Better Makers: Comedian Wanda Sykes and Olympic Figure Skater Adam Rippon Join Chicago House Speaker Series


A fearless power duo, Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon and comedic actress and writer Wanda Sykes joined forces for the Chicago House Speaker Series Sept. 14 at the Hilton Chicago. Hosted by Chicago House and Social Service Agency, the signature event is known for its noteworthy headliners, including former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, award-winning actor Whoopi Goldberg, designer Kenneth Cole, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and more.

Rippon made history as the first openly gay U.S. male athlete to medal during a Winter Olympics at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Sykes, “one of the funniest stand-up comics,” was most recently nominated for her work on ABC’s “Black-ish.” Sykes is also the recipient of a GLAAD media award.

Both Rippon and Sykes are prominent figures and inspiring voices in the LGBTQ+ community.

Themed “Authentic Selves,” the event revolved around individuals sharing personal stories and experiences — both uplifting and emotional. Chris Hush of NBC Chicago was the emcee for the day, leading both the roundtable discussion and paddle raise auction. With more than 400 people in attendance, nearly $168,000 was raised for Chicago House, which “serves individuals and families who are disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ marginalization, poverty, homelessness, and/or gender nonconformity by providing housing, employment services, medical linkage and retention services, HIV prevention services, legal services, and other supportive programs.”

This year’s event was co-chaired by Nabeela Rasheed, AbbVie, and Chicago House Board Chair Ray J. Koenig IIIClark Hill PLC.

Chicago House Speaker Series: Wanda Sykes
Wanda Sykes shares during the conversation at the 2018 Speaker Series.
Chicago House Speaker Series: Adam Rippon
Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon signs a skate for the auction.
Chicago House Speaker Series: Bryan Farmer, Adam Rippon and Dr. Ray Lechner
Bryan Farmer, Adam Rippon, and District 39 Superintendent Dr. Ray Lechner.
Chicago House Speaker Series: Chris Hush, Wanda Sykes and James Gherardi
Chris Hush, NBC anchor and Speaker Series emcee, Wanda Sykes, and James Gherardi.
Chicago House Speaker Series: Shira Kollins and Adam Rippon
Shira Kollins and Adam Rippon
Chicago House Speaker Series: Paolo Presta, Wanda Sykes and Patrick Thomassie
Actors Paolo Presta, Wanda Sykes and Patrick Thomassie.
Chicago House Speaker Series: Tracey Tarantino DiBuono, Adam Rippon and Dana Nolan
Tracey Tarantino DiBuono, Adam Rippon and Dana Nolan.
Chicago House Speaker Series: Joshua Blake Carter, Adam Rippon and Tom Sinkovic
Joshua Blake Carter, Giordano Dance Chicago, Adam Rippon, and Tom Sinkovic.
Chicago House Speaker Series: Wanda Sykes and Adam Rippon
Wanda Sykes and Adam Rippon
Chicago House Speaker Series: T'Shawn Williams and Adam Rippon
T’Shawn Williams and Adam Rippon
Chicago House Speaker Series: Soo Choi and Wanda Sykes
Soo Choi, City of Chicago Commissioner of Human Resources, and Wanda Sykes.


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Emily Stone is Associate Editor at Make It Better. She earned a degree in journalism from Elon University in North Carolina. Along with writing, Stone has a passion for digital storytelling and photography. Her work is published in Chicago Athlete Magazine. Stone is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Stone is a fluent Spanish speaker who in her free time loves a good dance class.



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