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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

Pride Edition: Megan Smith & Kelsey Gledhill

Kelsey Gledhill Megan Smith Spectrum South Pride

Megan Smith and Kelsey Gledhill, founders of the growing and popular online magazine Spectrum South, are more than just writers and editors – they’re advocates and innovators.

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Left to right: Kelsey Gledhill, Megan Smith

(HOUSTON) – It might seem aberrant for one online magazine to be featuring and promoting another similar online magazine, especially when both hail from the same city and share many goals in common. However, when we met with Megan Smith and Kelsey Gledhill of Houston’s Spectrum South, there was never a question that it needed to be happen. The two young women, both of whom got their start at OutSmart, aren’t here to compete with any other magazines. They’re goal is singular: be the voice of the unheard queer community. That goal, while noble in and of itself; but it only becomes even more impressive when you dissect it into the components its made up of: diversity, inclusion, compassion, love, and intersectionality.

As we met with them one Saturday afternoon to have photos taken and even spent time with them in the studio for Morena Roas’s TBA Thursday radio show, it became increasingly clear that these two young women are not only ambitious and hard-working, but their sights are set and their targets are being struck at the bullseyes. Between their quick-wits, their absorbent brains, and their flair for telling stories that are meaningful to the community, Megan Smith and Kelsey Gledhill have a lot to offer up at Spectrum South.

And About Magazine was lucky enough to get to talk with them about what all that entailed.

About Magazine: Tell me a bit about how Spectrum South came to be.

Megan Smith (co-founder, editor-in-chief): Kelsey and I met during our time at the University of Texas at Austin, when I was getting my undergrad in journalism, and she was getting her master’s in creative advertising. Post-graduation, we ended up working together here in Houston in LGBTQ media. As we became more involved in the city’s LGBTQ community, on both a personal and professional level, we began to hear a reccuring narrative—that there was a lack of media representation for young queer folks, queer people of color, trans and non-binary individuals, and really anyone who doesn’t fit into the white gay male box.

Kelsey Gledhill (co-founder/chief creative officer): We got tired of hearing that narrative. Thus, the idea for Spectrum South. We wanted to create an accessible platform that represents all identities on the queer spectrum, not just some. We launched the site (spectrumsouth.com) in June 2017 and just celebrated our one-year anniversary in business. The community love, interest, and feedback we’ve received over the past year has exceeded all our wildest expectations.

17973932_466920433699471_1757179860368821253_o Pride Edition: Megan Smith & Kelsey GledhillAmongst the queer publications in Houston (OutSmart, About, Spectrum South), Spectrum South seems to have a unique brand that is important to queer people because it talks about people and topics that aren’t highlighted enough in queer publications. What’s the process like of choosing those? 

KG: We aim to center the most marginalized within our community because they deserve representation the most. Many people label the identities we highlight as “fringe” because they are not as well understood and/or not seen as valuable. But we believe these identities are valid, should be celebrated, and put at the forefront.

MS: For example, when a non-binary person tells you that they use “they/them” pronouns, using those pronouns should be a no-brainer. Yet, we’ve been thanked by folks for doing so, just because they’re so used to being misgendered by other media outlets. All we’re doing is showing basic respect to our fellow community members. We are far from perfect—we are constantly listening, learning, and improving—but what sets us apart is that we want to do better.

Another impressive thing about SS is that your content creators and editorial board are so well diversified—something not always seen in queer publishing. What do you have to say about the lack of diversity and the importance of implanting more of it?

KG: We all know that LGBTQ media has been dominated by gay white men for far too long. Consequently, that leadership is reflected in the content of those publications—completely leaving out those who identify differently. In a time when trans women of color are being murdered at exponential rates, we can no longer accept this standard. Accurate representation can save queer lives.

MS: We recognize that we are both white queer women, not the definition of diversity. Therefore, we take a two-pronged approach to making sure Spectrum South truly represents all voices within the LGBTQ community. First, we pride ourselves in having a diverse group of staff writers—queer Black and brown voices, trans and non-binary writers, asexual folks, and queer women. Everyone has a seat at the table, no one is tokenized or expected to speak for their entire community, and no one is hired to check off a box. Plus, we ask each regular contributor to share their own personal identity journey with our readers to create transparency and fuel connection.

Secondly, we aim to reflect the diverse identities and experiences of the queer community within our content. We believe that QPOC voices should not be limited to one month of the year. Trans lives should be celebrated, not just remembered. And that we owe it to the community not to be another #GayMediaSoWhite publication.

SS is not just a Houston-centric publication. Your reports and articles are truly and generally southern. Is it difficult to juggle not just what happens here in the city, but what happens across the entirety of the south? 

