VISIBILITY HONOREE: Jack Plotnick
We are excited to announce Jack Plotnick will be receiving the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award. Jack has built a career as an award-winning actor, director and performance coach. He has performed in countless TV shows, commercials and feature films (103 credits on IMDB). You most likely will recognize Jack from his series regular and recurring roles on Grace and Frankie, The Mentalist, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Reno 911, Action, Ellen, and Drawn Together, and his appearance in the films Meet the Fockers, Down With Love, Rubber, Wrong, and Gods and Monsters.
Jack co-wrote and directed the Sony Pictures feature film, Space Station 76, starring Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler and Matt Bomer. He also co-wrote and directed the Broadway musical, Disaster!, to rave reviews (New York Times CRITICS’ PICK!)
Jack produced, directed and acted on the Lifetime Television comedy series Lovespring International. And he executive produced and starred in the feature film (and cult hit!) Girls Will Be Girls. Jack’s highly acclaimed acting workshops have become hugely popular in Los Angeles and New York City.
EQUALITY AWARD: Andrew Levitt/Nina West
It is hard to separate the creation from the creator and in this moment we are excited to honor Andrew Levitt/Nina West as the 2017 Columbus Human Rights Campaign Equality Award recipient. Levitt has been a resident of the greater Columbus area since completing his degree at Denison University. His art and drag persona, Nina West, has been an unofficial spokeswoman and champion of Columbus’ local businesses, social entrepreneurs and, in this moment, most importantly a champion and fighter for the LGBTQ community, Nina’s genuine love and respect for this city has earned her an unprecedented number of fans in both the LGBTQ and straight ally communities.
In recent years Levitt has extended his reach beyond Columbus and Ohio by helping, as Nina West, to launch a national campaign called ‘On Fridays, We Wear Pink.’ The movement, in which LGBTQ individuals and their allies are encouraged to wear pink in solidarity toward equality–even to this day! To date, Levitt/West has helped raise over $1.5 million for local and national individuals, grassroots activists, and impacting organizations.
Andrew has given of his time to support not only the efforts of the Human Rights Campaign but also of the local Columbus community. The work he has done has not gone unnoticed by those around Columbus and the Nation. It is our hope that with this acknowledgment of his past, and future, work he, and the community, will understand the richness of his contributions.
HRC SPEAKER: Deena Fidas
Deena Fidas is the director of the Workplace Equality Program and leads the Corporate Equality Index survey and annual report to over 1,200 major employers, corporate public policy outreach and research on emerging workplace inclusion topics. Fidas has consulted directly with hundreds of Fortune 500 and other major businesses on the implementation of equitable policies and benefits for diverse employee populations. She works closely with company representatives to help them identify areas of potential improvement and works with their key stakeholders to effect change within their organizations, from domestic partner benefits to innovative trainings. Most recently Fidas expanded the work of the Corporate Equality programs to include global LGBT workforce best practices. In this capacity, she has conducted trainings in the US and abroad on workforce diversity and best practices for inclusion before corporate and public sector audiences.
She also leads the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s published research on the experiences of LGBT workers nationwide, including the seminal 2009 Degrees of Equality study that found over half of LGBT workers remain closeted on the job. The follow-up 2013 study, The Cost of the Closet and the Rewards of Inclusion showed that most LGBT employees (53 percent) nationwide are closeted on the job and that the reduction in employee engagement can be measured (averaging 30 percent) and improved through investments in training and leadership development.
Fidas has been featured in The Washington Post, Mexico’s Reforma, The Huffington Post and Pacifica Radio. She is a regularly quoted expert for the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune and other news outlets.\
EVENING ENTERTAINER: Suzanne Westenhoefer
Subtle, she is not.
After 25 years of groundbreaking, stereotype-shattering and brutally honest comedy, she’s not about to start pulling punches now.
The kid from Amish Country (Columbia, PA) who began her comedy career on a dare is celebrating a quarter century of out, open, no-holds-barred comedy.
Suzanne tells the truth. The truth is life is funny, especially when it’s fermented in Suzanne’s mind. That’s why she could never be in the closet, making her a trailblazer when she started doing stand-up in the 1990s. She was the first openly lesbian comedian with an HBO Special and the first openly lesbian comedian on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Heck, she was on Sally Jesse Raphael in 1991 on a show called “Breaking the Lesbian Stereotype…Lesbians Who Don’t Look Like Lesbians.” From “OMG, a lesbian has long hair and wears make up” to “I went to Helen and Jane’s wedding last weekend,” that’s how far we’ve come in the 25 years Suzanne has been telling her truth to audiences all over the world. Some of that is certainly thanks to her candor, courage and charisma.
Suzanne never does the same show twice. She can’t–she doesn’t write anything down. She charges boldly onto the stage and what happens is always a mystery and a delight.