Curve Awardees for Excellence in Lesbian Coverage digital exhibit
Welcome to the Curve Award for Excellence in Lesbian Coverage’s digital exhibit (CELC)!
This page is a celebration of 2023’s three winners: Femi Redwood, Dana Piccoli, and Victoria Brownworth. The award recognizes the efforts of professionals who work tirelessly in LGBTQ media to raise visibility and give voice to queer women and their issues. The selection committee this year consisted of notable activists, publishers, editors, and journalists including, Franco Stevens, Merryn Johns, Eboné Bell, and Daisy Hernández.
At this exhibit you can:
- Listen to oral history interviews outlining the winners’ expansive careers as news anchors, journalists, podcasters, moderators, and writers
- Read, watch, or listen to samples of their work
- Learn about the impact that Curve magazine has had on them as lesbian professionals in media
Visit the Curve Foundation website to learn more about the Curve Awards!
Exhibit installation in progress. Thank you for bearing with us!
An oral history interview with Dana Piccoli, 2023 winner of the Curve Foundation's award for Excellence in Lesbian Coverage.
The interview covers Dana's career in media as a writer, creative, and moderator; how her background in performance influenced that trajectory; and what receiving this award means to her.
Dana Piccoli is an award-winning writer and editor who has spent the last 12 years of her career writing about and for the LGBTQ+ community.
Dana graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s in fine arts and spent the first part of her career as a professional actor and vocalist, moving to New York City in 2006 to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter and cabaret performer. Always interested in LGBTQ+ representation in media, Dana became vocal about queer fandoms and positive representation on social media and developed a following.
In 2012, Dana combined for love for queer media with her skills as a songwriter and wrote and recorded a satirical song about the then-popular television show, “Pretty Little Liars.” The song quickly became a hit with the show’s fandom and led to being discovered by the team at AfterEllen. Dana was invited to create a vlog for the site, “Dana Does it with Glee,” which ran for the entire fourth season of the show. Soon after, she was asked to expand her presence on the site with a column about queer fandom. “Notes on a Fandom” kicked off in late 2012. Dana began writing more for the site and was soon recapping popular shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and interviewing stars of series including “Orange is the New Black” and “Carmilla.”
After gaining traction for her candid and affable interviewing style, Dana began moderating panels and hosting events, which she does to this day. She has been the lead moderator for ClexaCon, hosted panels at New York ComicCon and FlameCon, and traveled to London and Brazil to host and appear on lesbian and queer women-centric panels. She hosted the podcast “Let’s Process” at AfterEllen, which garnered over 250,000 listens. In 2015, she was invited to Toronto to host the “Carmilla” Season 2 finale event.
Dana became the staff editor of AfterEllen in 2014, working alongside editor-in-chief Trish Bendix and ended her tenure when the site was sold in 2016. Soon after, Dana was recruited by Bella Books to launch and run their new queer media vertical, Bella Media Channel. While there, Dana led Bella Media and created the From Fanfic to Published Writer competition. While also working at Bella, Dana joined the team at Olivia Travels, a travel company for LGBTQ+ women and their friends. While at Olivia, Dana created content for social media, catalogs, and interactive brochures, even winning a Magellan Award from Travel Weekly for her work on video editing. In 2017, she was named to Curve Magazine’s Pride List.
In 2019, Dana’s first novel, a lesbian romance called “Savor the Moment,” was published by Bella Books. She was also included in The Advocate Magazine’s Champions of Pride that year.
Over the years, Dana has also written features for numerous sites, including The Mary Sue, The Decider, Curve and NBC.
When Curve Foundation asked me to pick a piece from Curve’s history to write about, I didn’t realize what a rabbit hole of nostalgia I was about to tumble down. I have written for Curve myself over the years, but I wanted to look back at the articles and columns that inspired me as a young lesbian in the mid and late 90s. Back then, there were so few examples of what it meant to be a queer person in the world. Curve gave me an outlet and a way to connect with other queer women when I was 16 and realizing I was a lesbian myself.
There are so many pieces from the 90s that resonated me. Columns like Sapphic Screen and Hot Licks for Cool Chicks provided me with much needed film and music recommendations. I was obsessed with that Tuaca Liquer ad, I had it cut out and hung in my dorm room. Interviews with people like Patricia Schemel and Jenny Shimizu really exemplified the bravery it required to be out and queer in the 90s.
However, it’s the article titled “Saving Us From Sin” (Curve Vol.07 No.05 November 1997) by Shannon Turner and Surina Khan that I really want to talk about. In the late 90s, the ex-gay movement, bolstered by groups like Exodus International, started infiltrating college campuses and churches. Claiming that queer people could turn away from their queerness, their “sin,” these groups preyed on people who were desperate not to be LGBTQ+. The first sentence of the article hits you like a ton of bricks. “A handsome butch strolls onto the stage, wearing a baseball cap, sweats and sneakers. She immediately apologizes for the way she’s dressed. Assuring the audience that she normally dresses in a more feminine manner, she explains that she only wanted to give everyone a visual image of what she looked like before she found Jesus.”
