(Editor’s update: The first run of this article stated that Danielle Jablonski and Ashley Arnold were the co-founders of ClexaCon — it has been updated to reflect that they are the directors, while the event was founded by Holly Winebarger, Emily Maroutian, and Nicole Hand.)
By Megan Wadding
ClexaCon, a convention for LGBTQ+ women and allies, bills itself as the “largest multi-fandom event for LGBTQ women & allies.” The event celebrates LGBTQ women and characters in TV, film, web series, comics, books and more.
The annual event, now in its third year, is returning to the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas on April 11 through April 15. ClexaCon was founded by Holly Winebarger, Emily Maroutian, and Nicole Hand; it’s current directors are Danielle Jablonski and Ashley Arnold.
The convention celebrates the queer female characters of stories, comics, books, and web series, and brings together fans, celebrities, writers, creators, visual artists, journalists and more, for a series of panels, workshops, charity events and parties, as well as a three-day film festival, all of which will cover a wide range of timely and trending topics from women’s voices.
The event sees women from over 40 countries around the world count together to celebrate the best of LGBTQ+ television and film. Over 4,000 women are expected to attend.
Attendees will have a chance to attend a series of panels on a variety of topics, workshops, charity events, parties, a red-carpet soiree, as well as a three-day film festival.
This ClexaCon aims to focus more on education and collaborations with academia, as well as a continuing push for better representation in the media for LGBTQ women.
Jablonski and Arnold spoke with Echo Magazine about what to expect from this year’s event; her take on LGBTQ women’s representation in the media, a few shows she loves and more.
Echo: How do you believe the representation of LGBTQ women has changed in the last few years, on television and in film? Have things been getting better?
Jablonski: We’ve seen an increase in the number and quality of LGBTQ characters in film and television over the past several years, although there’s still plenty of room for more and better representation. LGBTQ characters are still, too often, the side characters without fully-developed story arcs or strong motivations, besides being LGBTQ.
Echo: What do you think can be done to help move us in the direction of having better representation?
Jablonski: We’re hopeful that representation will continue to improve and believe that as more LGBTQ women get involved in producing content, get hired for more writers’ rooms and move into higher positions inside entertainment companies, that we’ll see more authentic characters and stories being told.
Echo: What is hold you say are some of the best shows for LGBTQ women right now? Is there a show or film that comes close to great representation for our community?
Jablonski: We love watching One Day At A Time. We encourage everyone to give it a watch. Other shows we’re loving include Black Lightning, Legends of Tomorrow and a host of others.
Echo: Why do you believe that the representation of LGBTQ women in the media is so important to the community, specifically for the younger generation?
Jablonski: Representation for LGBTQ women is important because it directly affects how society views us and how we see ourselves. Television and film play a big role in all of our lives, and LGBTQ women are no different. Seeing stories that reflect our lived experiences and show that LGBTQ women can be powerful and successful and show a full range of skills and emotions, is important to all of us.
Echo: There will be over 100 workshops and Q&A panel sessions at ClexaCon this year. How were the topics chosen?
Jablonski: Most panels are submitted to us by our wonderful ClexaCon Community. We had so many great submissions this year; we even had to add an extra panel room! There truly is something for everyone, from how to build inclusive communities, how to write, market and sell queer women’s fiction, how to pitch your film or web series and even a self-defense workshop.
Echo: This year, Clexacon announced it would be focusing more on education and academics. What does this mean for the event? Can you also tell me a little about the collaboration with the Academic Lab?
Jablonski: We’ve partnered with [the University of Nevada Las Vegas] to bring together queer academic fans of queer content and scholars/educators of queer fandom for our first ever Academic Lab. The lab will have teaching and research seasons for anyone in, or interested in, academia to discuss integrating queer fandom and research into classrooms.
Echo: How were films chosen for the film festival? Is there a theme?
Jablonski: We do an open call for submissions as well as curating films we’ve seen and loved. We want to bring the best in new LGBTQ women’s films to our audience at ClexaCon. Our festival is one of the few where every film is about queer women; trans, or non-binary people [too]! This year we have a few special events like the web-series premiere block where we’ll be showing the premiere screenings of several web series projects, one of which won our pitch to production competition at our first ever ClexaCon.
Echo: Can you tell me about the exciting partnership with Outfest? How did this come about, what does it mean for the film festival? How is the winner chosen?
Jablonski: We’re excited about our new partnership with Outfest. We’ve had the pleasure of working with their team over the last year, and we’re very excited that the winner of Best Short Film at the ClexaCon 2019 Film Festival will receive automatic inclusion in the Outfest LA Film Festival. We’re always excited to help filmmakers receive more exposure for their work and being shown at OutFest is a wonderful opportunity for any filmmaker.
Echo: What can you tell me about your charity event, Cocktails for Change?
Jablonski: Each year we [choose] a different beneficiary for the Cocktails for Change event. This year we’re really excited to be supporting the Visibility Fund whose goals and mission align so closely with that of ClexaCon. The Visibility Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ content creators. The Fund provides grants to LGBTQ women, trans and non-binary content creators at various stages of production.
Echo: What are your goals for ClexaCon? What do you envision for it in the next few years?
Jablonski: We want to push the conversation about representation in media forward and encourage more members of the LGBTQ community to become content creators and decision makers in the industry. We hope everyone leaves having experienced a supportive and fun weekend. We want attendees to know that there is a space at ClexaCon for them to come and be themselves. We want members of our community to know that there is support out there for them to create the content they want to see and an audience who wants to see and support that content. We want people to be inspired.
Echo: How has it evolved from what you originally wanted the event to be when you first came up with the idea?
Jablonski: ClexaCon grew in ways we never imagined. We had an incredible turnout in year one, and it has only grown since. We love what ClexaCon has evolved into, and we hope to provide a place for people to gather for many more years to come!
Echo: What sort of feedback did you get from attendees last year’s ClexaCon?
Jablonski: We’ve been lucky to always receive an overwhelming amount of support after each ClexaCon. It makes all the work worthwhile to hear what it means to people to have been given an opportunity to spend a weekend surrounded by LGBTQ women, trans and non-binary people from around the work who share their interests in media and fandom.