Interview: Jill Zarin Speaks Out for Equality at the Ninth Annual OUTAuction

In November, GLAAD presented its ninth annual OUTAuction, an evening that celebrates and recognizes established and emerging artists. Jill Zarin, star of Bravo’s hit series “The Real Housewives of New York City,” hosted the event where she spoke to guests and mainstream media about total equality.

We spoke with Jill about her steadfast commitment to LGBT equality and asked why it’s important to be an LGBT ally. Read Jill’s full interview below and be sure to check out photos from the event here!

GLAAD: You have attended many GLAAD events in the past and recently hosted OUTAuction, what do you think of such events and why are they important to you?
Jill Zarin: The events are a fun way to raise funds for GLAAD's work, but they also allow me and other allies to speak about our support for the LGBT community on the red carpet. The more people hear from allies, the more they're going to support equality.
GLAAD: What is your relationship to the LGBT community and why is it important for you to support LGBT youth?
JZ: I have so many wonderful LGBT people in my life whom I proudly call my friends and I believe that they deserve to be valued for who they are. In fact, I teach my own family to treat everyone equal - no matter who they are. When I was younger, I was bullied in school and I felt like I was an outcast sometimes. It was tough at times but thankfully, I had great support from friends and my mom. We need tell LGBT kids today that they're supported too through events like Spirit Day.

GLAAD: What was it like to host OUTAuction? Did you enjoy yourself and did you win any art?  

JZ: I had a great time planning the event with the GLAAD team and getting artists involved. The quality of the art this year was incredible and diverse. The other women on Real Housewives loved the event and my daughter, Ally, came home from college just for OUTAuction. We stayed right through to the after party and it was fun to laugh and say ‘hi’ to so many fans of the show. And Bobby and I were very excited to take home a Ross Bleckner painting!

GLAAD: As a media personality, you have a great understanding of the importance of images and words shown on television. Why is fair and accurate media representation of the LGBT community important?

JZ: I know firsthand that what people see on TV influences how they view others - it happens to me all the time when people come up to me after seeing me on the Real Housewives! Media can distort someone's image or create acceptance and that's why it's important an organization like GLAAD is out there sharing stories about LGBT people. I remember some of the first times I saw LGBT growing up were on TV shows like Friends and Melrose Place and in movies like Philadelphia - these are the images that are shape people's opinions.

GLAAD: The Real Housewives of New York City were shooting at OUTAuction, when will the next season start? Any plans for this season that you can reveal?

JZ: I wish I could tell you all about this upcoming season because it is going to be the best yet but you will just have to watch and see what happens! I wasn't sure if I wanted to come back after such a painful season last year, it was really hard to watch and relive the pain but the amazing thing about reality TV is that you are forced to really examine yourself and choices and as a result grow as a person and learn from your mistakes. Nobody is perfect and I am grateful to have the opportunity to show fans that they helped me become a better person through their criticisms, it was like tough love in a way, if they didn't care they probably wouldn't have been talking about it. This season has felt really good and for me is all about looking forward and not dwelling on the drama of the past. Life is too short to hold grudges and I have chosen the path of forgiveness. I celebrate the successes of my cast mates and Bravo and am so grateful to have the show as a platform to shine a spotlight on the important work of organizations like GLAAD.