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Keke Palmer and Pamela Anderson were both honored for their commitment to LGBTQ+ activism during the Los Angeles LGBT Center Gala on Saturday, held at Century City’s Fairmont Century Plaza. The two received the Vanguard Award alongside the late Leslie Jordan, a longtime center affiliate and former host of the gala, who was posthumously given a self-titled award.
Typically held annually, the fundraiser returned following a four-year-long absence as a result of the pandemic. The fete, hosted by Ts Madison, raised $1.2 million to go toward senior and youth services, culture and culinary programs and mental health resources. The center holds the status as the largest nonprofit serving queer and trans communities internationally.
“For me, it’s about freedom,” Palmer said of the center’s mission. “At the core, we are all trying to tell the world to let us be ourselves. Love me as I am, let me live as I am.”
In her speech accepting the honor, Palmer opened up about her own journey, saying, “I’ve always been my own person, and sexuality and identity, for me, it’s always been confusion. I never felt straight enough; I never felt gay enough; I never felt woman enough; I never felt man enough. I always felt like I was a little bit of everything.”
The Nope star — who welcomed her first child in February alongside boyfriend Darius Jackson, with Saturday marking her first public appearance since the birth — has previously spoken about her sexuality as being on the spectrum. The actor’s voice got emotional as she spoke about past experiences being judged for her gender and sexuality, as she often led with masculinity and was met with disdain as a woman, causing “pain and resentment.”
“Why did my gender have to define the power I have in the world? And why does my gender get to decide my sexuality?” Palmer continued. “Since I was younger, I always questioned the boxes I was forced to be in and it starts with who you’re supposed to be as a child, you’re supposed to be as a Black person, or whatever the background you are from.” She continued, “those walls just try to cave you in from every damn angle — who you are as a creative, who you are as a friend.”
“There is no greater masterpiece than living your truth,” she added.
Jordan, having been an integral member of the center and put on dozens of sold-out theater shows at its Renberg Theatre, received a tearful tribute from presenters Mayim Bialik, who costarred with him on Fox’s Call Me Kat, and Del Shores, a longtime collaborator who saw the actor-activist as his “muse.” The duo accepted the inaugural Leslie Jordan Award for Excellence in the Arts on his behalf.
While receiving her Vanguard distinction, Anderson recalled landing in Los Angeles during Pride, where she was teased by two men who dissed her highlights. “They go, ‘Honey, that is not one of God’s colors.’ I thought, ‘This is how I think, this is how I speak. I’ve arrived, I’m gonna be OK,’” she joked.
Anderson, who was the subject of the recent Netflix documentary Pamela: A Love Story, thanked the center and queer community at large for accepting her, saying, “I am rooting for you. Thank you for rooting for me.”
The gala celebrated and supported the L.A. LGBTQIA+ community with live entertainment, both a silent and live auction and other activities. The fundraiser, during which singer-songwriter and Rising Star Award recipient Durand Bernarr gave a special musical performance, was presented by Gilead Sciences, Inc. Guests in attendance also included Adam Lambert, Sarah Hyland, Madison Bailey, Colton Haynes, Orville Peck and Karamo Brown.
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