LGBTQ&A: Brandon Szeker
Brandon Szeker is the public relations manager for Philly PR Girl and has previously done media work at CBS Radio, Beasley Broadcast Group, and Philadelphia Weekly. A member of the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, Szeker tells us about his incredible opportunity handling some of the big names at the Democratic National Convention.
Congrats on surviving an epic week. How did you get the opportunity to be a part of it?
I met April Mellody, the deputy CEO for communications of the DNC, at a PR convention that she was the keynote speaker at in Philadelphia. Immediately after her speech, I ran up and introduced myself, and exchanged business cards. We exchanged a few emails talking about my involvement with the local Philadelphia media outlets, and she asked for a résumé. After a brief phone call, and several months of waiting, I was told I had been chosen to work for the DNC as a media booker and surrogate liaison.
What does the job entail?
My job is to pitch national media interviews with elected officials, congressmen, and other large political figures. We’ve mainly shifted our focus to pitching battleground states, in order to gain as much coverage as we possibly can for the Democratic Party. It’s a pressure-cooker situation, and the media room is all abuzz with people on the phone pitching, running around, and our captains telling us who’s available for interviews. We had seven minutes to book a satellite interview for Jamie Harrison, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. I’ve never seen a room full of people frantically dialing and pitching. The energy in this room is electric, and we’re all working hard to push the stories, and the people, that are the heart of this campaign. It’s not easy pitching Corey Booker to a Fox affiliate in podunk Texas. Trust and believe.
In your opinion, what was the most LGBTQ thing that happened at the DNC?
On the streets, the Great Wall of Love that was organized to block out Westboro Baptist Church protesters from the Mazzoni Center. What a breathtaking display of unity and love! I am absolutely in LOVE with the Mazzoni Center and the work that it does for our community, especially those of the transgender community. I couldn’t be more proud to hang my hat in a city that works its ass off to make sure we are taken care of! I was extremely upset that I couldn’t attend, as I was down at the arena working, but you better believe I was checking in with friends who were there and hounding them for photos and videos! In the arena, can we talk about Sarah McBride? Wow! This is history in the making, people! This delegate from Delaware, and secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, is the first trans person to speak on the main stage of a convention! This is huge! What a trailblazer for the trans community. I couldn’t be happier to see the voice of the trans community coming to light, especially on a national platform. Also, I was a huge fan of the all-gender restrooms, and the signs for them all over the arena. As I said in a Facebook status: “I just peed in an all-gender bathroom. No one was harmed, we all washed our hands, and lived to tell the experience.” I also took this picture of a senator and his PR person walking into the bathroom together. This is another thing that I thought I would never see in my life. Simply beautiful.
What were some of the crazy celebrity encounters you experienced at the DNC?
Well, I walked by Steven Colbert on Sunday. It didn’t even hit me until I was half way past him and I said out loud, “Oh shit, that’s Stephen Colbert.” I nodded, he nodded. We called it a day. But he could have used a little less makeup, in my opinion. My world came crashing to a halt when I met Anderson Cooper. I’m pretty sure I died, and because of that, this interview is being done from the afterlife. I wanted to Michael-Jackson-fan-girl-circa-1988 pass out. Music is a huge part of my life, so it was great to sit in on the sound checks of Andrea Day, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Carole King, Paul Simon, Idina Menzel, and Demi Lovato. Sound check is a very vulnerable and private time for an artist, so it was nice to see them at work as opposed to their performance … there’s a difference.
What was the major takeaway of this opportunity?
The one thing that this experience has driven home is that we all have a voice. The beauty of our democracy is that we the people have a say in how we want our world to run. We don’t need to be told how to run shit — we’ve been doing that for years. This is what’s at stake. Basic human rights are at stake. Now, more than ever, our voices are needed. The choice is in our hands, and our future is in a fragile state. We’ve come so far, we cannot turn back now.
How has Philly’s LGBTQ community been supportive of your experience?
I’m lucky to live and work in Philadelphia and be surrounded by surrounded by such inspirational people. People such as Nellie Fitzpatrick, Samantha Giusti, Brian Sims, Deja Lynn Alvarez, and I could go on all day. But here’s the thing I took away and want people to take away: We can be those people too. I was set on fire this week. I left that arena so inspired to do more. I barely slept this week, and have been running on pure adrenaline and Red Bull — for real, though, can I get an endorsement already? After this experience, I want to keep this momentum going and bring it to everyone. I have already reached out to see what more I can do to help post-DNC. As a white man, I was born with privilege. What I chose to do with that is up to me, and I chose to be a voice for ALL oppressed voices. I will use my voice as a vessel for those who have none. So, thank you DNC for waking me up and setting me on fire. This lion is ready to roar!