This Friday, May 6th, GLAAD—the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization—will honour award-winning actor, producer, and activist Wilson Cruz with the Vito Russo Award at its 33rd annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York. The Vito Russo Award—named after the writer, GLAAD founder, and ACT UP activist who pushed open the door for news and entertainment industries to include LGBTQ performers and stories—is presented to an LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in accelerating LGBTQ acceptance. Previous honourees include Billy Porter, Anderson Cooper, RuPaul, Cynthia Nixon, and George Takei.
Cruz currently stars in the CBS series Star Trek: Discovery, which received the GLAAD Media Award in 2021 for Outstanding Drama Series. In 1994, he made history by becoming the first openly gay actor to play an openly gay role on network television when he starred as Rickie Vasquez on ABC’s My So-Called Life. Wilson’s critically acclaimed performance of the beloved character became a cornerstone for LGBTQ representation for years to come. His long career spans television, film, and theatre, with appearances on ER, Grey’s Anatomy, He’s Just Not That Into You, Noah’s Arc, Party of Five, Party Monster, Red Band Society, Shameless, Thirteen Reasons Why, The West Wing, as well as the first national tour of tick, tick… BOOM! and as Angel in the west coast premiere of RENT, for which he earned a Los Angeles Ovation Award and then became the first replacement for Angel on Broadway. He voiced Prince Andrew on Hulu’s The Bravest Knight, which won the GLAAD Media Award for Kids & Family Programming in 2020. He is also the Executive Producer of the acclaimed 2019 Apple+ docuseries Visible: Out on Television, which chronicles the history of LGBTQ images on television.
Cruz has simultaneously been on the frontlines of LGBTQ advocacy during his entertainment career. He has served as Director of Entertainment Industry Advocacy and National Spokesperson for GLAAD and currently serves on the Board of Directors of GLSEN. He was a leading voice in remembering the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting, after losing his relative Brenda Lee Marquez McCool in the national tragedy. Forever proud of his Puerto Rican heritage, Cruz has advocated for LGBTQ and Latinx actors throughout his long career via frequent media appearances and speeches during events such as the TV Critics Association Press Tour, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Millennium March for Equality. For his activism, he has served as the Grand Marshal of NYC Pride, appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Years of Pride Issue, and received awards including: the OUT 100, the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center’s Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award, Outfest’s Fusion Achievement Award, the California Legislative Caucus’ Latino Spirit Award for Achievement in Entertainment and Advocacy, and ADCOLOR’s Advocate Award.
“When books are written about actors coming out, Wilson Cruz belongs on the front cover,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Wilson has dedicated his life and career to breaking down walls for LGBTQ and Latinx actors and has not only entertained audiences as a triple threat, but educated the world about LGBTQ people and issues. He raises the bar for how actors can and should play roles in social justice by always using his voice loudly to demand acceptance of LGBTQ people and Black and Latinx communities.”
Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress, producer, and activist Judith Light will receive GLAAD’s Excellence in Media Award which recognizes allies of the LGBTQ community who have made a significant difference in promoting LGBTQ acceptance. The award will be presented to Light by actress and advocate Ariana DeBose, who recently made history as the first openly queer woman of colour to win an Academy Award. Previous honourees include Ava DuVernay, Robert De Niro, Debra Messing, Tyra Banks, Julianne Moore, and Glenn Close.
Light was honoured with the 2019 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for her extensive philanthropy work, especially in fighting to end AIDS and championing LGBTQ and human rights. On screen she has portrayed many pivotal roles that have helped to advance LGBTQ acceptance and elevate LGBTQ stories and issues. In 1989, Light starred as Ryan White’s mother in The Ryan White Story, a film based on the true life story of teenager Ryan White who contracted HIV and was expelled from his middle school. More recently, Light starred in Amazon Prime’s Transparent, for which she received multiple Emmy and Critics’ Choice nominations. During its run, Transparent earned three GLAAD Media Awards and helped to bring mainstream attention to issues related to the transgender community. Light has also appeared in several other films and shows that have helped to elevate LGBTQ issues and people, including the 2007 film Save Me about the dangers of gay conversion therapy; and Ryan Murphy’s FX series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, which received a GLAAD Media Award and garnered her an Emmy and Critics Choice nomination; as well as Netflix series The Politician. Light is also known for her variety of award-winning stage roles and has won two consecutive Tony Awards.
Throughout her career, Judith Light has been a fearless advocate for LGBTQ people and has helped to bring awareness to numerous LGBTQ issues and causes. During the 1980s, Light was one of the few prominent celebrities who helped to draw attention to the AIDS epidemic and fight stigma towards LGBTQ people and people living with HIV/AIDS. During this time, Light worked with many different LGBTQ organizations to help accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ community, including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, GLAAD, NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, Project Angel Food, and Elton John AIDS Foundation. Throughout the 1990s, Light continued to advocate for LGBTQ issues by participating in various events and campaigns, including the LGBT March in Washington in 1993, the California AIDS Ride in 1995, and the display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt with Elizabeth Taylor in 1996. In 2002, Light also traveled to South Africa for the AIDS Walk to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in the country and help drive greater research initiatives in the United States. Light has also served on the boards of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Point Foundation.
During the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards taking place at New York’s Hilton Midtown, singer-songwriter and Emmy-Award winning actress Dove Cameron will perform her noir-pop queer anthem, Boyfriend. While playwright, composer, and lyricist Michael R. Jackson will appear in a special performance from his Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Strange Loop.
Celebrity Peloton Instructor Cody Rigsby and transgender recording artist, actress, GLAAD Board Member, and RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Peppermint will co-host the Awards. GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis will be in attendance along with special guests including Nyle DiMarco, Cynthia Nixon, Anthony Rapp, Lily Rose, Amber Tamblyn, Ivory Aquino, Dyllón Burnside, Laverne Cox, Tommy Dorfman, Murray Hill, Rafael Silva, the creator and stars of Peacock’s upcoming reimagining of Queer As Folk, Jesse James Keitel, Devin Way, and Stephen Dunn, and cast members of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7.
At the Los Angeles ceremony on April 2nd 2022, Kacey Musgraves received the Vanguard Award from Ben Platt, and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez received the Stephen F. Kolzak Award from Andrew Garfield. The GLAAD Media Awards’ Los Angeles ceremony is currently streaming on Hulu.
The nominees for the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards were published, released, or broadcast between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021. For a full list of nominees, click here.
Since its inception in 1990, the GLAAD Media Awards have grown to be the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world, sending powerful messages of acceptance to audiences globally.
The GLAAD Media Awards, which honour media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues take place in New York on Frida May 6th 2022. The GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies fund GLAAD’s work to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance. To purchase tickets visit: www.glaad.org/mediaawards/tickets.