When “Scandal” star Kerry Washington has “some stuff” to say, people listen.
And at the GLAAD Media Awards over the weekend, what she said had audience members jumping to their feet -- and cheering.
Ellen DeGeneres, who is lesbian, presented Washington with the gay media monitoring group’s Vanguard Award, which is given annually to important allies in the gay rights movement.
And just like her character, Olivia Pope, the actress pulled no punches, taking aim at the opposition to gay marriage in the African-American community and demanding that more LGBT representation in front of and behind the camera.
“I’m going to say some stuff,” she told the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) awards audience Saturday.
“Not just for us, but because on Monday morning, people are going to click a link to hear what that woman from ‘Scandal’ said at that awards show.”
The mere act of portraying someone on television or in movies who is underrepresented has proven time and again to be important threads in the ever-changing tapestry that is America.
“Having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian, as a trans person or as any member of any disenfranchised community is sadly often still a radical idea,” said Washington, who portrayed a trans woman in 2009’s “Life Is Hot in Cracktown.”
“We have to continue to be bold, and break new ground until that is just how it is — until we are no longer firsts, and exceptions, and rare and unique.”
But it was her blunt talk on some of the tensions between marginalized Americans that really got the attendees going.
“Women, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people: we have been pitted against each other and made to feel like there are limited seats at the table for those of us who fall into the category of 'other,'" she said.
"As others, we are taught that to be successful, we must reject those other others, or we will never belong."
She says she has to remind some of her fellow African-Americans who declare their opposition to gay marriage that America, in the not-so-distant past, had laws on the books banning interracial nuptials.
"We can't say that we believe in each other's fundamental humanity and then turn a blind eye to the reality of each others' existence and the truth of each other's hearts. We must be allies. And we must be allies in this business because to be represented is to be humanized. And as long as anyone, anywhere is being made to feel less human, our very definition of humanity is at stake and we are all vulnerable."
Glee’s Alex Newell got the other big reception of the night.
Newell gave tremendous exposure to the struggles young trans men and women face with the star’s portrayal of trans student Wade “Unique” Adams on the Fox series.
At Saturday’s awards, the star performed “I Know Where I’ve Been” from “Hairspray.”
Newell performed the song in a season 6 episode of Glee titled “Transitioning,” accompanied by a 200-person trans choir.
“It’s just a blessing to think my role helped someone come to terms with who they are and find their true identity, and just be themselves,” Newell said.