Rita Moreno and Laverne Cox Honored at Outfest Legacy Awards

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Laverne Cox (left) and Rita Moreno

Elizabeth Banks and Norman Lear also attended the event, which was also a fundraiser to restore and preserve the history of LGBT cinema.

At the Outfest Legacy Awards, which were held at Vibiana on Sunday night, honoree Rita Moreno wasn’t afraid to speak her mind on a variety of issues.

The 85-year-old actress, who was being celebrated as a longtime LGBTQ ally, sounded off on her rare status as one of the world’s only EGOT recipients: “Now it’s actually become a KEGOT — Kennedy Center Honors," she told THR. "I look at all of these awards on my shelf now and then and I just say: Wow!” 

Moreno, who is from Puerto Rico, also commented on Trump’s reaction to her devastated island home: “I really have run out of expletives. Now it’s breaking my heart. I’m thinking of writing an op-ed piece as a eulogy because I’m just so triste — so sad.” 

The industry veteran also had plenty to say on the subject of sexual harassment in Hollywood. “The head of 20th Century Fox, Buddy Adler, pursued me for at least a year,” Moreno told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was a nightmare. I was very young — about 19, 20. And scared. He had a mistress, by the way, interestingly enough, who kind of looked like my type, and he was also pursuing me. But I was a kid, for Pete’s sake.”

“There were others — that was so common,” she said, adding that no one called it sexual harassment back in the day. “Absolutely not. They wouldn’t dare — people would laugh you out of town. That was just the way things were. Oprah Winfrey has it right,” she proclaimed. “This is not just about Mr. Weinstein, this is about a construct, and that’s what has to be attended to.”

But since Moreno was there to be honored for her unwavering support of the LGBTQ community, she also shared about her longtime love of diversity. “All my life I’ve been with the people of color, I’ve been with Jews, I’ve been with Italians — and how far away is it, really, being a friend of the gay community?” she said. “From the time I was in my teens — we’re talking 13, 14 — I had a teenage boyfriend who was gay with whom I laughed until I thought I would wet my knickers. We had such a great time together. So it’s the most natural thing in the world.”

Fellow honoree Laverne Cox, meanwhile, humbly deflected the recognition as a trailblazer, opting instead to shine a light on transgender pioneers who paved the way for her, such as Jazzmun Nichcala Crayton, Aleshia Brevard, Holly Woodlawn, Alexis Arquette and The Lady Chablis.

“When I think of trailblazers, I think of folks like that,” Cox told THR. “Those actresses who provided a blueprint for ways in which I might navigate a career. What many of them had to endure as actors — and as human beings — I don’t have to endure now because they did that, and they went through those things and fought those battles.”

Awards and accolades are appreciated by the Emmy-nominated activist, but her interaction with gender nonconforming youth is what resonates most with the Orange Is the New Black star.

“When I meet a trans student who says I was on the verge of suicide and then I saw you on television and now I have a reason to live and I want to be an actor and I believe it’s possible because of you — that’s what I’m most proud of,” Cox said of her mission. “Inspiring people to believe that their lives matter, that they can have a life, that they can purse their dreams.”

The evening also served as a fundraiser for the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. “It’s a crucial service to our community to preserve the history of representation of LGBT people,” said Transparent producer Zackary Drucker.

Guests enjoyed a live auction and musical performance by fellow Transparent producer and singer Our Lady J, as well as appearances by the likes of Norman Lear and Elizabeth Banks, who introduced Cox, her partner in television projects.

“Through the years, transgender characters have been written as prostitutes, drug addicts, victims of violent crimes. They’re often sassy or tragic, mentally unstable street urchins,” Banks told the crowd. “On the rare occasion when a transgender character is featured more prominently, their role has been filled with a non-trans actor or actress, because mainstream Hollywood either didn’t know or refused to acknowledge the pool of talent in trans actors and actresses clamoring to work. Until Laverne Cox. Laverne lit her torch and began blazing herself a path, refusing to accept the limitations Hollywood and society had imposed on her,” she said before introducing the actress.

Lear took a less serious approach to his introduction of Moreno. “She’s one of only 12 people in the entire world who’ve won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony," he said, before listing her many other claims to fame. “All that, and she’s having my baby,” he joked.

Moreno waxed poetic on the subject of sexuality after accepting her latest award. “How could I not advocate for this community? How could I not love you — and admire you?” she said. “You are so brave. You are so fearless. You have refused to let it be called a mole, because you know it’s a beauty mark. After all, you are gay.” 

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