'Empire,' 'O.J. Simpson' Producer Nina Jacobson Honored at Human Rights Campaign Gala

Chuck Hodes/FOX
'Empire'

The organization works to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

The light shined through the cathedral-like windows of the J.W. Marriott in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday night as celebrities and activists alike strolled the blue carpet for the 2016 Human Rights Campaign Dinner Gala. The annual event honored Nina Jacobson, producer of the Hunger Games franchise and FX miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and the creators and cast of Fox's hit show Empire.

"I never thought in a million years I would be standing on this particular carpet," said Ta’Rhonda Jones, who plays Porsha on Empire. "I love the fact that they're bringing this issue to the forefront and acknowledging that [LGBT] people do exist, they're humans, too, and deserved to be treated like humans."

Other stars who joined the HRC's event included L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Cheryl Burke, Pauley Perrette, Glee and American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy and Empire star and HRC member Jussie Smollett.

The campaigning and fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community hit home for many of the attendees, such as Smollett, whose character on Empire, Jamal Lyon, is based on co-creator Lee Daniels’ childhood.

"Growing up, I didn't necessarily have many people to look up to or identify with on television," said Smollett. "But with this story, our creator, the great Lee Daniels, was able to make an indelible imprint on the world forever. If I had been Jamal Lyon when I was a kid, I probably would've had a much different life and a much different outlook on what life could be."

The 32-year-old actor-singer introduced the creator and producers of the hit Fox show, Ilene Chaiken and Daniels.

Chaiken, who also created the trailblazing show The L-Word, had recently decided to stop taking on new projects when she got the call about the Empire script.

"I relented and agreed to read it, but I'm still going to say no, I told [my agents] — but not surprisingly it was a really good script, so reluctantly I then agreed to go to Fox to screen the work-in-progress pilot they just finished shooting," said Chaiken. "Less than an hour later, before the lights came up in the screening room, I was back on the phone saying, 'Get me this job, what do I have to do? Empire is a game-changer and I want to be apart of it.'"

Before the lights came on in the Platinum Ballroom, Daniels made one more attempt for the continuation of passing LGBT legislative through his push for Hillary Clinton to take office. Daniels also made a forthright stance against the Republican nominees, who have stated publicly that they will take away all the bills that President Barack Obama has passed on behalf of LGBT equality in the past few years.

"It's time for us to do the right thing. I'm not laughing, this ain't funny," Daniels said, in an apparent reference to Donald Trump. "He's taking over, he's coming in to take us down, y'all, and this is serious business."

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