David Lauterstein | Fashion entrepreneur | 39 | New York City
Remember FUBU ("For Us By Us"), the African-American apparel company? Nasty Pig, purveyor of playful, hypermasculine gear, from jeans to harnesses, serves a similarly empowering purpose for a segment of gay consumers. In fact, the grassroots, DIY spirit of early hip-hop promotion hugely influenced CEO David Lauterstein when he cofounded Nasty Pig in 1994 with Fred Kearney, now creative director and his husband. As a music merchandiser, Lauterstein marketed Madonna's "MA1" bomber jackets for the Blond Ambition tour. He then began selling prism defraction goggles to clubbers at Limelight and used the proceeds to buy fabric to create the first Nasty Pig T-shirt. More naughty than raunchy, it featured four pigs in a pile on front. "It really struck a chord," Lauterstein says. He and Kearney quickly opened a storefront in Chelsea. Today, Nasty Pig is also available online and in about 40 retailers worldwide, with an ever-expanding product line, and the company had its best year ever in 2008 -- not a banner year for most. For a business with such a rough-and-ready image, Nasty Pig has a disarmingly touching backstory. Lauterstein always aspired to be an out businessman. "I wanted to be able to go to my parents' house in Boca West and chat with their friends about Nasty Pig and to have it be a real business." His most loyal customers also know of the love story at the heart of the brand. "None of this happens without me and my man," he says of Kearney, "my first boyfriend. He took my virginity! We're just two guys making it on our own. There may be rubber sheets on the bed, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a whole lot of love in the room."
Betty Young | Airline executive | 39 | Hurst, Texas
Starting off in the reservations department almost 20 years ago, Betty Young climbed the corporate ladder at American Airlines' hub in Dallas, eventually finding her footing in gay and lesbian marketing. She now oversees all of American's minority-directed marketing, which includes outreach to black, female, Latino, and LGBT travelers; she was instrumental in implementing a gay-specific page on American's website -- AA.com/rainbow -- the first of its kind among airlines. The microsite has a calendar listing gay events such as cruises, charity dinners, and circuit parties, with promotion codes for booking airline tickets shown next to each event.
Young lives with her partner, who is a firefighter, and two teenage children from an earlier relationship. Central Texas is more accepting of gay families than most would think, she says. Recently she asked her daughter whether there would be resistance to a teenage friend hanging out at their house -- a gay home. Her 16-year-old said, "Mom, nobody cares you're gay! Nobody!"
Scott Gatz | Internet entrepreneur | 38 | San Francisco
Scott Gatz jokingly calls GayCities.com "the largest gay travel network you have never heard of." Yet after only a year and a half, his little travel network already covers most cities in the United States and has 250,000 unique users. A lot of this success is based on Gatz's background -- first as a journalist at NBC, Lifetime, and Reuters and then as a senior director at Yahoo! and general manager of Yahoo! Search, where he was responsible for the My Yahoo! personalized home page. In all that time he never encountered any negativity about his sexuality and was completely welcomed in what he admits was a predominantly straight environment. "I have lived my life as an openly gay man throughout my entire career in a way that would have been unheard of in the 1950s," Gatz says. "And to have my partner warmly welcomed at every major business function was important."
Gatz left Yahoo! in 2007 to found GayCities.com because after years of traveling for work and for pleasure he felt that there was no comprehensive and reliable source for the LGBT traveler. "GayCities is the first and still only site in the LGBT space that wraps a social network around city/travel guides," says Gatz, who is the company's CEO. "That means people are reading other people's reviews, because what is fun to a 25-year-old gay man may not be the same for a 40-year-old lesbian." The company is in its early stages but has enlisted former Advocate D.C. correspondent Chris Bull as editorial director and just launched an iPhone application that allows users to find nearby gay bars, restaurants, and gyms.
Chris Allen | Ad executive | 36 | Chicago
Chris Allen would astound the gray flannel-suited protagonists of Mad Men. Not only has he been openly gay throughout his successful advertising career, Allen's now helping companies showcase their products on media only dreamt of in the 1960s, including online and mobile video. Allen joined Chicago-based Starcom USA -- whose clients include Allstate, Bank of America, and Walgreens -- in 2007 as vice president and director of video innovation. Before that he spent 12-plus years with another ad firm, GSD&M. Being out has been an asset, he says, in that "people see me as being very sincere in my approach to business. They see that I'm trustworthy and not holding anything back." The Texas native also says, "The advertising industry is one that encourages diversity. People see me as someone who has a unique perspective." It's clear that Starcom in particular encourages diversity; for the past three years its parent company, Starcom MediaVest Group, has been the only advertising and marketing firm with a perfect score -- 100 -- on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.