Beyoncé Moved to Tears While Dedicating GLAAD Honor to Late Uncle

The music star calls him "the most fabulous gay man I've ever met" as she and Jay-Z accept GLAAD's Vanguard Award during a night featuring Shangela performing a medley of Bey's hits and Sean Hayes and Greg Berlanti also being honored.
Courtesy of GLAAD
Jay-Z and Beyonce

Even Beyoncé gets overwhelmed.

That's the word Bey picked to describe her emotional state while standing on stage next to husband Jay-Z inside the Beverly Hilton's international ballroom at 10:30 p.m. Thursday night. The superstar couple closed the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards by receiving the event's biggest honor, the Vanguard Award, presented to the pair for using their massive platforms in support of the LGBTQ community. 

They used only five minutes at the podium, but it paid off in a big way, judging, first, by the standing ovation they received as they made their way to the stage and, later, by the shouts and applause they received during their remarks. Those included honoring their respective gay relatives (Jay-Z's mother Gloria Carter; Beyoncé's uncle Johnny), preaching a message of love and acceptance and returning heartfelt gratitude to LGBTQ fans and the GLAAD organization. 

It's also important to point out what happened before they planted any shoes onstage. Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z seemed pleasantly shocked and humbled to see a quartet of unannounced presenters take turns detailing their advocacy, humanity and friendship. There was Emmy-winning multi-hyphenate Lena Waithe, transgender writer and producer Janet Mock, HIV activist Morris Singletary and Bey's longtime stylist Ty Hunter.

Waithe called them the most powerful black people in the country; Mock cited the significance of them casting her in the Ava DuVernay-directed music video for "Family Feud"; Singletary said their concerts are akin to world peace; and Hunter, plucked from obscurity inside Houston's Galleria mall by Tina Knowles and placed on tour with Destiny's Child, detailed the most powerful lesson he's learned from "the Carters," which is this: "Love is love." 

And then there was Shangela.

The RuPaul's Drag Race star and A Star is Born breakout surprised the sold-out crowd of close to 1050 by performing a medley of Beyoncé's hits — complete with a pair of fans and a quartet of ripped backup dancers. The drag queen worked the stage, flipped her wig and electrified the audience like it was the world's most star-studded gay bar. When it was all over, Bey and Jay were among the first out of their seats for a standing ovation. Also in the room: stellar host Ross Mathews, honoree Sean Hayes, presenters Gwyneth Paltrow, Allison Janney, Lea Michele, Olivia Munn, Meghan Trainor, Justin Tranter, and guests Yeardley Smith, King Princess, Queer Eye castmembers, Trace Lysette, Our Lady J and Wilson Cruz. Adam Lambert opened the show by introducing Lizzo, who greased the floor with her breakout single "Juice."

It all added up to "a momentous night," said Jay-Z, who was the first to use the microphone during the Vanguard speech, and he started by thanking the "incredible" Waithe, Mock, Singletary and Hunter. "You know life, this journey, is filled with highs, lows and a lot of learning," said Jay, dressed in a blush pink FRÈRE cocktail jacket while his wife was outfitted in a oversized and cleavage-baring black tuxedo jacket and stilettos. "I also want to — because I didn’t do it last year — honor my mother who received the award last year. Following her footsteps of spreading love and acceptance and her beautiful speech at the end of the song, "Smile," and for her allowing me to tell her story. So I want everyone to acknowledge her and her strong message of love who you love and souls that connect. And now the soul that my soul connected to, B."

It was her turn, and she also leaned on the same word as her husband to describe what they just experienced: "We were not expecting those incredible presenters. I’m just super honored and overwhelmed. I’ve already cried, put a run in my stocking from Shangela," said Beyoncé. She then described the "most beautiful" memory from tour, "looking out from the stage every night and seeing the hardest gangster trapping out right next to the most fabulous queen — full out — respecting and celebrating each other." 

It's a level of acceptance she hopes is spread to those who need it most, particularly black communities. "We’re here to promote love for every human being, and change starts with supporting the people closest to you. So let’s tell them they are loved. Let's remind them they are beautiful. Let's speak out and protect them, and parents, let's love our kids in their truest form. We’d like to request that we continue to shift the stigmas in this community — especially the stigmas in black families towards accepting queer black and brown men and women around the world," she said.

