Restaurateur and chef
Los Angeles // 56

Though she and business partner Mary Sue Milliken are accomplished restaurateurs with over 350 employees, cookbook authors, and TV and radio veterans, patrons who come to one of their three restaurants (Border Grill in Santa Monica, Calif., and Las Vegas; Ciudad in downtown Los Angeles) or their Border Grill gourmet taco truck may well be served food prepared by Feniger herself. “I am first and foremost a chef,” she says. Though her workdays start early and rarely end before 11 p.m. or midnight, Feniger, who is also on the board of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, wouldn’t have it any other way: “One of the things I told myself 10 years ago was that I wasn’t going to let myself be in business meetings during meals. I feel incredibly lucky that I love what I do.” Good thing too, because during the opening of Susan Feniger’s Street, a new solo restaurant venture featuring delicious street food from around the globe, Feniger was literally in the kitchen, taking the heat. “I was in front of a woodburning oven eight hours a day,” she says, laughing. “Talk about a quick diet! I lost 10 pounds in those first few weeks.”

San Francisco // 35

Stand-up comedian Charlie Ballard jokes that his Native American name is Dances With Men. “What I’m doing right now is pretty unique—and that’s not including the whole gay American Indian thing,” Ballard says. “I do a lot of dating stuff about my crashes and burns and my conquests and my defeats.” But it’s funny, naturally. “Most of the time when you see Native Americans we’re always wearing headdresses and G-strings from the movies,” Ballard laughs. “When I cross that with being gay, I make fun of it and I’m able to get away with it.” What catapulted him onto the stage, Ballard says, was watching an NBC reality show in 2003: “When I saw Last Comic Standing, I said, ‘Wow, I wouldn’t mind doing that.’ ” While his gigs at colleges across the country have an inspiring message—“You can be whoever you want to be; you just have to believe in yourself,” Ballard tells students—his political message is a little more frank: “I’ll make a promise to all the right-wing parties against gay marriage. If you give us gay marriage, I promise to stop slutting around!”

Washington, D.C. // 39

Not everyone would leave a managerial position for a one-month temporary job (“a step above being an intern”) but Neda Ulaby is grateful that she did. When she quit as managing editor of the Chicago gay paper Windy City Times to join National Public Radio in 2000, she recalls, “I went from having my own staff to being the mail opener for the arts desk.” But Ulaby stayed on after that first month, and within a few years she worked up to her current position as arts reporter. “I say a prayer of thankfulness every day, multiple times,” says Ulaby, who connected with NPR through a workshop at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention in 1999. At NPR she’s covered stories on a broad range of topics, such as the future of the television drama, Ryan Seacrest’s far-reaching cultural presence, and, one of her favorites, the legacy of Harvey Milk. Ulaby, daughter of a Syrian-born professor father and a Texan mother, adds that she is blessed with a supportive birth family as well as a great family of NPR colleagues: “If your coworkers are not cool, your job isn’t that great, and I’m really fortunate in that I have wonderful, wonderful coworkers.”

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