the show, with Blake-Dubois entertaining her group that seemed to consist of many regulars. Her hosting style is on-point: she’s funny … but doesn’t mind roasting herself when a joke falls flat or a line doesn’t quite work. And she knows how to keep the audience paying attention (even if that means jokingly reminding them that her phone number is carved into the wall of a bathroom stall). What’s best about her as a hostess, however, is that she really knows her shit. Blake-DuBois’s own theatre nerdiness packs into each joke that she tells the audience.

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Richard Long

Now, to say that I almost lost my shit more than once last night would be a bit of an understatement. After all, when Chaney Moore (who last night joined the show as a regular performer) pulled out a show-stopping rendition of “Living in Hell” from Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, I was done. TAKE MY MONEY! Granted, I only had three one-dollar bills on me, so I had to make sure they lasted (they did not). Her voice is so clean and smooth. The way she jumps into her upper-register sounds effortless, only to come back down and belt out a note bigger than the bar itself. I was certain that none of the other performers would be able to follow her up. Then came the glitter-beard king, Richard Long, with his comedic take on “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables. Who knew that Enjolras could make me laugh with a song of revolution in 19th century France?

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Scott Lupton

Of course, I would be remiss if not to mention Scott Lupton’s rendition of “We Beseech Thee” from Godspell. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when Lupton took the microphone, but as someone who was previously unfamiliar with his powerhouse voice, I was completely blown away. A song that is often sang with breathy haste was well-paced, lively, interactive, and downright extraordinary. Even when it came time for the key change (which Lupton funnily made sure to mention to the viewers), the entire song was flawless. As for Mia Opulent Love, the queen in her beautiful green wig danced away to a number from Sweet Charity (a favorite show of mine), which she took the liberty of not only making into a fun, vibrant performance, but one that was tinged with just a bit of her trademark sexiness that she brings to every performance.

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Mia Opulent Love

And as the show was winding down, Ms. Blake-DuBois had taken to the back to change (as Love took the mic and regaled us with improptu stories of how someone had asked her if her green hair was natural). When she returned, she donned an effervescent pink coat and knee-high red boots. I knew then, for certain, she could only be bringing to life one of two characters—Glinda the Good of Wicked, or Elle Woods of Legally Blonde. Whether she’d be tackling “Popular,” “Positive,” or any of the other numbers from either musical, I’d be pleased.

Alas, she made a point of mentioning she would not be performing from Wicked, but that she’d be doing a number that was, in her words, “a little more legal.”

Thus came her finale performance of “So Much Better” from Legally Blonde: The Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2007 scoring seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Original Score of a Musical, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress for Bundy as Elle Woods. The show would go on to tape a live performance for MTV, host a reality show in which actresses competed to be the next Elle Woods, and has seen international productions and tours.

lb Magic in Montrose: The Broad's WayIt was also the very first musical I ever saw live right here in Houston when the first national tour came through the Hobby Center stage, brought to us by Theatre Under the Stars. That year (2009), the lead actress, Becky Gulsvig, had broken her toe while on tour, and Broadway’s leading lady, Laura Bell Bundy, had stepped in to fill her shoes. It’s one of my best memories and the musical holds a very special place in my heart. So, when Regina Blake-DuBois took on the task of lip-syncing and dancing the choreography to “So Much Better” (the act one showstopper that is considerably one of the hardest numbers in Broadway history to sing, right up there with “Defying Gravity”) I knew I’d found my Montrose magic. Hell, she even demonstrated the difficult Elle Woods high-kick at the end of the song (which once ended in Bundy launching her shoe into the audience). And, as luck would have it, I’d run out of ones at that point.

What got me about this production was that, while there was a good number of people there to see it, Michael’s Outpost wasn’t quite as full as I’ve seen it for its many other wonderful shows. From Eye-Cons to Cabernet at the Cabaret, Michael’s is usually good about packing out its seats for performances. Maybe it’s just the luck of having a Monday night show, or maybe the night was just slower than usual. Either way, everyone in the neighborhood that loves the theatre (and I do believe that accounts for a large demographic of LGBTQIA people) should make the time to head to Michael’s Outpost to catch this incredible cast put on one helluva show. With a new Broadway-centric theme each week, Regina and her chorus of talented entertainers put on a fun, audience-interactive show that brings the Broadway stage right into Michael’s Outpost every Monday night. And no matter when you make it out there to see it, The Broad’s Way is certain to never disappoint.


