Antoine Elhashem, founder and president of INSPIRE Awards, had a simple idea, or more of a question, "Why don’t we do more to celebrate those who are doing amazing and inspiring work in our LGBTQ2S+ community?" From that, INSPIRE Awards was born.
Antoine has spent the last 30 years in LGBTQ2S+ media working with all the major historical local LGBTQ2S+ publications, has volunteered with numerous organizations. He is currently the publisher of some of the leading LGBTQ2S+ media platforms and host of a popular local talk show. He is incredibly passionate about community, representation, inclusion and diversity, celebrating, and lifting up people.
Karie Johnston has lived and worked in Toronto since 1986. She is a retired nurse having worked in the burn unit at the Wellesley Hospital. She is currently an osteopath and a financial services professional with WFG Canada.
Karie has been actively involved in the LGBTQ2S+ community in many capacities. She is a member of Rainbow Toastmasters, a former executive member of the Toronto Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, an avid player in the community Pool Bar League, has hosted several dances at the 519, and is an ardent supporter of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Karie loves to sail, ski, ride motorcycles, camp, and enjoys live music.
Karie has been a member of the board of the INSPIRE Awards since 2017.
Most of Darren Stehle’s adult life has been an exploration of the unique and vital role that LGBTQ2S+ people play in society.
After leaving his Master’s in German Language and Literature in 1994, in what would today be called “Queer Theory”, Darren spent 10 years working at Pink Triangle Press, a Canadian Gay & Lesbian print media non-profit, moving quickly into a top leadership position. He left the Press to work as a Fitness & Nutrition Coach for 15 years.
In 2018, he shifted his focus to Personal Coaching and LGBTQ2S+ advocacy; launching a publication on Medium and a Podcast, both called Think Queerly. He also works as an LGBTQ2S+ Media Consultant with INspired Media. Darren is currently studying and contemplating the Tao Te Ching as the basis for a book he is writing on Queer Leadership.
In 2019 he took a seat on the Board of Directors of INSPIRE Awards and became Secretary in June 2020.
Lucy G’ala, a Dominican born of Taino origin, a New Yorker and Torontonian. A mother, immigrant-youth mentor, published Architect, global traveler, queer Latinx woman, feminist and trailblazer, changing the Architecture industry’s landscape and its perceptions.
In 2000, she was the Youngest Woman Developer in New York. Lucy founded cleanearthdesign in 2007, an interdisciplinary, sustainable Architect Led-Design Built Studio. Her designs and collaborations can be found in NYC, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Sedona, London – ON, and Toronto. She is passionate about her Latin heritage, LGBTQ2S+ Community, Human Rights Activism, Marriage Equality, Child Education, Woman Rights, and taking of the environment and being gentle with all living things. A firm believer in diversity, inclusion and Kindness.
Lucy moved to Canada in 2005 following her heart. Toronto welcomed her and her love. Being able to get married to a woman and have her amazing daughter Luna is one of her greatest gifts. She feels the honor to be part of the outstanding work the Inspire Awards does to celebrate, acknowledge, and give back to our amazing resilient passionate community that works so hard to make much progress.
Heather Crowe is a longtime scholar, school administrator, educator & community activist for the equality & inclusion of LGBTQI2S people in all levels and spheres of life.
Inspired by decades of experiencing and witnessing oppression and silencing, particularly that of Trans Youth, Heather directed her inspiration for change late in life, into PhD studies to examine Educational Leadership for Trans-affirmative Policies.
Heather’s most recent award is the Graduate Award in Educational Leadership recognizing a full-time graduate student in educational leadership who has overcome adversity, and through demonstrated compassion and service, contributed to the larger community, by the Faculty of Education of Western University in 2016.
Identifying as a Queer Senior who believes change begins with our Youth, Heather joins the INSPIRE community as an Advisory Board Member to continue to celebrate and inspire change.
Anna Gutmanis is an award-winning OUT Canadian singer/songwriter. She is also a longtime community activist and social services worker.
Other proud accomplishments include winning The Bonham Scholarship for Studies in Sexual Diversity while taking her degree in Equity Studies at University of Toronto; co-founding the first Women‘s Centre at George Brown College while completing her Assaulted Women’s and Children‘s Counsellor/Advocate Diploma; and co-founding The Web, an early women’s services newsletter.
Anna is actually a cat in human form (don’t tell her otherwise). She is happiest when her worlds cross-pollinate at places like Girls Rock Camp, PFLAG, and INSPIRE Awards.
Pauline has been an Audio Technician for over 20 years and has been involved in community events over
20 years such as Pride TORONTO, International Women’s Day, Bricks and Glitter, TORONTO Freedom
School, The Music Gallery and Girls Rock Camp TORONTO providing Audio / Video support. Just to
mention a few.
She has experience organizing and training crews to do AV for conferences and meetings in hotels and
meeting rooms plus doing sound for local bands and special events.
Pauline also enjoys playing bass in Toronto’s #1 Motown/R&B band Backtrack.
She is always looking for opportunities to celebrate diversity, and inclusion and being a member of the
Nomination Committee for Inspire Awards 2020 provides this.
Lorenzo Pagnotta is a seasoned Toronto arts worker-actor turned fitness professional. His community-based queer and trans affirming private practice, ArtsFitness, was officially launched in 2018.
He uniquely combines his love of theatre, his passion for activism, and his knowledge about the body to create programs for all bodies which allow them to stand taller and more confidently. He, also, uses his training as a Fascial Stretch Therapist layered by his physical intuition as an empath to help relieve pain, give freedom to joints and educate others on how to stretch better at home.
Currently, Lorenzo is helping to make the fitness industry more equitable by participating in Trainer Life United, and is a co-founder of The New Fitness Collective, a group of alternative style coaches offering virtual group training. You can usually find him training and coaching at Hone Fitness in the heart of Toronto’s gay village, or eating pizza and sipping coffee while walking.
Pagnotta is a past Secretary and Vice President of the INSPIRE Awards and happy to return for the 10th Anniversary celebrations.