Home Features Out Muslim Actor Haaz Sleiman Talks OUTshine’s Vanguard Award

Out Muslim Actor Haaz Sleiman Talks OUTshine’s Vanguard Award

Haaz Sleiman

Acclaimed actor Haaz Sleiman will be honored with a Vanguard Award at the 11th Annual Fort Lauderdale Edition of the OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival. This award, presented by the Festival to a member of the LGBTQ+ community, recognizes notable individuals in entertainment for their contributions in helping to tell LGBTQ+ stories, as well as exemplifying outstanding leadership and support of community equality, representation, and education. Previous Vanguard winners include Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Fred Rosser (aka WWE Superstar Darren Young). Sleiman will receive the award on Sunday, October 20, at 8 pm during the Closing Night Awards Party at Nu River Landing (511 SE 5th Avenue).

“As a recently ‘out,’ gay, Muslim actor in Hollywood, Haaz Sleiman has overcome tremendous obstacles to share his story of strength, truth and acceptance,” said Victor Gimenez, executive director of OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival. “We’re thrilled to honor and embrace his talent and support for the LGBTQ+ community with this Vanguard Award which we hope will inspire others to excel and achieve their dreams.” 

Therefore, I was very excited to sit down with Haaz for this exclusive Hotspots interview:

Where you always a ham, even as a child, or when did the acting bug bite you?

I always wanted to be a singer, so that was my focus. I thought I was going to be the next Madonna. 

When and what made you move to the United States?

I went to Michigan for University as I had family living there and there are a lot of Muslims there. When I graduated, I went to New York (like Madonna did) but music didn’t work out for me even though I wrote 30 songs. 

When did you know acting would be your career?

After singing didn’t work out a friend suggested I do acting. I had done an acting class in Lebanon, so I decided to get an agent and move to LA, and the rest is history. 

What has been your favorite role so far?

Honestly I have to say the anthology series for Apple TV called “Little America,” which is coming out soon. Its real stories about real immigrants. 

What is your fantasy role?

Oh my god there are so many. I want to play a super hero, but a good quality one…kind of like the new movie the Joker. Or maybe James Bond. 

At what age did you come out to yourself, and how hard was it to come out publicly?

I have always known something was different since about 6 or 7. At 10 I knew I was gay. I was really frustrated and just came out publicly, so it wasn’t that hard.  Then I got an HRC award, which was really nice. 

Since you are single, what is your ultimate date?

I would love a guy to cook for me, or take me to a really nice restaurant as I love good food. Also, I love nature, the ocean, and good wine. 

Describe yourself in three words?

Passionate, fiery, and compassionate. 

What do you do for fun?

I love going to movies and watching movies at home. And as I said earlier I love the ocean and nature. I am also a very sexual person. Artists are generally more sexual than the average person. In addition, I am a big into going to concerts…I love music, and can’t tell you how much money I have spent on concerts.

Are you excited to be this year’s Outshine Vanguard Award Recipient? 

I am honored to have been selected as this year’s OUTshine Vanguard Award recipient. Growing-up in the Middle East as a gay man was extremely isolating, but they couldn’t take away my empathy and compassion. I have an immense love for the unconditional acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Everything I do now, publicly, is to ensure that no one ever has to feel alone, and that everyone has a sense of belonging. 

What does the future hold for you? 

I am the director of my future and I want to constantly and consistently touch people with my acting. I am also contemplating writing and producing projects. 

For more information on Haz, go to: Instagram.com/HaazSleiman

Tickets for OUTshine’s Closing Night Awards Party, where sexy Haaz will be getting his award are $35 and can be purchased, online, at outshinefilm.com/events

Here is a listing of some of the films happening over the closing weekend of the film festival: 

Thursday, October 17

Defiant Souls (Insumisas) – Centerpiece Film & Southeast Premiere

7pm at Savor Cinema; Runtime: 94 mins; Language: Spanish w/ English Subtitles; Director: Fernando Pérez and Laura Cazador; Country: Cuba / Switzerland; Genre: Drama, Explicit, Historical Fiction, Lesbian, LGBTQ, Political, SuspenseDefiant Souls is based on the true story of a woman who, disguised as a man, became the first female surgeon in Latin America. In the early 19th century, Swiss doctor Enrique Faber (Sylvie Testud at her best) travels to Cuba to search for his son, who is said to have been killed in a slave uprising. The local population is jealous of Faber’s success as a surgeon and his marriage to Juana, an attractive outsider. Before long, rumors spread regarding his high-pitched voice and his gentle features, and a drama of epic proportions unfolds around one of the most scandalous cases in Cuban colonial history.

Friday October 18th


7pm at Savor Cinema; Runtime: 85 mins; Language: English; Director: Simon Amstell; Country: United Kingdom; Genre: Comedy, Drama, Gay, Romance

In Simon Amstell’s affecting, bittersweet comedy, a rising young filmmaker is thrown into emotional turmoil by a burgeoning romance and the upcoming premiere of his second feature. It’s perhaps no surprise that the imminent release of Benjamin’s sophomore feature plunges him into an existential crisis. In this heightened state of insecurity, even meeting his potential dream match, young French musician Noah, doesn’t soothe Benjamin’s fears and self-loathing. And that’s before he has to screen his film to the merciless film festival audiences. Benjamin is a low-key, intimate film, exposing the contradictions of a creative culture while perfectly balancing drama and comedy.

