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The Beverly Hilton was packed Saturday evening at the 48th anniversary Vanguard Awards, where co-CEO of WME-IMG Ari Emanuel and President Obama’s former senior advisor Valerie Jarrett were honored by the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Each year, the LGBT Center awards individuals for their involvement with the organization and contributions toward the center’s cause. Past recipients include George Takei and Sir Elton John.
“I first met Valerie early on. I think when she was serving at the White House — she made an effort to get to know us when the first lady [Michelle Obama] was having initiatives at the White House,” Shonda Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter about Jarrett.
Host Jimmy Kimmel received a wave of attention earlier in the week for his comments regarding the ongoing health care debate in Congress. While he did not directly address the political uproar, he kicked off the evening with applause and standing ovation.
“I appreciate that, I’ve never had a standing ovation before. Obviously this has been a very interesting week and it seems very fitting that we’re here tonight because you are committed to improving the health and safety and welfare of these teenagers at the L.A. LGBT center.” Kimmel said to the crowd of Hollywood stars and execs.
He went on to praise the LGBT Center’s ongoing contributions, given the lack of assistance from the White House.
“Obviously they’re relying on you for help because we don’t necessarily get it from our government. The president, of course is an advocate for traditional marriage, which is the union of one wealthy man and one terrified Slovenian [woman] — it’s what Jesus intended,” he deadpanned.
The crowd laughed and cheered, as Kimmel ended his opening monologue by showing appreciation to everyone in support for the social justice cause, and also taking one final stab: “We do appreciate you being here and fighting for a very worthwhile cause, and know that we will not rest until no child is born gay in the United States, that is our promise.”
Upon receiving her award, Jarrett shared a conversation she had in New York while she was working with the Obama administration.
“A young man grabbed my hand and he whispered in the softest voice, ‘Could I say something to you?’ I said, ‘Well of course’ and he said, ‘I came out today to my mother because of President Obama being on the cover [of Out magazine after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage] because he validated who I am.’”
Jarrett later shared that, although she doesn’t know what happened between the young man and his mother, she firmly believes that everyone should have a voice.
“For me, I accept this award on behalf of so many people in the Obama administration who fought and pushed — we know we’re not done and we know we’re in challenging times,” she said. “It’s not easy to stand up. Until you decide, ‘You know what? I’m standing up for what I believe in.’ That’s what all of you are doing. And when you think about the young people — our future — the fact that you are touching those lives and helping them grow to love themselves and to love each other means that love truly does trump hate.”
Artist Mark Bradford introduced his friend and the evening’s other honoree.
As Emanuel got up and showed his gratitude upon receiving his award, he shared a personal story about his cousin that for him has become a driving force and an inspiration to continue his involvement with the LGBT community.
“My mom had an open house, and people stayed over even for months at a time if they were having troubles in their own life — at first that is all I knew about Gary’s situation, that he wasn’t welcomed in his own home,” Emanuel revealed. “Eventually I put things together, and I realized Gary was gay, which as you know, wasn’t something many people talked about openly in the ’70s.”
He shared details about the last moments of his cousin’s life, who passed away after being diagnosed with AIDS, adding that he believed organizations such as the L.A. LGBT Center has helped steer a path for people to no longer be afraid to speak about the disease.
“In the late ‘80s Gary got sick. There were hospital visits and there were whispers and a lot of pills. When Gary was in hospice, I spent many nights there saying goodbye. The cruelty of AIDS in those days wasn’t just the suffering, it was the silence,” he said, adding, “Thankfully we’re a long way from those days not just in terms of preventing AIDS but with the advancements in treatment and ending the stigma around HIV, and for that progress we have organizations like the center to thank.”
Earlier on the red carpet, Emanuel also discussed why the evening meant so much to him, saying, “There’s a constant level of communication that seems to be happening on many different levels. In the ‘60s and ‘70s my mother marched for civil rights and she took all three boys to downtown Chicago.” He added, “It’s important for anybody who sees injustice in the world to stand up against that injustice.”
The evening also featured a live auction including two meet-and-greet tickets to see Cher perform in Las Vegas, a trip to Hawaii, a golf experience in Cabo San Lucas and two tickets to the U.S. Open in 2018. The auction raised more than $80,000 dollars. All proceeds from the night benefited the LGBT Center.
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