OutSmart‘s Most-Viewed Stories of 2023

These are the stories that captured the most attention in 2023.

OutSmart unveils our 12 most-engaged narratives of 2023—gauged by the volume of clicks each piece garnered—providing a fascinating overview of Houston’s LGBTQ landscape over the past year. Among the highlights is the uproarious and boundary-pushing presence of Houston-based creator Kelon Campbell, whose TikTok antics continue to captivate audiences with a unique blend of hilarity and shock.

With the annual Gayest & Greatest Awards, OutSmart magazine celebrates the outstanding achievements of the community’s finest—both individuals and businesses—who emerged as the top vote-getters this year.

A notable trend in 2023 is the surge of gay content creators tapping into fresh opportunities through digital subscription services, carving out innovative spaces for self-expression and connection. Meanwhile, Julie Mabry’s Pearl Bar stands resilient as one of the last remaining lesbian bars in the United States, serving as a crucial hub for the community. In the spirit of fostering unity, Conduit Coffee’s owners remain steadfast in their commitment to building bridges through their business endeavors.

Adding a touch of empowerment and cultural resonance, the queer community’s longstanding appreciation for Barbie emerged as a compelling narrative, showcasing the diverse ways in which individuals find strength and inspiration. As OutSmart continues to chronicle the dynamic tapestry of Houston’s LGBTQ moments, these stories reflect the evolving landscape and resilient spirit of the community in the year 2023.

This list is just a sample of OutSmart’s coverage, including a free monthly print edition distributed across the Houston (and Galveston!) area. To stay up-to-date on the latest LGBTQ local news, subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and X.

12. Houston Ballet Summer and Smoke
by Andrew Edmonson
In March, the Houston Ballet staged its world-premiere of a groundbreaking re-imagining of Tennessee Williams’ work for its 75th anniversary. Read the story here.

11. She’s Beauty. She’s Grace
by David Clarke
August 2023 cover star Jazell Barbie Royale shares her remarkable journey from gospel choirs to winning prestigious pageants. Read the story here.

10. I Was a Little Gay Boy Who Loved Barbie
by Ryan Leach

Columnist Ryan Leach was just a little boy when he discovered his love of Barbie, which continues to this day. He also discovered that not all of the boys shared this love. Read the story here.

9. Civic Connection
by Ryan Leach

In February, we introduced cover stars Mario Castillo and his husband Joel Rottier, and learned about about Mario’s campaign for Houston City Council. In December, Castillo won his runoff election to represent District H. Read the story here.

8. LGBTQ-Affirming Coffee Shop in The Woodlands Faces Backlash
by  Marene Gustin

Despite facing backlash, Conduit Coffee owners Christina Reece and her partner Robin Farrar remain committed to creating a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community in The Woodlands.. Read the story here.

7. The Real Problem with The Real Friends of WeHo
by Ryan Leach

Columnist Ryan Leach had a simple response to Real Friends of WeHo: Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t need this, and we don’t want this. Read the story here.

6. Mother of Pearl
by Zach McKenzie

March 2023 cover star Julie Mabry’s Pearl Bar is one of the few remaining lesbian bars in the US. Mabry says that despite this, “I do still think that there’s a necessity for our bars because that’s our safe haven.” Read the story here.

5. King of Hearts
by Zach McKenzie

Multi award-winning director and playwright Matthew López remembers how he felt when he finished reading the novel Red, White & Royal Blue by American author Casey McQuiston for the first time. He knew he wanted audiences to experience that same emotional response.  Read the story here.

4. Explicitly Independent
by Ryan Leach

In our August issue, we introduced four gay content creators finding new opportunities with digital subscription services. Read the story here.

3. Obituary John Allan Pace
by Staff Reporters

Houston’s LGBTQ community lost a beloved member when John Allan Pace—better known by his stage name JP Gill—passed away on November 20. JP was a larger-than-life community figure who lit up a room wherever he went. Read the story here.

2. OutSmart Gayest & Greatest 2023 Readers’ Choice Awards Winners
by Staff Reporters

In October, we had the pleasure of honoring our community’s best and brightest—individuals and businesses who were this year’s top vote-getters in the 26th annual Gayest & Greatest Readers’ Choice Awards. Read the story here.

1. Going Live with Terri Joe
by Zach McKenzie 
Our most-read story of 2023 was Zach McKenzie’s profile of Kelon Campbell, the comedic genius behind Terri Joe, a zany character breaking boundaries on TikTok. Through outrageous humor and impeccable timing, Campbell challenges norms and stereotypes, all while staying true to his own LGBTQ identity.. Read the story here.


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