New York-based Dannielle Owens-Reid loves coming home to the Lowcountry.
"Charleston is one of the best cities in the world," she says.
But Owens-Reid hasn't been able to make it back that much these days, what with two hit blogs, one of which is the immensely popular Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber. And then there is her other job: She is the social networking guru for one of pop music's biggest stars, Lady Gaga.
It all started in Chicago early last year, where Owens-Reid was performing with a few other Charleston ex-pats in a comedy band called Vintage Gramma. For one of their bits, the trio performed a mash-up of songs from teen sensations Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.
The band tweeted Bieber, and he tweeted Swift, who tweeted back her seal of approval, thus turning the fans of both idols onto the Vintage Gramma bandwagon. Tons of comments followed, including one Bieber fan who noted that Owens-Reid looked a lot like the boy idol. "I was like, 'Hey!'" she says. "Then I was like, 'Yeah.' I accepted my fate."
Owens-Reid says Bieber has a "swoopy bangs preppy hip-hop style." She jokingly told friend she should start a website pointing out lesbians with the same Bieber fever. And then she did just that. At first it was just three pictures: She and indie rock twins Tegan and Sara. Almost instantly, the site exploded. Owens-Reid still has thousands of submissions she hasn't even had time to get to yet, but the site is updated regularly with ladies sporting the trademark Bieber do.
"It was this one tiny joke that people continue to laugh at more than a year later," she says.
Even Bieber has made note of the site, and he has been a good sport about it, laughing off his lesbian good looks.
Late last year, Owens-Reid got an unexpected e-mail from Virgin Mobile, asking her to serve as the social networking face for Lady Gaga's tour. She e-mailed back, "Is this spam?! If not, yes!" She hit the road in February, tweeting and shooting video at each stop.
"It was me coming from a place where I don't know this woman to meeting her during this crazy time in her life," Owens-Reid says of Gaga. "She is the busiest woman on the planet, and she is the most caring, generous person I have ever met."
Many of the videos and messages that Owens-Reid chronicled on the tour centered on Gaga's army of Little Monsters, ardent fans that have found comfort in the pop star's message of celebrating what makes you different. "It was as much about the part of her that inspires these Little Monsters," Owens-Reid says of her journey.
The Lowcountry girl has been doing some inspiring of her own. Soon after Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber went live last spring, she was getting a wide range of reactions. Some people would ask her questions about coming out and accepting yourself while others would accuse Owens-Reid of stereotyping all lesbians.
Her friend, Kristin Russo, read some of the comments and said, "I want to respond to these people." In the span of a short subway ride, they'd built the concept for a new website: Everyone is Gay ... and Advice on Dealing With It.
Pacing themselves at one post a day, the pair has been offering relationship advice and lessons on gay etiquette. The responses are both helpful and hilarious. A recent question about going from a drunken hook-up to a real first date led to this advice from Owens-Reid: "IF YOU YELL 'WELL THIS IS AWKWARD' HER BRAIN IS LIKE 'OH YEA THIS IS AWKWARD WHY AM I HERE THIS IS SO UNCOMFORTABLE' SO DON'T DO THAT. (##allcapsmonday)."
But the pair have also coached transgendered readers through tough times and offered their counsel to parents on dealing with their child's sexuality. "It turned into something that means so much to people," says Owens-Reid. "I'm so excited about the success of the site because this is what I want to do with my life."
The message is that we're all in this together, she says. And she and Russo are taking it on the road. Everyone is Gay will be going on tour this fall, offering their unique brand of advice to high schools and colleges up and down the East Coast.
Hopefully, Owens-Reid will be making a return appearance in Charleston. Just look for that remarkably successful social networking guru who looks a lot like Justin Bieber.
You can take a look at all Biebian posts at http://lesbianswholooklikejustinbieber.tumblr.com/