Entertainment

A Valedictorian Wasn’t Allowed To Give A Speech Because He’s Gay, So J.Lo Came To His Hometown To Bring His Noise

TODAY / JLo / Instagram

J.Lo has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and she’s not slowing down any time soon. Just last week, the Puerto Rican superstar took the time to lend her support to 18-year-old gay-identified Nat Werth. She heard that Werth was silenced from speaking on his experience as a gay teenager and denied his right to give a valedictorian speech. Lopez was shocked.

Werth worked hard to graduate from Sheboygan Lutheran High School at the very top of his class. While he didn’t give the speech he was entitled to, his courage has certainly sparked several opportunities to empower the LGBTQ+ community since then.

J.Lo is on her #ItsMyPartyTour, and, apparently, everyone is welcome.

Credit: @NewNowNext / Twitter

She invited Werth to the Milwaukee concert and arranged to meet with him backstage. She wanted to make sure that he felt some support for being out, open, and courageous enough to share in a vulnerable place.

The fact that Werth even wanted to open up about a painful, personal experience to an audience that is likely unreceptive is courageous.

Credit: @JLo / Twitter

Werth decided to take the staged opportunity to talk about his experience of being gay at the Christian school and to offer his understanding of the Biblical passages that are often used by homophobes to condemn homosexuality. 

The school refused to let him give the speech.

Credit: @JLo / Twitter

He let them know that he was willing to cut the parts they didn’t like, knowing it was a controversial move on his part, but one worth taking. The school ultimately told him that, given his “track record,” they couldn’t trust him to stick to the script. Let us remind you his track record landed him a valedictorian title.

The salutatorian gave the speech instead, but Werth was honored with an even bigger stage.

Credit: @mkepride / Twitter

PrideFest Milwaukee honored him with its 2019 Valor Award and gave him an opportunity to finally deliver that speech. He started by telling the crowd, “I came out to my family on my 18th birthday. I knew that being forced out of my home was a very real possibility. I knew that my parents did not approve of gay people but I also knew they needed to know the truth in order to overcome their prejudice.”

“At church, I was taught that there was something wrong with me and that I had to change in order for God to accept me,” he told a [now, sobbing] crowd.

“I took it upon myself to examine the six passages in the Bible that talk about homosexuality. It quickly became clear that God, in fact, does not hate gay people,” he announced to a round of applause. Werth laughed off an “Amen,” in response. 

Werth is also meeting with the Department of Public Instruction to correct Lutheran High’s discrimination towards its LGBT students.

@JLo / Twitter

Since the time of Werth’s graduation and his speech at PrideFest, he’s been getting to work on some policy changes. He informed the crowd that, “the Wisconsin School Choice Program allocates vouchers to students who qualify for financial aid in private institutions. Sheboygan Lutheran participates in this program. It is important to know that School Choice requires participating schools to follow certain guidelines, which include nondiscrimination, the option to take religion classes and the opportunity for students to speak with the board of directors if they would like, all of which Lutheran does not do.”

“No child should be taught by their school that they have to hate themselves to love themselves,” Werth concluded.

@JLo / Twitter

We know that J.Lo–a GLAAD Vanguard Award recipient, is in absolute agreement. Werth had to endure his own school teaching him that the essence of what allows him to love is wrong. The “Free Mom Hugs” signs at Pride make us all weep, but seeing this mami taking the time to give this wronged young man a hug is breaking our hearts into a million pieces and glueing it all back together. ❤️

J.Lo also made sure to tweet out her support for both Werth, and the entire gay community.

@JLo / Twitter

J.Lo is “always standing with” Werth, and what a beautiful way to graduate high school. Werth himself said that meeting J.Lo was “absolutely an amazing experience he will never forget,” Today anchor Carson Daly reported.

READ: Receiving High Praise, J.Lo Uses Gender Neutral Pronouns To Describe Her Sister’s Second Child

Samantha Barbash Said Jennifer Lopez Should Not Have Played Her In ‘Hustlers,’ It Would Have Been Better With Cardi B

Entertainment

Samantha Barbash Said Jennifer Lopez Should Not Have Played Her In ‘Hustlers,’ It Would Have Been Better With Cardi B

Jennifer Lopez cannot believe the incredibly positive reviews she’s getting over her lead role in the film “Hustlers.” She was so moved that she cried on national TV. Last week while being interviewed by Hoda Kotb, Lopez expressed her emotional reaction over the surprising reviews for her role, which some critics say could get her an Acadamy Award nomination. Here’s just a snippet of what film critics are saying about the film that made a big debut this weekend. “Hustlers asks what a movie like Goodfellas looks like with women at the center of the story,” one film critic said. “If nothing else, we get to see Jennifer Lopez command the screen as easily as Ramona does the stage, offering up a seductive awards-worthy performance that makes us remember why she became a movie star in the first place,” another said

There is at least one person who isn’t raving about Lopez’s role, and that’s the one who inspired the film. 

Samantha Barbash, the woman who inspired “Hustlers,” said she would have liked to have seen Cardi B in the lead role instead of Jennifer Lopez. 

Credit: Instagram/@iam_missfoxita

The 45-year-old said in an interview with Hollywood Life that rapper Cardi B should have portrayed her instead of the veteran actress, even though this is Cardi’s first film. “I said it from day one, even to the producer. Cardi doesn’t have the acting skills that Jennifer does, but Cardi could relate more to who I was because even though she wasn’t in the same club, we were in the same industry,” she told the lifestyle website. “If Cardi took some acting lessons and shadowed me, I’m sure that she would have played a better role for my character.”