MS: It’s definitely a challenge! Luckily, we have writers across Texas, as well as in several other states across the South, that are actively involved in their respective queer communities and help us to expand our content outside of the Houston sphere. We are always looking to add more writers from other southern states to our staff! You can email us at info@spectrumsouth.com if you’re interested in contributing.

KG: The folks we’ve interviewed have also been instrumental in connecting us with other queer individuals and organizations in their own cities and states. They’ve helped open a lot of doors for us, and we’re grateful for that.

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Photo by Mel Rose

SS works with many great organizations, as well. Can you tell us a bit about some things you all have going on now and that we can expect to see in the near future?

MS: In our first year, we partnered with some incredible organizations such as The T.R.U.T.H. Project, The Montrose Center, and Save Our Sisters United for both our official launch party and our first-ever “Vie de Femme,” a celebration of queer femme identity across the spectrum.

KG: We are now partnering with QFest, Houston’s annual international LGBTQ film festival, to present its Closing Night film screening, awards ceremony, and reception on Monday, July 30 at Rice Media Center. QFest is now in its 22nd year, and we look forward to introducing a new generation of LGBTQ folks to this long standing queer cultural staple. Make sure to keep up with Spectrum South on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all the event details!

For two people who give a mouthpiece to the queer community to be heard from, tell me what Pride really means to you (both in that capacity and personally).

MS: For Spectrum South, Pride means staying true to both our queer and southern identities, and realizing that the two can, in fact, coexist. There’s the misconception that queer folks flee the South as fast as they can for the more liberal coasts. But we know that’s not always true—we are here thriving in the arts, business, philanthropy, and more. And we deserve to be celebrated.

For me personally, Pride is about finding strength in my identity as a queer femme woman, as well as embracing the inherently radical and political spirit that comes along with that identity. There’s a quote from the pamphlet “Queers Read This” that was distributed at the 1990 NY Pride march that reads, “You as an alive and functioning queer are a revolutionary.” Pride is about just that—unapologetically loving our queer selves in the face of a society that tells us we shouldn’t.

KG: Pride is a quiet confidence in myself as a woman, a lesbian, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a southerner. All of these varied identities work together to make one beautifully intricate and loving individual that is just that, individual. I take pride in my individuality.

If you could tell your younger selves anything that you didn’t know then, what would that be?

KG: That the real learning usually comes by way of failed experiences. It is absolutely acceptable to have failures along the way. If you don’t, you’re not putting yourself, your ideas, your aspirations, or your love out there enough, which ultimately limits your potential at success and accomplishment.

MG: You are not the only queer in the world! There is a huge, beautiful, supportive community waiting to love you. Never underestimate the power of this chosen family!

What kind of positive changes would you like to see happen in Houston’s LGBTQIA community in the coming days?

MS: While we all share lived experiences as queer people, there are still huge divisions within the Houston LGBTQ community. We tend to immerse ourselves in one organization or one cause and, in turn, ignore the important work that other individuals in our community are doing, or the experiences they are trying to share with us.

KG: This also perpetuates a clique culture, the same ‘us vs. them’ mentality placed upon us by the mainstream, that is debilitating to our community’s progress. We would like to see fellow LGBTQ individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses join us in dismantling this divisiveness and creating space for a cohesive, inclusive community.

Pride SuperStar’s Jasmine Branch in Car Accident

JassyB Pride SuperStar

Jasmine Branch, better known by her stage name as JassyB, is a Pride SuperStar contender who recently was involved in a car accident that left her with injuries to the knee.

33020532_363693860786365_1429291934161043456_n Pride SuperStar's Jasmine Branch in Car Accident(HOUSTON) – Every year for the last twelve years, Pride Houston, Inc. calls for singing talent from all over the city to perform in its annual Pride SuperStar singing competition. The American Idol-esque stage show is hosted every Thursday night at Rich’s Houston and is hosted by the insurmountably talented Wendy Taylor (who has competed in both Pride SuperStar and on American Idol). There, twelve performers take the stage with a microphone to match that week’s theme; and each week, contestants are eliminated. And while each contestant faces a unique set of challenges every single week, a recent automobile accident left one contestant in the hospital with injuries to her knee, which will inevitably result in a much more difficult performance at tonight’s show.

Jasmine Branch, or JassyB, is a 29-year-old Houston transplant from Louisiana who recently came to Houston with her partner ready to expand her musical following and make her dreams of being a performer come true. Only, after the aforementioned accident on Garth Rd. last week left her with some mobility issues, Jasmine will take on the challenge in a new way that none of the other performers will be forced to face.

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Photo by Eric Edward Schell

Jasmine’s medical bills and car troubles are on a constant rise; and without the approval of a doctor stating it’s safe from a medical stand point, Jasmine is unable to work. That being said, hostess, fellow musician, and newfound friend, Wendy Taylor, has taken on the task of starting a GoFundMe fundraiser to help Jasmine take care of what she needs to not only keep her in the competition, but to make sure she gets back on her feet — literally.

