by Joan Allison with Savannah Bearden | photos by Loreana Rojas
Focus Mid-South has many friends in the LGBT+ community who are true allies to the cause. Savannah Bearden is one of those allies, so when we heard that she would be the new Director of Development and Community Engagement for Friends For Life (FFL), we were elated, to say the least.
She’s kind of a freakin’ superstar already, with deep, professional roots in advertising, brand strategy, and video and event production. When we asked about her new role at FFL, she told us that her goal will be to bring their mission to a broader audience and grow their crucial work in HIV/AIDS prevention and care services. She’s going to harness her afore-mentioned skills, she says, to propel and expand FFL even further as it enters its fourth(!) decade of existence.
OK, so that’s the business end of this story. But there’s more about our friend that we wanted you to know. Rather than asking her biographical questions, we decided to have a little fun and asking some of those quirky questions that celebrities, like herself, always get. Here’s what she had to say:
You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
It sounds boring, but I think I’d be the gray crayon. Gray is an adaptable color that makes that every other color, piece of art, or pattern around it pop. I feel that my gray crayon self can serve Friends For Life by showcasing more of the people we serve and the basic unity that progressive people in Memphis and surrounding areas share. (And, selfishly, I’ve also found that wearing gray makes colorful statement shoes/glasses/lips pop off SUPER well, so there’s that.)
What’s your favorite 90s jam?
Three-way tie between “Big Time Sensuality” by Bjork, “Vogue” by Madonna, and “Freedom ‘90” by George Michael. They were all formative for me in many, MANY ways and still go-to’s for inspiration and personal car dance parties.
What was the last gift you gave someone?
I gave my husband the book “Love Is Walking Hand in Hand,” by Charles Shultz. It’s a picture book, but it’s a perfect encapsulation of what I think real love looks like in all its forms— yearning, joy, belonging, security, disappointment, and hope.
What were you like in high school?
I was called “that crazy white girl” at Memphis Central High (aka THE High School). I wore horrible, baggy ‘90s anti-fashion, fried and dyed my hair many times, but was still voted to be the minority VP of the student council. I loved being a part of things that stirred fun and inclusion, even if I didn’t fit in on paper. I am happy to say that I still embrace all of that “crazy white girl” identity— although, 20+ years later, I try to be fashionable with my baggy clothes and have my hair professionally dyed on occasion because ADULT. Working at Friends For Life now, four blocks away from my alma mater, feels like I’ve come full circle in the best way possible.
What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why?
(takes deep breath)
Schitt’s Creek because Catherine O’Hara is my comedic idol and I want to be her and also her character Moira Rose and you just need to watch it in general because it is
AMAZING and hilarious and life-affirming and someday I want to do a Friends For Life party around it so please watch it and then let’s talk because I’m sure there is a
character limit to my answer here K THX!! (Editor’s note: this could be all caps because that’s how I read this answer to myself.)
What inspires you?
People who aren’t self-serving. People who show up and honor their commitments.
People who truly want to grow. Environments that encourage thought, innovation, and trust.
What do you work for in your free time?
Advancing to new cities on my Wheel of Fortune app and watching ones of episodes of shows “I have to watch!” Also, I work for more free time.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
I am fascinated by snakes and always have been. Don’t get me wrong— I don’t love a surprise snake up in my s&*t. No one does! But with self-education, I am really good at identifying snakes and love breaking down the stigma around them. I am happy to bend anyone’s ear about why snakes are good and/or go on snake walks in the Old Forest in Overton Park, Shelby Farms, anywhere. Snakes are misunderstood!!
How would you value the store on the corner?
Well, if we’re talking a specific corner store, I would say THE CORNER at 806 S.
COOPER is invaluable because it is giving FREE solutions to the real public health
problem of HIV/AIDS + STI transmission rates in Memphis and the Mid-South as a
whole. Did I mention FREE PrEP + PEP + HIV/STI testing? There have been so many
questions, I can’t even remember if I have plugged the most chill, sex-positive clinic in Midtown! Thecorner806.org, if I forgot!!