Veteran journalist Anne Stockwell has snagged some impressive high-profile celebrity interviews and coming-out exclusives with gay and lesbian personalities in her role as Executive Editor of gay news magazine The Advocate. This is just one of the reasons Stockwell, who brings a storyteller’s sensibility to her work as a reporter, was honored in 2004 by Power Up (a non-profit organization that promotes the visibility and integration of gay women in entertainment, the arts, and all forms of media) as one of the “10 Amazing Women in Showbiz.”
Hailing from Baton Rouge, LA, Stockwell moved to New York City after college in order to purse a career in music. “I was trained in school to be an advertising art director. And I was naïve enough to think that was going to be my fallback job.” Stockwell sang in clubs at night, and a friend helped her land her first copy editing job to pay the bills. “I had no idea what that was. She explained it as somebody who knows grammar and looks up how to spell things. So I said, “I think I could probably do that.”
Stockwell proof-read copy for the short-lived magazine Barbara Cartland’s World of Romance (“It lasted exactly 6 issues.”) It wasn’t exactly journalistic gold, but it provided a valuable entry point into the world of publishing.
From there, Stockwell worked for a number of high-profile national publications, including Esquire, New York Magazine, and Rolling Stone before landing at The Advocate in 1993 and meeting future mentor (and then Senior Arts Editor) Judy Wieder. “The job to be her associate editor opened up, and I very timidly asked her if she thought I might do. She hired me to do it and she said, ‘I’ll teach you everything I know.’ And unlike most people who say that, she really meant it. She was a great mentor to me and a great friend.”
Working for a gay magazine marked a significant shift for Stockwell, who had logged years at straight publications at which being gay wasn’t something that one openly discussed.
She remembers, “I spent a lot of time wondering ‘Do they know if I’m gay?’ At most of the work environments I was in–when I was coming up–it was something that you paid a social price for talking about. It was understood that you were and you would bring your girlfriend to the party. But if you said, ‘gay’–as in ‘my gay lover’ (laughs)–there would be a pause. It would be like you had burped in church. Having done it, you wouldn’t want to do it again.”
Working for a gay publication has afforded Stockwell the unique privilege of conducting coming out interviews with celebrities like actors Heather Matarazzo and Christopher Sieber. “A lot of times I’ve had the great honor of having this be not just a job. When somebody does a coming out interview with you, it’s very special. It’s a bond that you have for life. They really put a lot of trust in your hands to do that, and people who I’ve done those interviews with, we greet each other with a lot of affection.”
One such interview particularly stands out for Stockwell. “I think in terms of how hard it was, and how risky I thought it was, Sheryl Swoopes was the queen of them all.”
Stockwell sheepishly admits that she didn’t initially understand just how big a star Swoopes was in the world of professional sports. “I’m not someone who really follows sports. I’m not one of those lesbians that already knew everything about the WNBA.” But then, “about thirty seconds later and a couple of Google searches in, I was starting to get the picture.”
Stockwell recalls, “She was–and I know this will sound like a cliché–but she was every inch a champion. She was absolutely decisive, and I would ask her very difficult questions. She would consider the question briefly, then, bam, she would have an answer. She knew what she was gonna tell me, and she was not defensive. I would have hemmed and hawed, but she had made her decision, and she did it. And she was one of the classiest ladies I had met.”