#1 fan

Here’s the story behind the magnificent fan that sassed its way into the Oval Office

On Friday, we told you about one incredibly sprightly teacher who took Pride directly to Donald Trump’s desk (and none too soon, considering that the Trump administration has completed ignored Pride month.)

Nikos Giannopoulos earned the distinction of being named Rhode Island’s “teacher of the year,” and that honor came with an invitation to visit the White House. As you can see in the photo above, Giannopoulos certainly didn’t squander his photo op.

Wearing a rainbow LGBTQ pin on his blue print jacket and sporting a gold and silver necklace in lieu of the traditional tie, Giannopoulos’ accent piece caused quite a stir: As he gives a sassy smile not two feet away from the first couple, Giannopoulos’ right hand holds a black lace fan. Donald and Melania Trump smile for the camera from behind the president’s desk, and the whole scene is just surreal given the administration’s rocky-at-best relationship with the LGBTQ community.

Related: ‘Teacher of the year’ becomes internet sensation with one sassy photo from the Oval Office

Speaking to NPR, Giannopoulos happily discussed the now-legendary fan’s origins, how Trump reacted to his bold fashion choice, whether or not he’s afraid of backlash, and what it feels like to be an Internet folk hero in 2017.

Below are some highlights from the interview:

On where the fan came from: 

The fan was actually my partner’s. He bought it as a souvenir on a trip to Venice, but I found it about five years ago. Since then I’ve integrated it into my day-to-day life. I’m extremely campy, and it’s a popular prop of mine. I’ve taken it with me all over the country whenever I go on vacation, so that’s why I had it.

But ultimately, I have been visibly gay my entire life; I was more feminine than a lot of boys and I carried myself in a nontraditional gender expression. And I got a lot of flak for it. As a boy, I think I internalized that and didn’t embrace that part of me. Now, as an adult, I adjusted to my queer identity. So the fan represents self-acceptance and being unabashedly myself in a society that’s not always ready to accept that.

How Trump reacted: 

Oh, he loved it! I popped it open when I walked into the office because I’m a very sassy person. And [President] Trump complimented it right away. He said, “I love the fan!” And he told me I had great style. Then, when I was ushered in for my private photo with the president and Melania [Trump] I was told I should put it away. So I just folded it up and held it at my side. But when it came time for the photo, I just asked the president, “Do you mind if I use the fan for the photo?” He said, “Absolutely go for it.” So I popped my fan and did my pose.

On that ferocious necklace: 

That’s an image of Rhode Island that’s prevalent throughout the state. It’s on the state motto, which is based on a Bible verse — that hope is the anchor of the soul. It’s a beautiful verse that is relevant for people of all faiths and is especially meaningful for minority groups. For anyone in a marginalized group, hope is the last thing you give up.

Related: Ivanka Trump wishes everyone a “joyful” Pride and the entire Internet is like ‘Girl, bye!’

On becoming an Internet hero: 

It’s been really overwhelming because I am a really socially anxious person. I don’t ever really go on social media that much. The only reason I’m on Facebook as much as I am this year is because it’s the primary way I communicate with the other teachers of the year.

But overall, I’ve gotten a really positive response through the whole thing. From younger people I get a lot of, “You’re my hero!” And a lot of “Werk Kween!” which makes my day.

On whether he’s afraid of backlash: 

I’m not. I haven’t really noticed any negative comments on there so far. And I guess I’m used to that kind of negative response to my outward expression because I’ve always been this way.

On being named a teacher of the year:

I just want to say that the teaching profession has been the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. Every single day I go to the classroom energized and thrilled to be there and to have been elevated to represent all of the teachers in my state. I’m not the best teacher in my state. I’m not the most thoughtful planner. But I do care a lot about my students and they mean a whole lot to me.

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  • Danny595

    “I was more feminine than a lot of boys and I carried myself in a nontraditional gender expression. And I got a lot of flak for it.”