Beyoncé then revealed something personal — that her gay uncle Johnny passed away after a battle with HIV. She previously mentioned him during a CFDA speech, detailing how he created Destiny's Child tour ensembles by hand. "I want to dedicate this award to my uncle Johnny — the most fabulous gay man I’ve ever met who helped raise me and my sister. He lived his truth. He was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn’t as accepting," she said, fighting back tears. As she choked up, Jay rubbed his hand across her back to comfort her. "Witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived. I’m hopeful that his struggle served to open pathways for other young people to live more freely."

She continued: "LGBTQIA rights are human rights. To choose who you love is your human right. How you identify and see yourself is your human right. Who you make love to and take that ass to Red Lobster is your human right."

The crowd erupted at the mention of the home of Cheddar Bay biscuits, a quote that will likely live on for quite some time. It was one of the night's many memorable moments. There were also other awards given out. Will & Grace Emmy winner Hayes picked up the Stephen F. Kolzak prize from his Oscar-winning pal Allison Janney. He quipped about her status by describing the difference between stars of the big and small screens. “A movie star can get a reservation at any restaurant in town. A TV star can actually buy the restaurant," he joked. 

Hayes also tested out a Jussie Smollett joke, saying that in addition to buying a new suit for the occasion, he had "been getting in shape for tonight with the Jussie Smollet workout. You hire two trainers and sweat for 8 weeks," which leads to weight loss and lost credibility. 

GLAAD presented a long list of awards in a taped segment — winners can be found here — while there were three major prizes presented live during the show, presented in part by Ketel One Family-Made Vodka, which hosted a lively bar on the hotel terrace. Outstanding reality program went to Queer Eye, outstanding comedy series to Vida, and the motion picture prize went to Greg Berlanti's Love, Simon. The TV mogul — the most prolific in Hollywood — was on hand with most of his cast to accept the honor, which was presented by Paltrow. 

Berlanti delivered a passionate speech that touched on the power of gay stories and the difficulty storytellers will face moving forward in a town that has just lost Fox 2000, which distributed his film. “Films like Love, Simon aren’t tentpoles, but they also aren’t independent films. That’s why we need GLAAD more than ever. The fight for equality in our multiplexes is going to get more difficult, not easier," said Berlanti, joined at the event by husband Robbie Rogers. “Making movies like Love, Simon and the TV shows I’m lucky to be a part of, I get to meet and work with a lot of young people. They are fearless. They are going to keep telling stories until every kid of every race, every gender, and every sexuality gets to go to the movies and watch their own Love, Simon."

Scroll down for a look inside the event and for Beyoncé and Jay-Z's full acceptance speech.

Jay-Z: "Thank you, thank you. Make some noise for those incredible, incredible, incredible people. Thank you GLAAD for this amazing honor and [for] having us here this evening. You know life, this journey is filled with highs, lows and a lot of learning. This is a momentous night and I also want to — because I didn’t do it last year — is honor my mother who received the award last year. Following her footsteps of spreading love and acceptance and her beautiful speech at the end of the song, "Smile," and for her allowing me to tell her story. So I want everyone to acknowledge her and her strong message of love who you love and souls that connect. And now the soul that my soul connected to, B."

Beyoncé: "Well, first of all, I’m overwhelmed. We were not expecting those incredible presenters. I’m just super honored and overwhelmed. I’ve already cried, put a run in my stocking from Shangela. I would say that one of the most beautiful memories of my tour was looking out from the stage every night and seeing the hardest gangster trapping out right next to the most fabulous queen — full out — respecting and celebrating each other. [Responding to audience member: That’s how we do!]

That’s the beauty of a great partnership — connecting people who at first glance seem to be worlds apart. Whether it’s our fans or our family, the LGBTQIA community has always supported us and lifted us up and we thank you guys. We’re here to promote love for every human being and change starts with supporting the people closest to you. So let’s tell them they are loved. Let's remind them they are beautiful. Let's speak out and protect them, and parents, let's love our kids in their truest form. We’d like to request that we continue to shift the stigmas in this community — especially the stigmas in black families towards accepting queer black and brown men and women around the world. 

Lastly, I want to dedicate this award to my uncle Johnny — the most fabulous gay man I’ve ever met who helped raise me and my sister. He lived his truth. He was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn’t as accepting. Witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived. I’m hopeful that his struggle served to open pathways for other young people to live more freely.

LGBTQIA rights are human rights. To choose who you love is your human right. How you identify and see yourself is your human right. Who you make love to and take that ass to Red Lobster is your human right.

I just wanna say to you, Jay, that I’m so proud of you for making the incredible strides towards changing stigmas in the hip-hop community. It's a privilege to watch you take those steps and to stand right next to you. I love you. And we’re super grateful and honored. Thank y’all."