Silvio Horta, Creator Of LGBTQ-Inclusive ‘Ugly Betty,’ Dead At 45

Ugly Betty writer/showrunner Silvio Horta (screen capture)

Silvio Horta, who created the hit ABC dramedy Ugly Betty, was found dead in his Miami hotel room on Tuesday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

According to a statement from his family, the 45-year-old writer/producer “had an ongoing struggle with addiction and depression” but added, “he always found a way to turn his struggle into laughter.”

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear brother and son, Silvio Horta. Through his friendships, his love and his work in TV and films, Silvio touched the lives of millions. Silvio had an ongoing struggle with addiction and depression, but through it all, he always found a way to turn his struggle into laughter. He was a kind and beautiful man. He may be gone but his light will shine on.”

Ugly Betty, which ran for four seasons from 2006 to 2010, was a smash-hit for the openly gay writer from the get-go.

The series, an adaptation of the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea, chronicled the adventures (or misadventures) of fashion industry neophyte Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrera, as she made her way up the corporate ladder of the fictitious Mode Magazine.

In addition to being stylish and witty, the show was recognized for being LGBTQ-inclusive with storylines that included the coming out of Betty’s teenage nephew Justin (Mark Indelicato), the hysterical fawning of queer fashion assistant Marc St. James (launching the career of Michael Urie into a new orbit), and transgender character Alexis Meade (Rebecca Romijn).

The series also gave longtime LGBTQ ally Vanessa Williams the chance to shine as the over-the-top diva, creative director Wilhelmina Slater.   

The show landed with LGBTQ audiences not only for its fresh, undeniably queer slant but an empowering message of embracing our authentic selves.

Over the course of its run, Ugly Betty scored three Emmy Awards including one for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, winning two – one for Ferrera and one for Best Television Series (Comedy).

Numerous other honors came from organizations as diverse as the GLAAD Media Awards, the ALMA Awards, The Imagen Foundation Awards, and the NAACP Image Awards.

Horta’s career breakthrough came in 1998 when he wrote the surprise horror film Urban Legend starring future Oscar winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyer’s Club) and Alicia Witt (Dune).

He also executive produced the 2001 series The Chronicle starring Octavia Spencer as well as UPN’s sci-fi series Jake 2.0 in 2003.

IMDB lists his most recent credit as the made-for-TV film The Curse of the Fuentes Women in 2015.

Horta’s Ugly Betty colleagues took to social media to express their condolences.

RIP Silvio Horta.

If you are thinking about suicide or are feeling alone and need someone to talk to, please contact the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. Additionally, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Cyber-Bullying Leads To Teen Suicide In Tennessee

Channing Smith (images via family/FOX17)

Channing Smith, a high school junior in Manchester, Tennessee, committed suicide last week after another student posted private text messages between Smith and another boy resulting in outing  the teen as bisexual, reports Buzzfeed News.

Smith had apparently kept his attraction for other boys a secret, but an argument with another teenager who is close to the boy he’d been messaging became upset that she “didn’t know about the sexting and posted the screenshots to be vindictive, according to Keylee Duty, a fellow student at Smith’s school.

“She was just doing it to be mean,” Keylee told Buzzfeed.

Smith had been dating 17-year-old Hailey Meister for a month prior to his suicide.

“He didn’t deserve that,” she shared. “He was kind and loving and a very good person.”

Meister added that Smith told her when the screen captures were shared on social media “how bad it made him feel and it was a mistake.”

She also says Smith was “trying to find himself” and hadn’t explicitly identified as bisexual before his death.

His older brother, 38-year-old Joshua Smith, says the nature of the text messages were explicit to the point that “there was no room for Channing to be able to claim it was a misunderstanding.”

“When he saw the screenshots on social media he called some people around 10 p.m. Sunday night, freaking out,” he added. “His last posting on Instagram was about people he couldn’t trust.”

