Forty Under 40
BY Advocate Contributors
April 07 2010 4:00 AM ET
37 / Oakland, Calif.
CEO and founding partner, Sweet
Eco-friendly lesbian travel company Sweet grew out of a chat between Shannon Wentworth and her cofounder, Jen Rainin, in late 2007. They were searching for a way to tackle global issues in doable, bite-size chunks that motivated participants with good feelings, not guilt. Most of the eco-friendly vacations offered at the time were cost-prohibitive, says Wentworth, who is single and has been a “crazy environmentalist” since she was a teenager. So she and Rainin founded their own charter travel company and have been giving back while having a good time ever since. Their cruises, adventure travel packages, and resort vacations have provided their clients the opportunity to clean beaches in Mexico, donate computers to an e-learning center in Honduras, aid the St. Lazarus School in Nairobi, Kenya, and plant 65,000 trees along the Tensas River in Louisiana. “It made perfect sense to find a way to leave the places we visited better than we found them,” she says.
26 / North Hollywood, Calif.
Photographer, founder of the No H8 Campaign
Adam Bouska became an activist overnight, quite literally. “The night after Prop. 8 passed, we took part in the marches and painted our faces. That morning, at 2 a.m., we got more paint and started taking photos. We didn’t intend for it to be a campaign.” But just over a year later, Bouska estimates he’s taken more than 4,000 photos for his No H8 Campaign. His portraits of people in basic white T-shirts with duct tape over their mouths and “No H8” painted on a cheek blanket social networking sites, and Bouska has photographed people ranging from Jane Lynch to Meghan and Cindy McCain. “[Cindy McCain] was very important. She was a straight person standing up for our cause but also standing up against her husband.” And though the campaign started out about Prop. 8, Bouska says No H8 has become about much more. “We still have ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and discrimination in the workplace. I’ll keep going until we have equality for all.”
23 / New York City
Cocreator, Jeffery & Cole Casserole
Rarely is narcissistic navel-gazing so charming as in the case of Jeffery Self. In 2006, Self moved to Manhattan, where his Internet dating habits became fodder for one-man stage shows like People I Slept With Who Never Called Me Back. With pal Cole Escola, he launched a series of YouTube videos as the “VGL Gay Boys,” hosted by “straight” man Self and constantly derailed by wild card Cole. The pair parlayed their cult following into the Logo TV series Jeffery & Cole Casserole. “For the first season of our show we maintained the exact same production budget and resources as when we were making YouTube videos,” Self says, “which was less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks. But those limitations forced us to be a lot more creative.” He’s since performed on Atlantis cruises and appeared on 30 Rock, but says he still has trouble dating. “I watch too much TV to actually go on dates. That is, unless eating pasta in my underwear while watching Live! With Regis and Kelly counts as a date. Does it?”
30 / New Orleans
Owner-chef, Eat New Orleans restaurant
“The best compliment is when customers tell me that they haven’t eaten [a dish like this] since their mother made it, and it brought them back to that time,” says Jarred Zeringue, chef and owner of Eat New Orleans. Zeringue says he was inspired to open the restaurant both by his love of the food he grew up cooking with his mother and grandmother in Vacherie, La., and by his desire to help maintain the culture of South Louisiana. After the Katrina disaster, Zeringue saw restaurants providing free meals to returning businesspeople and to volunteers. “Those lines for food were where people told their stories,” he says. “It gave me a much greater appreciation for the culture and traditions many take for granted.” His BYOB restaurant is noted both for its casual, traditional cuisine and for its camaraderie. In the French Quarter “we have retirees, bohemians, families, gay men, and lesbians. My place is one where they visit and talk about the neighborhood happenings.”