Barbash goes on to say that she is flattered that Lopez wanted to play her in a movie but stresses that the film got several things wrong about her. 

Credit: Instagram/@iam_missfoxita

For starters, Barbash wasn’t a stripper at all. The film, based on a 2015 New York magazine article, shows Lopez as a stripper who ends up drugging wealthy bankers and robs them of their money. However, Barbash said she was never a stripper. Barbash actually worked at a strip club in New York City as a hostess. Yes, the other stuff about the drugs and taking their money is correct, but seeing Lopez play her a stripper didn’t sit well with her. Barbash also said that Lopez never reached out to her in order to learn about her mannerisms, which is what actors do when they’re portraying real-life characters. Even when the real-life character is deceased, actors still study old footage to learn more about the role they are playing. You may recall the extensive research Lopez said she did to portray Selena Quintanilla. She even slept in her bed to get into deep character.  

Earlier this year, Barbash said she would release her own memoir about the ordeal (which she did) that got her 5 years probation and said she planned to sue the filmmakers. 

Credit: Instagram/@iam_missfoxita

“This is a living nightmare,” Barbash said in April in the New York Post after videos leaked of Lopez on a stripper pole. “So now I’m going to have to do a lawsuit. I’m getting a gag order.” Bruno Gioffre, also said back then, that Barbash was “considering all legal avenues with the possibility injunctive relief, including a lawsuit.” The movie was made despite her legal threats. Today, Barbash is an entrepreneur and owns her own spa business. 

We can see why she would have preferred to see Cardi B in the title role. 

Credit: Instagram/@iamcardib

The Bronx rapper did admit to drugging men and robbing them, just like the characters did in the movie “Hustlers.” In 2017, Barbash was charged for conspiracy, assault, and grand larceny in exchange for five years probation

In March, Card admitted on social media that during her stint as a stripper in New York she too did what the “Hustlers” did in the movie. “I had to go strip, I had to go, ‘Oh yeah, you want to f*ck me? Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s go to this hotel,’ and I drugged n*****s up and I robbed them. That’s what I used to do.” 

Soon after that post, Cardi said she it was wrong of her to do that and has since tried to make a better life for herself. 

READ: Critics Think Jennifer Lopez Gave An Oscar-Worthy Performance In ‘Hustlers’

 
 
 

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

Entertainment

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

mirror_cooperative_ / Instagram

Four years ago, Lesly Herrera Castillo and Joselyn Mendoza both had a vision to create a worker-owned makeup and hair salon for the trans Latino community in Jackson Heights, New York. It was ambitious and for them, it was necessary. For years, the duo faced racial and gender discrimination from employers. Their own community, Jackson Heights, was also becoming a problem as the area became the site of multiple anti-trans hate crimes in recent years. So they came together with a plan to open Mirror Beauty Cooperative in 2015.

The beauty shop would create numerous jobs for the local trans community but more importantly assist undocumented individuals who were denied opportunities due to their legal status. So Castillo and Mendoza made the important decision to register the business as a cooperative cooperation (co-op). This was done so the salon would basically be “worker-run” and there would be no need for things like social security numbers, an obstacle many undocumented workers face when applying to jobs. Instead, the salon will use individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs).

“The significance of the cooperative for me is that it’s an opportunity to create more jobs and make a space that’s free of discrimination,” Mendoza told the HuffPost. “As trans women, we don’t often have access to a healthy economy, and this allows us to change that and obtain other services like health care.”

While their idea started four years ago, the duo hasn’t yet obtained a physical space to open up the salon. But they hope with enough support this vision can become a reality. 

Credit: @equalityfed / Twitter

While both Castillo and Mendoza haven’t opened up a physical salon space, they are both continuing to work in other salons as they continue to save and plan for the Mirror Beauty Cooperative. This past May they began to reach out to more people to help fund their goal through a GoFundMe Campaign. The results of the campaign fund have been less than 1 percent of their $150,000 goal. The duo has also faced other socioeconomic setbacks like lack of traditional education and the economic instability due to their immigrant background. 

“Latina trans women always have multiple obstacles in the way,” Mendoza said. “I think if a collective of white trans women were to start a project like this, their incubation process would be faster than ours because of their historical access to privilege.” 

But Herrera notes that the white trans community is still an ally to them even though they are on different economic levels. “We can always depend on the white trans community” to offer support “because they know they’re on a better [economic] level.”

For the trans, gender-queer and nonbinary community, job discrimination has been a reoccurring issue. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 16 percent of gender-queer and nonbinary respondents who had held jobs reported having been fired for their gender identity or expression. But for trans women and trans people of color, they were the most likely to have gone through this. 

While the salon is still in progress, Castillo and Mendoza have become a presence in their own neighborhood uplifting and bringing attention to the trans Latino community. 

As of now, the duo has a secret backup plan in case they don’t meet their fundraising goals by the end of the year. They hope that the campaign does one thing though, create and share their broader call for building community with people. 

That has already started to take place as Castillo, Hernandez and their new partner, Jonahi Rosa have all become presences in Jackson Heights advocating for the trans community. The trio even participated in the Queens Pride Parade as co-grand marshals. This has also included various charity events for local LGTBQ+ youth. 

They all feel that the salon has the potential to bring people together and spread awareness about issues that affect their lives every day. From the start, the trio has always wanted to not only create a space for the trans community but give them an opportunity. 

“We want to work, [and] we want to give agency to our community,” Rosa said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for our community to come together and make something for our future.”

READ: Our FIERCE Readers Share Some of the Most Outrageous Lies They’ve Told To Get Some Time Away With Their Boo