Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2018

By : Watermark Staff
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The LGBTQ communities in Central Florida and Tampa Bay are resilient and resourceful. So many members of our community, along with our allies, proved that to be true in 2018.

They’re also remarkable. That’s why Watermark solicited readers for your suggestions of the year’s most impactful individuals in each area. From there, the editorial staff chose 18 unsung heroes and difference makers – nine from Central Florida and nine from Tampa Bay – to name them our Most Remarkable People of 2018.

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Tymisha Harris: Central Florida Entertainer & co-creator and star of “Josephine, a burlesque cabaret dream play”

By : Blue Star
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Blue Star

Remarkable almost doesn’t do this woman justice.

Tymisha Harris is a talent beyond compare. She is a great human being and my best friend. So many people do not know the struggles that she has faced and the hurdles she has been made to jump through to be where she is today. It has been a steady, courageous climb that is finally getting her the recognition she deserves.

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Jerick Mediavilla: Educator and Central Florida LGBTQ Activist

By : Ida Vishkaee Eskamani
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Ida Vishkaee Eskamani

It’s fall 2017 and we are somewhere in Tallahassee. Legislative committee weeks had commenced and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Florida’s first LGBTQ Latinx lawmaker, was telling me about a new man in his life.

He was both giddy and bewildered by how well they were vibing. This guy was handsome (I immediately verified this with some light social media lurking), kind, funny, attentive, smart, successful and, most importantly, emotionally available and into Carlos. His name is Jerick Mediavilla and my friends—This man is remarkable!

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Buddy Dyer: Mayor of Orlando

By : Gina Duncan
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Gina Duncan

Today, the city of Orlando is known as a national leader in LGBTQ diversity and inclusion. This distinction has been a direct result of the intentional work of Mayor Buddy Dyer and his diverse leadership team at The City Beautiful.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling granting same-sex marriage rights in the United States, Orlando was one of the first cities in Florida to pass a Domestic Partner Registry providing rights and protections for unmarried couples. This was quickly followed by the passage of Orlando’s Human Rights Ordinance protecting people against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

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Jeff Prystajko: Come Out With Pride Board President & Operations Director

By : Bob Azzarito
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Bob Azzarito

Several years ago, Jeff Prystajko joined our team at Come Out with Pride. I’ve had the privilege to work with him on the board of directors and the production team, and I am proud to call him a friend.

In 2018, he took on the role of president of the board of directors. He assembled an impressive team and together they produced a fantastic event.

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Jennifer Foster: One Orlando Alliance Executive Director

By : Justine Thompson Cowan
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Justine Thompson Cowan

When asked to write about Jennifer Foster, I knew it would be easy enough to list her accomplishments.

A natural leader, she always has her hands in something transformative. She co-founded the Human Rights Campaign community in Central Florida, served on the statewide board of the Florida Red and Blue Campaign and co-founded One Orlando Alliance.

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Nikole Parker: onePULSE Foundation Events & Community Outreach Coordinator

By : Barbara Poma
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Barbara Poma

Nikole Parker is a daughter, sister, transwoman, fiance, advocate, employee and friend. But what she is most is the shining hope for our future. Her journey to the woman she is today is what makes her remarkable far beyond a few hundred words.

She left her home in Orlando at the age of 19, to begin her transition. After three years of black market hormones and unsafe lifestyle practices she returned to Orlando to restart her life.

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Jim Philips and Moira: co-hosts of “The Philips Phile” on Real Radio 104.1

By : Sabrina Ambra
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Sabrina Ambra

I first met Jim Philips and Moira when I began my career on Real Radio 104.1 FM in 2013. I was young, inexperienced and terrified; standing amongst legends who have been doing the big, bad radio thing almost as long as I had been alive (no pressure, right?)

Much to the dismay of the “deer-in-headlights” look I was sporting, Jim and Moira welcomed me with kindness, guidance and encouragement. Fast-forward almost six years to present day and “The Philips Phile” has closed its chapter on Real Radio. After decades of entertaining the masses, channeling the norm and sticking it to “the man,” we bid a bittersweet adieu to two of the most remarkable people in the world—Jim Philips and Moira.

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George Wallace: Current LGBT+ Center of Central Florida Executive Director

By : Michael Wanzie
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Michael Wanzie

I may not be aware of all that George Wallace has done to make him a hero of 2018 specifically, but I do know that George has been my personal hero for many years.

Firstly, as a healthcare advocate for special needs individuals. Secondly, as a person who has helped countless individuals in need—on a personal level, well beyond the scope of any employment mandate, and he has done so often and without fanfare or public recognition. Thirdly, as one of the true visionaries and hardest working people who dedicated every fiber of his being to help make The Orlando Fringe Festival the resounding success it is today.

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Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (HD47): first Iranian-American woman lawmaker elected in Florida

By : Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HD49)
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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HD49)

If you haven’t heard the name Anna V. Eskamani, you have probably been living under a rock … especially since Republicans spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads to portray Eskamani as a vulgar, radical extremist (they actually made her look like a badass in a leather jacket). Voters made history in November by electing Anna as the first Iranian-American to serve in the Florida Legislature, rewarding her with 57 percent of the vote.

Odds are you have heard of Eskamani, who has become a role model for young people across Orlando. You saw her on the cover of TIME magazine featured as one of many women across the country running for public office hoping to make real change. You read in local newspapers about her healthcare expertise as a senior director for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. You watched her lead the Orlando Women’s March or proudly walking in the Come Out With Pride parade at Lake Eola. If not, you more than likely overheard her signature Eskamani-style laugh in person at any number of local community events, since she makes it a point to attend every single one of them.

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Luke Blankenship: St Pete Pride Executive Director

By : Scion Crowder
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Scion Crowder

Luke Blankenship started college wanting to work in LGBTQ advocacy, and shortly after found himself running the largest Pride organization in the state of Florida: St Pete Pride.

Luke was named executive director (ED) in May, making him the youngest ED of a Pride organization in the country. He joined St Pete Pride five years ago as a general volunteer and since then worked as logistics coordinator, parade director, development director and now ED. He oversees the day-to-day operations in collaboration with the board of directors and oversees sponsorships, financial strategy, event planning, magazine production, the social media presence and maintains local government and city relations. Luke is constantly working towards becoming a better person and ED. He may be young but he is continuing to educate himself by attending leadership seminars and is currently in the process of becoming a certified nonprofit ED.

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Stef Reynolds: NextGen Pinellas County Field Organizer

By : Tristan Pike
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Tristan Pike

People tend to find their way to activism, particularly political activism, because of an issue that affects them personally. However, it takes more than just having a personal stake in the fight that makes someone successful in doing campaign fieldwork.

It takes tenacity to never take no for an answer, endurance to work 14-hour days, weeks on end and an acrobatic level of flexibility to adjust to constantly changing plans. Stef Reynolds, the Pinellas County field organizer for NextGen America, has all of these attributes and more.

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