Adam Eli is our boy next door crush marching masses in protest for queer rights on behalf of silenced minorities. The founder of Voices 4 shares the power of social media, what his Mom and Lady Gaga have in common and quotes that inspire him which includes “anything and literally everything that Maya Angelou has ever said.”
YOUTH and ROLEMODELS
What advice would you give your adolescent self?
I would tell myself that it is going to be ok. I would just say that it’s going to be ok, worry less, because it all works out. And then I would tell my adolescent self, be authentic or else it won’t work.
When you were younger what was your relationship with health and fitness and for you now what does it mean to be healthy?
I was always very un-athletic, super super un-athletic but always a good swimmer.
To be healthy means being kind to myself. So sometimes I’ll find that I can talk to myself in a way that I wouldn’t talk to a stranger. So I stop that. I think it’s about being kind to yourself. You have to be gentle and kind with yourself. If you wouldn’t talk that way to a friend then don’t talk to yourself that way.
Who inspires you?
Well today is International Women’s Day and my Mom is my biggest activist inspiration. My Mom is a huge activist inspiration.
I think Lady Gaga when I was in my youth as a teenager. When I first came out Lady Gaga really gave me permission to reinvent myself and I think that was someone that I really looked up to. She reinvented herself everyday and that gave me permission to do so.
Is there a hobby or obsession that you love that people don’t know about?
I have two. One is I love Princess Diana, but I think that everyone kind of already knows that and I think the second one is I can watch poker on ESPN for hours. I would watch the World Championship of poker or the World Series of Poker for days. I’m not great at poker but I can literally sit there and watch it for hours. I used to watch it with my straight friends all the time since I could never play sports or anything with them but when they would watch poker I would be like, “oh yeah, turn it on”.
“I just knew that I couldn’t stand by anymore and then that is when I had the idea to do that first big march which eventually turned into Voices 4.”
Do you remember the fears and doubts you had at your first protest and how did you embrace those feelings of vulnerability?
I found that when I was feeling scared and vulnerable like right after Orlando going to the vigil at Stonewall. It wasn’t my first protest but going there after the news of Orlando I felt so vulnerable and so scared that I literally didn’t know what to do but I knew I had to take some type of action so that vulnerability and fear actually drove me there.
I would say as advice for people going to there first protest who feel nervous. I would say to bring a partner and that it’s ok to stand on the edges and move your way in slowly and to know that you can leave at absolutely anytime you want to. Even just showing up for a moment is ok. And don’t do anything that you don’t want to, if you don’t want to chant, don’t chant, if you don’t want to hold a sign, don’t hold a sign, there’s no right way to do that.
If someone was going to play you in a movie who would it be?
I would say Ben Platt, because this gay Jewish boy’s movie is obviously going to be a musical.
Do you remember the instant that you realised we needed a Voices 4?
For Voices 4 there was definitely not an instant. Voices 4 happened by mistake. I remember there was a moment I had when I knew I wanted to do the first march from Stonewall to the Russian Embassy and that was it. And then during the planning meetings it became clear that we obviously had something much bigger on our hands then just that. So there was no moment. It really happened by mistake.
But the moment I decided that I needed to take action about what was happening in Chechnya and around the world. In that moment I just read Masha Gessen’s article in The New Yorker about what was happening in Chechnya and I just knew that I couldn’t stand by anymore and then that is when I had the idea to do that first big march which eventually turned into Voices 4.
If you were going to give a lecture at a conference what would it be about?
I would give a talk about how social media can be used as an effective platform for activism and Trump resistance.
Can you think of a moment, that at the time you thought you had failed which actually led to being a step to success?
There’s always a moment right before a protest because I find that people come late to protests and theres always, always those like 9 minutes right before it starts and no one is there and you’re like wow I’m not capable of making a difference, I’m not capable of helping anyone and you are always filled with fear and self doubt. It’s so real. And then everyone comes 15 minutes in and you then you feel so much better.
“I want to let as many queer people all over the world know that they are not alone and I want to reach as many of them as possible.”
What have you learnt about yourself this year?
I would say that year one into Trump’s presidency I learned that I need to take care of myself in ways that I didn’t always have to when I was younger. I have to schedule time to relax, watch tv and to hang out with my friends. I never had to do that, that came more naturally. I also learned that I am more resilient than I thought.
If you were to curate an exhibition at the Leslie Lohman Museum, which artist would you have to include?
I would talk to my friend that’s a queer muslim artist and I would bring the exhibition to this person and I would give them the opportunity to curate an exhibition about queer muslim art. It’s a narrative that we need to be talking about more.
Goals for 2018?
I want to let as many queer people all over the world know that they are not alone and I want to reach as many of them as possible.
Do you have any future projects that you’re currently working on?
Yeah, right now I’m mostly focussing on Voices 4 and we’ll be at the Brighton Beach Pride supporting the queer Russian immigrant community and I’m really, really excited about that.
Is there a quote that you live your life by?
“If it’s not hopeful or a direct call to action, don’t post it.” That’s my quote. And “I’m responsible for my queer family everywhere.”
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Elie Wiesel. And anything and literally everything that Maya Angelou has ever said.