Nicholas Snow, the longtime LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS activist, has spent the last three decades interviewing and producing content that entertains viewers and elevates difficult conversations.
Since 2016, he has been regularly producing, hosting and broadcasting his online show, PromoHomo.TV, from his home in DAP Health’s first affordable housing complex.
But well before Facebook Live or even Facebook itself was created, Snow was already pioneering new ways of connecting with audiences during live broadcasts. His first show, which debuted in 1993, was a public access television show called “Tinseltown’s Queer,” where he interviewed some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, as well as LGBTQ+ civil rights activists.
The show ran for six years and was broadcast to some 600,000 households on four different cable systems in the Los Angeles area. Toward the end of the show’s run, he and his friends came up with an innovative way to chat with viewers live. “We told the live viewing audience which online chat room to go into, and then we set up a laptop right in front of us so we could read questions and comments live,” Snow said.
Then, Snow’s show was on the cutting edge of the internet and its possibilities for live communication. Now, online broadcasts with live chats are so commonplace that a teenager could set one up on Twitch in an afternoon, and begin streaming to the site’s 30 million daily visitors.
Even though he works in front of the camera, Snow envisioned his life a little differently. “I always wanted to be an actor,” he said.
Snow did end up acting while working in Thailand as a foreign correspondent. But before his acting career could take off, Snow started getting involved in activism at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
“In the face of the death of loved ones, the most important thing I had was the power of my own voice,” Snow said. He used that voice to come out publicly as gay in the 1980s. “I just assumed I wasn’t going to be able to have a mainstream professional path because of my decision to come out of the closet,” he said.
Instead, he created a career all his own. While living in Los Angeles, Snow joined The Experience, a personal growth workshop that went on to create the first National Coming Out Day in 1988. He began writing a syndicated column two years later while on the board of directors for the Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Artists in the Arts and Entertainment Industry.
Soon after his column started picking up steam, Snow was inspired by a colleague to launch his own public-access television show.
“I taped probably over a thousand episodes of content in some form or another over 30 years,” he said. Today, every nook and cranny of his Palm Springs apartment — including the cabinets and pantry — are stacked full of hundreds of VHS and three-quarter-inch tapes that hold the legacy of the Tinseltown’s Queer show.
During the show’s six-year run, Snow interviewed LGBTQ+ icons including Quentin Crisp, Robin Tyler and Melissa Etheridge, and celebrities like Drew Carey, Christine Baranski and Christina Applegate.
In 2007, Snow learned he was HIV positive. “I was in Thailand, and I had a rare slip in my safe sex behavior,” he said. He knew he had to go public with the information, so he held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. Snow spent nearly a year planning for the moment.
“It was a bold, brave and scary process,” he said. “I wanted to tell my story to give a name and a face and a reality to the epidemic, especially in a part of the world where there was still a great deal of stigma.”
After creating a public awareness music video campaign promoting HIV testing, Snow even turned his journal from that time into a book: “Life Positive: A Journey to the Center of My Heart.”
While Snow had lived in Palm Springs briefly in the early 2000s, he crafted a plan to return to the city after his HIV diagnosis for two reasons: “I had a good friend with a sofa I could sleep on, and I knew I needed to become a client of DAP Health,” he said.
A decade later, Snow is no longer merely a client of DAP Health, but he also works as a clinical support specialist in the Outpatient Drug Free program within DAP’s Department of Behavioral Health. Snow also lives on the DAP Health campus in an affordable apartment where he can walk to appointments and to his job.
Snow even spoke at last year’s groundbreaking ceremony for the group’s second affordable housing complex, where he told DAP Health representatives: “The reality is that without you — without the people who stand behind DAP Health — I might not even be here.”
Snow said he’s grateful for DAP Health because it’s allowed him to live and thrive for the past decade. Still, he can’t help but think about those lost to the AIDS epidemic.
“The last four decades did not happen for so many people we still carry in our hearts,” he said.
The devastation and loss of that time are what catalyzed Snow into coming out as gay in the 1980s and then, more than 20 years later, making public his own story of being HIV positive. “The AIDS epidemic taught me the value of my life and the importance of living my truth,” he said.
And “living his truth” means admitting that outside of his job, Snow considers himself an introvert.
“I’m fearless when I’m communicating with people in the context of my journalism and my activism. It’s my bridge to the world,” he said. Now, Snow said he wants to learn to connect with people outside of work. “I need to accept the fact that I’m lovable and worthy,” he said.
Now, Snow broadcasts multiple different shows that all exist under the umbrella of his online television network, PromoHomo.TV. Those shows highlight topics like entertainment and travel, as well as conversations about Indigenous People’s Day and the Brothers of the Desert.
When he begins broadcasting regularly again next month, Snow looks forward to having “Rachel Maddow-esque”, in-depth interviews about the hundreds of pending laws that could affect transgender people, especially transgender youth, across the country.
“In Palm Springs, we have so many freedoms as LGBTQ+ people,” he said, “It’s so easy for us to lose sight of the desperation that other people are living in.”
In the face of broader threats to the LGBTQ+ community, Snow is still optimistic.
“Anybody working for equality stands on the shoulders of giants. We didn’t invent ourselves. We were inspired by others,” he said.
“I have hope because of the people that show up on the frontlines of our movements, some for the first time, many who have been devoting a big chunk of their lives toward creating a better world.”
Get to know Snow better below. And make sure to attend a commemoration of his show, “Tinseltown’s Queer,” on the 30th anniversary of its airing, Friday, April 28, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. Attendees can buy tickets here. Members of Snow’s Patreon will also be able to view a taping of the event.
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Occupation: Activist, entertainer, broadcast pioneer.
First job: In high school I worked as an usher at the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Neighborhood: Sunrise Vista Chino
Time in the desert: This stretch — almost 13 years.
What keeps you here? Affordable housing, the great services of DAP Health and a thriving LGBTQ+ and allied community.
Any family here? We are all one another’s chosen family in Palm Springs.
Favorite time of the year: I love the spring, just after we begin daylight saving time, when temperatures range from the high 70s to the low 90s.
How do you beat the heat? My affordable housing complex has solar energy, so I stay inside using guilt-free air conditioning, and streaming my favorite movies and TV shows on a cool leather sofa in my home movie theater (set up under my California king-size loft bed).
Personal philosophy: My personal mission statement is: “To honor and express my creativity in a way that makes a difference.”
What’s the biggest issue facing our community? I believe we’re experiencing a mental health crisis and that more people than not, whether they know it or not, are dealing with unresolved trauma. We need to continue to advocate for one another, and destigmatize the process of seeking professional mental and emotional support whenever wanted or needed.
Favorite place to eat: I love to patronize Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge because the owners, John Paschal and Willie Rhine, are my friends, and they have supported PromoHomo.TV since its inception.
Favorite place to go or thing to do: I love to shop at any of the four Revivals stores, because all proceeds support the services and clients, like me, of DAP Health, and because you won’t find better deals anywhere. If you volunteer, you get a 35% discount! Seriously, go there before anywhere.
What would you tell people about Palm Springs that they might not already know? People who vacation here have a great time and decide to move here. Good choice, but it takes time to establish yourself as a local, and build important personal and professional connections, so be patient. If you want to fast-track your community connectivity, volunteer with many of the worthy local community service and philanthropic organizations.
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