I asked LGBTQ celebs what advice they'd give their younger selves. Here's what they said.

If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? Be bolder? Care less (or more) about schoolwork? Don't sweat the small stuff?

We'd all have words of wisdom to pass down. But for LGBTQ people who've struggled with their identities as kids, those words may carry especially critical messages.

I posed the question to LGBTQ stars and allies who walked the red carpet at TrevorLive — a fundraising gala benefitting The Trevor Project — on June 11 in New York.

Here's what they had to say.


Figure skater Adam Rippon and skier Gus Kenworthy — two of the first openly gay male Olympians to compete for the U.S. — hosted TrevorLive. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The Trevor Project.

Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy: "I would tell myself that — as hard as I'm going to try to be what everyone expects me to be or what I thought everyone expects me to be — in the end, it's not going to make me happy."  

"The only time I'm really going to be happy is when I understand that and accept myself for who I am, and share that self with the world. And hopefully would have encouraged myself to do it a lot earlier."

Skiier Gus Kenworthy is among the first openly gay male Olympians in U.S. history. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The Trevor Project.

"Orange Is the New Black" star Natasha Lyonne: "I would tell myself, 'Kid, if you can make it — you, you troublemaker — we all can make it. It gets better.'"

"I would say to that person that everyone is a little bit broken, and that's their underlying beauty. So that's OK."

Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The Trevor Project.

Film producer Greg Berlanti: "A lot of the things I wanted to change about myself back then are the things I love most about myself now."

"And it doesn't seem possible when you're in that moment because you feel like they're preventing you from having the life that you want. But really they end up being the sort of gateway to the life that you want."

"Love, Simon" director Greg Berlanti, who won the evening's Hero Award, prioritizes LGBTQ representation in his many film and TV projects. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The Trevor Project.

Model and TV personality Carmen Carrera: "One word of advice I would probably give my younger self is to talk to my mom. Just talk to mom!"

"Tell her how you feel. And just know that everything is going to be OK — that you are a human being, that you belong here, that you have a place here, and you don't ever have to worry about people not loving you."

Carmen Carrera is a trailblazing transgender model and TV personality. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The Trevor Project.

Internet star and activist Raymond Braun: "I would say, 'I love you,' because my 10-year-old self was struggling a lot."

"At that point, I knew that I was gay, but I thought that I was going to live my entire life in the closet and never come out. I had so much internalized shame and hatred about my identity because I was being bullied every day."

Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The Trevor Project.

"I would have told myself to call [The Trevor Project] because I would have known there were resources out there and people out there."

The night was full of both celebration and sobering reflections for the 20-year-old nonprofit, which fights suicide among LGBTQ youth.

The event raised over $2 million for The Trevor Project — the most ever garnered from TrevorLive. Every penny of that and more is still desperately needed to save young lives.

Teens who identity as queer — and especially those who identify as transgender — are disproportionately affected by suicide. And while society has taken significant strides forward in LGBTQ rights and visibility, that progress has been met with backlash, fresh challenges, and a vicious political climate that often leaves queer youth particularly vulnerable.

Producer and actress Lena Waithe, who took home the organization's Hero Award alongside Berlanti, reminded the room that there's still much that needs to be done.

Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The Trevor Project.

"I'm really moved by the stories I'm hearing and the faces I'm seeing and all the love — but don't treat each other like this just in this room," she said. "We need to take it out into the world. ... It's our job to make sure all queer people are human. They weren't born to be perfect. They were born to be whole."

Learn more about LGBTQ youth suicide and support The Trevor Project here.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Jules Lipoff / Twitter

Weronika Jachimowicz, 17, is getting a lot of attention for subverting people's expectations of who excels in high school. And that's exactly what she wants.

Jachimowicz was named New York's Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District's 2021 salutatorian. Her yearbook photo next to valedictorian Luke Altman is going viral because of her dramatic Goth makeup and attire.

It all started when assistant professor and writer Dr. Jules Lipoff tweeted out a photo of the valedictorian and salutatorian he saw in a newspaper and it went viral. How many salutatorians have you seen that wear pentagram hoop earrings, a choker, and black devil horns?

The juxtaposition of her next to the bowtie-wearing Altman, makes the photo even more amusing.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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