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In a night of defiance in the face of oppression, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Kacey Musgraves and Andrew Garfield were joined by hundreds of guests in an overflowing ballroom at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday night to celebrate the 33rd annual GLAAD Media Awards.
While the purpose of the evening was to recognize and honor those who had achieved success in film, television, music and other artistic mediums, the current anti-LGBTQ political climate in several states was never far from anyone’s mind. Attendees frequently chanted, rapped and sang the word “gay” both on the red carpet and from the ballroom stage, in direct response to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which limits open discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools, with provisions allowing parents to sue if they allege schools or instructors have been in violation.
Disney has been particularly under fire for its reaction (or lack of) to the bill, which became a center point when Eternals walked away with the award for best wide-release film. When accepting the recognition, Marvel Studios executive Victoria Alonso, who is gay, revealed that she had a 45-minute conversation with Disney CEO Bob Chapek regarding Disney’s tepid response to Florida’s wave of anti-LGBTQ laws.
“I asked him to look around and truly if what we sell is entertainment for family, that we don’t choose what family. Family is this entire room. Family is the family in Texas, in Arizona, in Florida, and in my family, in my home,” Alonso told the crowd as she appeared alongside Eternals director Chloé Zhao.” So I ask you again Mr. Chapek: please respect if we’re selling family, take a stand against all of these crazy outdated laws. Take a stand for the family.”
She also promised, “As long as I am at Marvel Studios, I will fight for representation.”
Callouts against the rise of anti-gay and anti-trans laws were a feature of nearly every speech. Rodriguez won the Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her achievements as an actress and in her acceptance speech, she stressed the need for parental love to counter state-sponsored hate.
“I have to thank my mother and father for seeing me and loving me. When a child is loved, whether you are LGBTQIA or not, it makes all the difference. When you tell your queer child that you love them, they think, ‘I love me too,'” the Pose star said after being presented her honor by Garfield. “I thank all the parents in Texas, Florida, Idaho, Arizona, and around the world who are standing up to fear and ignorance, and grounding their LGBTQIA children in love and acceptance.”
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis also called on the industry to take action, saying, “In this moment of crisis, what’s different is our community is holding companies accountable. So I have a message for the industry: Don’t wait until you’re in the hot seat. There’s no more time to sit on the sidelines. We need Hollywood on the front lines, fighting for our rights and telling our stories.” Ellis spelled out two specific goals for brands, agencies, studios and streamers, asking them to “one, commit to improving the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ images – especially in kids and family programming; and two, to speak out against anti-LGBTQ legislation in favor of rights like the Equality Act. I expect every industry executive in this room to join us. GLAAD will give you the playbook. But we won’t give you a pass.”
The evening had many highlights that brought the audience to its feet, including Ellis’ speech, a stirring performance by singer Jake Wesley Rogers and even an onstage proposal from Zeke Smith to Nico Santos (Santos said yes).
But perhaps the evening’s most inspiring moment came not from a celebrity but from Texas mother Amber Briggle, who was investigated by Child Protective Services agents for raising her trans son Max.
“I have never shed a tear because my child is trans. But I am angry every single day because of the way the world treats my son. Y’all have so much power to make a better world for all LGBTQ young people. You can change the narrative with just one tweet. So when you’re making TV shows and movies and writing stories on the news, I am begging you: humanize and normalize families with trans kids and trans people of every age and background.” Following her speech, she debuted a PSA that featured her and her son, that will play on Disney and Comcast-owned channels.
The ceremony concluded with Musgraves accepting the Vanguard Award for her ability to cross over country music with LGBTQ themes. After being presented her award by Ben Platt, she sang her hit “Rainbow” accompanied by a piano for the audience.
The starry event, hosted by Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, and D.J. “Shangela” Pierce, also saw attendees including Troye Sivan, JoJo Siwa, Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider, Cynthia Erivo and the young cast of Yellowjackets. The evening raised over $2.8 million to support GLAAD’s initiatives across the country.
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