Interview with Publisher Maria Rivers
by Joe Siegel
Year founded: 2014
Staff size and breakdown: 4 main staffers plus local guest writers
Web site: www.BEAU-Magazine.com
PPQ: What feature or features of Beau have been the most popular with readers?
Publisher Maria Rivers: Our articles we do inside the art of drag have seen some pretty high feedback. I do recall the issue that Harlan Greene – head of the College of Charleston Library and our local “Godfather of LGBT History” – was on the cover, we couldn’t keep the magazines stocked. They flew off the stands.
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?
Rivers: Oddly enough, the name was blurted out when a couple of my local friends and I were having a beer. Peter was from England originally, and his wife Ashley and him had recently returned from a visit there. Ashley and I were trying to hash out some options and Peter, out of the blue, was like “BEAU!” When I asked why Beau, he simply answered, “Because it’s friendly and sexy.” I loved it. After further research into the name, we found “Beau” to be multicultural in relating to someone fondly. It’s also the root word of BEAUtiful. We found it apropos to our mission and Beau was born.
PPQ: What challenge has Beau had to overcome since its inception?
Rivers: Like many businesses that start in a small town, gaining the loyalty of your core market may be challenging when you are an outsider. Even though I had been in Charleston since 2010, and Jen and Jamie (Social Media Director and Sales Director) had lived here their whole lives, we found some sincere head-butts from a few people that considered themselves “leaders” in this community. Persistence, sustaining a positive attitude, and the enormous increase of population here since 2014 has helped us reach the populous as intended.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is Beau facing now?
Rivers: Printed magazines are becoming obsolete. Local magazines are failing left and right. We don’t mind the change. We actually believe digital is better for the environment. We have amped our digital up to create up-to-date info everyday on BEAU-Magazine.com, including daily (and sometime hourly) updated RSS feeds from local to international LGBT news, fresh and original content filled with inspiring stories of our local heroes and underdogs (not to mention educational bits and humorous fun), and our widely focused LGBTQA business directory that we appropriately named the BizBEAU Guide (also with a direct link, BizBEAU.Guide). We are still publishing hard copies of Beau Magazine.
PPQ: How has the publication changed since it was first launched?
Rivers: We have and will always be a free publication written for our community, by our community. But I can say the biggest change has been the increase of population of LGBTQA people here. Our little community has proliferated to a mass population and still continues to grow by leaps and bounds. It’s really fun. We LOVE that.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Rivers: We have currently found the area of our transgender population to require more education to the public about their lifestyle, pronouns, diversity, etc. Beau will be teaming up with We Are Family, our non-profit support group for LGBTQIA youth (www.wearefamilycharleston.org). From there we will become a platform for voicing concerns, publishing information, activating support teams, and writing many stories and with many voices that thrive through the “T” luminosity of the rainbow.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories Beau has covered?
Rivers: We LOVE our regional Prides. Jonatan Guerrero-Ramirez, Beau’s Editor and Social Media Director, had the best idea last year to travel around to the regional Prides and get videos and interviews of people in the celebrations. He asked the question, “What does Pride mean to you?” The responses were off the charts.
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 (exclusively straight to totally gay), how gay is your publication?
Rivers: We had sent surveys out in the beginning and found that more than one third of our readership identified as allied straight. But the population has not only quadrupled in size since then, the areas of identifying have blurred in a way where it’s hard to lock down any type confirmed number. Transgender people may identify as straight now, those who have been and identified as bisexual may identify as lesbian or even straight – and vise-versa. Many people that identify as gay, lesbian and straight now identify as transgender.
PPQ: Do you see yourselves as “activist journalists”? If so, in what way?
Rivers: We activate the people to tell their story while providing them encouragement, resources, and visibility. So yes, I would say we are activist journalists for the pioneers of LGBTQIIA movement in the 21st century.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Rivers: For me personally, it was actually an advertiser that surprised me the most. Her and her husband owned a real estate group. Their daughter had recently come out to them and didn’t feel like they handled it right. They wanted to go a step further to support her in her coming out. So they decided to put their business, which attracted primarily straight, uppity, non-LGBT supportive clientele (her words, not mine), inside Beau Magazine loud and proud.