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Special Guests


Chad Griffin - HRC President

Chad Griffin is the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization.
After getting his start on the Clinton White House communications team at age 19 and graduating from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Griffin spent the early part of his career in California, working at the intersection of Hollywood and politics to take on entrenched interests and shape key national debates. Griffin led successful statewide campaigns that secured billions for stem cell research and hundreds of million annually for early childhood education. But as the battle over Proposition 8 raged in 2008, Griffin found the cause of a lifetime in the fight for LGBTQ equality.
After Prop 8 passed, Griffin wasn’t content waiting around for the political winds to change. He helped found the American Foundation for Equal Rights, recruited the bipartisan legal dream team of Ted Olson and David Boies, and challenged the discriminatory law in federal court—racking up momentous legal victories for the equality movement. 
Since helping to launch the Prop 8 case, Griffin has been named one of The Advocate’s people of the year, and has regularly featured on Out magazine’s Out 100 and Power 50 lists of influential LGBTQ Americans. Recently, the Washington Post named Griffin one of the most influential out Washingtonians. 
Since joining HRC as president in 2012, Griffin has steered the organization into an exciting new era in the fight for equality. From spearheading record-breaking investment in the 2012 elections that enabled unprecedented victories from coast to coast, to historic advocacy around the Supreme Court’s rulings striking down Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act in June of 2013, Griffin has brought renewed passion and energy to a fight that is inspiring Americans—LGBTQ and straight—all around the country. 
He is deeply passionate about extending HRC’s work to millions more than ever before, especially to young people in states like Arkansas, where Griffin was born and raised.

John Zimmer – Co-Founder and President

John Zimmer is the co-founder and President of Lyft. His interest in transportation began in college where he learned that cars remain parked 96% of the time and when used, only 20% of seats are occupied. After graduating first in his class from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, John spent two years at Lehman Brothers. In 2008, he left Lehman to rideshare his way from New York to San Francisco and join co-founder Logan Green in launching Zimride, and eventually Lyft.   With Lyft, John’s goal is to improve people’s lives by creating transportation and cities that are more affordable, sustainable, and community oriented. The company was launched in 2012 and today employs nearly 2,000 people, including a world-class executive team from companies suchas Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Walmart. Lyft is currently available to 94% of the US population and provides over one million rides a day.Lyft will receive the HRC Corporate Equality Award for their exceptional commitment to equality for the LGBTQ community. Lyft has been a trailblazing corporate ally to the LGBTQ community, both with its inclusive internal policies for employees and its outspoken executives who have made clear that the company strongly supports pro-equality legislation and policies across the country. Lyft President John Zimmer will accept the HRC Corporate Equality Award on behalf of Lyft at the event on October 14th.  


Entertainment Guests:                                                    

Syesha Mercado

To witness Syesha Mercado's rendition of Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber's "One Rock and Roll Too Many" from Starlight Express on American Idol was such a defining moment. That performance brought the audience to its feet and elicited rapturous praise from judges Randy Jackson ("you will be a huge Broadway star"), Paula Abdul ("you brought the house down!") and even generally sour Simon Cowell ("as sexy as Michelle Pfieffer - one of your strongest performances!")

"When I was young, I was exposed to many kinds of music in my home," Syesha explained. "I loved everything from gospel legend Yolanda Adams to Lauryn Hill. My sister had For my sixteenth birthday, my mom bought me my first Alicia Keys CD, which was a major influence."

Encouraging their talented daughter, her parents enrolled Syesha at the Manatee School for the Arts, a charter middle school. "I was exposed to so much there -- visual art, acting, dance, and, of course, singing." She began pursuing on-camera acting, resulting in booking national spots for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Ford Motors, Winn Dixie and many others. She also added modeling to her resume during this period, something she still enjoys, having appeared over the last few years in the pages of many periodicals, from ELLE to Okay!

In 2008, Syesha audition for the 7th season of American Idol, Fox's phenomenally popular show and one of the top-rated programs in the country. That season saw a record turn out of over 100,000 hopefuls, but Mercado breezed through the audition process, nailing Aretha Franklin's "Think" with the confidence and poise of a skilled veteran. Syesha's American Idol experience in Hollywood found her rubbing elbows with legends like Dolly Parton, Donna Summer, Seal, and Mariah Carey, and winning the hearts of millions of fans who responded to her warmth, beauty and stylistic range. Ultimately, Syesha ended the season as second runner-up (and the last female standing), creating many memorable moments, like her stirring rendition of the classic "A Change Is Gonna Come."

Syesha's success on American Idol resulted in a windfall of accolades and professional opportunities.  In addition to being awarded the keys to the city of former hometowns Bradenton, Florida and Bridgeport, Connecticut, she participated in the American Idol LIVE Tour 2008, performing 53 concerts in 49 cities both in the United States and Canada and garnering a slew of positive reviews that singled her out. Mercado earned the night's first (and only real) standing ovation for her rendition of the "Dreamgirls" tune 'Listen.' Nature gave Mercado her undeniable beauty, but poise, vocal showmanship, style, and persona, established Mercado as the tour's leader by far."

As fate would have it, her rendition of the song landed her a lead role in the national touring production of "Dreamgirls." Mercado has been touring the US and Japan in the role of Deena Jones since the newly conceived production of the stage musical opened at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in November 2009.

In 2013 Syesha was cast to star in the role of "Nabulungi" in the smash hit musical "Book of Mormon." Whether it is modeling, acting, recording, live performances, or charitable work, Syesha Mercado approaches each new endeavor with grace, humility, enormous talent, and a work ethic that is rare for a young performer.  There is no doubt that for Syesha Mercado, the future is paved with gold.

 Syesha lives in New York.

Dana Goldberg
Raised by a wild pack of Jews, otherwise known as her mother and two siblings, veteran comedian Dana Goldberg is a force of nature on stage. Her quick wit and playful stage presence has her earning loyal fans all of the country and abroad. A crowd favorite, Goldberg has become a triple threat combining her comedy, hosting, and live auction skills to become one of the most sought after entertainers on the circuit. Curve magazine raves, “Goldberg is one of the brightest lights in a stellar comedy landscape” and named Goldberg one of the top three LGBT comedians in the nation. 
Over the last five years, Goldberg has performed at and emceed dozens of high profile events and has shared the national stage with luminaries such as President Barack Obama, Vise President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Hudson, and Sir Elton John. Combining her gift of humor with humanitarian efforts, Goldberg has helped to raise over three million dollars in the fight for LGBT equality, HIV and AIDS research and education, and women’s health.  

DJ Carole C

Though born and raised in LA, DJ CarolC has spent the better part of her life in the Bay Area. Over the past five years, her deep passion and endless thirst for music took her to a weekly residency at Monroe and she has since enjoyed playing numerous venues, parties and events in San Francisco. Consequently DJ CarolC’ s taste and skills keep developing; her sets are an eclectic fusion of house and refined beats always portraying the newest trends on the scene.

Jess Godwin
From pop to classical to soul, Jess Godwin has been fortunate enough to have made a living as a performer for the past ten years. A songwriter/pianist, she has released five EPs of original material. This fall, Maddie Ziegler (of Sia's Chandelier) and Kendall Vertes both danced to her original, "Fool Me Once", in two different episodes of LIfetime's Dance Moms. Her voice can currently be heard on the Wisconsin-based Patrick Cudahy radio jingle and the Lia Sophia theme song, and her single, Katy's Side, was featured on "Keeping up with the Kardashians" in 2013. She has performed the National Anthem at the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Bandits, and the Chicago Fire. 

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