Best of Atlanta: People


Local Male Musician: Katz of Athens Boys Choir

Katz of Athens Boys Choir ( is just your “average transsexual man living in the Deep South” who gives it to you straight. Or gay. Or queer. Through homo-hop, spoken word and performance art, he spreads his message, oftentimes with humor, of gender, politics, love, sex and everything in between. He performs every year at Atlanta’s own Mondo Homo queer fest and has shared the stage with artists such as Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, Michelle Malone and Bitch.

Barry Brandon ( came in second and Guyton Maurice ( placed third.

Local Female Musician: Dana Clark

Dana Clark (, a guitarist for First Metropolitan Community Church of Atlanta, beat out the rest for Best Local Female Musician. One half of the band Satin Britches, Clark can play nearly any stringed instrument and sings in a low alto voice. She can teach you to do the same, too.

The Lindsay Rakers Band ( placed second and Eryn Woods ( placed third.

Topher Payne wins best writer and best actor awards
Best Local Writer & Best Local Actor: Topher Payne (Photo by Bo Shell)

Local Writer: Topher Payne

He’s got a book, “Necessary Luxuries,” detailing some of the more lurid, and quite interesting, experiences of his past, but Topher Payne ( has made his mark as a playwright with 17 plays so far written, including “Don’t Look At the Fat Lady,” a nominee for the 2009 Metropolitan Atlanta Theater Awards Best Original Work and Best Play. Through his insightful wit, Payne is able to make you laugh — and learn — through the written word.

Ryan Lee placed second and Nico Ramos placed third.

Best of Atlanta categories:

Local Artist: Jon Arge

Atlanta has a thriving arts scene but one man stands above the rest — Jon Arge (, better known as ARGE. His meticulously designed, layered pieces of paper depicting everything from fancy cars to women with sly stares are explosions of color that can only make you smile. See his work as part of the “Monsters” exhibit at Kai Lin Gallery beginning July 16.

Katie Stover ( placed second and Robert Sherer ( placed third. An honorable mention goes to Alli Royce Soble (

Local Actor/Actress: Topher Payne

Topher Payne ( not only likes to write plays, but he loves to act in them as well, starring most recently in “Loot” at OnStage Atlanta. Other starring performances in an illustrious career include roles in such favorites as “Designing Women Live” (coming back July 15-17 at OnStage Atlanta), “Golden Girls Tribute” and “Southern Baptist Sissies.”

Joey Ellington placed second and coming in third was Bryan Lee.

Local Drag Queen: Sonique

Sonique (, who made her mark on Rupaul’s Drag Race last season, continues to travel the circuit and entertain the masses with her stylish beauty, creativity and some good ol’ fashioned acrobatics thrown in for good measure.

She takes the spot as top Atlanta drag queen this year while her fellow Drag Race contestant, Nicole Paige Brooks, ( finished second. Dax! placed third.

Local Drag King: Justin Atlanta

With his smoldering good looks, muscles that don’t quit and piercing blue eyes, Justin Atlanta ( makes the women, and men, swoon when he takes the stage at events throughout the Southeast. He also happens to be Mr. National MI (Male Impersonator) 2010.

Owen McCord ( placed second and Diego Wolf ( of Athens, Ga., placed third.

Local Businessperson: Philip Rafshoon

“The Mayor of Midtown,” as he is affectionately known, is Philip Rafshoon (, who founded Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse in 1993 in Midtown Promenade before relocating into an old disco at the corner of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street in 1996. His store brings in numerous top-notch LGBT authors, plus hot celebrities, including Chelsea Handler and Pam Grier. And while he’s book selling, Rafshoon continues to support numerous other businesses and nonprofits.

Bill Kaelin ( placed second and Ria Pell (, placed third.

