April 12, 2018 at 10:50 pm PDT | by Rebekah Sager
GLAAD did it again at 2018 Media Awards in Beverly Hills

Thursday night GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, held its 29th annual Media Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The event honors media for projects and people who offer truthful and inclusive representations of the LGBTQ community and the issues that impact their lives.

Hosted by comedian Wanda Sykes, the event honored Britney Spears and Jim Parsons.

Special guests included director, Ryan Murphy, Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry, Netflix star and Emmy-winning writer, Lena Waithe, global entertainer Ricky Martin, and actress Chloe Grace Moretz, to name a few, were in attendance.

GLAAD board chair Pamela Stewart told the Los Angeles Blade she’s most excited this year about the many accurate portrayals of the LGBTQ community in media.

“Before it was a niche, and now it’s truly mainstream,” Stewart said. But, she cautioned that there could always be more. “There’s always a Jim and a John, and a Jane on the other side of the television or computer waiting to say ‘it’s ok to be me,’ and I want us to be apart of that narrative.”

One of the most dramatic changes in media in the last few years has been bourgeoning inclusion of more transgender characters.

Jazz Jennings told the Los Angeles Blade that there were drawbacks for being public transgender figure. Jennings was a presenter at the awards. She’s a YouTube personality and LGBT rights activist. She is notable for being one of the youngest publicly documented people to identify as transgender.

She said she struggles with her privacy and gets hate-filled comments on social media, but it “motivates her to share her story even more.”

“As a transgender person I’m out there being visible so I can inspire other young people to be their authentic selves as well.


Newcomer Nafessa Williams is breaking all sorts of new ground, playing the first black, lesbian superhero in the role of ‘Thunder’ on the CW show “Black Lightning.”

Williams told the Los Angeles Blade, “It’s been such an honor to lend my voice to this character. My goal is to inspire all young lesbians to be themselves and proudly embrace who they are and walk boldly in that,” she said.

Williams says her role is symbolic of everything that GLAAD’s work stands for. “It means representation is being showcased. It means that we’ve come to a place where the playing field is level. It means young lesbians have someone to look up to and feel empowered by,” she says.

Beyond the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, GLAAD took a moment during the event to announce a the kick-off of a first-time partnership with Gilead Sciences, a leading innovator in the field of HIV treatment and prevention medicines, to help raise much-needed awareness of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.

Douglas Brooks, senior director of community engagement at Gilead and former director of the Office of National AIDS Policy for the Obama Administration, joined Tori Cooper, an activist from Atlanta working on behalf of transgender people and people living with HIV, in speaking at the ceremony.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with Gilead to combat the vast challenges the LGBTQ and HIV and AIDS communities face in the South,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

“We must stand together to strike down the cultural barriers that still prevent LGBTQ people in the South from living open and authentic lives, or in the case of those impacted by HIV and AIDS, from seeking life-saving help. By working alongside dedicated, like-minded organizations such as Gilead, as well as local advocates, we can achieve deeper understanding and empathy from people in the South.”

“Ignorance about HIV and AIDS in the South has deadly consequences, with nearly half of all HIV and AIDS-related deaths occurring in that region,” said Cooper, a prevention specialist for Atlanta’s Positive Impact Health Centers. “We must take action to provide resources to communities in the South, where too many people cannot access, or worse, are still unaware of life-saving tools to prevent and treat HIV.”

Zeke Smith, a “Survivor” contestant who was famously outed as transgender, told the Los Angeles Blade that GLAAD “serves as a resource for studios and shows like “Survivor” that find themselves in a tricky situation, and need help navigating the waters… the story of outing the trans person has something we’ve seen in the media for a long time, and it’s always been permitted. My case was the first time people said, ‘no, we don’t do this. It’s not okay.’ I think it set a new standard,” Smith said.

Wilson Cruz

“Star Trek” star and activist Wilson Cruz, told the Los Angles Blade that in addition to the inclusion of LGBTQ characters, he’s particularly excited about “the explosion of diversity,” He adds that he’s “excited about shows like ‘One Day at a Time,’ and ‘On My Block,’ on Netflix, and the show ‘Pose,’ the largest trans cast we’ve ever had,” Wilson said.

Actor JJ Totah, who stars on Mindy Kalin’s show, “Champions,” talked about being multi-racial and LGBTQ in Hollywood. Although Totah is of Palestinian, Irish, Italian, and Lebanese ancestry in real life, on the show he plays an Indian LGBT character. “A double whammy,” he says. He adds that when it comes to Hollywood, whether you identify LGBTQ or mixed-race, “Everyone experiences their hardships, no matter what your minority identification is.”

Actor John Rothman, who plays Tig Nataro’s stepfather on Nataro’s Amazon series, “One Mississippi,” told the Los Angeles Blade that platforms such as Netflix and Amazon were groundbreaking when it came to inclusion and diversity.

“And when it comes to the #MeToo movement, ‘One Mississippi’ was ahead of its time. We had all women in the writer’s room, a woman creator, women showrunners, and we made something great,” Rothman said.

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