Michael’s Outpost is located at 1419 Richmond Ave. and is open 7 days a week with shows (some drag and some live piano) every night.

That’s Teresa Zimmermann with No H, 2 Ms, and 2 Ns

Teresa Zimmermann Violet Queensbury Theatre Houston The Anthony Project

Houston’s very own Teresa Zimmermann talks to About Magazine about starring in the titular role of Violet at the Queensbury Theatre, life as a professional actress, her role in The Anthony Project, and her love of the LGBTQ community.

(HOUSTON) – If you’re an avid theatre-goer or at least an enthusiastic karaoke-er, you’ve probably seen her face around Houston a time or two. But even if you haven’t, you’ve certainly heard her voice, whether it be at Guava Lamp, Stages Repertory Theatre, and now in Violet, where she stars as the titular lead, which opened just last night at the Queensbury Theatre. Her name is Teresa Zimmermann; that’s Teresa with no H and Zimmermann with two Ms and two Ns. She’s the host of Sunday Karaoke — affectionally referred to by its regulars as Theatre Karaoke — at Guava Lamp on Waugh from 8 PM to midnight, and has been acting in the theatre scene of Houston for years.

But Zimmermann wasn’t always so sure that the stage was her calling, in spite of the fact that she grew up in a strong performance family. For a long time, Teresa was convinced she’d go to beauty school and learn the ins-and-outs of hair and makeup. But her life took her down a different road to Sam Houston State University, where she graduated with a degree in musical theatre, and eventually led her to live performances everywhere from here on the land in Texas to in the sea as a cruise ship singer. Now, as previously mentioned, she stars as Violet in new Queensbury Theatre’s production of the Broadway sensation of the same name. And before About Magazine goes to see the show tonight, we got a chance to talk to Teresa about her life, her career, the show, and what we can expect coming up.


Anthony Ramirez: If you could sum up who Teresa Zimmermann is in three words, what would those words be? 

