GLAAD To Have Some Allies

by JC Alvarez
Thursday Apr 18, 2013

As the GLAAD Media Awards prepares to honor President Bill Clinton the recipient of the "Advocate for Change Award" at the Los Angeles gathering this coming Saturday night, you can bet that all eyes will be on Hollywood, and who might be there to lend his or her name to the growing number supporting equality for the LGBT community. Expected to attend the event this year held at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles, are Tinsel Town's A-List including Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron and newly minted Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence.

The show will be hosted by long-time LGBT advocate Drew Barrymore and will feature a special performance by pop music favorite Kelly Rowland. It's a far more impressive line-up, some might say, than the recent New York City fete - the one that featured...Madonna!

The Material Girl may have caused a stir in her Boy Scout uniform when she presented "Troop Leader" Anderson Cooper with his latest "Vito Russo Award" at the event in March, but there were more raised eyebrows in the room when filmmaker Brett Ratner was presented with the "Ally Award."

Ratner who made headlines and bowed out as producer of the Academy Awards in 2012 after flippantly and irresponsibly using a gay slur during an interview, made penance by directing a series of PSAs that displayed the director's commitment to equal rights for everyone. When he received the award, Ratner made reference to the PSAs that feature some of his friends lending their voice to support LGBT issues and especially marriage equality. Alas, due to the timing of the strategic plan to unveil the PSAs, audiences had to contend with the fact that the commercials would be "coming soon."

Coming Out in Support

"Right now there is a surge of support for LGBT people, and the issues that are affecting our lives such as marriage equality," says Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s VP of Communications. "This campaign is aimed at inspiring our straight allies to speak out." Several of the celebrities that Ratner recruited for the campaign have never gone on record in support of LGBT rights. "It’s important to let broader America know," added Ferrero, "that not only do we have support as LGBT people, but that we also have allies in marriage equality. Speaking out with such a diverse group of celebrities, we hope they will inspire and reach out to their networks, and let them know now is the time to come out for equality and what’s right."

Among the talent participating in the campaign is comedic actress, longtime activist and now author (her self-penned memoir "Guts" is out on paperback) Kristen Johnston. "Sometimes activism can alienate people," she said. "You have to help people understand everyone is ’just like me’." Johnston moved to New York City in 1985. As a performer, she immediately fell into circles of friends that included LGBT people. "When I was starting out, the gay community was the first people to embrace me. Where other people didn’t get me...they just enjoyed me."

On working with Ratner to create her "coming out" in support of LGBT issues spot, Johnston says about her director: "Brett Ratner has an irreverence to him...he added a combination of funny to this project. It’s a great thing that he did. No one else could have created these PSAs in this way." Johnston is hopeful that the campaign will educate her audience, and carry the message. "Let’s get out there! Let’s change minds."

Lessons Learned

The PSA campaign is preparing to launch in time for the GLAAD awards gala on Saturday and will be reaching viewers everywhere, especially during the height of a very important season that is seeing great momentum in marriage equality and other issues affecting our community. GLAAD’s continuing efforts to guarantee that the LGBTQ community is properly regarded in media, is reflected in this collaboration with director Brett Ratner.

"Our staff is really proud to have worked with Brett Ratner on these PSAs," said Ferraro. "He rolled up his sleeves and immediately got to work on this campaign, putting a lot of his energy into it." Ratner was 100% committed to the campaign, involved in every facet, from casting, to script, to final execution. "It’s great that he was able to put the past behind him," added Ferraro, "and move forward in such a positive way. We certainly value Brett and the gay allies that are participating in this campaign and hope it will inspire other straight allies to speak out."

The 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards takes place on Saturday, Apr. 20 in Los Angeles honoring President Bill Clinton. Unveiling Brett Ratner’s new campaign this week is amplifying the mission to support equality for all of us.

Check out the PSA featuring Kristen Johnston here:

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".


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