Smith’s body was found by his father at around 4 a.m. The father had noticed Smith’s light on in his room and went to check on him.

“He’s still in shock,” says Joshua.

The older brother explained that life in their “small, Southern town” could be “complicated.”

“You could be gay and still like the Confederate flag and shoot pistols,” says Joshua. But to be labeled “gay, queer, or a sissy” would be devastating for a high school junior he added.

The local Fox affiliate reports that Joshua says his brother called the female classmate who posted the private messages and said her he was going to kill himself. According to Joshua, she didn’t reach out to Channing’s family or any suicide prevention hotline.

A complication in the case comes as the family feels Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott isn’t being appropriately pro-active in investigating the cyber-bullying Channing experienced by fellow students.

Joshua told Buzzfeed that “investigators spent only a day” on the case, and “didn’t confiscate the kids’ phones’ saying they didn’t have the technology to ‘bypass the passcodes.’”

In June, statements by Northcott in a 2018 video surfaced where he said he disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling which made same-sex marriage legal in the U.S.

He also shared that he doesn’t prosecute domestic cases involving LGBTQ people because he doesn’t believe marriage exists.

In a statement regarding the Smith case, Northcott said that while he can’t comment on an open investigation, he said allegations that his office had failed to act are “inaccurate” as the investigation has not been completed.

Smith’s family and friends are also critical of Channing’s high school for not making a public statement about his death or to condemn bullying.

“They haven’t made any mention about him or his death on their website, on Facebook, anywhere,” Joshua said. “They haven’t offered counseling to the kids or gathered them to talk about anti-bullying.”

“The principal told my father that he felt like we would not want anything at our memorial service that says justice for Channing, which was total bullshit,” added the older brother.

(screen capture)

When Channing’s friend attempted to make a statement wearing t-shirts asking for “Justice for Channing,” the principal demanded they remove the shirts.

“We refused. Not only me, but his close friends and people who loved him stood during the assembly holding our posters,” said Keylee. “We believe the school refused to do anything because what happened to Channing involved gay rights.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found atbefrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous, 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.

Guards Slept While Epstein Committed Suicide, Then Doctored Log Books

Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit suicide this past weekend without interference because the two guards that should have been watching him (fresh off of suicide watch) apparently fell asleep on the job for "some or all of" a three hour period of time, reports the New York Times.
Jeffrey Epstein (mug shot)

Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit suicide this past weekend without interference because the two guards that should have been watching him (fresh off of suicide watch) apparently fell asleep on the job for “some or all of” a three hour period of time, reports the New York Times.

The two staff members who were guarding the jail unit where Jeffrey Epstein apparently killed himself fell asleep, failed to check on him for about three hours and falsified records to cover up their mistake, according to several law enforcement and prison officials with knowledge of the matter.

Those disclosures came on Tuesday as the two employees were placed on administrative leave and the warden of the jail, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, was temporarily reassigned, pending the outcome of the investigation into Mr. Epstein’s death, the Justice Department announced.

The two staff members in the special housing unit where Mr. Epstein was held — 9 South — falsely recorded in a log that they had checked on the financier, who was facing sex trafficking charges, every 30 minutes, as was required, two of the officials said. Such false entries in an official log could constitute a federal crime.

In fact, the two people guarding Mr. Epstein had been asleep for some or all of the three hours, three of the officials said.

Epstein, 66, was found dead hanging from a bedsheet at approximately 6:30am on Saturday in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

He had been awaiting trial on charges he had sexually abused scores of teenage girls at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla.

In related news, one of Epstein’s accusers, Jennifer Araoz, has filed a lawsuit against his estate, his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed female household staff, according to NBC News.

Araoz alleges she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Epstein at his New York City townhouse when she was 14 and 15 years old, including a forcible rape in 2002.

She first disclosed her alleged abuse publicly in an exclusive TODAY Show interview with Savannah Guthrie of NBC News on July 10, the same day she filed papers in New York state court saying she intended to sue Epstein.

