Forty Under 40
BY Advocate Contributors
April 24 2012 1:56 AM ET
Blake Stuerman • 20 (left)
Imagineer, The Walt Disney Co.
Blake Stuerman knows about a high-stakes work environment. “There’s an enormous pressure when you’re working on a show for a Disney park,” he says. “What you create will be seen by millions of people and, hopefully, inspire them.”
By 16, the Ohio native was living on his own in Chicago, having secured internships with prestigious artistic groups, which let him shadow the stage manager on Jersey Boys and Wicked. A year later he left for New York to pursue a design career. “I was suddenly working next to these people who I’d read about in textbooks, and they had their Tony Awards on the shelf. I was only 17 and my parents had to sign a release so I could use the sharp tools in the studio.”
A chance encounter with director Bryan Singer encouraged Stuerman—who generated buzz with his Mad Men–esque screenplay about Disney—to move to Los Angeles, becoming a Disney Imagineer. “I write treatments for the park spectaculars,” he says. “Using emotions and visuals, it’s like putting on a movie in a theatrical setting.”
Bianca Wilson • 36 (center)
Sr. Scholar, Public Policy, Williams Institute
An American and French-Canadian biracial black lesbian, Bianca Wilson has a line-straddling identity that helps her better understand all the LGBT community. Former psychology prof Wilson’s job at the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, advances law and public policy around sexual orientation and gender identity. Her latest project is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says, initiated by the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and funded through the Children Bureau’s Permanency Innovations Initiative. “It’s a federally funded project focused on improving the lives of LGBTQ children and adolescents in foster care, especially one that explicitly acknowledges the importance of decreasing heterosexism and antitransgender bias as a project objective,” she says, adding that she hopes to study lesbian sexual health and how young gay women are affected by sex education.
She’s no armchair researcher, though: “I think the most important questions to examine are those that may directly address societal problems.”
Galen Dodd • 15 (right)
Student Athlete, Palisades Charter High
When high school volleyball player Galen Dodd came across Outsports.com, a resource for LGBT sports fans and athletes on every level, he instantly felt a connection. Dodd, who plays for the Palisades Charter High School team and on another at the Southern California Volleyball Club, figured out he was gay in middle school. First he came out to his sister, but before he could tell everyone he knew on Facebook, he had to deliver the news to his parents.
“I didn’t want to tell them about it,” he says. After his sister relayed the news to them, he was still reluctant to talk to them about it. Dodd has since grown closer to his parents, and he turned to them for help in writing his story for Outsports. In October 2011, Dodd became the youngest person to come out on the site, and he has received a complete embrace from his team. “My coaches told me that halfway through the fall season, after I came out, they saw a tremendous growth in me as a player and that my team really rallied together,” he says. As Dodd now knows, it’s all about the team.