With more promised vaccines on the way, we can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pride festivals are starting to prepare for a return with optimistic announcements of summer events. While we wait with bated breath, the LGBTQ community continues to show its resilience and ability to overcome obstacles, even COVID, with our surge in digital imprints across the nation. Bad Wi-Fi connections, muted mics, and bad lighting aside, the community has come together, unrestricted by geographic location, to celebrate our Pride and to connect with each other. In this digital medium, our message has been able to reach the smallest town, where celebrities and activists have been able to share their stories to unify us and prepare us for our new administration and our return to society from our COVID isolation. Adding to the mix is the debut of Unleashed LGBTQ, an interactive, virtual, three-day event tailored to the powerful and connected LGBTQ community of industry professionals and hopefuls from March 25-27th.
The free three-day event, open to adults 18 years and older, provides a platform for brands, entertainers, and LGBTQ professionals to connect and learn about the latest products, services, and campaigns in apps, fashion, travel, media, entertainment, and more from some of the largest names in the LGBTQ business and entertainment. The event, created to both educational as well as entertaining, will feature keynote speakers, tutorials, discussion panels, virtual fashion shows, and performances from some of the biggest names in LGBTQ film, television, and music. The run of the show will begin with virtual events pertaining to business, marketing, and non-profits. Leading into the evening hours, the trajectory of content will shift with the Unleashed LGBTQ Happy Hour, where attendees can learn to make craft cocktails with their favorite LGBTQ celebrities and dish over a topic of the host’s choice. Following LGBTQ Happy Hour each day, expect the vibe to shift from educational informational topics to more entertaining content including interviews, musical performances, tutorials, virtual fashion shows, and more. Metrosource will be part of the mix with our On the Rocks with Alexander Year in Review – featuring the top news from entertainment and politics with a serving of vodka.
The mastermind behind this feat is PR and marketing veteran Wesley Smoot. Instantly recognizable with his signature long hair, he is an avid advocate, entrepreneur, and proud bisexual man from Austin, TX. Besides his industry endeavors, he is the creator of Weslo’s Home-O-Erotic Cookbook – hot recipes with even hotter guys…need we say more? Wesley’s energy is infectious and adds a playful quality to everything he does. His mission, personality, and experience are the key factors for putting this event together so quickly and with such a diverse group of panelists.
Get ready to get Unleashed.
Where did you come up with the idea of Unleashed LGBTQ?
There are so many incredible LGBTQ brands and entertainers with a lot to say or showcase. Creating a platform where these companies or artists can introduce their latest products, services, campaigns, seemed like a great opportunity. We want talent to use this opportunity to discuss their next big project, whether a book, film, series, album… etc. I figured we can help those professionals get in front of LGBTQ journalists, influencers, and bloggers to show them what is coming out, and spread the word. From there we built a business model, business plan, and did our market research. We got a lot of positive feedback, so we got to work.
What makes this different from some of the other digital events we have seen online?
We want to bring entertainment, that’s a given, but we also started thinking of how LGBTQ professionals could benefit from this opportunity. With Unleashed LGBTQ you can learn from industry experts in a variety of fields. Many of the speakers we have are from the entertainment, marketing, & non-profit industry. They all have a lot of knowledge to share. So, I guess between the virtual events that are educational and entertaining, I would say “variety and inclusion.”
What are some of the highlights that we should watch out for Unleashed?
Mike Page, CSA, a former casting director from Warner Bros Studios who now has his own casting agency (Day & Page). He will be talking about Hollywood’s inclusion of gay actors for gay roles, which has been a hot-button issue. I am also excited about Carmen Carrera who is starting her own talent agency CC3 Entertainment, PA State Rep Brian Sims is so hot, I don’t know if I care what he’s talking about (just kidding, he is an amazing advocate and public servant), and Matteo Lane is one of my favorite comics, who’ll be singing some Barbara Streisand. There is also a virtual fashion show from ADDICTED and I think the Unleashed LGBTQ Happy Hour will be a lot of fun.
You put this together in a relatively short time – how did you do it?
Vyvanse, boo… no, we had a plan for a large physical, in-person event that went belly up when the pandemic hit. It was planned for May. In January when we did not see any signs of the pandemic letting up, so we started working on how we would transition everything into a virtual event. Many of the partnerships we had made with different brands and entertainers, to my surprise, were still on board. I am very grateful for that.
You really have a diverse group of people participating from all over the nation – how did you pick who was going to be a part of the event?
We wanted to cover a lot of topics and be as inclusive as possible. There are so many interesting professionals with a lot to say, and so many companies with new and exciting products and services to showcase, so it was not easy. We reached out to each of them personally. Almost all loved the concept and our offers, so I feel very fortunate that people are seeing the value in this opportunity. It was very important that everyone participating is both commercially and culturally relevant to LGBTQ consumers and the community.
What do you want people to come away from Unleashed LGBTQ with? What is your takeaway message or mission?
