Forty Under 40: Part One

Here are the standouts from this year.



Karine Jean-Pierre
33, Washington, D.C., Former White House staffer

In her wallet, Karine Jean-Pierre keeps a yellowed snapshot of her as a child, posing with her family in front of the White House’s north fence. It’s one of those quintessentially idyllic images, and Jean-Pierre  — both as the girl in the photo and the Obama administration staffer holding it during a recent interview nearly more than 25 years later — is positively beaming. Though she left her post as regional director in the White House Office of Political Affairs in March (a next move is yet to be announced), Jean-Pierre’s imprint as a Haitian-American and openly gay woman is a sign of broad diversity in the West Wing. “What’s been wonderful is that I was not the only; I was one of many. President Obama didn’t hire LGBT staffers, he hired experienced individuals who happen to be LGBT,” she says. “Serving and working for President Obama where you can be openly gay has been an amazing honor. It felt incredible to be a part of an administration that prioritizes LGBT issues.” 

Jacob Bernstein
32, New York City, Journalist

“I’m absolutely interested in writing about the lives of gay people in 2011,” Jacob Bernstein says, “but I think it should be part of what I do, rather than all that I do.” Yet while covering the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., for The Daily Beast in 2009, he made the notable decision to toss aside a reporter’s typical objective distance. “I inserted myself into the story because I was troubled by the homogeneity of the crowd,” says Bernstein, the son of filmmaker-novelist Nora Ephron and Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein. “Marches have trouble drawing in blacks and other ethnic groups, but I still felt embarrassed looking out into a sea of white gay men like myself with $800 cameras around their necks and tight Fred Perry shirts holding signs that said ‘Equality Now.’ ” But aside from that instance and his popular post about gay backlash to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” — “My friends and I were all embarrassed by that cheesy, obvious song,” he says — Bernstein tries to remain neutral, even when tackling topics like Hollywood’s gay villains or Barbara Bush’s defection on gay marriage. “I’m much more interested in being a journalist than a commentator,” says Bernstein, who has covered culture and media for New York, W, WWD, and The Huffington Post. “There are already so many commentators, many so boring and self-obsessed it frightens me out of becoming one.”

Kayla Kearney
18, Anata Rosa, Calif., Student, activist

Kayla Kearney is no stranger to the stage. The 18-year-old senior at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, Calif., has performed in several musicals, sings in two of her school’s choirs, and is considering a career in theater or music. In fact, her peers thought she was getting on the school stage to sing at this year’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This time, however, she was going to speak. During an eight-minute oration, Kearney commanded the attention of students who otherwise would be texting their friends or whispering to the person in the seat next to them. Instead, all eyes in the auditorium were on Kearney, who decided to share that she is a lesbian and explain what it means to be openly gay. A YouTube posting of her speech later racked up nearly 250,000 views and received mostly positive feedback from around the world. “It was liberating and felt amazing,” she says. “I was so nervous backstage, but when I finally started to talk I felt good. It felt right, like I was doing the right thing, and the applause was huge from the student body.”

Kye Allums
21, Washington, D.C., College basketball player

Kye Allums always loved playing sports, but it was a one-on-one match with a friend in seventh grade that sparked his passion for basketball. “We played, and she said I was pretty good after she beat me,” Allums says. “Then she asked if I wanted to play on her traveling team, I said yes, and that’s how it all began.” Allums went on to continue a successful career in high school and college basketball. By the wrap of the 2009–2010 season, he held down a solid year chock-full of career highs on George Washington University’s women’s basketball team as a sophomore. But last season was not only a turning point in his life but in college sports as a whole. Allums came out as a female-to-male transgender person, making him the first openly transgender player in NCAA Division I sports and causing the NCAA to further reiterate its acceptance of transgender athletes. As he approaches his senior year, the fine arts major says he’s not sure where he’ll be in 10 years, but he’s glad to have broken a gender barrier in sports.

Vicky Galindo
27, San Lorenzo, Calif., Professional softball player

When softball player Vicky Galindo came out as bisexual in The Advocate, she was on her way to the Beijing Olympics. It had been a tough year: She had recently broken up with her longtime girlfriend, a lot was weighing on her, and opening up about her sexuality was something she felt had to be done. “I needed to be comfortable with who I was,” she says now. It was also her way of coming out to her parents. “I was like, ‘Hey, Mom, by the way, there’s an article I did that you might be hearing about.’ ” Galindo returned from China with a silver medal and the admiration of her teammates, including one who said Galindo’s openness gave her the courage to come out herself. Galindo hopes to continue inspiring others. In addition to playing second base for the Chicago Bandits, she works as an assistant coach at a junior college. “I don’t discuss my sexuality with my kids,” she says, “but I’m sure they’ve seen things online. And for them to think, Hey, this is my coach. She’s an Olympian and she’s done all these great things and she’s bi, hopefully it will inspire them to be proud of who they are.”