When fashion designer Leo Preziosi came across an article in Metrosource magazine in 2000 called “The Gun in the Closet,” which discussed two high school students who committed suicide because of bullying, he realized it was time to do something. He soon formed Live Out Loud, an organization that helps to empower LGBTQ youth by connecting them with successful queer professionals in their community.
Preziosi is particularly proud of the organization’s upcoming Young Trailblazers Annual Gala at The Times Center on April 28. Tony-winner Billy Porter will host and emcee the event and scholarship recipients will be presented with their awards, while In Style magazine editor Ariel Foxman will receive the Founders Award and playwright Terrence McNally will be honored with the Legend Award.
One of the most anticipated moments of the event will be the organization’s Live Out Loud Youth Scholarship presentation, which will award five scholarships worth $5,000 to youth who have made significant contributions to society. This year’s recipients include Darrel Persaud, from St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Bronx. Persaud is part of a youth committee called Youth Channel which encourages young people to think proactively and constructively about issues affecting their lives. He also interns at BOOM Health!, where he helps educate other young men about HIV/STD prevention.
The scholarships encourage students like Persaud to pursue college degrees and continue their progressive work. Preziosi believes the scholarships and opportunities that come with them help boost the students’ confidence and raise their self-awareness. He urges the community to become present in the lives of these individuals by engaging the community, sharing wisdom and assessing their needs and challenges of queer youth.
Live Out Loud’s School Program partners with schools throughout New York City to implement educational curriculum focusing on LGBTQ issues, awareness, and action. Through the program students participate in activities, engage in discussion, and put their ideas into action while making a difference in the community.
Another of the most successful programs Preziosi and Live Out Loud have embarked on is the Homecoming Project, which sends successful LGBT adults back to their hometown high schools. Dustin Lance Black recently returned to his former high school in North Salinas, California to speak to the student body and inspire LGBT youth. Gay rights activist Neil G. Giuliano, the former president of GLAAD returned to this high school in Bloomfield New Jersey in 2009 through the same program. Community and celebrity supporters of Live Out Loud has increased ever year: Lisa Lampanelli, Lea DeLaria, BD Wong, and Alan Cumming have all filmed “Gay It Forward” PSA videos for the organization.
For more information on Live Out Loud, go here.
Photo Credit: Dana Roc