Inside Advocate's Champions of Pride Event With Laverne Cox, Karamo Brown and Wilson Cruz

Wilson Cruz and Laverne Cox - PRIDE Beverly Center - Getty - H 2018
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

Pride month kicked off Friday night not with a bang, but instead, the flip of a switch.

At least that's how it went down in Los Angeles at the mammoth Beverly Center retail and dining complex. The Advocate teamed with the Beverly Center to celebrate Champions of Pride inside newly opened restaurant Farmhouse by inviting VIPs from the city's LGBTQ community for a cocktail-party-meets-awards-presentation hosted by Laverne Cox and Queer Eye star Karamo Brown. 

It was Cox who was charged with announcing the flip of a switch that would illuminate Beverly Center’s exterior in Pride's signature rainbow coloring, marking the first time ever that building has been lit. (As part of June's pride month festivities, the exterior will be lit every evening as a symbol of the shopping center’s ongoing support of the LGBTQ community.) However, the lighting portion of the celebration encountered a minor hiccup when Cox counted from 10 down to 1 (a la New Year's Eve), and when she finished counting, the exterior did not light up as intended. 

The party kept moving inside, however, with performances by American Idol breakout Ada Vox and Newbody. In terms of awards, four honorees received a pat on the back for their contributions on behalf of the LGBTQ community: Parkland survivor and advocate Emma Gonzales, ballroom icon and trans actress Cece Suazo, CEO of Extraordinary Families Sarah Boone and founder of the first black, gay disco in L.A., Jewels Thais-Williams. All were present except for Gonzales, who stayed local in Florida in order to attend her school graduation

Other guests included Alexandra Billings (Transparent), actor Clark Moore (Love, Simon), YouTube personality Connor Franta, music marketer, DJ and owner of IHEARTCOMIX Franki Chan, actress Jasika Nicole (The Good Doctor), Jill Soloway (Transparent), songwriter Justin Tranter, YouTube personality and transgender rights activist Kat Blaque, actor Kevin McHale (Glee), director Michael Sucsy (Grey Gardens), director Mike Roma, dancer and actress Mollee Gray (Teen Beach Movie), YouTube personality and LGBTQ activist Nikita Dragun, musician Shea Diamond, actress Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and actor Tonatiuh Elizarraraz (Jane the Virgin).

Beverly Center staff also worked overtime to make sure that the Friday night affair felt more hip than a typical high-schooler's night out. In addition to rainbow-color letters spelling out Beverly Center at the valet, a one-of-a-kind mural created by Lovewall artist J. Goldcrown served as the photo backdrop for the evening and will live at Beverly Center throughout the month of June.
Asked by The Hollywood Reporter to name her own personal "champion of pride," Cox singled out those in the LGBTQ community who struggle to be themselves despite everyday challenges. "For me, I think the everyday transgender person who gets up and gets themself together to go out and face the world and faces street harassment and faces being misgendered, trying to find a job, trying to survive," she said. "Having the courage to be themselves in a world that is becoming more accepting but is still not there yet. Those are my champions. Those are the people who inspire me."