FeaturesGayest & Greatest 2021

Gayest & Greatest 2021: Arts and Auto

Stoo is an outspoken actor and activist.

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Stoo (photos by Frank Hernandez for OutSmart magazine)

Favorite Nonbinary Actor

Artists have always been a force for change, and this tradition certainly continued throughout the past year as racial injustice, health disparities, and politics all came to a head. Artists were often seen on the front lines calling for change. 

This year’s Favorite Nonbinary Actor, Stoo, is hopeful that the energy behind the calls for a more inclusive theater community will come to fruition as live theater returns to Houston. “I love musical theater, because my biggest inspiration is Barbra Streisand,” the trans-feminine nonbinary artist says with glee. “When I really discovered her music when I was in college, I knew I needed to do musical theater.” 

The actor was originally enrolled as a fashion merchandising major at Sam Houston State University, but made the pivot to musical theater at the age of 19. “I always wanted to act, and luckily enough, I was accepted and decided to pursue this career.” Stoo dreams of having their name in lights in New York City. “Broadway is the end-all, be-all. It’s a huge goal of mine. I want to be a leading ‘they-dy.’ That’s the dream.” 

It was Houston’s Stages Repertory Theatre that hosted Stoo’s first professional gig. “I’ve done a lot of shows at Stages Repertory Theatre, which was my first post-college job.” As theaters shut down during the pandemic, Stoo returned to a familiar outlet. “I’ve always wanted to make pop music. I met some cool cats in Houston and asked them if they wanted to make music, and they were down. I’ve been focused on that for three or four years,” the solo act explains. 

When the chance to return to acting presented itself, Stoo jumped at the opportunity. “I was fortunate enough to get back into musical theater with Godspell, which was a Moore Vision Entertainment production here in Houston. The director was Sloane Teagle, and we performed it at the DeLuxe Theater. That show allowed me to fully express myself.” 

The October 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine

In response to Broadway producer Cameron Mackintosh’s recent statement that the casting of transgender artists in classical musicals is a “gimmick,” Stoo offers a positive message: “Lately, there has been a call for more trans bodies on stage because people don’t think we can handle lead roles. Godspell let me fully embrace being a trans and nonbinary artist, and represent the community through my art.” The experience was affirming in more ways than one. “I felt so free and open to be myself,” they recall. “I got to sing and act like myself. It was a refreshing moment. I’m always going to be learning and growing and getting to my full purpose in life, because it’s always transforming.”

With the house lights in theaters across the country slowly coming back up, Stoo hopes the activist momentum from the past year continues. “I’m excited to see how much the theater world is going to change, because we’ve gone through so much with social issues during the pandemic—everything from casting to showcasing different people of the world onstage.” 

OutSmart’s 2021 Favorite Nonbinary Actor is more energized than ever for a successful return to the stage. “I’m just one person representing the community. Receiving this honor is affirming, and I’m hoping to represent the community as best I can as an actor on stage. This is such a nice welcome back to the theater.”

Keep up with Stoo on Instagram @stooizm.


ARTS

Best Art Gallery/Place to Buy Artwork

Archway Gallery
Finalists: Bill Arning Exhibitions, Hardy & Nance Studios, John Palmer Art 

Best Community Dance Company

Houston Ballet
Finalists: Hope Stone Inc., Pilot Dance Program

Best Regional Equity Theater

Alley Theatre (tie), Theatre Under The Stars (tie)

Best Community Theater

Catastrophic Theatre
Finalists: Art Factory, Ensemble Theatre, Main Street Theatre

Best Local Equity Theater 

Stages Repertory Theatre

Best Performing-Arts Company

Houston Ballet
Finalists: Catastrophic Theatre, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony, Pilot Dance Project, Theatre Under The Stars 

Favorite Houston Museum

The Menil Collection (tie), Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (tie)
Finalists: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science, National Museum of Funeral History

Favorite Local Female Actor

Tamarie Cooper
Finalists: Lydia Meadows, Amanda Marie Parker, Holland Vavra, Christina Wells

Favorite Local Male Actor

Mark Ivy
Finalists: Kyle Sturdivant, Don Jeans, Wesley Whitson

Favorite Local Nonbinary Actor

Stoo

Favorite Local Female Fine Artist

Katharine Ligon
Finalists: Liz Castellanos, Sherry Tseng Hill, Kiki Neumann, Heather J. Taylor

Favorite Local Male Fine Artist

Robin Baker
Finalists: Ryan Fugate, Joe Hale Haden, Edgar Medina, John Palmer, Hugo Perez, John Slaby

Favorite Local Nonbinary Fine Artist

Crystal Murley
Finalist: L’Quesha K. Monet


AUTO

Best Auto Body Shop

RMS Auto Care
Finalist: Ryan Automotive

Best Auto Mechanic

Tech Auto Maintenance
Finalists: RMS Auto Care, Ryan Automotive

Best Car Wash/Auto Detailing

Car Spa
Finalists: Aqua Hand Car Wash, CARisma Wash, Soap Hand Car Wash

Best Domestic Auto Dealership

Central Houston Cadillac
Finalists: Planet Ford, Planet Lincoln, Tommie Vaughn Ford

Best Import Auto Dealership

Team Gillman Subaru (tie), Fred Haas Toyota World (tie)
Finalists: Advantage BMW, Mercedes Benz of Houston


For a full list of winners, go here.

This article appears in the October 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Zachary McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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