My sophomore year of college, right around the same time this article, a Christian group on my campus invited a woman to speak about her experience as an “ex-gay” person. I remember getting special permission to be late to musical rehearsal so I could attend with some of my classmates. The room was filled with queer and trans people, there to protest this event. The energy in the room was palpable, as was this women’s discomfort. I recall her looking so nervous and sad. She spoke with a tremble and was ill-equip to handle the pointed (yet respectful) questions students asked of her. At the time, I joked about asking her out to my friends, but 20 years later, I still think about her with a heavy heart. I don’t recall her name (and a search through the Western Herald archives did not enlighten me) but I often wonder what became of her. Did she ever learn to love herself? Did she end up married to a man? Is she happy?
The Curve article tackles what happened to several lesbians and queer women who were approached by Exodus and clearly have trauma surrounding their experiences. At the time of the article, Exodus had hundreds of ministries around the world. Countless people were harmed by their conversion therapy rhetoric, which Exodus leader Alan Manning Chambers admitted in 2012. A year later, Chambers shuttered Exodus.
As painful as it was, this ex-gay movement happened and along its way to an inevitable conclusion, a generation of queer people were subjected to the fallacy that they could “pray the gay away.” The damage was done. The damage is still being done. Curve had the courage to tackle this in 1997 when we weren’t connected like we are now. I can’t help but wonder how many people were spared the harm of Exodus and other organizations like it thanks to this exposé.
An oral history interview with Femi Redwood, 2023 winner of the Curve Foundation's award for Excellence in Lesbian Coverage.
The interview covers Femi's career in media as a news anchor, podcaster, and correspondent; how her background influenced that trajectory; and what receiving this award means to her.
This bio is going to be a bit unusual. Instead of focusing on my career highlights, I want you to understand why I dedicated my career to telling inclusive and authentic stories.
In elementary school, my dad delivered newspapers before going to his 9 - 5 job. This left stacks of undelivered papers lying around. It was bittersweet. I fell in love with news but realized very early something was missing.
I grew up on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, and in Milton, Delaware, two very different communities that profoundly impacted my journalism.
St. Helena Island is home to the Gullah people, an African-American ethnic group that has retained many African traditions due to the island's isolation. Praise houses, the buildings enslaved folks worshiped in, are still standing, as is Penn Center, a former school for freed Black children. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior wrote his "I Have a Dream" speech at Penn Center, and it was my first school.
My family is not Gullah. My Jamaican mom and African-American father moved there because they fell in love with the island and its rich culture.
Growing up on the island, along with my parents' teachings of Black history, instilled in me a pride and passion for Black joy while also opening my eyes to the systemic failures that suffocated that joy. I saw how the newspapers didn't cover our community with the same positivity as the white communities.
In middle school we moved to a town in Delaware near Rehoboth Beach, a popular gay vacation spot. This was a dramatically different place from St. Helena Island. While the island's demographics have changed over the years, it was primarily Black in my childhood. But the lack of racial inclusion was glaring in our new predominantly white town. My mom and I often had to point out to my teachers that the required reading lists didn't contain Black authors, demanding I be able to substitute them for books by authors like Zora Neale Hurston.
Rehoboth Beach introduced me to gay joy, although it was a very segregated joy. When I realized I was queer and began going to gay white spaces, I learned they were not for people who looked like me. The coffee shops, bars, and clothing stores weren't welcoming, all made clear by the music played and how Black customers were spoken to. And as I continued to consume biased news, I realized I wanted better. I wanted to be the journalist that included Black and queer people in my stories, which would hopefully lead to changes in the world.
My journey continued to Jackson State University, a historically Black college in Jackson, Mississippi, and eventually to a journalism career in New York City. I've worked in some of the most respected newsrooms, including 1010 WINS Radio, CBS News, and VICE News, but the most important part of my career has been impacting the lives of Black queer people by telling their stories.
Through the leadership roles I hold at various professional journalism organizations, I've also been able to help Black queer journalists succeed. One of those roles is the chair of the National Association of Black Journalists LGBTQ+ Task Force. My work has helped countless Black queer journalists by providing scholarships, grants, and mentoring.
If you're interested, you can find more about my career on Linkedin. But I wanted to share with you why I was drawn to telling inclusive stories. I told myself as a kid that I would do better, and it's a promise I'm proud to have kept.
In addition to this podcast episode showing the duality of joy and pain, I include this story in my portfolio because it represents another part of what is important to me as a journalist: helping other journalists grow. I took a backseat in this episode to allow one of the producers I managed to tell this story. I always want to make sure I am helping people grow, which means often moving to the side. While I served as the executive producer of this podcast episode, I am proud to say much of the writing, researching, and all the interviewing was done by another queer journalist at the start of his journalism career.
