Each year, LPAC honors a true Champion of Change who embodies the values of our organization and the change we want to see in the world. This year we are proud to honor equality activist and tennis legend Billie Jean King.
Named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life magazine and a 2009 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Billie Jean King is the founder of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative and the co-founder of World TeamTennis. She founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Women’s Tennis Association. In August 2006, the National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of her accomplishments on and off the court. In 2017, Fox Searchlight released the critically acclaimed film, Battle of the Sexes, which depicts the cultural and social impact of the groundbreaking match. King serves on the boards of the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation and is a past member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition
Melissa Etheridge stormed onto the American rock scene in 1988 with the release of her critically acclaimed self-titled debut album, which led to an appearance on the 1989 Grammy Awards show. For several years, her popularity grew around such memorable originals as “Bring Me Some Water,” “No Souvenirs” and “Ain’t It Heavy,” for which she won a Grammy® in 1992. Etheridge hit her commercial and artistic stride with her fourth album, Yes I Am (1993). The collection featured the massive hits, “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window,” a searing song of longing that brought Etheridge her second Grammy® Award for Best Female Rock Performance. In 1995, Etheridge issued her highest charting album, Your Little Secret, which was distinguished by the hit single, “I Want to Come Over.” Her astounding success that year led to Etheridge receiving the Songwriter of the Year honor at the ASCAP Pop Awards in 1996.
Known for her confessional lyrics and raspy, smoky vocals, Etheridge has remained one of America’s favorite female singer-songwriters for more than two decades. In February 2007, Melissa Etheridge celebrated a career milestone with a victory in the “Best Song” category at the Academy® Awards for “I Need to Wake Up,” written for the Al Gore documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. As a performer and songwriter, Etheridge has shown herself to be an artist who has never allowed “inconvenient truths” to keep her down. Earlier in her recording career, Etheridge acknowledged her sexual orientation when it was considered less than prudent to do so. In October 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer, a health battle that, with her typical tenacity, she won. Despite losing her hair from chemotherapy, Etheridge appeared on the 2005 Grammy® telecast to sing “Piece of My Heart” in tribute to Janis Joplin. By doing so she gave hope to many women afflicted with the disease.
On October 7, 2016 Melissa Etheridge released Memphis Rock & Soul, her first album since 2014’s critically lauded This Is M.E. Recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, the album has received stellar reviews from the likes of Entertainment Weekly, Parade, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter and more. Guitar World raved “the album is a triumphant application of Etheridge’s signature rasp and substantial guitar chops to this classic genre,” while Edge Media Network declared Melissa “is a singer who can fire it up like Janis Joplin, touch the heart like Elvis Presley and steam up the windows like her musical hero, Otis Redding.” The 12- track album features original material as well as interpretations of classic songs from the legendary Stax catalog, celebrating its artists and legacy and spotlighting the vital role Stax Records played in the Civil Rights Movement. Engineered by Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, son of famed music producer Willie Mitchell, the album and tour includes a number of top Memphis musicians, including the Hodges Brothers.
Following in her family’s legendary footsteps. Chaunté Wayans has proven that funny is in her genes. As humbled as she is to be a part of the family legacy, she proudly represents this new generation of Wayans’ making it’s mark in Hollywood.
Born in NYC and raised in New Jersey, Chaunté Wayans is more than her famous last name. “I’ve lived between two different worlds my entire life. I grew up with the famous last name, minus the lavish lifestyle.” Chaunté blows away audiences with a unique ability to invite them into her unconventional life while being very relatable. Her comedy often revolves around her experiences as a lesbian and how it’s helped her see both sides of a relationship, whether masculine or feminine. “My life is an open book,” says Chaunté, “From growing up, trying to keep up with the famous last name and lifestyle, coming out of the closet, to battling and surviving the addiction to alcohol and drugs.”
Since pursuing a career in stand up comedy, Chaunté has toured nationally with Russell Peters, Katt Williams, David Alan Grier, and her uncles Marlon, Shawn, and Damon Wayans and has fulfilled a dream to perform at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden numerous times.
Chaunté is a featured cast member on MTV’s hit show Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out and was also featured on TLC’s Trading Spaces. Most recently, Chaunté has appeared on Bounce TV’s Off the Chain and NickToon’s animated series ThugaBoo. She can be also seen on Katt Williams’ special Kattpacalypse, films Hollywood Misconceptions and Dance Flick.
When she is not touring or filming, Chaunté likes to spend time volunteering by feeding the homeless, performing stand up at women’s shelters, and giving speeches on bullying at high schools. You can find her at www.cwayans.com or follow her on twitter – @cwayans.
Judy has had stand-up specials on HBO, Comedy Central and LOGO. She has written and starred in two critically acclaimed, Off-Broadway hit shows: The Judy Show – My Life as a Sitcom (Outer Critics Circle Nomination), and 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother (GLAAD Media Award – Outstanding NY Theater, Drama Desk Nomination – Actor).
