Neil Giuliano on celebrities and gay rights.
Question: Do closeted celebrities do a disservice to the Gay Rights cause?
Neil Giuliano: I don’t think they do a disservice; I wouldn’t put it that they’re doing a disservice. I would say that they’re missing an incredible opportunity to be role models and to be leaders and to help lead the next generation toward equality and fairness for all people, without regard to sexual orientation.
We know that there are closeted celebrities, we know that there are closeted politicians still, we know there are closeted CEOs or closeted people sitting behind cameras that do this kind of work. It’s just always the way it is. What we talk about is how when someone chooses to live openly, it transforms not just themselves but it has an impact on people that are around them, and all the people that they know. So we encourage people to tell their story to their neighbors, to their friends, in their neighborhoods, in their workplace, where they’re able to be comfortable, and do it in a way that enables them to live authentically.
We don’t even like to use the term ‘coming out’ anymore. Coming out is sort of a term that goes back to the ‘60s and ‘70s when people literally had to still be hidden. Society doesn’t require us to be as hidden as it used to. So we encourage people to live openly and live authentically, and to allow themselves to be full members of society, and do that by allowing your sexual orientation to be a part of who you are.
Question: How has reality TV changed public perceptions of the LGBT community?
Neil Giuliano: Well reality TV and shows on cable really have been among the leaders in having those fair and accurate portrayals of the LGBT community. You think back to—it was only 1994, so 14 years ago, Pedro Zamora on The Real World. You’re maybe too young to, some of your viewers may be too young to remember that. But Pedro really was the first openly gay Latino, HIV-positive guy, on The Real World, talking about his life and showing to, not just people in the house there, but to everyone who watched The Real World, that he was very authentic and very real and very genuine.
And over time shows like that, over time, have really been transformative in helping people understand that their neighbors, their coworkers, their friends down the street, are all part of the broader society, and many of them are in the LGBT community.
Neil Giuliano: The GLAAD Media Awards really is what the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is most known for. It’s our most visible brand and it’s the way that GLAAD honors and recognizes those individuals and organizations and outlets in the media or television shows, films, that get it right, who have used a fair, accurate and inclusive representation of the gay community in telling their stories, whether it’s a TV show or a film or a journalist, a newspaper article, whatever it may be, magazines.
And so recently here in New York we honored Brian Graydon, who’s the President of MTV Entertainment, for the work that Brian has done over his entire career, not just in reality television, which is what people first probably think of, but just by being an out executive himself and by being a role model within his world, within the entertainment industry, has done just a tremendous job. And Brian’s work in television—MTV specifically—really helped raise a whole generation of people who don’t see sexual orientation as a big issue, it’s just the way it is; and that really is a tremendous legacy for Brian and his work.
We also honored Judy Shephard, as a straight ally who for almost 10 years now has been just so on our side, speaking out against hate and bigotry, and speaking for fairness and equality, probably more than any other straight advocate I can think of. And just think of in the wake of the tragedy that she had to deal with almost 10 years ago, she stood up and wanted to make a difference, and has now spoken to over a million people in the last 10 years. Over a million people have sat and listened to Judy tell her story about trying to end hate and discrimination; a very, very powerful story and an amazing woman that we were honored.
In Los Angles we’re taking a tilt towards the entertainment community and we’re honoring Janet Jackson, someone who has embraced her gay fans, from day one has spoken out in favor of the gay community, particularly involved with helping raise funds for the AIDS/HIV community, within the gay community, and has been just a real great ally for the community.
And Ellen Degeneres is going to come and present that award to Janet on April 26th. We’re also honoring an out performer, who’s really tremendous, in Rufus Wainwright, and just an amazing performer, an amazing talent, who’s been an out entertainer and performer for many, many, many years and is deserving of our recognition as well.
And then we’re also honoring the Herb Ritts Foundation. When he was alive, and even since his passing, the work of Herb Ritts has inspired a lot of people with the tremendous way he captured people in photographs and then shared them.
And Cindy Crawford is coming to accept that award on behalf of the Herb Ritts Foundation. And Tom Ford, one of our honorees from last year, at our show here in New York City, is going to be presenting that award to Cindy. So it’s really going to be a great night.
March 4, 2008