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Celebrating LGBTQI+ Pride: Tiernan Madorno

June 2019

All the world’s a stage

We wear so many masks as human beings, depending on where we are and who we’re with. William Shakespeare captured this truth in a famous line from his play As You Like It: ‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’. For Tiernan Madorno, a Microsoft Advertising communications manager based in the Bellevue, Washington, that’s more than a metaphor. “When I think about the people who have inspired me to be the person I am today, it's been a village and a half, maybe even a couple of armies,” she jokes. “But to be honest, RuPaul Charles has inspired me in a big way.”

Drag race

A pioneer in the artform of drag, RuPaul has opened doors, and changed the hearts, minds and perception of the LGBTQI+ community around the world. Tiernan’s friend introduced her to the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Yes, you’ll revel in the sea of sequins, but the show is more than that, giving LGBTQI+ contestants of all shapes, ages and races, the opportunity to share their authentic selves. Drawn to the grandeur of drag, Tiernan was also deeply moved by RuPaul’s choice to leverage his celebrity and create a platform for this under-represented community and art form. “RuPaul’s show has been game-changing for the integration of LGBTQI+ art and stories in mainstream culture,” Tiernan says. “And in the spirit of true authenticity, I’ve found a lot of joy through performing in drag, myself. The dualities of gender archetypes I get to embody and explore while in drag are eye-opening. I’ve learned a ton about the dichotomies of presenting as female and male including: body language and physical embodiment, vocal tonalities, gesticulation and having an audience react to me differently, based on the gender they perceive me to be. My own drag experiences have taught me deep empathy for what gender roles mean in our world today.”

The many faces of service

Tiernan is a committed LGBTQI+ ally, fueled by the core belief that we all have more in common than we don’t. As a performer, she appreciates finding ways to translate that into acts of support, like donning a costume and marching in a Pride parade. “But sometimes what’s needed is standing quietly in ally-ship for someone,” she says. “Learning how to be an ally is a constant opportunity for discovery about all the ways you can be helpful — whether it’s LBGTQI+, African American, LatinX, or other global communities. There's so much a person must explore and understand to show up in the best way possible.” Whether participating with an organization like the Lambert House, onePULSE Foundation or Microsoft opportunities like the Giving Campaign, Tiernan is dedicated to this work. “Along with donating money, I continue to identify places where I can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with folks making a difference,” Tiernan says. “Being an ally is where most of my time is focused.” In addition, Tiernan is passionate about the environment, volunteering as a Seattle Aquarium auxiliary board member, and the Puget Sound local EEC Forest Stewardship.

If not us, then who?

Being raised on the back of the civil rights and women's movements, inclusion, diversity and openness felt close to Tiernan as a young person. Now she recognizes the importance of getting involved and helping create spaces where others can blossom and taking action to ensure that others have the opportunities she’s been afforded. “Everybody needs help at some point in their lives,” Tiernan reflects. “I do, too. If I can't find a way to give back to others, I’d be remiss as a human being. There's a lot at stake in the world today, and I can't stand still. It’s incumbent upon us to join forces and take real action. And I believe in credos like: If not us, who? If not now, when?” For Tiernan, having a workplace that supports her, is meaningful. “One of the best things about working at Microsoft is being able to come to work as I am,” Tiernan shares. “I don’t need to wear a mask here. It’s also amazing to partner with others and create impact at scale across the world as a global citizen. I'm fortunate to have the freedom to come to work and hopefully - change the world for the better, if only just a little bit every day.”

It's all about love

“At the end of every episode of Drag Race, RuPaul says: If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?" Tiernan shares. “The idea that how we show up for ourselves reflects how we treat others, has really stuck with me.” While embracing her authentic self is seldom a challenge for Tiernan, ensuring that she leverages her creative energy for something greater than herself is an ongoing learning opportunity. “RuPaul authentically embodies his character while creating a space for others to achieve their biggest dreams, Tiernan says. “I want to be as much like that as possible—rising up to support others in achieving their dreams.”

To learn more about Tiernan or connect with her, check out her profile on LinkedIn.

The idea that how we show up for ourselves reflects how we treat others, has really stuck with me.