Reporter Mathew Rodriguez attended the GLAAD Media Awards and was able to see stars—from a distance.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) held its annual gala-cum-fundraiser, the GLAAD Media Awards on March 25th in the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Time Square and yours truly was in attendance. Every year, the GLAAD Media Awards invite youth from community-based organizations (CBO) throughout the city to attend the event and rub elbows with the elite LGBT moneybags who were quickly escorted to their area on the sixth floor, while those of us from CBOs were ushered to the seventh floor.
The hosts for the night were perennial host Naya Rivera ("Santana" from TV’s Glee) and first-timer Cory Monteith ("Finn," also on Glee). Opening was the show was LGBT favorite and "queen of all media" Wendy Williams, who introduced a clip reel of the year in LGBT news. Once she left the stage, GLAAD’s acting president gave a short speech and introduced who was essentially the keynote speaker for the night—Zach Wahls. You may not know Zach Wahls by name, but if any of you have seen the video on Youtube of the young man testifying in front of the Iowa Legislature on behalf of his gay moms (the video has garnered almost 20 million views) then you know who I’m speaking about. He was very personable, witty, charming, charismatic, and everything a good keynote speaker should be. However, I regret to inform you, he was straight. It’s not that I’m anti-ally (allies are extremely important in the fight for LGBT equality), it’s that this young, straight man from Iowa was given more screen time than any other person that night, and once he left the stage, the acting president of GLAAD praised him and said—and I’m paraphrasing here—that the mission of GLAAD was to "give a voice to youth like him." Yes, GLAAD exists to give straight young men like him, who own their own small business, a voice. Meanwhile, the LGBTQ youth in the rafters were given a few shout-outs by celebrities who said that one day, we can look forward to “sitting on the first floor” with the other Monopoly men.
Just how much money do you think was on the first floor? After Zach Wahls left the stage, four executives from GLAAD came on stage to start an awkward fundraising portion of the night. They had a system where you could donate by text, and the donation along with your name would show up on the screen behind them. In less than 3 minutes, they were able to raise $75,000, which wasn’t difficult after the likes of Russell Simmons and John Stamos donated about $5,000 each. After the fundraising portion finished at $75,000, they announced that they had raised another $15,000 by text even after the fundraising portion was over. Another fundraising moment was when each host, Cory and Naya, offered their kisses for charity. They each went for $5000, but when John Stamos "< href="http://www.popeater.com/2009/09/13/kanye-west-taylor-swift-vmas/">Kanye-Wested” the stage and offered up his own kiss, he also raked in $5000, totaling another $15k in the pot for GLAAD.
I understand, of course, that every organization needs money to survive, and I’m not here solely to criticize GLAAD. As a media watchdog group, GLAAD does what is probably some of the best work in its field. However, I will attest that as a youth who attended from a CBO, I was often unable to enjoy the event, because as you attend the awards, you are very aware that you are constantly and consistently watching a commercial. With the names of brands projected on either side of the stage, and the name of Ketel One Vodka said more than "LGBTQ youth," I wonder where the money is going. I’m not one to be ungrateful, and it was nice to see celebrities from afar (and dressing up for a night was nice) but I would hope that in the future that hobnobbing with celebrities is less glamorous when our elbows are a whole floor away.