lgbt_bannerLGBT History Month Profiles: Tim Cook and Tracy Chapman

As you already know, October is LGBT History Month. Each week throughout the month, we will be profiling two of the people named to Equality Forum’s LGBT History Month icon lists, to showcase the great things LGBT people have done, and are doing.

Tim Cook

(born November 1, 1960)

timcTim Cook was born and raised in the town of Robertsdale, Alabama, in the southwest part of the state. His father was a shipyard worker at the Port of Mobile. Cook was a graduate of Robertsdale High School, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and his MBA from Duke University.

Before joining Apple, Cook worked at Intelligent Electronics, for 12 years at IBM heading the department of “North American Fulfillment,” and later at Compaq. By the time Cook was employed with Compaq, his performance caught the eye of Steve Jobs over at Apple. In 1998, Cook defected from Compaq and started work with Apple, holding the initial job title of Senior Vice President for Worldwide Operations.

Cook impressed Steve Jobs right away and he was quickly groomed as his heir apparent. When Jobs was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor in 2003, which necessitated surgery the next year, Jobs named Cook the acting CEO. Cook served as CEO for two months while Jobs underwent surgery and recovered from it. Cook moved up the ladder to take the job of Chief Operating Officer in 2007, and he temporarily took over operations of Apple yet again when Steve Jobs needed a liver transplant in 2009.

At the beginning of 2011, Jobs took a third leave of absence, naming Cook acting CEO another time. When Jobs realized his health was not going to improve, he resigned and became Chairman of the Board, paving the way for Cook to become the new permanent CEO in August 2011. In March 2012, Cook held his first public product unveiling (a trademark of his predecessor), in which he introduced the updated Apple TV and the new iPad with retina display. Since then, Cook has overseen the development and release of products such as the iPhone 5 and its variants, iOS 6 and iOS 7, and the iPad Mini.

Cook has been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine, and has led Out Magazine’s Power 50 list for three years running. Infamously reclusive, he appeared very uncomfortable in his first 60 Minutes profile as CEO, which aired in 2012. While it has become an “open secret” that Cook is gay, so much so that he was named to Equality Forum’s LGBT Icons list and the aforementioned Out Magazine lists, he has never discussed his personal life in the media.

Tracy Chapman

(born March 30, 1964)

tracyTracy Chapman was born in Cleveland, Ohio and was raised by a single mother. Despite money being tight, her mother bought her a ukulele at the age of three, as she recognized Tracy’s love for music. By the time she was eight, she taught herself how to play guitar after being enthralled with a performance she saw on the television series Hee Haw.

Chapman is a graduate of the Wooster School and Tufts University, earning bachelor’s degrees from the latter in anthropology and African studies. She started playing guitar and singing for tips while at Tufts University, setting up on the street and booking performances at coffeehouses all over Cambridge, Massachusetts. A classmate discovered her by sending her demo to a relative who worked in the music industry. In 1987, she signed a contract with Elektra Records, and her first album, the eponymous Tracy Chapman, was released the next year. The single “Fast Car” was her first hit, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1988. Chapman won three Grammy Awards for her album, including the influential award for Best New Artist.

Her next two albums, Crossroads (1989) and Matters of the Heart (1992) were successful, going platinum and gold on the Billboard 200, respectively. It was her fourth album, New Beginning (1995), however, that was her biggest success. The album sold over three million copies in one year and spawned the #3 hit “Give Me One Reason,” which netted Chapman another Grammy Award as the song won the title of Best Rock Song of 1997. She has released four albums since 2000, the most recent being Our Bright Future (2008).

Chapman is well-known and celebrated for her work for various social advocacy groups such as Make Poverty History, Amnesty International, AIDSLifeCycle, the National Organization for Women, and amfAR. She has also worked very closely with Cleveland Public Schools, making sure black history is placed as a priority in their educational curriculum. In 1988, she was invited to perform on the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the same year, she performed at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, with proceeds going to the anti-apartheid fight in South Africa (at this time, Mandela was still imprisoned on Robben Island).

Chapman has stressed many times throughout her career that she does not believe in labels, and as such has never publicly called herself a lesbian, but she has been romantically linked with women, for example the writer and poet Alice Walker.