To mark the 2015 Queerties Awards, we’ve compiled lists of outstanding LGBTQ folks and our allies (and yes, some of our foes) in a variety of categories. At the end of each list, we ask you, the reader, to cast your vote for who should come out on top.
Business leaders come in every shape and size, from the Fortune 500s to the shop around the corner, or even the shop in your pocket. And there are some true standouts making the wold a more inclusive place for LGBTQ folk. Some have broken barriers, others have helped us connect or even just made us look out best.
Scroll down for our list of business badasses, and cast your ballot below…
Tim Cook — CEO, Apple, Inc.
You can’t start a list of LGBTQ business leaders without the daddy of them all. Apple, if you haven’t heard, is the world’s most valuable brand, according to Forbes. And right there at the top of the pyramid is Tim Cook, who described his reasoning for coming out as, “kids are getting bullied in school, kids were getting discriminated against, kids were even being disclaimed by their own parents…I needed to do something.” He’s putting his company where is mouth is: Apple played a key role killing antigay bills in Arizona and Indiana. With big business controlling the purse strings of the Republican Party these days, the road to consensus on equality may lie in part in corporate America, as distasteful as that is.
Jonny Skandros — Founder, SCRUFF
Jonny went from bullied gay youth to founding a thriving company that brings together gay men who don’t fit inside a neat, tan, coiffed little box. It’s not always easy being on the heels of household name Grindr. But he differentiated Scruff from the competition in part with what we consider the best name in market but also by allowing users of the app to contact one another regardless of geo-proximity, a point he feels empowers queers in isolated parts of the world to reach out and form connection. Exactly how connected they want to get is up to every individual, of course.
Tom Ford — Designer, Brand Founder, Filmmaker
What is there to say about Tom Ford that you already don’t know? His fashion career is one thing, but then he had to go and make A Single Man in 2009 and blow us all away in ways we never could have anticipated. Actually, here’s something you might not know: Ford is currently filming is next feature film (acting as writer/director/producer), and that’s reason enough for him to make this list. Nocturnal Animals, set for a 2016 release, stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Kim Basinger, so, enough said. Perhaps no person in America (well, we have one idea, below) has been better at turning a fabulous aesthetic vision into vast wealth.
Heklina — Owner and hostess with the mostess, Oasis
San Francisco drag queen Heklina was a legend in her own right well before she took the plunge into becoming a business owner, but she breathed new life into the SF drag scene by opening nightlife hotspot Oasis in the SoMa neighborhood, which has morphed into a multipurpose shophouse for fun acts. The club now plays host to the best traveling drag talent as well as local favorites, retaining that “come-as-you-are” spirit that is harder to come by in SF by the day.
Christopher Bailey — CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Burberry
With business acumen and creative spirt that rival few, Christopher is largely credited with ushering the 159-year-old fashion house into the 21st century. Upon learning he’d been handed the CEO title, he remarked, “I would be happy if designers were able to be seen as multidimensional creators who can do things bigger and broader than what people think a designer can.” He is certainly living proof.
Kathy Wolfe — Founder, Wolfe Distribution
Seeing your story represented in films is a powerful experience, and Kathy has been at the forefront of making sure LGBTQ folk aren’t left out of the equation for over three decades. With the current incarnation of Wolfe as Wolfe On Demand, she has made available a treasure trove of independent queer filmmaking to anyone with an internet connection.
Marc Jacobs — Founder, Marc Jacobs
You caught us — we adore designers. Say what you will of Marc’s recent media attention — we admire the way he’s fired back at those who wish to put him in a box. Yes, he uses Grindr. Yes, he likes to have fun (and, gasp, that even includes sex). But why should it be any other way? Where many public figures might try and back down from exposure and harsh criticism, apologizing despite not doing anything wrong, Marc has consistently fought back for a value system that favors creativity, freedom and pleasure. We give him major points for that. Oh, did we mention that his company might be going public soon and that he used to date the porn star Henry Louis?
Peter Thiel — Entrepreneur, venture capitalist, hedge fund manager
Whenever Peter Thiel, the gay PayPal/Facebook billionaire, opens his mouth to speak, it’s anyone’s guess what’s going to come out. The vocal libertarian has backed with cash (by our standards) unsettling political causes, from Ron Paul to Ted Cruz (shudder), as well as some pretty nutty science ventures that only eccentric billionaires could ever care about. But you’ve got to give a little credit to a guy who speaks his mind, naysayers be damned, especially in group think Bay Area. He’s not only Silicon valley royalty, he’s openly gay royalty, dedicated to becoming a role model for generations of start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Amy Stanning — Senior Manager, Barclays Bank
As a manager of 240 people at Barclays, Amy was faced with a difficult situation when she decided to come out as transgender in 2009. Working for such a conservative institution, Amy’s livelihood and dignity were on the line. Her bravery paid off, and not only did she retain her position, she now works with the organization’s LGBT employee’s network to improve the experience of trans colleagues and customers.