Editor's Note: You've seen Steven Colbert's "Better Know a Lobbyist," but our version is so much gayer! Each weekend, we spotlight a different TBP contributor. In case you've missed any of our previous interviews, I've got links at the end of the post.
This week I talked to one of my favorite contributors and all around rock stars, Cathy Renna. Cathy is nationally recognized as a media relations expert and as a leader within the LGBT community. As a major force behind the success and growth of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), where she worked for 14 years, Cathy served as a primary spokesperson for GLAAD, as well as its first National News Media Director. She lives in New York with her family.
Follow me after the jump for the juicy tidbits.
1. How did you get involved with TBP?
I had been a reader and admirer - and worked on some guest posts for my clients with Bil. When he asked me I jumped at the chance. As someone who tells other people what to say all the time it is fun to be able to write about my experiences, cultural and media related issues and my take on things LGBTQ. I spent a lot of time as a "talking head" when I worked for GLAAD and I missed it. So having the opportunity to reach so many people in a personal way has been great.
2. What was your coming out experience like?
Pretty anticlimactic. My parents were not surprised at all - I was a lifelong tomboy and never interested in boys (except to play baseball with). As my Dad said to me a number years after coming out - "remember when I let you go out in High School with a van full of boys and you said you were going bowling? Would I have let you sister do that?" Seriously, I have been blessed. I had a couple of aunts who were role models for me as a small child and growing up - they have now been together nearly 40 years, and while we had some bumps (I wasn't just gay, I was "on television" gay as my Dad used to say) my family has been and continues to be extraordinary. Having my Mom, sister, aunt, cousins etc etc (I am Italian after all) at my wedding made the happiest day of my life one of my proudest as well.
3. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be?
Wow. That is a tough one. I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of my heroes who are still with us - but I would have to reach into the past and say Eleanor Roosevelt.
4. What book has had the greatest impact on your life?
Another challenging question! There are way too many to list. It could it be the psychology book I read hiding in the corner of my local library at about 13, looking up "homosexual." Or maybe the history books I consumed when I came out. Or the books about media, especially one set of volumes about how media impacted the African American civil rights movement? Or maybe "Dracula," which began my long interest in vampires and other horror, fantasy and "otherworld" topics, which later turned into my current adult hobby of reading graphic novels, especially anything by Neil Gaiman.
5. Favorite weekend indulgence?
Hmmmm....that I am willing to say publicly? I would have to say pizza and ice cream in the park under the Brooklyn Bridge with my family (wife, daughter and our devoted Labrador Retriever). Personal indulgence is good snacks and a Law and Order (original or SVU) marathon.
6. Best thing about working in public relations?
I sense a pattern....I hate one-off answers! OK, maybe seeing the amazingly direct impact that media coverage can have on people's opinions and way of thinking. Close second is getting to know brave people who are willing to tell their stories to the public through the media -often at great sacrifice or risk. Last but not least - getting an email or call from someone who says "I never thought about it that way" - especially from journalists. I like making them think differently most of all....
Check out previous interviews with TBP Contributors