Jonathan D. Lovitz has an impressive résumé. He is a senior vice president at NGLCC, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and a regular commentator on MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, The Advocate, Out Magazine. He has spoken at or fundraised for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Trevor Project, GLSEN and the Democratic Party. He is also a respected openly gay actor and news anchor for Logo TV and other networks.
But the best part about him is that he’s a nice guy — a true gentleman who loves to share his community and help others.
PGN: Tell me a little about yourself.
JL: I was born in South Jersey and I grew up in Florida, but we had a summer house at the Jersey shore, so coming to Philly was a part of my childhood. I have fond memories of spending several birthdays at the Franklin Institute walking through the giant heart, or visiting the Camden Aquarium or the Liberty Bell. It’s neat being back here as an adult, when I can check everything out with a new appreciation.
PGN: Have you gone back to the heart yet?
JL: I have not. I’m hoping my wonderful scientific better half takes me soon. He can explain all the weather exhibits to me!
PGN: What did you want to be when you grew up?
JL: Oh man, does wanting to be an X-Man or Ninja Turtle count? There were a lot of perks growing up in Florida like being able to go to Disney World, so I wanted to be an imagineer for a while, then I went to space camp and I wanted to be an astronaut, until I discovered performing. I fell in love with acting and studied theater in college. I was also involved in student government and debate, anything where I could be loud and in front of people and hopefully make them feel something on the other end of it. I always liked being very public and engaged with people.
PGN: You have such an amazing resonant voice. What was the first acting role you remember?
JL: There were a few elementary roles but the first meaty one was playing Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors.” That was the moment when I realized, This is awesome! I was fortunate enough to go to a theater-camp conservatory where I met some incredible people, who are now huge Broadway and TV stars. We all got to be weird kids together and I’m so grateful for that experience. I was around a lot of openly LGBT teenagers at a very young age and it set me on a good path. Growing up in Broward County, Fla., was really special. I was surrounded by a very loving, diverse community. It was the first county in the country to protect LGBT students. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but looking back, I knew I felt very safe and supported in high school. Taking a boy to prom was hardly novel by the time I got there. I think it set me up to make working with LGBT youth such an important part of my life, because my coming-out process was relatively easy. My family was great. My friends were great and I had the theater to fall back on.
PGN: That makes such a difference in your confidence and how you move through the world as a gay person.
JL: Yes, and then I went to a really great, liberal university, which also was a safe space for me.
PGN: So what happened to Florida? It doesn’t seem to be the mecca of liberal politics right now.
JL: Right? Well, I think Florida, like a lot of places that my work has allowed me to go to, has a lot of blue dots and red squares. Thankfully, the blue dots seem to be blooming as more communities are finding the need to stand together. I still have a lot of faith in my home state. And every time I go home, I see something that impresses me: an out legislator or a new LGBT-friendly initiative by a corporation, things that wouldn’t have happened a decade ago. And most recently, the amazing kids who are rising from the pain of what happened at Parkland and leading the fight for all.
PGN: True, a long ways from the time of Anita Bryant.
JL: Yes, that was a crazy time. I hated to see a good pie go to waste.
PGN: I hear you. So what got you out of Florida?
JL: I was at the University of Florida (go Gators!), where I studied musical theater, and along the way. I tripped and fell into political activism. The John Kerry campaign was happening, during the early Bush years when we started to see some steps backwards for LGBT issues that were pretty nasty and eye-opening. I was meeting groups full of young people, who were looking forward to becoming professionals in their fields but wanted to stay connected to some kind of activism. It planted a seed in me that began to grow. Immediately after graduating, I got hired to go on a national tour with a Broadway show. I toured with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” I was in that lucky 1 percent that actually got paid to work right out of school. And immediately after that, I toured with “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which played at the Academy of Music right here in Philadelphia. I remember coming through and having family here. But through it all, I always kept politically active and aware. I supported the Democratic Party and supported local races. One of my best friends from Florida became Florida’s first out state legislator, so I was always tied to young people doing great things.
PGN: Wow, that’s pretty cool. What came next?
JL: After touring for a few years, I moved to New York and did theater there pretty consistently and then took a leap of faith and tried television. I got lucky again with some background roles, which became speaking roles, which eventually led me to being asked to become an interviewer and a journalist. I fell in love with being able to use my own voice to connect with people, particularly on LGBT issues. I was a news anchor for Logo TV and other outlets.
PGN: One of the things I read was that part of the reason you wanted to do LGBT-activist work was because of the LGBT folks you met while touring who were not always having it so easy.
JL: Oh yeah, there’s such an amazing patchwork of inspiring LGBT stories out there that, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, we’re hearing more of them these days and we’re able to connect with our brothers and sisters in a way that we weren’t able to before. I remember going to a bar in Birmingham, Ala., where they had private security out in front and you had to buy a $1 private membership because that’s the only way they were able to keep it safe and secret; [and] meeting people outside Cheyenne, Wyo, who told me they had to drive five hours to get to the nearest gay bar where they could be themselves. It’s amazing to meet these people and then go to the San Franciscos, New Yorks and Atlantas of the world and see how incredible it is to have free choice and opportunity everywhere. I was blessed to meet some incredible people on that journey. I still keep in touch with some of them. And now, especially since I get to travel so much with my current job, I meet up with some of the people I met touring and get to hear how things have changed, in most cases thankfully for the better.
PGN: Tell me about that current job.
