Thursday, October 4, 2007
CHIRSTOPHER STREET SERIES CREATOR SPEAKS ABOUT CAREER AND THE NEED TO EDUCATE YOUNG GAY PEOPLE
BY Ra SHAWN CHISOLM
Whenever you meet Dwight Allen O’Neal, you’re immediately are attracted to his outgoing personality, his style of fashion and his southern hospitality. This young guy has a lot going for himself. Originally from Arkansas, O’Neal or Allen as his called from time to time, got his start in the entertainment industry by modeling while beginning his freshman year in high school. Wanting to expand his creativity, he moved to New York, and studied acting while working at various magazines, and while he was studying his craft, he was seeing that many young gay teens and adults needed guidance and direction which inspired him to create the television series Christopher Street, which is about four young Black Gay males, surviving in New York, which has gotten rave reviews and praise by fans who’s dubbed the show the realist version of Noah’s Arc. He’s also runs his own fashion website and has a coming benefit in the works. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to this young role model via telephone.
RC: Tell us about the concept of “Christopher Street.”
DAO: Christopher Street is about four friends living in the city and dealing with the trials and tribulations of being a young gay man that’s coming out the closet. We deal with finding yourself and how to live in a society where your lifestyle isn’t accepted. How to deal with living a gay lifestyle and a straight lifestyle as well.
RC What inspired you to create the series?
DAO: I was inspired by the lack of young people having no role models to look up to. I was inspired by the fact that I would go out to the village and to the club and see misguided youth who didn’t have a positive role model. Me, myself coming up,
I didn’t have anyone to look up to but my mother and my best friend, and alot of times, he hadn't expericne too much more than I did. I mean he's just a year older than myself.
RC: You’ve brought up a great point about youth not having role models. Why is that?
DAO: A lot of people who are doing positive things and living positive lives aren’t coming aboard. They’re not speaking their stories. They’re not mentoring these people and the other side of things, young people look up to these artists, these singers and these people who are celebrities and they’re blindsided by person who they thought was doing something positive by someone who’s doing something oblivious.
RC: I attended your screening and a lot of the guests were saying they loved how your show dealt with issues that many gay youth deal with living in New York. What was it like attending your first screening?
DAO: Being at my first screening was nerve wrecking, actually. I was showing my piece to my peers, James Earl Hardy, thank you for attending you there. It was a blessing having you there. It was nerve wracking, but I was really excited to see the feedback that everybody gave me. I’m just twenty three and I don’t have a lot of money in my pocket, so I’m looking for an investor, and just knowing that most people was like the storyline was great and the acting was great and I want to see where the characters can go from here so that was great to hear.
RC: You mentioned about looking for funding. Has it been hard to receive funding?
DAO: Absoltouely. I’m still meeting with people trying to get money and things like that. I do hope that money and things like that come through.
RC: In addition to the show, what other projects have you been participating in?
DAO: I’m on the Christopher Street tour, hitting thirteen to fifth teen cities, educating young people on how to protect themselves from homophobia, how to protect themselves sexually. Basically what the show is dealing with, we’re tackling those issues with the audience and they watched the episode and we have a rap session about what exactly the characters deal with and how the characters survive. I’m currently working on my fashion magazine you can check it out fashionblog.com. I’m currently party events and promoting the show and I’m a make up artist and I’m promoting Smash Box Cosmetics.
RC: Congratulations on receiving your award from Entrepreneur of the month.
DAO: Thank you very much. It was a honor to receive the entrepreneur of the month award, and selected as one of Clike Magazine’s bachelors of 2007. It really feels good that people are seeing my work and are appreciating me.
RC: Another point you brought up is the importance of educating young people about homophobia and police harassment. How important is for young people to be educated about these subjects.
DAO: It’s very important. Even myself experienced something very similar where I was myself was pulled out on the subway because of my sexuality. I’ve dealt with I’ve had other incidents with the police where I was totally mistrusted because basically who I am and people putting stereotypes on our generation and because people among people who look just like me, you don’t get the love and support and justice you need. A lot of police stereotype us because you’re a young Black Gay man, there’s a strike against you, and basically we’re showcasing needs like that and letting know what to do when they’re put into that type of situation.
RC: I was speaking with DJ Baker, about many Reggae artists who record songs about killing gay males, and how some young people who are familiar with the lyrics still dance to the song and don’t take action. From your perspective, why d
DAO: A lot of people, young people don’t know what saying anyway. They’re grinding to the beat. They’re grinding to the hot dance step. They’re doing the Scooby Doo. They’re really not paying attention to what that person (the artist) is saying, and honestly, if they knew what they were saying, then they’re view point on how they would respond would be different. It all goes to educating; we need to educate our audience. We need to educate young people. We need to educate one another and know what’s going on the world. So many people don’t know what’s going on in that song. So many people don’t know what’s going on in Jamaica. So many people don’t know that and we have to bring that to life. Education is key, and knowledge is the power.
RC: I know that you’re doing a benefit for the late Rashawn Bazell, the male who’s body parts was found in the Nostrand Avenue train station. Though he didn’t become know before his death, how important is it for him to be honored and remembered?
DAO: It’s very important for him to be honored. He’s my brother. He’s your brother, and it’s really a tragedy what happened to him, and anything we can do to give knowledge about protecting yourself, the same thing won’t happen. No one deserves to be butchered and killed. That’s really sad, so his legacy continues to live on today, and his family is very supportive.
RC: How do you want to make an impact on the entertainment and fashion industry?
DAO: That’s a really good question. I want to make an impact by making Dwight Allen O’Neal a household name. Dwight Allen O’Neal a household name. Dwight O’Neal being executive producer of Off the Clock Productions and Allen O’Neal being an entertainer across the board.
RC: Is there anybody in the entertainment industry you would love to work with?
DAO: There’s a lot of people in the entertainment industry I would love to work with. There’s one key person I love to work with is Angela Bassett.
RC: That would be great. She’s a noble and humble person and an excellent actress.
DAO: She’s amazing
RC: She was the only one who could play Tina Turner
DAO: Yeah she did that, and then playing Michael Jackson’s mother, also playing in “Vampire in Brooklyn” and her amazing role in “Waiting to Exhale” where she burned down the car and left with the cigarette. (Both laugh while I imitated Bassett’s character)
RC: What advice would you give to something who wants to be in the entertainment industry without having to hide their sexuality?
DAO: If you want to be in entertainment, make a crucial decision as of what type of entertainment you want to be in. You need to make a plan of where you want to be so I would suggest be true to what you want to be true to. If you want to hide your sexuality, that’s completely a choice you have to make. If you want to be open with your sexuality, that’s a choice you have to make, but there’s gonna be consequences you have to pay. Some of the consequences you can deal with and there’s some you can’t deal with.