You divas know that we never stop searching the globe to find the gayest, most fabulous things to keep you off of Grindr. While the pandemic has certainly thrown a wrench to the wig, we stumbled across a little piece of gay magic that will breath some much-needed glitter into what’s starting out to be the 2.0 version of 2020. And you know, we aren’t fans of a sequel. We sat down with Wesley Smoot, creator of Unleashed LGBTQ, to get to the bottom of what it’s all about.
Drag Star Diva: So tell the divas: What exactly is Unleashed LGBTQ?
Wesley Smoot: Unleashed LGBTQ creates a space for brands, entertainers, and LGBTQ professionals to connect. With this event, can learn about the latest products, services, and campaigns in a fun and interactive environment. We’ll also have some great entertainment booked.
DSD: Where did the idea come from?
WS: There are so many amazing brands and artists that could use a platform to showcase their latest products, series, movies, books, albums, etc. In doing some market research, we found that many of the companies and big names were very interested in the opportunity, so we got to work.
DSD: Rumor has it that your hope is for Unleashed to be the a gay version of SXSW. Can you elaborate?
WS: It will be a great opportunity for LGBTQ professionals to network, attendees can learn about the hottest products coming out, and there will be lots of experimental marketing. We will host keynote speakers, discussion panels, and performances from some of the biggest names in LGBTQ film, television, and music. In that respect, some folks did start saying, they’re making a “Gay South By.”
DSD: Is there a little of something for everyone?
WS: There is, we aim to keep the brands participating diverse and inclusive. Our run of show will have something for everyone, as the beginning of each day will start with events that pertain more to business, marketing, entrepreneurs, non-profits then transition into more entertainment, with fun things like virtual fashion shows, interviews, performances and more.
DSD: Is this virtual event open to everyone…everywhere? Other countries?
WS: It is. I’m excited to share, we have had so many people register from Canada, UK, Australia, India, and of course all over the United States- and while our in-person, physical show will be limited to industry professionals, we thought since we are going virtual, why not make it open to the public?
DSD: What should attendees be most excited to see at this year’s event?
WS: The virtual fashion shows are expected to be amazing, we will also have comic Matteo Lane performing his rendition of Barbara Streisand’s “One Night at the Bon Soir” with award winning pianist Henry Koperski. There’s a few other things I can’t mention at this moment but expect a few surprises.
DSD: How has the pandemic affected your inaugural year?
WS: Well, we had to cancel our physical show, but our team worked tirelessly to figure out how to transition our event to a virtual one and I think we we did a great job. As difficult as that was for us, we will now have brands, speakers and performers involved that we couldn’t have had for a physical, in-person event due geographical and budget concerns.
DSD: Are there still opportunities for vendors to become involved? If so, what kind are you looking for and how should they reach out?
WS: Most of the space for our schedule is full. We have had some last minute brands and performers jump on that we will be announcing soon. We are selective with participation, this helps us ensure quality of show. We have partnered with everything from start-ups to Fortune 500 Companies. If someone is doing something that is commercially and culturally relevant, we want them to be part of our event.
DSD: What are your hopes for the future of Unleashed?
WS: Naturally, we can wait for this pandemic to pass so we can return to in-person events. The environment we aim to create is heavy in experimental marketing/activations. We want to bring in journalists, influencers, and bloggers to Dallas to see the next big thing coming out. They can share the details of what they see with their wide audience. Music showcases and even film festivals with panel discussions will be a big part of future events.
There are also so many networking opportunities for LGBTQ professionals.I am very excited with everything we have accomplished in this time and all the amazing partnerships we have made. I think there is so much potential for growth and opportunity that will be beneficial in highlighting new companies and artists as well as bringing in tourism for Dallas. For us, sky’s is the limit.
Make sure to grab some new tees to show off at the Drag Star Diva store.