Rising Stars Luncheon Honors LGBTQ Leaders and Pioneers

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The event was held a day before the GLAAD Media Awards.

The Rising Stars Luncheon, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Wednesday, celebrated young leaders for their advocacy and investment in the LGBTQ cause. The event, which took place a day before the GLAAD Media Awards in L.A., featured numerous special guests including designer August Getty, country singer Brandon Stansell, and Keiynan Lonsdale and Alexandra Shipp of Love, Simon.

Recipients Gio Bravo, Leah Juliett and Shayna Warner were honored for their efforts in advancing the rights of the LGBTQ community and for creating an environment of acceptance. Musical group Superfruit performed during the luncheon, and 13 Reasons Why's Tommy Dorfman hosted.

"To me, GLAAD is a pioneering organization," said Bravo. "I think their work is some of the most sincere and fundamental work we need in order to help us move forward as an LGBTQ community." Bravo, the founder of clothing line Insurgent Couture, said he hoped that his work could bring together people of various backgrounds and raise awareness for those who've been marginalized.

"Everything that goes on with the brand goes through me first," he said. "I wanted to create something that works for everybody. It's something that has no gender bias, no stereotypes. I wanted to do something that was very diverse and universal, and that everyone could relate to." 

Juliett, founder and executive director of March Against Revenge Porn, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about being honored at the event. "I'm from Connecticut, a very small conservative town in Connecticut, and to be able to come all the way here to California is not only a big deal but also an opportunity that not a lot of people like me get, and I'm incredibly blessed. This grant is allowing me to pursue a project that I'm incredibly proud to be doing and I think is critical and important in this culture that we're in," she said. 

The visibility of LGBTQ actors in television and film is crucial in understanding the nature of their identities and seeing them as more than just characters and talents onstage, Juliett said. "We need to focus on the difference between visibility and legibility," she said. "Right now we have so many openly queer and transgender stars being visible; however, we don’t have the legibility, the understanding, the nuances of those identities. We need to start making those identities more understandable and more legible to an everyday person," said Juliett.

LGBTQ acceptance has always been a challenge, and over the years has faced its ups and downs. Shayna Maci Warner, graduating scholar from UCLA and managing editor of OutWrite News Magazine, expressed the need to be vocal and persistent. "We make big strides, and then we fall back a bit. This was the first year LGBTQ acceptance actually went down, and I believe the most important thing to do is to be more visible, vocal, and to go out and vote. If you're an ally, pay attention to those around you who need your help and need your voice to support them."

Bravo reiterated that the greatest challenge among LGBTQ people is increased visibility and awareness of their efforts. "Visibility is important. People cannot defend or stand behind something that they don't see. If we are scared to come out into the light and do our work and show who we are, then we cannot find people to support us and help us fight for that." 

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