    His peers were trying to tell him something. He should have listened to them. If he had, maybe he would have developed into a normal adult gay male who carries himself with confidence as a man. Instead, he chose to wallow in his deficiency and has become a girlish cartoon character.

    • scotshot

      Tell me, what is “a normal adult gay male…” Is there a template out there that we have to fit into? Do we all have to take on the role of a repressed gay male who’s afraid of being found it?

      Nikos Giannopoulis earned Teacher of the Year by being exactly who he is. I applaud him.

    • DCguy

      Because the ONLY mold that the anti-lgbt Trump Trolls (And Mo Bros other Screenames) approve of, is the closeted gay who hides away and marries a woman and doesn’t exist.

      Kind of the same way they feel about black people and Latinos, and Women, and…..

    • Bellerophon69

      Gee Danny595, you sound like you’re more hung-up on a cowardly affectation and wallowing in a “deficiency” in order to become a ‘cartoon character” than a brave soul who stands up for the way he WANT to be like Nikos would allow himself to ever consider. How the hell does a “…normal adult gay male who carries himself with confidence as a man” carry himself. Oh wait, I know; a lot like Trump, pumping and pulling his handshake cartoonishly to reinforce to whoever is on the other end of that tiny mitt that he’s a “real Man”. Strutting into the room with a half open shirt and a dozen gold chains draped over his hairy chest, like a caricature of a seventies Disco Lothario? Your post makes it seem you’re just jealous ’cause Nikos lives it like he wants to and ROCKED IT, instead or hiding like you do (assuming you are gay and not just a “Trump Troll” performing a fluff for your masters) behind a pretentious facade of what YOU think a “Macho 21st Century Gay Man” should project. Not every Gay Male should have to look like he stepped out of a “Tom of Holland” 1970’s illustration, even though (especially in 1970) that isn’t a bad look, so quit trying to make every Gay Male fall into your stereotype of a Gay Male, Troll!

    • gwwhouston

      Danny595 has his own right-of-opinions.
      Niko, on the other hand, lives-our-opinions.

  • Mr-DJ

    To fit a mold that “Danny595” approves of? YOU apparently believe in fitting into molds. He happens to be his own person, and obviously a highly successful teacher. Jealous that you can’t just be YOURself much? I don’t understand why some guys are so effeminate either, but there’s a place for everyone, and his place has nothing to do with you except to enhance the larger world around us.

    • Danny595

      Yes, there is a place for everyone. And the place for manhood failures like this dude is the curb.

  • Kieran

    Being from New York City, I’m sure this was quite the culture shock for President Trump.

    • Jere

      This is a continual mystery for me…Trump doesn’t behave in any way like a person born and bred in New York City, which is, of course, a mecca for people of all genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, religions, and differences of all kinds. I suppose his wealth and privilege insulated him from the actual city to such an extent that he might as well have been raised elsewhere. Just for the record, he’s pretty detested here and New Yorkers would happily give him up for Florida or some place that more readily reflects his worldview.

  • He BGB

    If true that #45 told him to go for it, then that would be a first for any president I would think to have a flaming queen in an official photo! Is Pence in the corner getting the electrocution device ready?

    • He BGB

      I meant flaming queen as an endearment BTW since he seems to be happy with himself.

  • Kieran

    We need to impeach this Trump guy ASAP so Mike Pence can straighten things out in the White House. (pardon the pun)

  • MediaGuy

    NY’ers know that President Donald Trump has NEVER been a homophobe. It’s a fake story intended to discredit him. But we know it was always bullsh*it.

  • pierscik

    I don’t know whether Mr. Trump is a homophobe or not. I’ve never met him nor heard evidence either way but his dismantling of minority rights and ignoring Pride doesn’t exactly make him a friend of the community.

  • Mmmrrrggglll

    Not a fan (no pun intended) of Donald Trump, but what a fabulous photo. The smiles on his and Melania’s face look truly genuine.

  • GayEGO

    Kudos to Nikos Giannopoulos and Trump will be Trump.

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