Alyssa Milano urges audience to vote at 2018 GLAAD Gala San Francisco and receives inaugural Ariadne Getty Ally Award

Ross Mathews and Emil Wilbekin honored with host Leslie Jordan and special guests Michelle Visage, Mj Rodriguez, Josie Totah and Kim Petras
September 17, 2018

Matt Goodman
Associate Director of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8028

San Francisco, CA – GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, honored Alyssa Milano, Ross Mathews, and journalist Emil Wilbekin at the 2018 GLAAD Gala San Francisco on September 15 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. The event recognizes tech innovators and storytellers who advance LGBTQ acceptance. Actor and comedian Leslie Jordan hosted the event which featured actors Mj Rodriguez and Josie Totah, television personality Michelle Visage, and a performance from transgender pop star Kim Petras.

Photos available here:

Video of Alyssa Milano receiving the inaugural Ariadne Getty Ally Award:

Video of Kim Petras’ performance here:

The GLAAD Gala San Francisco is presented by Gilead, Ketel One Family-Made Vodka, and Wells Fargo. The evening also featured a special message from Olympic medalist Adam Rippon talking about Ketel One Family-Made Vodka’s commitment to the LGBTQ community, quality, and the importance of family, as well as its eight-year partnership with GLAAD.  

Alyssa Milano received the inaugural Ariadne Getty Ally Award, which is named after philanthropist and GLAAD Board Member Ariadne Getty and presented to a LGBTQ ally who fearlessly works to end the injustices facing marginalized communities.

During her speech, Milano urged the audience to vote in the midterm elections saying:

“I want to remind you that voting is not just about politics. Voting is how we protect each other: our neighbors, our family members, our community members, our friends. It’s how we protect people who don’t realize just how badly they need protection. We are here for them, too. To me, that’s what being an ally is all about. It’s about seeing people as individuals, and supporting their experiences. It’s about listening with an open heart as they share their stories.”

Milano has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ acceptance. She has raised awareness around HIV and AIDS, marriage equality, and protections for transgender people. She regularly uses social media to amplify the voices of LGBTQ people and also joined GLAAD for a rally in Times Square protesting a proposed ban on transgender Americans in the military. Milano used her website, PatriotNotPartisan, to share the story of transgender veteran Laila Ireland and stood with LGBTQ youth and against bullying by participating in Spirit Day.

The award’s namesake Ariadne Getty is a member of GLAAD’s Board of Directors and announced a $15 million lead gift to support GLAAD’s work to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance through the GLAAD Media Institute at the 2018 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Getty attended the GLAAD Gala with her son, designer August Getty, and her daughter, artist Nats Getty.

Also during the event, Michelle Visage presented fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Ross Mathews with the Davidson/Valentini Award, which is presented to an LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in accelerating acceptance for the LGBTQ community.

During his acceptance speech, Mathews brought his mom to stage and spoke about growing up without seeing himself represented onscreen:

I remembering wondering if I even could grow up. That was so scary. So isolating. 

And that has always driven me - to be the example I didn’t have so that kids everywhere who don’t have a community of support can turn on their TV and see someone like me...  And perhaps that scared kid somewhere out there will realize that if people can welcome me into their living rooms, then maybe – just maybe – they’re gonna be okay, too.

The final honoree of the evening was Emil Wilbekin, who received the Ric Weiland Award at the event. The Ric Weiland Award honors innovators who advance LGBTQ equality and acceptance through tech and new media.

During his speech, Wilbekin said:

“As we continue expanding technology into the 21st Century, it is important to make sure that LGBTQI+ people of color are represented, seen and heard in coding, developing new platforms, mining data, creating the diverse characteristics of AI, and inclusive narratives of VR. Equality must be realized, actualized and demonstrated in technology. Tonight, I challenge you to truly invest in diversity. Make the extra effort to seek out queer people of color for employment in technology, offer internships and apprenticeships to Black and brown queer candidates, and support and invest in STEM programs for underprivileged, young, queer people of color to create a pipeline for the future.”

Wilbekin has long worked to change the way that black gay men are perceived and received in the media. He brought LGBTQ stories to the forefront through his work as Editor-in-Chief of Vibe and Editor-At-Large of Essence. He also serves as Chief Content Officer for the Afropunk Festival, an annual arts festival in NYC. Most recently, Wilbekin launched Native Son, a movement for black gay and bisexual men to inspire and empower each other. Since its founding, Wilbekin launched a series of Native Son Conversations saluting the achievements of Black gay and bisexual men in media, technology and activism.

During the GLAAD Gala San Francisco, pop sensation Kim Petras performed her hits ‘Heart to Break’ and ‘All the Time.’ Singer Alyson Stoner introduce Mathew Shurka, who founded the #BornPerfect campaign to share stories of so-called “conversion therapy” and raise awareness of its harmful effects.

Pose star Mj Rodriguez honored the three GLAAD Rising Stars Grants recipients. The GLAAD Rising Stars program empowers and invests in the next generation of LGBTQ change makers, whose advocacy is changing their local communities and the culture at large. Grants are awarded annually to LGBTQ youth and support initiatives that champion intersectional LGBTQ issues, including racial justice, immigration rights, transgender equality, and more. This year, Zizi Bandera, Jackson Bird and Daniel Downer were the grant recipients.