BY WINNIE McCROY | Leading luminaries of stage and screen gathered at New York's Marriott Marquis Hotel on the evening of March 17 for the 19th Annual Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards. Gay UK talk show star Graham Norton hosted the evening of cocktails, silent auction, and awards honoring excellence in film, television, digital and print media, and music. GLAAD also honored Logo president Brian Graden with the Vito Russo Award, and activist Judy Shepard with the Excellence in Media Award.
“What's great is there are gay people in the media now, and they're out, but a day like today just absolutely underlines it-it's sort of a celebration now,” said Norton, as he stood on the red carpet. “The agenda is changing all the time, and an event like tonight is a time to party and celebrate the incredible achievements that have been made.”
Film, television, digital, print, and music stand-outs recognized in NY
Other celebrities in attendance included Alan Cumming, Tim Gunn, Anika Noni Rose, Anthony Rapp, Mariska Hargitay, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Loretta Devine, Van Hansis, Josie Smith-Malave, and Cheyenne Jackson. Junior Vasquez was guest DJ at the after-party.
“This year's honorees have used the power of their words, their music, and their art to advocate on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community,” said GLAAD i. c. President Neil G. Giuliano. “They are changing hearts and minds, and opening people's eyes to the common, human experiences we share, and it is our privilege to honor them.”
Notable wins went to “Stardust” and “The Bubble” for Outstanding Film (Wide and Limited Release, respectively); “For the Bible Tells Me So” won Outstanding Documentary. “As the World Turns” won the Outstanding Daily Drama Award, and an episode of “Boston Legal” received honors, as well.
Rufus Wainwright's “Release the Stars” garnered awards, as did the Off-Broadway run of “The Beebo Brinker Chronicles” and the Off-Off-Broadway run of “BASH'd: A Gay Rap Opera.” Terry Moore's “Strangers in Paradise” won the award for Outstanding Comic Book.
Award-winning news coverage came from David France's reporting on gays in Iraq in GQ, CBS' “60 Minutes,” ABC's “20/20,” “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN, AfterElton.com, and the New York Times.
The evening's winners were joined by honorees Graden and Shepard and a special recognition award went to the cable network BET J, the jazz, Caribbean, R&B, and hip hop spin-off of Black Entertainment Television.
Out gay comedian Alec Mapa, presented the Vito Russo Award, which honors the late historian of gay imagery in film, to MTV's Graden. Mapa lauded the efforts of Gunn and others for their portrayals of gay youth on shows including “Project Runway” and “American Idol.”
“These kids are 20 years old, and they're almost post-gay; this isn't an issue for them,” Mapa said. “They are who they are, and it's your problem if you're not okay with it. And that is such progress to me. It shows how far we've come, but we've still got a long way to go because our kids don't feel safe to be who they are.
“In high schools and smaller towns, people are still struggling to live lives where they can be authentic, and GLAAD is helping us along on that journey, because our images in the media – that's how our perceptions of the LGBT community are shaped – and GLAAD keeps an eye on that and makes sure all those portrayals are fair and accurate.”
Graden, president of Logo and of entertainment generally at MTV Networks, is known for his ability to balance corporate and creative teams within the entertainment industry. His nine years in programming at MTV led to its running status as the number-one rated basic cable network for youth 12-24 years old. With Logo, the first ad-supported gay and lesbian cable channel in history in 2005, Graden substantially increased LGBT visibility on TV.
Comedian Kate Clinton was on hand to present Judy Shepard with the Excellence in Media Award.
“Even though it's the tenth anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, we've seen just a few months ago a young man of 15 killed in Oxnard, California, and so the work still needs to be done,” said Clinton. “We honor the work Judy Shepard has done, but also we remember that there's still a lot of work to do.”
Shepard turned the grief she felt over the 1998 anti-gay murder of her 21-year-old son into constructive action through the establishment of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which works for social justice, diversity, awareness, education, and equality for LGBT people.
As executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she oversees the strategic direction of the organization, and she spends considerable time traveling across the nation speaking to audiences about what they can do as individuals and communities to aid the group's mission. The Foundation says she has spoken to one million young people.
“This year's extraordinary nominees exemplify the important strides we have made as a community toward creating a truly inclusive society,” said Giuliano. “GLAAD's persistent, effective efforts to educate media professionals continue to yield a growing body of stories about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people that are more compelling, more honest, and more real than ever before.”
The 19th Annual GLAAD Media Awards will host ceremonies in Florida, Los Angeles, and San Francisco this spring, honoring gay pioneers including actor Wilson Cruz, “L Word” creator Ilene Chaiken, and the late fashion photographer Herb Ritts.