I moved to New York City in 2006. I remember so many nights where I sat on the futon I purchased from Craigslist (which I later discovered had bed bugs), in the tiny bedroom I rented in someone's apartment (also found on Craigslist), and flipped through Curve Magazine. I would stare at the smiling faces of mostly white women and think of how one day I would be the one profiled in the magazine. While Curve certainly lacked representation of Black queer women in the aughts, seeing lesbian women out, proud, and successful provided a vision of what my life could be. It wasn't a complete representation, but it was one of the layers in the foundation.
Seeing a reflection of yourself in the media leaves an unforgettable mark. That is why I can still remember the cover photos of two of my favorite Curve articles: an interview with basketball star Sheryl Swoops from 2006 and another with actress Pam Grier from 2009.
To understand why these articles are still impactful today, you have to remember what media representation was like for Black women in the 2000s: full of the "welfare queen" tropes or the angry and aggressive Black woman stereotypes, which sent a message that Black women are undesirable and unworthy of love. But the articles with Swoops and Grier were reminders that despite living in a world that didn't affirm our beauty and femininity, we could still love, be loved, break barriers, and reach new heights.
In 2005, Sheryl Swoops came out of the closet. By this point, she was a WNBA legend and the first woman to have a pair of sneakers named after her. Despite having so much to lose, she lived her life on her terms in the most authentic way possible.
A year later, when she was on the cover of Curve sharing her journey and telling her love story, I had only been living in NYC for a few months. I was trying to find a job in my journalism career that would eventually lead to an on-air reporting job, find friends, and date. Balancing all that alone is tough in a new city but was made significantly more complicated when weighed down with a society that tells queer reporters we shouldn't be out of the closet because that might offend viewers. Add to that a persistent media narrative that Black women are unlovable.
But Swoops presented a different view. While there was undoubtedly a bias that all women in the WNBA were lesbians, she not only took a risk to come out of the closet but also affirmed her love for a Black woman in a way we didn't see in queer or straight media. This may seem insignificant but think of the LGBTQ+ couples we saw in the aughts. How many of them were Black?
In her interview, Swoops told Curve she had no regrets. And while I was still trying to figure out my life, I knew I didn't want regrets. She showed young Black women like me that not only was it possible to be successful and love publicly, but by risking it all, you could gain more than you could ever imagine.
This idea is why the cover story with Pam Grier also connected with me.
Grier is Black royalty. She is a feminist icon, Black icon, and sexual liberation icon all at once. She became what we call "Black famous" in the 1970s when she starred in films like Foxy Brown and Coffy. The actress built a career celebrating her curves, natural hair, and melanin when Hollywood was still not seeing Black women in their fullness and beauty, an issue that still existed when she later became one of the stars of The L Word in the 2000s.
When Curve interviewed Grier for a cover story, it connected with me for several reasons. She was our Black Barbie, the epitome of natural beauty. And despite sex so often being weaponized against Black women, she owned it with the same freedoms white women were allowed to own their sex appeal.
When the article came out, I was only a few years into my career but found Grier's story relatable: She had told a director she thought one script needed more substance, but he didn't listen. While I was still early in my career, I had already learned that my voice as a Black woman was often ignored. But the lesson was to keep pushing in the same way she did.
Grier's cover story developed a new meaning to me in recent years after my wife and mother successfully fought cancer. Grier detailed what it was like to be diagnosed with cancer and the strength required to fight it. She thought she would go through treatment with the man she was in love with by her side, but instead, he left her without explanation. But Grier didn't give up; she fought cancer with a boldness and independence that cannot be denied. She is a reminder of the power of Black women
This oral history interview with Victoria Brownworth, 2023 winner of the Curve Foundation's award for Excellence in Lesbian Coverage.
The interview covers Victoria's impressive career in journalism; from her undergraduate education to her over 30 years of writing for Curve magazine.
Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist. She has won the Society of Professional Journalists Award several times, most recently in 2022 for feature reporting, as well as the Keystone Journalism Award, the NLGJA, Lambda Literary and IPPY Independent Press Award. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, Ms.,The Nation, Village Voice, SPIN, POZ, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter, OUT, Lambda Literary and Curve among other publications. She is a columnist for the Bay Area Reporter, Philadelphia Gay News and an opinion writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She has most recently won several journalism awards for her coverage of the COVID pandemic and for her three-part series on lesbian, bisexual and trans women in prison. Brownworth was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life. In 2010 she co-founded the independent publisher Tiny Satchel Press with her late wife, Maddy Gold. She taught writing and journalism at the University of the Arts and Community College of Philadelphia for many years. She lives and works in Philadelphia.