Each year, GLAAD’s 20 Under 20 List honors LGBTQ young people who are accelerating acceptance for their community and beyond. Whether they are changing the world through their music, by marching in the streets, testifying in courts against hateful legislation, or simply being themselves in a TikTok seen by millions, these 20 young people are the voice of their generation.
In this digital era in which they were raised, these rising stars have learned to use media to further their cause and bring representation to people around the globe. Here’s how GLAAD’s 20 Under 20 is changing the world through their writing, music, acting, and social media!
Zachary Willmore’s courage and candor is saving lives. Diagnosed with HIV at 19-years-old, the college student almost immediately took to TikTok to document his journey.
Since his initial diagnosis less than a year ago, Willmore has come so far. He uses TikTok as a diary, showcasing the highs and lows he goes through from doctor’s appointments to nights out with his friends. Zachary is showing his nearly 2 million followers that people with HIV can live beautiful and fulfilling lives and are worthy of all the love in the world.
Willmore is working hard to destigmatize a disease that has been misunderstood for so long. According to GLAAD’s 4th annual HIV Stigma Study, over 60% of Gen X adults say they are knowledgeable about HIV, while only 34% of Gen Z adults say the same.
Willmore’s parents have even appeared in his videos, showing their undying love and support for their son, being there for him despite any obstacles life throws at him. Watch his TikTok here.
Willmore told GLAAD. “If there is no one to hear you talk, you are preaching to a wall. Visibility is essential when you are advocating for something because it’s the people who hear you who will help make that difference you’re looking for. It is widely underestimated how much of an impact people can make as a group but besides actively holding a position with political power, strength in numbers is the biggest tool we have as people.”
Model and designer CJ King is the future of fashion. With designs catching the attention of some of the biggest names in the industry, it’s hard to believe this future icon is only 19.
Despite his success, CJ King is no stranger to rising up in the face of adversity.
Getting his start on Junk Kouture, a competition series where 13-18-year-old participants design, create and model fashion, made entirely out of recycled items; what should have been the opportunity of a lifetime, wound up being an unnecessary, unjust challenge..
The international Junk Kouture competition that CJ and his cousin Jazzlynn were set to compete in was held in Abu Dhabi, a notoriously unsafe place for the LGBTQ community. Despite their concerns, CJ and Jazzlynn were informed that Junk Kouture would protect them from these anti-LGBTQ laws and they could participate without fear. This was unfortunately not the case. Government officials arrived and demanded that CJ be barred from the competition as UAE law prohibits men from wearing “women’s clothing.”
“It was a forced withdrawal,” King said. “There was literally no other option,” King told Good Morning America.
The look, called “Nightingale,” is made entirely of donated medical waste products and discarded pool insulation and was made in honor of the healthcare workers who risked their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of the hateful legal situation, King never had the opportunity to model his and Jazzlynn’s design.
That was until the Good Morning America team invited him on the show and had him grace New York City with the design!
However, this was just the start for CJ King. Since this happened, he has placed in the top 10 in the New York City regional contest and earned a finalist spot in the World Championship. King told GLAAD, “I showcased my innovative vision and commitment to sustainable fashion. In addition, as a male identifying individual, I passionately championed LGBTQ representation and LGBTQ modeling by fearlessly donning the couture gown. I strive to show my dedication, creativity, and advocacy in the world of fashion within all of my work.”
Noah Schnapp won our hearts in his role as Will Byers in one of Netflix’s most successful series to date, Stranger Things. Now he’s doing the same, by simply being himself!
Schnapp is not only a critically acclaimed actor, college student, and social media personality, but he is also a businessman! Schnapp co-founded TBH, a company selling a healthier alternative to “that” chocolate hazelnut spread. He runs the company with two “strong female founders” named Elena Guberman and Ba Minuzzi. Check out SnackTBH.com!
Maybe you remember Luke Islam from his golden buzzer worthy performance of “She Used to Be Mine” on America’s Got Talent, when he was only 12. Maybe you saw him in the new Searchlight comedy film Theater Camp. Maybe this is your first time hearing of them, but now that you have, prepare to be a stan!
When Islam isn’t busy shooting the Disney+ series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers in his role as Koob or starring in the Netflix musical coming-of-age comedy-drama film, 13: The Musical, you can find Islam performing in concerts to support charitable organizations such as UNICEF & You Gotta Believe.
