Phillip Picardi is the chief marketing and communications officer at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. His previous work in media includes digital editorial director at Teen Vogue, founder of them, and editor-in-chief at Out magazine. He also holds a master’s from Harvard Divinity School. Before joining the panel for the Zócalo program “How Does Confronting Our History Build a Better Future?”—the final event of our Mellon Foundation-supported series “How Should Societies Remember Their Sins?”—he sat down in our green room to talk queer history, Britney Spears, and where he finds God.
What is your most memorable Halloween costume?
I have never been a Halloween person. The only thing I can remember is when I was a little kid I wanted to be the pink Power Ranger but my mom wouldn’t let me so I had to be the red Power Ranger. I cried the entire night during trick or treating.
What is the most Aries trait about you?
I’m not sure if it’s an Aries trait or an Italian trait, but I let passion rule my life. I am fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants with passion. Will go off the handle, will fight for what I believe in, and then I burnout really quickly and need a nap for a solid three days.
What’s good example of queer representation in media?
I’d like to shout out two. First, Raquel Willis’ upcoming book, The Risk It Takes to Bloom. She’s a Black trans activist who is the first Black trans woman to ever be in a position of leadership at Out magazine. She also organized the Brooklyn Liberation march for Black trans lives. She’s a badass and I’m deeply in love with her. The second is Monica starring Trace Lysette, a trans actress based in Los Angeles. The film is getting Oscar buzz. She had to crowdfund to have enough money to support her doing a press tour for the film. The whole community really did wrap its arms around Trace to make sure she had her moment. Vanity Fair just did an incredible profile of her. I’m really proud of her.
What's your most unpopular opinion?
That I think that we should get joy from our work and we should choose lines of work that give meaning to our lives.
You’ve lived in Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles. Let’s play Bed, Wed, Behead.
Dunkin’ (Donuts): Bed.
White Castle: Behead.
What’s one moment in queer history you’d like to have been a part of?
It’s hard to say because of how much those folks were up against. We’re so lucky—we stand on their shoulders. In fact, we have a woman who lives in our affordable senior housing at the [LGBT] Center named Nancy Valverde—there’s a street named after her in downtown L.A.—and she was arrested for wearing pants because it was “cross-dressing.” We hear their stories a lot; the seniors are the heartbeat of the Center. It’s such a powerful thing to have all those people that are part of queer history on our campus.
Also, when I do look back at pictures of the Gay Liberation Front here in Los Angeles, they used to do these “kiss-ins” at coffee shops, bars, nightclubs, that would hang signs outside that said “No Faggots Allowed”—they showed up and started making out with each other. That sounds kind of hot and fun. I would do that!
What is your favorite Britney Spears era?
This might actually be my most unpopular opinion. While I know the gays are most fond of Blackout, my favorite Britney era was In the Zone. That album is a pop masterpiece. No skips, all bangers. She was at the top of the world.
You’ve worked for Anna Wintour. What is she like?
I love Anna Wintour very much. I’m still in contact with her and she is an angel of my life.
Where can we find you on a typical Saturday in Los Angeles?
On my couch.
What is one thing you find beautiful about the world?
People. I have spent a lot of time and energy in the past looking for God and I think the most ironic thing about searching for God is that we can only find God within each other.