Ailey staked his claim as a trailblazer in 1958 when, spurred by a desire to reinvent and rejuvenate the modern dance scene in New York City at the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement, he started his own group: the aptly named Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT). Within this repertory company, Ailey honed his now-legendary style, characterized as an amalgamation of modern, ballet, jazz and African dance techniques, and choreographed 79 performances, including Blues Suite (1958), Revelations (1960), and Cry (1971).
Jones, an active participant at the forefront of the gay liberation movement since the early 1970s, began his career as an intern for pioneer activist Harvey Milk, a position he held until Milk’s assassination in 1978. Incidentally, it was during the 1985 candlelit march in remembrance of Milk’s death that Jones developed the idea for the iconic NAMES Project Memorial Quilt. As part of the march, people wrote the names of loved ones they had lost to AIDS-related causes on signs that were then taped to the San Francisco Federal Building; the finished product, which, to Jones, resembled an enormous patchwork quilt, served as inspiration. The Quilt, which weighs an estimated 54 tons and is recorded as the largest piece of community folk art in the world, made its debut showing in 1987 on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Lauper has been an activist for the LGBTQ community throughout her career. Helping others has always been a guiding force for Lauper and she focuses her efforts to make a difference through the True Colors Fund. An unwavering advocate for equality long before she became famous, she co-founded the organization in 2008 to bring an end to homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and create a world where all young people can be their true selves. Lauper is a Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award-winning artist with over 30 sterling years and global record sales in excess of 50 million albums. Photo by Gavin Bond.
Max Mutchnick and David Kohan
Mutchnick and Kohan are Trailblazers. In launching “Will & Grace,” the 1998 NBC sitcom that followed the lives and friendship of its four main characters, the pair introduced openly gay male characters in leading roles to primetime television. This debut initiated the show’s eight-year run, during which audiences followed the antics and misadventures of McCormack’s Will and Messing’s Grace. The series was nominated for 83 Primetime Emmy Awards and won 16, and also won the 94th spot on the Writers Guild of America’s 2014 list of the 101 Best Written TV series of all time. Pictured: (L-R) Max Mutchnick, Executive Producer, David Kohan, Executive Producer -- (Photo by: Andrew Eccles/NBC)