According to the complaint filed today, Araoz says Maxwell and the other staff members “conspired with each other to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape of Plaintiff.”

More Than One Third Of LGBTQ Youth Have Seriously Considered Suicide

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, has released the results of its first-ever National LGBTQ Youth Mental Health Survey, and the results are deeply concerning.

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, has released the results of its first-ever National LGBTQ Youth Mental Health Survey, and the results are deeply concerning.

Conducted between February 2018 through September 2018, the massive survey includes responses from 34,808 LGBTQ young people.

The results show a staggering 39 percent of respondents had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months.

When looking at just transgender/non-binary respondents, 54 percent said they’d seriously considered suicide.

Eighteen percent of the respondents admitted to attempting suicide in the past 12 months; 29 percent of trans/non-binary youth reported a suicide attempt.

Sixty-seven percent reported someone had attempted to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ 

Of those who underwent conversion therapy, 42 percent admitted to attempting suicide.

When you break down the numbers, 32 percent of LGB youth who underwent conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last 12 months, while the number jumped to 57 percent for trans/non-binary youth.

Conversion therapy has been discredited as ‘pseudoscience’ and widely denounced by leading professional medical associations including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association.

Currently, 18 states have outlawed conversion therapy involving minors.

The research also showed that 71 percent of LGBTQ youth reported being discriminated against, and 21 percent reported experiencing physical threats or abuse.

Discrimination definitely had an impact on suicidal thoughts as 23 percent of those who experienced discrimination reported a suicide attempt in the last 12 months as opposed to 11 percent of respondents who did not.

The survey is part of The Trevor Project’s commitment to compile data and research to aid in improving the organization’s life-saving services for LGBTQ youth.

In sharing the results, The Trevor Project aims to elevate the voices and experiences of LGBTQ youth and shed more light on the dangerous practice of conversion therapy.

You can find the full results of the new survey here.

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, reach out to The Trevor Project 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 1-866-488-7386 or www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help

News Round-Up: June 7, 2019

(via Instagram/JoeBlizzard)

Some news items you might have missed:

• InstaHunk Joe Blizzard (above) has one lucky dog.

• Less than half of the 20+ presidential candidates mention LGBTQ rights on their campaign websites.

• Brad Pitt has demanded the organizers of the so-called ‘Straight Pride Parade’ in Boston to cease and desist using his name and likeness for their event.

• Christians surprise LGBTQ Pride parade marchers with signs apologizing for anti-LGBTQ views.

• Sad news from Philadelphia – Deputy Sheriff Dante Austin, the department’s LGBT liaison, was found dead in his office on Friday morning of what is thought to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

• Pride Flag flies over Wisconsin capitol for the first time; Republicans whine, “This is divisive.”

• Carolyn Vaughn, a county commissioner in Texas, refused to sign a Pride Week proclamation honoring the lives lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting. “Just because you’re the LGBT—whatever it’s called, community, does not mean that I have to suck it up and support it.”

• And how about one more from InstaHunk Joe Blizzard as I send you all into the weekend 🙂

News Round-Up: March 30, 2019

• Sometimes, you need to stick with what you know works - like this pose (above) by InstaHunk Fran Dullon. Stay tuned - we'll check back later to confirm how that works.
InstaHunk Fran Dullon

Some news items you might have missed:

• Sometimes, you need to stick with what you know works – like this pose (above) by InstaHunk Fran Dullon. Stay tuned – we’ll check back later to confirm.

• In a guest column for Deadline, George Clooney calls for boycotting Los Angeles hotels owned by Brunei-based companies over the imminent implementation of the death penalty in the country for homosexual acts between consenting adults.

• A new report shows bisexual youth are more likely than gay or lesbian youth to be bullied and/or consider suicide.

• Zuzana Caputova, a lawyer and LGBTQ ally, could be about to become the first ever female president of Slovakia. You know my last name is Slovacek, right?