I really want people to learn a lot. If it is about new entertainers, comics or singer/songwriters, marketers, or non-profit professionals, what new brands are putting out into the market… I think there is so much to learn and gain from attending Unleashed LGBTQ. I think the networking opportunities will be a game-changer too.
What is the future of Unleashed after COVID?
To host physical events! We want them to be heavy in activations and experimental marketing. We want our attendees to get experience what one gets from well thought out tradeshow or conference. But we want to go even beyond that, by including music showcases and even screenings of new LGBTQ content, (films/series from some of the biggest streaming services).
I think the in-person events will offer networking opportunities that LGBTQ professionals will find valuable. We plan on flying in journalists, bloggers, and influencers to cover everything they see. And we really want companies to be excited about planning with their creative teams what they will bring to Unleashed LGBTQ every year.
What are the most important factors in putting on a good LGBTQ event?
Whether LGBTQ or not, I think it is very important for any event to have a motivated team and strong partnerships. Our partnerships with companies like AT&T, Gilead Sciences, and iHeart Media became vital to our growth. We found an amazing public relations firm, NRPR Group, who really worked their butts off. Also, all the brands, speakers, and talent participating did their part in spreading the word. It takes a lot of people to contribute. Teamwork makes the dream werk!
What was your coming out story?
I always wanted to be unapologetically myself. I identified as sexually fluid before it was a cool thing Hollywood actors did. Lol. If I was attracted to someone, I didn’t see the point in putting a label on it. One day my dad asked me if there was anything I wanted to tell him. I thought, oh … what did I do?
I then realized it was about my sexuality. I said, “I date guys” …
he said “ok”.
I saw him processing this. Turned out he was just fine with it.
I will say, I think even the gay community has a way to go in accepting bisexual men. In 2020 Vaneet Mehta an Indian, bisexual man living in London helped make #bisexualmenexist trend. There is still a lot of stigma towards bisexual men, even in our own community, we all need to work together to end that.
What was your first job in the marketing/PR world?
Putting together events at nightclubs in Austin, TX with some friends. I got so much experience I’m still using today. I learned to negotiate booking talent, how to write press releases, and network. I learned many things with that first job that still helps me today.
Ok, what the heck is Weslo’s Home-O-Erotic Cookbook?
Lol! A project that is now 5 years old. That seems so crazy to say. I had this idea of making a cookbook that would feature a half-naked guy cooking on one page and the recipe of what he was cooking on the other. We added fun copy and pretty design to every page. We worked on it for like nine months and did great with the sales and reviews. I remember getting write-ups from Logo, DNA Magazine, and lots of other local publications. Even with that success, I wasn’t impressed with the returns, (heads up when you’re making a book, you profit share like crazy. Don’t expect much) I realized I needed to consider this more of a hobby, even getting into Barnes & Nobles and Amazon, while exciting, helped me more with experience than paying bills. I would not trade it.
I really want to revisit the project soon. I was hoping to make a 5 anniversary, second edition but I got so busy with Unleashed LGBTQ it just didn’t happen. Once things settle down, I look forward to getting back to it. Funny enough, they still sell.
What is one of the craziest/funniest stories from your career?
I had a potential client ask me for a photo of a space we were considering for an event. I had just sent them a press release and got a lot of interest, so I was excited. I was rushing through my phone and find the photo. As soon as I hit send my stomach drops. I realize I just sent him a nude. I immediately thought I will never be taken seriously in this business, I’m done for. I explained and apologized. He assured me he did not mind at all. Now they go out with every press release. Just kidding.
On a lighter note, you have fabulous hair! What products do you use?
Yassss… and thank you boo. Nothing too fancy, I wanna say Garnier Fructis.
How many times do people mistake you for Jason Mamoa?
I get told that I resemble him often, but trust queen, I’ve been called worse lol. If all fails, I’ll start doing kid’s birthday parties. I want to say my look is Jason Mamoa mixed with Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek. I’m Jason Mimosa! God of Brunch!
What are you going to do the day after Unleashed LGBTQ finishes, lol?
I have some friends in Los Angeles I’ve been dying to see. Including you! Cannot wait to meet you in person. I have always had this dream of renting a convertible and driving down the coast of California with my partner and pup. Maybe a cute scarf around my head and big sunglasses. I think that is definitely the plan.
The entire 3-day event will take place through the event website, www.UnleashedLGBTQ.com, and will broadcast through the live-video sharing platform, WebinarJam- no app download necessary!
Speakers & Entertainers Confirmed Include: ● Comedian, Matteo Lane ● Pennsylvania State Representative, Brian Sims ● Actress/Model and Entrepreneur, Carmen Carrera ● LGBTQ Sports Icon, Michael Sam (Dallas Cowboys) ● Gravity Balmain, (HBO’s “Legendary”) ● Casting Director Mike Page, CSA ● Stacey Chosed, (CEO, League at AT&T) ● Andy Kraut, (Grindr) ● Martin Stark, (CEO, World Gay Boxing) ● Alexander Rodriguez (Podcaster, Writer Metrosource Magazine)
Last modified: March 19, 2021