"I would do it at half-time of the Super Bowl," was the reply given by Tina Fey, writer/star of NBC's 30 Rock when GLAADmedia awards host Andy Cohen of Bravo posed the hypothetical question of how she would come out if she was actually a closeted lesbian. "And my Plan B would be to insert 'I'm gay' under my photo during the In Memoriam segment of the Oscars!" When she was then asked to choose a partner from a group of lesbian icons Ms. Fey chose CNN financial guru Suze Orman over MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and several others. "It's the blazer," she explained, "although I do love Rachel's hair."
This hilarious banter between the very talented Fey and the puckish Cohen was one of many highpoints of the 22nd Annual GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) New York Media Awards gala held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan's Times Square on March 19, 2011. Also on hand as presenters or guests were actors Patrick Wilson, Pauley Perrette (NCIS), Wilson Cruz and TV personalities Jane Velez-Mitchell, Ted Allen (Chopped All Stars), Lawrence O'Donnell (MSNBC); and the "unofficial first lady of New York State" Sandra Lee (Food Network).
Out singer Ricky Martin and music producer/entrepreneur Russell Simmons were presented major awards at the event, which also honored the best in television and journalism
The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the issues that affect their lives. Monies raised at the GLAAD Media Awards via ticket sales and auctions (silent and traditional) fund GLAAD's work to amplify stories of LGBT people and issues that build support for equality.
At the ceremony, film and Broadway producer Craig Zadan presented the Vito Russo Award to Grammy Award-winning singer Martin, whose decision to speak about his life as a gay man has, according to GLAAD, "had a tremendous impact worldwide, especially for Latino youth and their parents." The Vito Russo Award is presented to an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality for the LGBT community.
Looking every inch the handsome pop idol he has been since his days as a member of the boy band Menudo, Martin seemed visibly moved as he took the stage to accept the award in a tuxedo and open neck white shirt.
"What an honor this is. I have no words to say but thank you. GLAAD has helped me so much. A couple of months ago, I was being attacked in the media in Puerto Rico, and I called GLAAD and asked 'What do I do? ...I'm new at this and I really don't know what to do.' They said, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of it.' And [GLAAD staff people] hopped on a plane to Puerto Rico and did what needed to be done. And today, Puerto Rican television is one step closer to being free from hate, thanks to GLAAD," Martin said.
He continued, "I just want to be free. I can say today I'm free. And for that I definitely need to thank my parents for being so supportive, my mother and my dad for their unconditional love, and my friends, my family, my fans. And my partner in crime and my boyfriend, Carlos."
Martin concluded his remarks by urging GLAAD to increase its efforts in Latin America.
"Let's share the love! Let's go to Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile! Let's go to Brazil! We need you, GLAAD -- we need you down there, we need to spread the love in Latin America. I can help, I can do it! I'll be part of it. I want to be part of it. Thank you so much for everything. God bless you all and see you soon on my New York tour!"
Martin also confirmed that he will play the role of Ché Guevara in a 2012 New York revival of Evita.
Also at the event, the Excellence in Media Award is presented to individuals who, through their work, have increased the visibility and understanding of the LGBT community in the media. The always entertaining Rev. Al Sharpton presented the Excellence in Media Award to pioneering hip-hop producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Simmons, who has repeatedly spoken out on issues of concern to the LGBT community, urging Americans to support full equality.
"It's a great honor and I'm truly appreciative of the GLAAD Media Awards including me in this special night," Simmons said. "I'm humbled by having one of my mentors and heroes, Rev. Sharpton, giving me this award. It's no secret that faith-based communities, in some cases, have been difficult, and I think that for all of us who step outside of our comfort zone and fight for the rights of others, we are blessed. And Rev. Sharpton [has] stood up in so many ways and has been very special. And to the gay and lesbian community he's a true blessing. I'm honored and appreciative, and I just want to thank everybody."
Fey returned to the stage to accept the GLAAD award for Outstanding Individual Episode for the "Klaus & Greta" episode of 30 Rock. Openly gay actor Denis O'Hare, who plays scary Vampire King Russell Edgington, accepted the award on behalf of True Blood which received the award for Outstanding Drama Series.
The award for Outstanding Digital Journalism – Multimedia was accepted by journalist Bobbi Misick, Emil Wilbekin, managing editor of Essence.com, and Danielle and Aisha Moodie-Mills for the Essence.com story "Bridal Bliss: Aisha and Danielle." This story was the first time Essence.com included a lesbian couple in its weekly wedding feature.
"The year's honorees, nominees and award recipients represent diverse stories that are building acceptance and understanding about our community through their excellent work," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "GLAAD thanks all in attendance for joining us and voicing their support for equality."
Special kudos and props (whatever) to Texas student activist Bianca "Nikki" Peet, an amazing young woman who fought and won a battle with a homophobic administration to establish a Gay/Straight Alliance club at her Corpus Christi school. The diminutive, energetic Nikki was well deserving of the standing ovation from the admiring crowd when she concluded her on-stage remarks.
Just to break up the festive monotony, a member of Cirque du Soleil performed an act from their newest show Zarkana for the capacity crowd.
This year, GLAAD expanded its Young Adults Program from Los Angeles to New York. Support from corporate partners like Bridgestone Americas and Cirque du Soleil, and GLAAD supporters Glenn Close, Alan Cumming, Tom Ford & Richard Buckley, Suze Orman, Bishop Gene Robinson, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Walters allowed GLAAD to offer free balcony tickets to the event to over 300 youth and young adults from the greater New York area. Students affiliated with Columbia University, The AIDS Center of Queens County, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and the Streetwork Project enjoyed the show and a private after-party.
Other guests and presenters at the event included:
the current and previous Emperor and Empress of the Imperial Court of New York,
Vinny Guadagnino (Jersey Shore)
Miss USA Rima Fakih
Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge (The Fabulous Beekman Boys)
film and Broadway producer Neil Meron
Zac Young, Gail Simmons (Top Chef: Just Desserts)
Alex Guarnaschelli (Chopped)
Liz Lee (My Life as Liz)
Mike Ruiz, Sahara Davenport, Manila Luzon (RuPaul's Drag Race)
Laverne Cox, Jamie Clayton (TRANSform Me)
sports journalist LZ Granderson
Chris March (Mad Fashion)
Nathan Williams (Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys)
Spencer Liff (So You Think You Can Dance)
Sonja Morgan (The Real Housewives of New York City)
Phillip Bloch (fashion designer)
LGBT advocate Janice Langbehn
Guests at the after-party enjoyed the music of DJ Tracy Young and were well-fueled by three open bars -- but, without a cracker or peanut to be found, were forced to dig into their (very generous and heavy) gift bags for the small bag of sweet potato chips (yummy!).