JL: After working in television for so long and being out very publicly in my career as both an actor and an anchor and an advocate, I got connected to groups like the Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign and the NGLCC. I was thrilled when I learned how powerful business can be in affecting social change. It’s their mission and we’ve seen it in the last few years, from small businesses changing local communities to big corporations affecting public policy in states like North Carolina and Indiana. I was really taken aback by the power of what LGBT people were doing by asserting our economic strength and the number of businesses that were willing to stand with us. It’s inspiring and it’s clearly where the trends are going. NGLCC on our own and through affiliates is operating in over 15 countries around the world!
PGN: Holy cow!
JL: Yes, there’s a global movement to connect human rights, commerce, economic opportunity and bridge communities, especially in the last few months where we’ve seen a powerful connection. Where we’ve seen not just LGBT groups but women, people of color, immigrants, veterans, students all saying we’re in this together more than we’ve ever been, and it’s elevated LGBT voices in a way that’s remarkable and I’m so lucky to be a part of it. I’ve been entrusted to be the public voice and face for a lot of this work and it means everything to me.
PGN: Can you give me a brief description of what NGLCC means and what it does?
JL: Of course. NGLCC is the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the business voice of the community. We represent America’s 1.4-million LGBT business owners. We are the sole organization in the world that can certify a company as being LGBT-owned, which is something that can open up doors to all kinds of contracting opportunities. We also weigh in as a policy advocate, effecting change at the federal, state and local levels to make sure that every LGBT person has the same rights to get ahead as everyone else.
PGN: Do you work with issues like the cake-shop guy who refuses to make wedding cakes for LGBT people?
JL: Oh yes, we actively work from the top down pushing back against so-called religious-freedom bills. They’re not only morally wrong, they’re totally destructive for businesses. Just look at North Carolina and the bathroom bill. They lost tens of billions of dollars from corporations who pulled their companies out, small businesses who said, “We won’t work here,” LGBT talent who said, “We’re not going to go to the universities here or move here, and events that were cancelled. We actively voice the dollars-and-cents power and consequences in terms of LGBT rights. It’s important for the community to remember what our dollars can do to effect change.” The LGBT consumer spends over $917 billion each year! That’s a lot of clout. Groups like NGLCC and locally the IBA (Independent Business Association) help to harness that power. We put $1.7 trillion into the economy. If all the LGBT businesses created our own country, we’d be the 10th wealthiest in the world. And also the weather would be perfect and all drinks would be calorie-free!
PGN: But of course!
JL: It’s really spectacular to think of what we can do when we assert our might in the market.
PGN: I used to have a little pink stamp that said, “This is a Gay Dollar” to mark my bills.
JL: Yes! One thing that the IBA is doing and that I’m proud to be a part of as a national representative for NGLCC is their work with intersectionality. IBA is leading the way to make sure that Latin, Asian and African-American and disability voices in the LGBT community are empowered and are able to connect within their own community. It’s really powerful and what’s making Philly a truly diverse and connected city. It should be replicated in other cities.
PGN: So what do you like to do when you’re not trying to save the world?
JL: [Laughing] I don’t know about that, but thank you. I’m a political junkie so I have my daily dose of scouring political blogs and getting into comment-board fights. I try to stay active and healthy so staying fit is important. After living in New York for 10 years, we have a car for the first time so we love to head out and explore nature and there’s so much to do right nearby. I’m a big nerd, so exploring a museum or reading a new book are thrills for me. But I’m happily married to a fellow nerd so we can geek out together!
PGN: And your hubby is?
JL: Steve Sosna, the incredible meteorologist on NBC10! We were married in October by Jim Obergefell, plaintiff in the Supreme Court marriage-equality case!
PGN: Cool. Tell me about the folks?
JL: They’re incredible. They’ve been married for over 44 years so I hope I’ve learned a thing or two from them as I enter the fifth month of my marriage. They’re currently professional grandparents, spoiling my nieces and nephews in Florida. My dad was a small-business owner and ran a family business for decades, my mom was a teacher and a banker and inspired both of my sisters to become teachers. I have some pretty fantastic role models.
PGN: What kind of small business?
JL: He ran clothing lines on the boardwalk in Atlantic City for years, which is how the Jersey shore and Philly were part of the family.
PGN: You were with a company called StartOut, a nonprofit empowering LGBT entrepreneurs. What was the most rewarding part?
JL: Seeing the journey from that first idea on a cocktail napkin to getting funding to opening a first storefront or business. How great someone would feel hiring their first employee. Seeing people’s lives change and then them changing other people’s lives by giving them opportunities. It was a beautiful thing.
PGN: As a reporter, what was a favorite celebrity-red-carpet moment?
JL: One of my favorites was with Kathy Lee and Hoda. I think they were both about two chardonnays in at that point. They were starting to muss my hair and fix my tie. They were both pinching my cheeks and telling me how cute I was. It was hysterical. I could barely make it through a question. [Laughing] One of the most awkward interviews was trying to interview the baseball player Kris Humphries. He’s about double my height and they couldn’t get both of us in the frame, so a cameraman from another outlet took pity on me and kicked over his camera box so I could stand on it.
PGN: A fashion style you wish would make a comeback?
JL: Oh, I wish we all still dressed like Cole Porter and Noel Coward, the greats of the ’30s and ’40s. Men really knew how to dress back then. I miss that class and sophistication. I wish we had it today.