Starting today, March 25th, through the 27th, all are welcome to attend Unleashed LGBTQ, a three-day virtual event highlighting topics, discussions, products, and services relevant LGBTQ community and consumers.
Unleashed LGBTQ will feature keynote speakers, tutorials, discussion panels, virtual fashion shows, and performances from some of the biggest names in LGBTQ film, television, and music, including LGBTQ activist and state representative Brian Sims, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 3’s Carmen Carrera, comedian Matteo Lane, Ride BodyWorx’s marketing director, Erik Vasquez (hell yeah we’re promoting ourselves!) and many, many more.
The three-day event, which is open to adults 18 years and older, offers a platform for brands, entertainers, and LGBTQ professionals to connect and learn about the latest products, services, and campaigns in apps, fashion, travel, media, entertainment, and more from some of the biggest names in LGBTQ business and entertainment. Just queers supporting queers. We love to see it.
“Our goal is to create an LGBTQ event on par with ‘South By’ with more of a focus on new and emerging brands,” Smoot explains. “We’ve curated a diverse and engaging slate of brands and presenters aimed exclusively at the LGBTQ market.”
Each day, the event will begin with virtual events on business, marketing, and non-profits. Think of it as the gayest business conference you’ve ever been to. These events lead up to Happy Hour, where attendees can create craft cocktails and chat with a queer celebrity on a subject of their choice. Then, after a cocktail or two, the vibe shifts from educational to entertaining with interviews, musical performances, tutorials, virtual fashion shows, and a bunch of other surprises.
“Unleashed LGBTQ is ushering in a new era of LGBTQ marketing by creating a space for brands, entertainers, and LGBTQ professionals to connect,” Smoot says. “This is also a perfect opportunity for journalists, bloggers, and influencers to write about the latest LGBTQ products, trends, and innovations.”
While the opportunity to attend will be limited to industry professionals in the future, Unleashed LGBTQ is making this year’s event open to the general public to give those in quarantine the chance to learn and be entertained. If you’re interested in attending, you can register for free here.
Ride Bodyworx chatted with Smoot ahead of the event to discuss the hardships of transitioning from a physical event to a virtual event during a pandemic, what attendees can learn at Unleashed LGBTQ and the presentations and showcases that he’s most excited about.
Ride Bodyworx: This is the first ever Unleashed LGBTQ. Can you explain how this event came to be?
Wesley Smoot: We wanted to make an event that was commercially and culturally relevant to new LGBTQ products, services, campaigns, and talent. Having a diverse group of speakers and performers was very important. There was a lot of market research and outreach we had to do. It was important to make a solid business model and plan then create attractive offers. Once that was done it was just a matter of lots and lots of work. So much work. All worth it!
Ride Bodyworx: Was the event originally planned to be online? Or was it originally conceptualized in a physical space?
Wesley Smoot: We were hoping for a grand in-person, physical event, heavy in activations and experiential marketing with a big stage for keynotes, panels, performances, etc.
After the pandemic hit, we gave it until January to decide if we were going to cancel our physical event. When we saw no signs of things letting up, we started working on transitioning everything to a virtual event. It was tough. We lost some investments and sponsors but kept going at it. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
In some cases, the transitions offered new opportunities. It can be tough to see that when you’re feeling defeat but, as is true of many things, sometimes you just have to lube up and push through.
Ride Bodyworx: What are you hoping attendees take from the Unleashed LGBTQ experience?
Wesley Smoot: I want people to learn a lot. About new products, services and companies. Learning from LGBTQ professionals who are experts in their industries is so cool. They worked really hard to get where they are and really know what they know. It’s so valuable to learn from them directly. We also want people to have fun and enjoy headline artists, people they know and love, but also discover new artists.
Ride Bodyworx: Why do you think an event like Unleashed LGBTQ is important?
Wesley Smoot: I think it’s very cool to create an opportunity for so many LGBTQ industry professionals to connect. There are lots of incredible entrepreneurs, entertainers, and creatives that deserve recognition. We want to create a platform that gives them the ability to showcase their hard work. Our goal is to bring in the press––journalists, bloggers, influencers, etc.––to cover what they see.
Spread em! The word, that is.
Ride Bodyworx: You got Brian Sims (swoon!) to be a part of the event. That’s huge! How will he be involved?
Wesley Smoot: Brian is great. A lawyer, activist, public servant, he even has some news about higher political ambitions he’ll be sharing with our audience. But knowing him he’ll probably talk mostly about Drag Race. I joke! Kind of. I love how outspoken he is and unapologetically queer. I know he’ll be doing an interview with Daniel Reynolds, senior writer for The Advocate.
Ride Bodyworx: What are some of the featured presentations, shows, tutorials are you most excited about?
Wesley Smoot: ADDICTED is going to do a product showcase of some new fashions. I’ve been a big fan of them for years and our audience gets the first look. I adore Carmen Carrera and know she has news about new projects. Matteo Lane is one of my favorite comics and he’ll be doing a rendition of Barbara Streisand’s cabaret-style album, One Night at The Bon Soir. Also, Gravity Balmain from HBO’s Legendary is instructing a voguing tutorial. So, it’ll be cool to learn from the best.
Ride Bodyworx: In addition to being fun and entertaining, Unleashed LGBTQ is also intended to inform and educate. What are some topics people can learn about when attending the event?
Wesley Smoot: Lana Kairos will be teaching about bringing your most authentic self to work and how that has proven to improve productivity and retention. James Berglund of Gilead will be answering questions about Descovy for PrEP, and Matt Skallerud of Pink Media is a marketing genius with a lot to share on how reaching your target audience can change so quickly in the digital age. I’m happy to say those are just a few of the many things attendees can take away from the event.
Ride Bodyworx: How does preparing from an online event differ from a physical event?
Wesley Smoot: It sucks not being able to plan and meet with people face to face. The networking opportunities just won’t be the same other than breakout rooms, but as far as planning goes, it’s honestly just being in front of your computer non-stop. I think I’ve gained 10 pounds.
I actually miss jumping in the car heading from meeting to meeting, if you can believe it. Truth is, Zoom life, working from home, and virtual events could become the new normal. But nothing can replace the gratification I got from in-person networking and marketing. We all need to be safe, get vaccinated, and do our part to put this COVID mess behind us. What it has done to industries and families is devastating.
Ride Bodyworx: Since we are a lube company, we have to ask what some of the sexier showcases of the event will be!
Wesley Smoot: RIDE is doing a virtual happy hour with a variety of letters from the L-G-B-T-Q to talk about sex, baby! Looking at RIDE’s line of products I can see how individuals have such different needs. I’m curious to learn more from everyone involved. ADDICTED’s showcase will be super sexy as well, and I can’t wait to see how sexy Matteo Lane’s musical number could get. His Instagram is super hot.
Ride Bodyworx: This event is open to anyone as long as they are 18+. Can you explain why? How sexy are things going to get, exactly!
Wesley Smoot: It’s less about sex and wanting to set a bar for the future when we return to physical events. I would imagine some kids could get bored with keynotes and panel discussions about marketing and diversity and inclusion.
We want to make this event for LGBTQ professionals. Don’t get me wrong, when we’re done learning and networking, we’ll definitely want to have cocktails and get down, which is also why kids could stand to sit this one out. I think there are lots of opportunities like Pride parades and festivals that are very inclusive to children. I think we as a community need something for business professionals. Well, business during the day, that is. Maybe we’ll get to act like kids at night!