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HBO’s Stories—and Storytellers—Are Setting the Standard for Inclusive, LGBTQ+ Friendly Television

“I’ll never forget this moment,” the drag queen Shangela says between peals of laughter, remembering when one of her drag daughters did something truly remarkable during the filming of her just-wrapped HBO series, We’re Here. “We’re backstage in Ruston, Louisiana. The show just ended. The emotions are high. Everyone is hugging. We’re getting ready to take a photo and Big Momma Butter tells Nina [Rosenstein], ‘Ooh, honey, I’m about to pick you up.’ Mind you: this is one of the executive vice presidents of programming from HBO. Nina says, ‘Oh, thank you! That’s not necessary!’ And Big Momma said, ‘No girl, you are one of the family,’ and swooped Nina up in her arms.”

That was the moment Shangela realized HBO had become one of the most queer-friendly networks on television. She’d felt it before, like when the marketing team behind We’re Here—in which three drag queens visit small towns across America to remind viewers that, titularly, LGBTQ residents have been there all along—picked her brain for strategies that ultimately resulted in sky-high billboards with its stars in high drag towering over Times Square and Sunset Boulevard. She felt it when she and her cast, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara, were given consulting producer credits on the show before filming commenced on its pilot early last summer. She especially felt it when We’re Here’s producers ensured the set would be heavily populated by LGBTQ camera operators, glam squads, stylists, choreographers, and more. But what really

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