Jasmine sat down to talk to About Magazine.

About Magazine: Do you want to start by telling me a little about your life in music and also about what brought you to Houston from Louisiana?

Jasmine: Well, I’ve been singing since I could talk. I have done a few shows in Louisiana; I was on TV back home; I made it through a few rounds in American Idol. I consider myself to be a pop/R&B artist. My artist name is JassyB! And that’s also my fan page name. I have a few videos on Facebook that have hit 5+ million views. I have a YouTube and an Instagram. I recently moved to Houston where I need to build a platform and fan base. My partner is the reason I traveled out here. Also because Shreveport, Louisiana is a tiny city and I felt [that] in order to grow, I needed to move to a bigger city. So it was a plus that she lived here. I am currently working on a new single “Better Without You”.

So, now that you’re performing in Pride Superstar, what have you learned so far and what do you think you’ll take away at the end?

I have learned to step out of the box and get out of my comfort zone. I have also learned to not be afraid to be myself. I am challenging myself with new songs; and I’m hoping at the end I will have met wonderful people who will not only be great friends but friends that can help benefit my future. I will also be glad that I met a few other singers because  I love to surround myself with music.

Have you made some new friends through this competition?

Yes, a bunch of new friends.

So, tell me the importance of Pride to you? And how important do you think this sort of competition is to LGBTQ artists out there like yourself?

Pride is very important to me. I take it very seriously. People have died standing up for something they believe in; and that is Pride. I feel like it’s important to the LGBTQ+ community because it’s letting people know it’s okay to be who they wanna be and do what they wanna do. For instance, Ada Vox on American Idol. We are proud. We are here. We are coming out! So, I would say to any artist that is LGBTQ+: Do not be afraid, and be true to who you are!

Do you mind telling me a little about the injuries and events of the accident?

So we were getting this car from a financing company, and we have been having some problems with the car because it was pre-owned and the warranty was “as is.” We were having some problems with the brake lights and brakes. So, we were driving down Garth Rd., and a truck in front of us slammed on his breaks and we did the same and slid right into the back on the truck, completely totaling our car! I ended up at the hospital with knee pain, and they told me that my knee was fractured and dislocated. Being that I’m from Louisiana, I don’t have insurance in Texas yet, so all my expenses are gonna have to be out of pocket. Well, since I hurt my knee, I can’t work for a while being that my job is nothing but standing and walking around. I can’t stand or walk too much or lift anything heavier then 10 pounds. So, I’m also looking for a job where I can sit or do light standing.

If you could tell any other aspiring queer singers and musicians anything about going into this industry, what would that be?

Go in with an open heart and open mind. Be free and express yourself. Dress how you want. Be bold. Be beautiful. Be brave. Also, go in ready to work, because in this industry, you have to work to get where you wanna be.

Alisha Mae Gets “Bold” For Debut Single Release

Alisha Mae debut single

With Over Twenty-Three Million Views Social Media Sensation Alisha Mae To Release Debut Single “Bold” On April 20th

(NASHVILLE)– Social media singing sensation Alisha Mae is set to release her highly anticipated new single “BOLD” on April 20th. The powerful, upbeat rhythm paired with Mae’s wide vocal range highlighting Alisha’s edgy spin and modern country flare. The debut single delivers an anthem of positivity and strength of the ages.

Excitement among Mae fans is building on social media as they eagerly await the release of Mae’s debut single “Bold.” Mae found success after recording the moving ballad “Dancing In The Sky.” A song that Mae found comforting after the sudden loss of a family member. The recording became an instant viral hit on social media, racking up over twenty-three million views on Facebook alone. A journey that was filled with emotions.

As the 2018 calendar is filling up for new country releases, the social media sensation is giving her fans a taste of something ‘wild’ and ‘bold.’

“Bold” will be Mae’s first studio release that has an irresistible beat and risky flare, the lyrics dare you to live life to the fullest. “You know I don’t like to take things slow, let’s be wild, let’s be bold.” Those words have never been truer for Alisha Mae, and her fans will surely agree.

The 26-year old Virginia native won over fans in every territory with her incredible rendition of ‘Dancing In The Sky’, by Danny & Lizzy. The song was originally released on the musical app Smule™ propelling her into the country music spotlight. Mae has been creating a viral world that interacts with her followers and displays her outstanding vocal ability with hard-hitting and empowering words.

“Bold” was produced by Nashville legend Kent Wells. Wells is long-time musical director and producer for Dolly Parton. Wells has worked with artists like Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, Linda Davis and Curtis Braly. Written by Corey Lee Barker, Mark Barnowski, and Allie L Shermetaro.

“Bold” will be available for pre-order April 9th and will be released across all streaming platforms April 20th.