A New Generation Helms LGBT Expo

Paige Turner is among the hosts of the Expo’s continuous stage show. | THELGBTEXPO.COM

Paige Turner is among the hosts of the Expo’s continuous stage show. | THELGBTEXPO.COM

The Original LGBT Expo, a trade show aimed at both the consumer and business-to-business markets, has been a late winter mainstay at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Convention Center since 1993. On February 28 and March 1, however, it will take its first bow under new management.

According to Jay Handy, a director at Life Out Loud Events, the expo’s new producer, the goal is to “enhance but maintain.”

“Our management company has been tasked with maintaining an event that has been successful for 21 years,” he told Gay City News.

Ironically, Handy’s first job out of college in 2001 was working for the RDP group, the expo’s founding producer, and he is mindful of just how unique an event RDP established over the years.

“There is no other LGBT Expo,” he said when asked about comparable events in other cities. “It really is the only one of its kind. For trade shows in most other industries, there are multiples — a West Coast and an East Coast one, for example.”

For now, the event at the Javits stands alone.

But even as Handy acknowledged two decades of development that Life Out Loud Events has to build on, he emphasized that “build on” they will.

“When I say a different generation took this over, I mean a different generation took this over,” he said.

The event’s branding has been reimagined to enhance opportunities to leverage social media networks to spread the message that something new and different can be expected this year.

In the past, Handy said, the push to attract attendees was heavily weighted toward what he called “guerilla marketing” through street outreach. In an effort to expand beyond longtime customer loyalty and attract newcomers, including younger professionals, the expo has tapped LGBT employee groups at major Manhattan companies to broaden the reach of its message.

Broadening its appeal also involves enhancing and diversifying its programming, Handy explained.

One new addition is a seminar series of 12 panels on topics ranging from travel to the transgender workplace. The WNBA’s New York Liberty is hosting a discussion of LGBT athletics; Denny Meyer, a gay former sergeant first class from the Viet Nam era will talk about his longtime fight to win recognition from his fellow veterans; and Matt Skallerud, president of Pink Banana Media, will share strategies for reaching the LGBT community via social media. Brooke Guinan, a third generation New York City firefighter will tackle the issue of being transgender in the workplace.

Other seminars will take up unknown but not-to-be-missed vacation destinations, the challenge of staying together for couples, especially those who are parents, investing for retirement, and staying healthy until then.

Dennis Shinners’ “Barrio Boy” is a highlight of the Expo video lounge.

Dennis Shinners’ “Barrio Boy” is a highlight of the Expo video lounge.

Back this year will be the popular video lounge, with offerings ranging from New York filmmaker Dennis Shinners’ “Barrio Boy” — a story of haircuts, hip-hop, and homo-sex on the down low where a Latino barber falls for an Irish customer while giving him a trim — to a Q & A with Pierre Stefanos, a film editor whose credits include two Oscar-nominated HBO documentaries and three Emmy-winning TV programs and whose first two narrative shorts as writer and director are “Bedfellows” and “Brighton.”

Both days of the expo weekend will also, of course, feature a continuous stage show, with performers including Lovari, who hit #1 on iTunes R&B new releases with “Still in Love,” appearing with cable porn icon Robin Byrd to sing their hit duet “Touch Me”; the improv musical comedy duo Haus of Mimosa; stand-up comic Paul Hallasy; actor, singer, songwriter, and radio/ TV host Tym Moss; Rob Scott, a Brooklyn-born child soap star who discovered his passion for music while singing beside Will Smith at the 1998 Grammies; singer and songwriter Josh Zuckerman, who enjoyed heavy rotation on Sirius FM Radio last year with “Turn Around”; acoustic soul rocker Cody Bondra; playwright and actor José Batista Ayala; versatile stage and TV drag comedic queen Honey Clover; nightlife personality Paige Turner, dubbed “the ultimate Barbie in the drag world”; Peppermint, who boasts seven drag shows every week in New York; Tina Turner impressionist Ron B.; and DJ jRoc, famed for his Top 40/ House/ Dance mixes.

A highlight on the stage will be a lifetime achievement award given to longtime downtown maven Michael Musto on Sunday at 3 p.m.

One of Life Out Loud Events’ main goals in 2015 is to engage those who turn out for a longer stretch of the day than in past years.

“There is a difference between attendees and fans,” Handy said. “We want to draw fans and we want to treat them as such.”

Asked for expected attendance for the weekend, Handy was modest. Noting that past years’ turn-out averaged from 20,000 to 25,000, he said, “We’ll be happy to do 25,001.”

Daily admission tickets are $20, with VIP admission, which includes a host of perks, including free entry to afterparties on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, are $40. For complete information, visit thelgbtexpo.com.

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