Mary Norwood wins two Best of Atlanta awards
Best Georgia Politician & Best Local Straight Ally: Mary Norwood (Photo courtesy Project Q Atlanta)

Georgia Politician: Mary Norwood

Well, the gays love Mary Norwood (, who beat out U.S. Rep. John Lewis by seven votes to take this top honor this year. A former Atlanta City Council member, Norwood received much support from gay residents for her outspoken stance in favor of gay marriage in her losing campaign for Atlanta mayor last year. Her current bid for Fulton County Commission chair is now in doubt after she missed the qualifying deadline to run as an Independent and must now await a judgment by Fulton election officials to see if she will be able to be on the ballot.

State Rep. Simone Bell ( placed third.

Local DJ: DJ Vicki Powell

DJ Vicki Powell is the hardest working DJ in Atlanta, playing her own special Flux Deluxe parties every month while also regularly playing numerous venues across the city almost weekly as well as many charity events. Her sets are often called “epic” and nobody stands still when she’s behind the tables.

DJ Jay McCracken ( placed second and DJ Doug Gazlay ( placed third. DJ Adam Saunders ( received an honorable mention.

Local Bartender: Zac at Mary’s

Zac at Mary’s ( was voted top bartender by Georgia Voice readers, beating out Chance at Burkhart’s ( by a slim six votes. Whether you want a PBR, a rum and coke or a copy of Butt magazine, Zac is there to serve with his signature alternative style.

Tim at Sauced ( placed third.

Local Straight Ally: Mary Norwood

Mary Norwood (, who believes in gay marriage, continues her streak as a favorite among Georgia Voice readers, winning this category — and without having to get some 23,000 signatures to be on the ballot.

Laura Gentle ( placed second and Juliana Illari ( placed third.

Up-and-coming Activist: Laura Gentle

Laura Gentle (, a straight ally who became deeply involved in the Atlanta Eagle raid protests and started her own Shirt Off My Back photography campaign to battle homelessness especially among LGBT youth, was voted this top honor this year.

Steven Igarashi ( placed second and Ravi Batra ( placed third.

State Rep. Simone Bell
Best LGBT Rights Activist (Female): State Rep. Simone Bell

LGBT Rights Activist (Female): State Rep. Simone Bell

State Rep. Simone Bell brings power to the people under the Gold Dome, speaking out for everyone and especially ensuring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues aren’t swept under the rug or anti-LGBT policies aren’t ushered through without a vocal opponent. She’s devoted her entire career to helping others, whether working as a health care advocate or for the national LGBT legal organization Lambda Legal. As the founder of the all-female motorcycle club Sweet Vibrations, she makes our readers’ hearts go vroom-vroom.

Kiki Carr ( placed second and Laura Gentle placed third.

LGBT Rights Activist (Male): Justin Ziegler

Known by most as just “JZ,” Justin Ziegler ( was voted Best LGBT Rights Activist (Male) by Georgia Voice readers for his work on such issues as working to find a way to bring a first-class LGBT community center to Atlanta as well as hosting fundraisers for AID Atlanta and other HIV/AIDS organizations. He’s also the executive director of the Atlanta Executive Network and regularly volunteers his time with LGBT groups.

Kyle Keyser ( placed second and Max Corwell ( placed third.

Transgender Rights Activist: Tristan Skye

As president and co-founder of TransQueer Nation (, a social networking site for the transgender and gender queer community, Tristan Skye knows the sky is not the limit. He recently chronicled his top surgery in a frank and honest manner on his Facebook page, complete with pictures and video, giving insight to many friends and fans of a very personal journey.

Sir Jesse of Decatur ( placed second and Tracee McDaniel ( placed third.

Biggest Local Foe to LGBT Rights: Gov. Sonny Perdue

When he was elected governor in 2003, LGBT people had no idea one of the top items on Gov. Sonny Perdue’s ( agenda was to support a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Georgia. Our community is still hurting from that major defeat in 2004 that banned gay marriage — again — in the Peach State. Since then he’s spoken out against gay people adopting and regularly panders to the Religious Right, who are always wrong on issues facing our community. His term expires this year; unfortunately, an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality is not among the candidates to replace him.

The Atlanta Police Department’s Red Dog Unit ( placed second and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed ( placed third. East Point Mayor Earnestine Pittman ( got a, well, dishonorable mention.