• Yep, looks like this is still working for Mr. Dullon.

• Former NBA star Tim Hardaway is complaining the only reason he’s not in the Basketball Hall of Fame is because he went on a homophobic rant in 2007 where he said:

“You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”

Hardaway later changed his mind and became an LGBTQ ally. He’s on his fifth year as a Hall of Famer finalist. What do you think? Should he be forgiven and voted into the Hall of Fame?

• A 61-year-old woman in Nebraska just gave birth to her gay son’s child.

• A survey of gay & lesbian Realtors shows LGBTQ folks are less likely to purchase a home than heterosexuals, in part because they worry whether their neighbors will be welcoming.

• Yep, I think we’ve confirmed this is a winning pose for the Spanish InstaHunk.

News Round-Up: January 2, 2019

InstaHunk Austin Wolf

Some news items you might have missed:

• Ah, January. When everyone gets back to the gym. Now, I guess if I wanted to actually see Austin Wolf at the gym, I’d have to actually GO to the gym. There’s the snag…

• Out recording artist Hayley Kiyoko shares in a new interview that she was asked to “tone down” her sexuality early on in her career.

• A 19 year-old Indian man, who donated blood unaware he was HIV+, committed suicide after learning that his blood had transmitted the HIV virus to a pregnant woman.

Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness broke with his boyfriend, Wilco Froners, in an Instagram post that attempted to be classy but he added a #cheatersneverprosper hashtag (he later deleted). In an Instagram Story, Jonathan later retreated a bit writing, “I should’ve sat with myself a bit longer before I posted my most recent post.”

• Vietnam has passed a law making it illegal to criticize the government online.

• A Massachusetts judge on Monday denied actor Kevin Spacey’s request to skip his upcoming arraignment on a felony charge he faces for allegedly sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man in 2016.

• High profile make-up artist and drag queen Alexis Stone revealed a months-long ‘social experiment’ wherein he pretended to have botched plastic surgery wearing an extensive prosthetic mask. Hundreds trolled him online saying he’d ruined his face.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, he posted the video below where he stands looking at the camera for a few moments before tearing the mask off to reveal the experiment. The second video explains his reasons for the deception.

News Round-Up: August 3, 2018

Dan Welden

Some news items you might have missed:

• InstaHunk Dan Welden (above) is giving you some #FlexFriday

• Launched in response to the recent ruling on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, Yelp has added a new ‘Open to All’ category/filter which aims to help protect consumers from discrimination.

• Apple, led by openly-gay CEO Tim Cook, has become the first private-sector company to be valued at over $1 trillion. Don’t tell me the gays can’t compete…

• After rescuing the adorable Beemo in South Korea, hottie Gus Kenworthy adopted another rescue from SK:

The day Matt and I visited the horrifying dog meat farm in South Korea we witnessed a mother dog giving birth to a litter of pups. The people at @hsiglobal told us that had they not been there filming my visit nobody would’ve seen the pups immediately and they likely would’ve died in the brutal cold. Luckily though I saw them and they were rushed inside and saved. A few weeks later when all 90 of the dogs on that farm (including Beemo) were flown to North America that mother and her newborn litter were the only ones that stayed behind because the pups were too young to travel. After Beemo passed away I was feeling completely empty and I reached back out to the Humane Society International to find out what happened to that litter. I found out that they were still in Korea and I began getting photo and video updates on them as I waited for another farm closure and an opportunity for them to be brought to the States. That finally happened and four days ago I picked this little girl up in DC. She’s a 5-month-old Jindo/ Lab mix and we named her Birdie (because birds were one of Beemo’s favorite things in the world). Nothing in the world could ever replace Beemo or the love that we felt and still feel for her but Birdie has already stolen a new place in our hearts and we’re excited to be dog dads again. A HUGE thank you goes out to @hsiglobal for bringing our new baby home and for all they do for animals in need around the world (follow them and support their cause). Also an immense amount of gratitude goes to @awlaarlington for taking care of Birdie in DC until I could fly there to pick her up! I am going to continue Beemo’s Instagram with pupdates on Birdie. I was nervous that would seem disrespectful to Beemo’s memory but I actually LOVE the idea that both of my beautiful little girls will share the page. Also, a huge part of the reason I started Beemo’s page in the first place was to continue promoting animal rescue and raise awareness for the dog meat trade and since the page already has a following I thought it’d be more impactful to keep it going rather than start all over again. Follow along! @b_pups #DogsAreFriendsNotFood #AdoptDontShop 👨‍👨‍👧🐥🐶🐾❤️ 🇺🇸
A post shared by gus kenworthy (@guskenworthy) on Aug 2, 2018 at 7:33pm PDT

