With the initial spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. back in the early months of 2020, perhaps the first definitive proof that it had hit crisis-level proportions was the widespread cancellation of live events nationwide.
Every corner of the media and entertainment industry was impacted. Concerts, theatrical performances, award shows, conventions, lecture tours – every large in-person event across the country was either cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future.
Among those were the two annual presentations of GLAAD’s Media Awards. The LGBTQ advocacy group was forced to pull the plug on both its planned ceremonies, set for New York and Los Angeles, and leave them in limbo for what we all then hoped would be only a month or two, at most, surely.
Now, as the country faces a new and even more alarming surge in the pandemic, GLAAD is stepping up to the plate to remind us that, despite whatever other challenges the world may be facing as we move into an increasingly uncertain future, the fight for equality must go on – and befitting its role as one of the foremost leaders in that fight, the organization has decided that it’s time for the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards to go on.
Slated for Thursday, July 30, the awards (which honor media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues) will be presented in a streaming event over GLAAD’s Facebook and YouTube platforms at 8 p.m., before airing on Logo on Aug. 3 (also at 8 p.m.). Taking the place of both original ceremonies planned for earlier this year, the virtual ceremony may not be the gala event that has become an annual tradition since its inception in 1990, but it will nevertheless continue the Media Awards’ legacy of sending powerful messages of acceptance to audiences globally as the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world.
In January, GLAAD announced more than 175 nominees in 30 categories. These include nods for “Bombshell,” “Booksmart,” “Downton Abbey,” “Rocketman,” “Adam,” “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” and several other films in both the Wide and Limited Release categories; “Batwoman,” “Billions,” “Euphoria,” “Pose,” “The L-Word: Generation Q,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Dear White People,” “Schitt’s Creek,” “Sex Education,” “Vida,” and many more TV shows in the Drama and Comedy categories, as well as a long list of other programs and films made for television; Adam Lambert, Brittany Howard, Lil Nas X, Melissa Etheridge, Mika, Tegan and Sara, and several other big LGBTQ names are in the competition for Outstanding Music Artist; there are categories for Outstanding Comic Book and Outstanding Video Game, as well as the returning category for Outstanding Broadway Production; in addition, the Outstanding Kids & Family Programming category expanded to 10 nominees as a result of an increase in LGBTQ images across kids and family television programming and an increase in GLAAD’s work to advocate for inclusion in this genre. If all that weren’t enough, there’s another whole list of Spanish-language nominations.
Of course, entertainment is only one side of the media – there’s also its all-important role in providing news and information, something GLAAD recognizes with awards for Outstanding achievement in LGBTQ journalism. Among those being acknowledged in these categories are two of the Blade’s own reporters.
Nominated for Outstanding Newspaper Article is Chris Johnson, for “Military Reports No Discharges Under Trans Ban — But Advocates Have Doubts,” which appeared in the Washington Blade in August 2019. A deep-dive into the ongoing legal battles in the wake of President Trump’s controversial, tweeted 2017 proclamation that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, the article is a strong contender against other nominated work from such journalistic heavy-hitters as both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
One of the ceremony’s certain winners, as announced all the way back in January, will be the Los Angeles Blade’s Karen Ocamb, a longtime giant of LGBTQ journalism in L.A. Along with Philadelphia Gay News founder and publisher Mark Segal and the Netflix series, “Special,” Ocamb is one of three recipients of Special Recognition Awards from GLAAD.
Los Angeles Blade Publisher Troy Masters says, “I am so proud to work with Karen Ocamb on a near daily basis. She is a powerful brain trust on LGBT and AIDS matters. Her integrity and devotion to truth have immensely benefited the LGBTQ community of Los Angeles and nationally, and it has made the Los Angeles Blade a force in journalism. Karen has added mightily to our partnership with the Washington Blade.”
As for Ocamb, she says, “I was surprised to receive the Special Recognition from GLAAD. I’ve been hesitant to submit any of my work for award consideration because it felt like a possible conflict of interest. But being recognized as an heir to LGBTQ reporters such as Jim Kepner and Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon is an incredible honor. And I greatly appreciate GLAAD serving as a watchdog over if and how our stories are being told since we are still a long way from full equality.”
Ocamb’s comments resonate with those of GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, who said in a statement, “Among this year’s nominees are a wide range of stories and narratives about LGBTQ people of different races, ethnicities, genders, religions, and other identities that demonstrate the power of inclusion and diversity in fostering positive cultural change. As this year’s Media Awards go virtual, we hope to send a powerful message to LGBTQ people that in the midst of this culturally and politically divisive time, our visibility and voices have never been more important.”
It’s safe to say that a good number of the famous names and faces from that list of nominees will be making an appearance on July 30, but you’ll have to watch the ceremony to find out who the winners are.
Comedians Fortune Feimster and Gina Yashere will host, and there will be a special performance from Grammy-nominated duo Chloe x Halle. Special guests will include Cara Delevingne (“Suicide Squad,” “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”), Kaitlyn Dever (“Booksmart”), WWE superstar Sonya Deville, Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart”), Jonica T. Gibbs (“Twenties”), Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”), Lil Nas X, Rachel Maddow (“The Rachel Maddow Show”), Ryan O’Connell (“Special”), Dolly Parton, Peppermint (“RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Head Over Heels”), the cast and producers of “Pose,” trans model and advocate Geena Rocero, Angelica Ross (“Pose,” “American Horror Story”), comedian Benito Skinner, Brian Michael Smith (“9-1-1: Lone Star,” “The L Word: Generation Q”), Dwyane Wade & Gabrielle Union, Lena Waithe (“Master of None,” “Queen & Slim,” “Twenties”), Olivia Wilde (“Booksmart,” “House”), and Raquel Willis (Writer, Activist, Director of Communications for Ms. Foundation).