Label Me

9:15pm at Savor Cinema; Runtime: 60 mins; Language: English, German & Arabic w/ English Subtitles; Director: Kai Kreuser; Country: Germany; Genre: Drama, Gay, Political, Romance, Suspense.  

Sex is power, and Waseem, a Syrian gay-for-pay hustler seeking asylum in Cologne, wields it like a shield. Keeping his johns at an emotional arm’s length while satisfying their most carnal desires in order to eke out a living, he meets his match in Lars: a kind, affluent professional with a growing personal interest in Waseem. This gripping tale of transactional identity explores the tactical exchange of trust and intimacy in a partnership, and the divisions between immigrants and their host countries in contemporary Europe.

This movie is preceded by You Say Hello – Director: Lovell Holder; USA, 20 mins.

Saturday October 19th 

Everybody Changes (Todos Cambiamos)

5pm at The Classic Gateway Theatre; Runtime: 100 mins; Language: Spanish w/ English Subtitles; Director: Arturo Montenegro; Country: Panama; Genre: Drama, LGBTQ, Slice of Life, Trans.

The Ponce Family is the perfect family. They live in the quiet, close-knit mountain town of Bambito, where everyone knows everyone and, unfortunately, everyone knows everyone’s business. Frederico is the successful father, Carol the loving mother, and they have three wonderful boys. Despite appearances, perfect might not be the best way to describe the family as Frederico and Carol share a secret: Lizzie, the woman that Frederico has always wanted – no, needed – to be. 

Men’s Shorts

5pm at Savor Cinema; Runtime: 109 mins; Genre: All, Drama, Gay, Historical, LGBTQ, Political, Romance, Slice of Life.

Wonder – Director: Javier Molina, USA, 16 mins; Touchscreen – Director: Arthur Halpern, USA, 15 mins; Black Hat – Director: Sarah Smith, USA, 15 mins; Thrive –
Director: JamieDi Spirito, UK, 17 mins; The Proposal (La Bague Au Doigt) – Director: Gerlando Infuso, France, 15 mins, No dialogue; Softer – Director: Lovell Holder, USA, 10 mins; Vacaciones (Holidays) – Director: Juan Olivares, Spain, 21 mins, In Spanish with English subtitles.

From Zero To I Love You – Men’s Spotlight Film

7:15 pm at Savor Cinema; Runtime: 106 mins; Language: English; Director: Doug Spearman

Country: USA; Genre: Comedy, Drama, Gay, Romance

Pete Logsdon is just a guy in Philadelphia whose fear of intimacy creates his history of getting involved with married men. His father and his soon-to-be step-mother are on him to settle down and find someone who’s actually available. Instead, he finds a man named Jack who is fifteen years into a perfect marriage, has two beautiful children and an enviable wife, and is firmly inside the closet. Could this be the one? Featuring strong chemistry between the leads, director Doug Spearman (Noah’s Arc) creates authentic characters in this highly engaging, obstacle-filled romantic comedy.

Tremors (Temblores)

9:30pm at Savor Cinema; Runtime: 107 mins; Language: Spanish w/ English Subtitles

Director: Jayro Bustamante; Country: Guatemala / France / Luxembourg; Genre: Drama, Gay, Suspense

Pablo is a 40-year-old married father of two wonderful children. A role model and a practicing evangelical Christian, his perfect traditional life begins to crack when he falls in love with a man. Pablo finds his feelings in conflict with his beliefs. And his life becomes a hell of repressive intolerance when his family and his church decide to do whatever it takes to “cure” him, forcing Pablo to suppress his urges through therapy. Jayro Bustamante creates a layered, complex and socially engaged drama set in the city of Guatemala. Tremors is a controversial story of love, family and religious bigotry.

Sunday October 20th

For They Know Not What They Do

12:45 pm at The Classic Gateway Theatre; Runtime: 91 mins; Language: English; Director: Daniel Karslake; Country: USA; Genre: Bi, Documentary, Gay, Historical, Lesbian, LGBTQ, Political, Trans

In the wake of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing marriage equality, the Right has launched a new, highly effective, state-by-state campaign to limit the rights of America’s LGBTQ citizens across the country. Their backlash has been swift, severe, and successful. Nowhere is this more evident than with the issues surrounding religion and gender identity and how this creates a huge moral and ethical divide in our country. For They Know Not What They Do takes us on a journey of understanding what connects us all and gives us the courage to embrace each other.

And Then We Danced – Closing Night Film

6pm at Savor Cinema; Runtime: 105 mins; Language: Georgian; Director: Levan Akin

Country: Georgia / Sweden / France; Genre: Drama, Gay, LGBTQ, Slice of LifeMerab is a talented dancer. His burgeoning romance with stage partner Mary is thrown into disarray by the arrival of the magnetic Irakli, leading to a forbidden sexual attraction that recalls those in Moonlight and God’s Own Country. Georgia is a country that only celebrated its first LGBTQ+ pride event seven years ago and its society remains conservative. Because of this, And Then We Danced has stirred controversy and many involved remain anonymous out of fear. Amid the potential for socially explosive fireworks, Swedish director of Georgian heritage Levan Akin has captured something uniquely tender and personal.

For a full listing of the closing weekend films, or to purchase tickets to the films and/or parties go to: Outshinefilm.com

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