Teresa Zimmermann: Driven. Focused. Passionate.
You are a full-time artist/performer/voice coach. Tell us what a normal day in your life is like?
I wake up, sleepily kiss my boyfriend goodbye as he goes to work, then I guiltily lay in bed for a little while longer. If I have something on the schedule, I’ll make a little bit of breakfast, sit down at the kitchen table and go over what I need to for the week — that is, until my cats start to lay all over my materials … and me. Lately, it’s been the script for Violet. Soon, it’ll be some new music I’m learning for gigs with the band, Danny Ray, and the Acoustic Production. Sometimes, it’s music for my students at Vivaldi Music Academy. When I’m rehearsing for a show, my days are much busier. But there are times when I’m not rehearsing or performing anything, and those days are filled with everyday to-do’s like watching Real Housewives, taking care of the apartment, planning dinner, socializing, going to the theatre, exercise, or more work-related things like preparing for an audition, researching repertoire, or reading plays. It’s not so much that my days are always full, but my week has a lot of varied work, whether it’s hosting karaoke, teaching voice, rehearsing, or performing, or even house-sitting. My goals are to prioritize and streamline my workload, prevent burnout, and only do work that involves my passion … in other words, find and/or keep the side gigs that I love, while maintaining a career in the theatre. I consider myself very, very lucky, and I’m so grateful that I am able to do that!
41004081_2066567530054163_1210640191413288960_o That's Teresa Zimmermann with No H, 2 Ms, and 2 Ns
Zimmermann performing a song from Violet on Great Day Houston.
How did you find your way to the auditions for Violet? And can you tell people who may not be familiar with the show a little more about it?
I first saw that Violet was part of Queensbury’s 2018-2019 season on social media, and I was ecstatic. I love the show and the music, so I stayed vigilant watching for audition postings online and checking their website daily. Knowing I had a block of time between the closing of The Great American Trailer Park Musical and my next show also helped motivate me to really go for the part. So not only did I want this show, I felt like I needed this job (cue music: A Chorus Line’s “God I Hope I Get It”). I received my offer a short time after the audition and immediately began preparing.
The musical itself is based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts. It follows Violet Karl, from the rural Spruce Pine, North Carolina, as she travels through the South on a Greyhound Bus in September of 1964, just after the Civil Rights Act had been passed. She is on a journey to a televangelist preacher to heal and erase a scar caused by a blow to the face from a loose axe blade. On this pilgrimage, Violet becomes acquainted with a new world she’s never really been exposed to in the mountains. What unfolds is a beautiful story about following your heart, allowing yourself to forgive and heal, and what it means to recognize inner beauty in others and yourself.
The original Broadway production starred Tony Darling Sutton Foster. How does it feel being so talented that you’ve been entrusted with a role brought to life by such a star? 
Phew! Well … to make something very clear, I am no Sutton. I think her legs are actually as long as I am tall, for one. And she can kick her face without throwing her back out. I mean, I can totally do that too … I just … don’t feel like doing that at the moment. Gimme a week.
But truly — being given this opportunity has been mind-blowing. Roles like this only happen every so often, so I’m savoring every bit of it. I feel like this feast of a character has been plated so beautifully and is so emotionally rich that I am sometimes doubtful that I can eat it all up. I would not be able to do it without the support and talent of the people around me on and off the stage — my beautiful (and local!) cast, our diligent crew, and our creative team leading the way. They inflate my wittle-baby-actor ego with love and humble me with their talent and hard work, all at the same time.
What do you think you bring to the production that maybe hasn’t been done before for Violet
I cannot speak for other productions of Violet because I have not seen them, nor have I been in them, but I truly hope I can bring a sense of emotional depth that is honest and that feels as authentic to the audience as it does to the human body performing the behavior. Every part in this show has life flowing in and out of it; real-life perspective within concrete, predetermined, and written circumstances. I hope to convey the feelings of shame, hope, disillusionment, self-discovery, and so much more in a way that lets people know this isn’t just performance, it has all been felt at one time or another (by all of us). I hope they see it come through the vessel that is this character so that they can go through that process with us.
What are your top three favorite musicals and top three dream roles?
Only three?! Fine. Fine!
Chicago, Wicked, and Urinetown. Roles are a bit switched up though … Roxie Hart in Chicago, Elphaba/Nessa (don’t sleep on Nessa, y’all!) in Wicked, and Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes.
You originally thought you were going to go to beauty school, in spite of being raised in a performance family. What was the moment you knew this was what you were supposed to be doing? 
Every month, usually the week between paying rent and my next paycheck, I start to wonder if I’m doing the right thing. But something happens when I wait in the wings to remind me that this is my vocation. It started my freshman year of college before tapping onto the stage for Thoroughly Modern Millie [another Sutton Foster beauty], throughout my time at Sam, and happens in every professional show I’ve done since. I feel like a specific goal is in sight, even if it’s just for the next two hours. Even if it has nothing to do with me, personally. I’ve got a job to do, and it was given to me, specifically, to do. I have an obligation to show up, and that feels very fulfilling to me.
You’re very involved with Houston’s LGBTQ community — a large part of which intersects with its theatre community. Can you tell us what those two communities mean to you personally?
Almost all of my friends are involved in the theatre in some way, and are champions of self-expression, which is, also, important to the LGBTQ community. So it’s no surprise that in both communities I am encouraged to be myself. I feel at home with both. I’ve chosen to surround myself with those two communities because I know I will find people, friends (“framily”) — the good people out there, that make me feel safe, and that encourage me to do the same for my peers. However, it would be dishonest of me to disregard the critical environment in both; judgment, exclusion, and negativity are all aspects of our communities that we need to work on. That being said, something I love about both communities is that we are among the first ones to say, “Ok then, let’s work on it.”
Can you give us a little glimmer of what other projects you have on the horizon post-Violet
Well, Anthony, I’ll be working with you next! I’ll be performing at a reading for your sitcom script, The Anthony Project, in affiliation with About Media. [Zimmermann will be playing the antagonist of the show, Erin, a conservative Christian who works at a fictionalized version of About Magazine on Sept. 29th]. I’ve also got a few gigs lined up with my band, and while I’m not at liberty to tell you exactly what my next theatre production is, I’ll give you three very obscure hints that likely very few people will get: chains, the bear that ran away from the park zoo, and capons.
Omigod I know what it is!!!

Violet opened at the Queensbury Theatre last night and continues performances through Sept. 23rd. You can then see Zimmermann in the About Magazine stage reading of its forthcoming sitcom The Anthony Project on Sept. 29th, as well as every Sunday at Guava Lamp hosting karaoke. A full review of Violet will be available from About Magazine tonight.

39811119_2051476381563278_7930254592023986176_o That's Teresa Zimmermann with No H, 2 Ms, and 2 Ns
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