Judy received rave reviews as Gremio in The Public Theater’s all female production of The Taming of The Shrew for Shakespeare in the Park. She also co-starred in Off-Broadway’s Clinton! The Musical, and Disasater! The Musical.
Judy recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. She can be seen on the Showtime series I’m Dying Up Here, and she has had recurring roles on TBS’ Search Party and Pop TV’s NightCap! Judy was featured in Woody Allen’s series Crisis In Six Scenes on Amazon, and also appears on the hit web-series The Other F Word on Amazon Prime. Other most recent TV appearances include guest-starring roles on Friends From College, Broad City, Louie, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Jim Gaffigan Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Difficult People, 30 Rock, and 2 Broke Girls. Judy also won two Emmy awards for writing and producing, The Rosie O’Donnell Show.
Judy has made numerous appearances on The Steve Harvey Show, The View, The Today Show, and The Wendy Williams Show. She has written for The New York Times, Huffington Post, CNN.com. She is the host of the hit podcast, Kill Me Now, on iTunes. You can find her at JudyGold.com or follow her on twitter – @jewdygold.
Sandra Valls is a comic, actor, singer, writer, and badass. She is best known for her powerful, electric, stand up comedy performances in Showtime’s, THE LATIN DIVAS OF COMEDY (nominated for an Alma Award) and PRIDE: LGBT COMEDY SLAM!, hosted by Bruce Vilanch (both available for viewing now on Hulu.com). Her unique mix of physical comedy and brilliant story telling make it easy to see why the Los Angeles Times calls Sandra “Talented and Hilarious” as well as being included in Curve’s 2017 Power List as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Queer Women in the country. Latina Magazine voted Sandra One of the Top 33 Bad Ass Comics with Latina Roots. Curve Magazine voted her One of the Top 10 Funniest Lesbian Comics and Go Magazine has named Sandra One of the Top 100 Women We Love.
Her television credits include NickMom Night Out (Nickelodeon), Outlaugh Festival, One Night Stand Up (LOGO), Comic’s Unleashed with Byron Allen (ABC), Habla! (HBO), Que Locos (Galavision), Funny is Funny, Latino 101 (Sitv), BET’s Comic View and countless other TV spots including MTV3’s Quiero Mis Quince, Wanna be Latinos and Top Tr3ce, Mun2 Comedy Documentary and I love Jenny!
Always an human rights activist, Sandra was also honored in her hometown of Laredo, Texas with the 2013 International Woman’s Day Award for being a trailblazer and empowering women and was chosen by Unidos-The National Latino LGBT Human Rights Organization to be part of their prestigious list for Project VISIBLE Latinos LGBT in the USA and Puerto Rico: Out in Leadership. GLAAD has honored Sandra’s work at Mun2 with a Special Recognition Award for her groundbreaking achievements in production for promoting fair and accurate representation of the LGBT community in English-speaking Latino television.
Furthermore, The California Senate presented Sandra with a Certificate of Recognition for her relentless support of people in recovery in the LGBTQ community as exemplified by her leadership in producing “One Gay at a Time”, a comedy show that celebrates people in recovery.
Sandra is also an actor, singer, and a published author. Pick up your copy of Out on the Edge: America’s Rebel Comics and read all about what it’s like to be a lesbian and a woman of color in the comedy world!
AB Cassidy is a stand up comedian, actor, and professional lesbian originally hailing from the South Shore of Massachusetts. Now based in LA, AB performs all over the country and has opened for major headliners like Carlos Mencia and Tig Notaro.
She recently won both the juror and audience award at the San Gabriel Valley Pride Comedy Festival. AB can be seen on the small screen on the latest season of NBC’s, “This Is Us”. She also recently gave her first TEDx talk on failure and comedy at the Art Center College of Design. Additionally, she co-hosts an LGBT podcast with Daniel Franzese called, Butch and the Bear. You can follow her @FunnyLezbo to stay posted on upcoming shows and projects.
Pat Brown is a New York City based comedian who has recently appeared on CBS’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Fuse’s Uproarious, AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, NBC’s Comic’s Unleashed, Comedy Central’s Jamie Fox Laffapalooza, and BET ‘s ComicView. She is also a regular on Sirius XM’s The Foxhole. Pat recently released her critically acclaimed album THE PAT BROWN SEX-TAPE on iTunes. Her animated conversational style is a smart silliness that blends societal commentary with first-person storytelling. More on Pat: comedianpatbrown.com
Kate Clinton is a faith-based, tax-paying, America-loving political humorist and family entertainer. With a career spanning thirty-six years, Kate is at the top of her game, ready to stand up to the mic and bon mot her way through presidential campaigns, LGBTQ movements in transition, sports, religion in extremis, media in rigor mortis. For info on this multi-talented and multi-platformed author, actress, stand-up humorist, activist, fundraising auctioneer and social mediatrix see kateclinton.com.
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