• Despite assurances from the intelligence community that Russia is continuing to meddle in our elections, U.S. Senators on Wednesday rejected a Democratic proposal by a vote of 50-47 to provide funds to states with more election security funding ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Sixty votes were needed to include the proposal in the appropriations legislation under Senate rules.

• Former Marine and Army National Guardsmen Brandon Ketchum, 33, committed suicide after being denied admittance to a VA facility in Iowa City, despite telling doctors that he was having “serious mental issues.” Ketchum had been struggling with PTSD and substance abuse after returning home from his three tours overseas.

• And let’s close out this round-up with shining a light on this hideous woman who attempted to call ICE and have a mother deported for breast feeding. I love the woman recording telling the bigot to “Go back to Europe. That’s where you’re from.” #TrumpNation

Former Lover Alleges George Michael Took His Own Life

Fadi Fawaz and George Michael (image via Twitter)

George Michael’s former boyfriend, Fadi Fawaz, alleges the pop star committed suicide rather than died of natural causes in new statements to the UK publication, The Sun.

According to the newspaper, emails written by Fawaz claim Michael, 53, took his life on Christmas Eve 2016: “I’m sick and tired of people asking me what happened on Christmas Day. Well let me tell you, George died on his mother’sbirthday, so that might answer a few questions. Not to mention it took five attempts to manage to end his life. I think it’s important for the story.”

Similar claims were made on Fawaz’s Twitter account in 2017 although the Fawaz said his account had been hacked at the time.

At the time of Michael’s passing, the coroner ruled his death was due to “natural causes and had dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver.”

The newspaper reports a spokeswoman for George’s estate last night said she had “no trust” in Fadi’s claims.

The Sun also notes that the 45-year-old hairdresser is still fighting for a portion of the star’s £105million estate. He apparently still lives in Michael’s Regent’s Park home even though the family has asked him to leave.

Michael’s music catalogue surged back up the charts a staggering 2,678% selling almost 500,000 tracks in the week that followed his death.

Music Video: Eli Lieb “When You Need A Friend”

Openly gay singer/songwriter Eli Lieb went back to his old high school to spread love and support after a young teen transgender boy committed suicide
Eli Lieb

Out singer/songwriter Eli Lieb shares this uplifting music video for his song, “When You Need a Friend,” which Eli wrote in the aftermath of a young, male transgender student as his old high school committing suicide.

Backed by The Trevor Project, Eli returned to his old school to reach out to kids there and spread some love.

Premiering the new video on NewNowNext, Eli shares:

“I wrote, ’When You Need A Friend’ inspired by his memory, but also for anyone in need,” he says. “I wanted people to know that times can be really tough but if you keep fighting through them, there’s a bright future ahead. I also wanted people to feel like they have a friend in me, even if they don’t know me personally. I want people to feel like when they play this song, that I am there with them offering support.”

If you read The Randy Report with any regularity, you know I’m a big fan of Eli and his music. Click here for more of my coverage of Eli.

Hit play on the video below, and you can also check out my recent interview with Eli for The Randy Report podcast.