The multi-talented actor and singer told GLAAD “Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is one of the most joyous gifts I have ever been blessed with and I simply want to remind others of the positivity it can bring. I am here today to be the guiding light for anyone who may have felt like me or still does.”
Lucía Umeki-Martínez is advocating for and repping the LGBTQ community one article at a time! Serving as the race and diversity beat reporter at the Daily Californian, Umeki-Martínez is bringing reliable stories from diverse perspectives to Berkeley’s paper of record.
In a time where false information about LGBTQ people is rising at shocking rates, it’s essential we have journalists we can trust like Lucía Umeki-Martínez to bring us the facts and stories we need to hear.
They have received numerous accolades for their commitment to LGBTQ advocacy including a Queer Youth Leadership Award for their work as a community leader in Santa Cruz County and an eQuality scholarship, an award for students in Northern California recognizing their achievements serving the LGBTQ community.
When so many look up to Umeki-Martínez as their queer role model, who does she look up to? Janelle Monáe.
Lucia told GLAAD, “I love them both as an actress, singer and as a person. They bravely came out as pansexual and nonbinary and have been a champion for LGBTQ+ people. A little over a year ago I watched Monáe’s Red Table Talk and they spoke about ‘living beyond the binary,’ that spoke to me. They also said that realization has opened them up to so much love. I’ve carried those words with me. Accepting myself and my identity has made me realize that I can do and be anything.”
If you’re not streaming Evann McIntosh’s MOJO and Character Development yet, what are you waiting for? Start streaming the next big thing in music.
McIntosh’s music has been described as “dark alt-pop and dreamy R&B with streaks of hip-hop, jazz, and funk.” Garnering an audience of millions thanks to TikTok, the 19-year-old is already hard at work on their debut album!
While some of their songs delve deep into queer matters like exploring gender identity and sexuality, McIntosh’s music is for everyone. “Naturally as a queer person my music will probably be written from a queer perspective. I’d imagine queer people would resonate with what I’m talking about. But anybody could…” they told GLAAD.
Check out Evann’s latest music video here.
Now, once you’ve added McIntosh’s entire discography to your playlist get ready for more! Isaac Dunbar is like no other artist you’ve ever heard of.
His 2022 EP Banish the Banshee gained him critical acclaim, including a nomination at the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards for Outstanding Breakthrough Artist!
Signed by RCA records at only 16 years old, Dunbar is changing the music world by being unapologetically himself.
His work as an advocate is just as impressive as his thriving music career. “I advocate simply for equality! I was bullied a lot growing up for being gay and I just want to show the world that everyone should be themselves,” he told GLAAD.
He went on to say that, “The world should be a place where people listen to queer stories: listen to their music, see their vision, and support them. It’s been rough out here for a long time… Ultimately, I wish to be a voice and an outlet through my music.”
Check out Dunbar on Sony Music Group x GLAAD’s web series, ICONS!
Influencer, makeup artist, reality star, and role model. Welsh content creator Reuben De Maid has been brightening the day for his hundreds of thousands of subscribers for years now. His content was so meaningful, it earned him a spot on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he was surprised by one of his inspirations Kim Kardashian.
As a gay teenager, De Maid offered some heartfelt advice for parents of queer kids. “Listen and learn about your child’s journey. Unconditional love is vital. Educate yourself on LGBTQ+ matters. Be their advocate, creating a safe space. Acceptance is a powerful gift; it nurtures their confidence and wellbeing. Your support makes all the difference.”
If you’re on TikTok, you know Brooklynne Webb. The singer and body positivity champion has an audience of over 10 million and is committed to being unapologetically herself.
Webb offered some advice to LGBTQ youth coming to terms with their sexuality; “To any LGBTQ youth out there, it’s okay to not know. There is such a pressure to label your identity but the beauty of life is that it’s forever changing! You might of known your entire life if you are just starting to question it a little now. The most important thing is to live authentically you whatever that may be!”
Webb also told GLAAD, “Representation matters. When I was growing up, a lot of people I looked up to started to be more open with their sexuality, gender, and overall expression. This really helped me to feel confident with my own identity and being more open to my own gender and sexual fluidity and expression.”
Read more about these incredible young people in the full 20 Under 20 article in Teen Vogue!