For 13 years, Lainey Millen has worked with qnotes, directing its production and graphic design. In the time since, she’s seen the newspaper, the general news industry, Charlotte and the local LGBT community change and grow. She’s also a writer, and this issue we’re publishing an in-depth feature from Lainey on three women nominated for LGBT literary awards. In the past, we’ve sat down with other employees at qnotes and we just thought it was high time we sat down to chat with Lainey, who’s been involved in the local LGBT community since 1979 and even designed the first logo for qnotes when it was just a small non-profit newsletter printed on yellow copy paper in 1983 (the publication would later evolve into a full-fledged print newspaper in 1986). Here’s your opportunity now to meet the phenomenally-talented woman who is essential to completing each and every print edition we publish.
Where did you go to college?
I went to Tiger High — known as Memphis State University. Now it is called the University of Memphis. Real commuter school. Majored in news-editorial journalism. Minored in speech and drama.
How long have you worked in the newspaper biz? How long for qnotes?
I’ve worked on and off for newspapers since I graduated college. However, my biggest stint has been here at the Big Q. I’ve been here 13 years. Seen so much change since I joined the staff. A number of editors. Changing climate of civil rights. Technology advances. Where did the time go?
What have you enjoyed most about working in media?
I love the rush! I really enjoy being able to be in the thick of things (although not as much as our editor, Matt Comer!). We get to know things before they are released to the public. And, I love to write. Most of my career in media has been spent writing either news and features or promotional copy and press releases. On the other creative side, I’ve done graphics for decades. I started out doing the old cut and paste method. When the industry transitioned to digital, all I could do was giggle at how easy it was to change a font or a type size. Now it’s second nature and has become part of my DNA.
What’s your favorite kind of music?
Well, you don’t have to “turn out the lights” because my love for music is not over (re: Jim Morrison, my all-time favorite). I really am a big blues fan. When I lived in Memphis, I used to go down to the Beale St. and Front St. areas to hear good old-fashioned tunes. Furry Lewis was aging and we’d always flock to see him, thinking that it might be the last time to hear his incredible melodies. The last time I did see him was when he opened for the Rolling Stones. His act I relished. By the time the Stones came on, I was burned to a crisp having been waiting to seem them for several hours in the Liberty Bowl. I would say that rock gives me energy, especially the kind that came from the 1960s and early 1970s. Grace Slick was my favorite female performer and probably still is. The music scene has evolved, however, I can still hear some of what I grew to love mixed in there someplace. Of course, I can easily cross over to jazz, country, blue grass, R&B, show tunes and more. I played the violin in my youth, so I was able to learn to appreciate classic, too. Whatever it is, I can always find a way to dance to it no matter what.
And your favorite food?
Did someone mention food? Potatoes and bread are my weakness, hands down. It’s like “Forrest Gump,” give me scalloped, baked, sweet, red, black-blue, fried, you name it! Same with bread. Ahhh! I eat to live, not live to eat. Yet, that does not mean that I can’t enjoy a wide-range of enjoyable tidbits. In fact, my palette is quite broad. I love Mediterranean probably the most because it makes me feel so healthy. Jump over to Italy and yummy, yummy for pasta, eggplant parm. Go next door to Greece and give me some spanakopita. Head east to Asia and let me bring a bowl and some chopsticks. I can dig into a whole bunch of good stuff there. Not a big French food fan. Back in the states, sign me up for mashed potatoes, green peas and country fried steak. I’ve learned to substitute ground turkey in a host of dishes and chicken fills out the proteins. Well almost. I’ve become a real fan of beans. They are so filling and so good for you. Round out the wheel with fruit (mostly red grapes) and cheese, and there you have it! I don’t eat pork or shellfish due to religious reasons.
On a weekend, you’re more likely to do which of the following: Eat out with friends, stay home and watch a movie or something else? What else do you do in your free time?
Give me a movie and I’m as happy as a cat with catnip! I can watch them for hours at a time and days at a time. I am also a pop-culture maniac, so I also keep up with things via TV. “The Real World” anyone? How about “The Voice?” It has become a favorite. Switch over to ABC Family and give me some “Pretty Little Liars.” Of course, “Homeland,” “Game of Thrones,” “Shameless,” and more are premium favorites. I also dearly adore sweet stories, as well as sci-fi, whodunits, etc. I guess I’m a TV addict! Already worn out two of them in the last 15 years.
You’ve seen Charlotte’s LGBT community grow and change. In what ways? What makes you proud to be an LGBT Charlottean?
Where to I begin? When I first came to town, it was really odd. Not used to having to “join” a bar to go in. We did not have that in Tennessee. I could only hope, but never imagined the changes we all have encountered over the last number of years, especially the last half dozen. And, there are groups for just about anything you’d want to explore. In some ways, I’m a bit envious of the younger crowd. They don’t realize how easy they have it. Guess it came on the back of those of us who came up through the ranks. I was on the steering committee for the first gay and lesbian switchboard here. Did the same thing in Memphis. Those were amazing times when having a voice to chat with made life more bearable.