Love, Family, and Pride: What Viacom Employee Lottery Winner Joseph Stefan Learned From the Trailblazer Honors
Viacom is holding a series of employee lotteries for our summer award shows. The first winner, Shannon Griffith, flew from California to Tennessee for the CMT Awards, and was enamored with Nashville’s festive atmosphere, as well as the unpredictable ceremony.
Our next show, Logo’s annual Trailblazer Honors, celebrated harbingers of social change in the LGBT community. This year’s ceremony followed an unprecedented, incomprehensible attack on the LGBT community. Logo honored the 49 victims of Orlando’s massacre throughout its ceremony, and reaffirmed its commitment to fighting intolerance.
Our latest winner, Viacom’s coordinator for content distribution sales and business development, Joseph Stefan, witnessed the momentous occasion at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I spoke to Stefan about the powerful experience.
Lisa Di Venuta: Why did you want to attend the Trailblazer Honors?
Joseph Stefan: My older brother is gay, and so I sympathize with the struggles of the LGBT community on a personal level. I always do what I can to fight for equality and peace in the LGBT community.
LD: Can you describe what it’s like to be an ally of the LGBT community?
JS: It felt very rewarding to be an ally in high school. It’s a time when people struggle with their identity, and I was always there when somebody needed to talk. I had a reputation as being very approachable.
When I went to college at William Paterson University, I was involved in outreach programs. I attended events and provided support to those who needed it.
LD: Have you watched Trailblazer Honors before?
JS: It was my first year watching the show, as well as my first time being there. But I love Logo and have watched it for many years. My favorite program is RuPaul’s Drag Race.
LD: Who did you bring as your guest?
JS: I wanted to bring my brother, but he had to work. I ended up bringing my coworker, Christina Mastrangelo (Viacom’s executive assistant for content distribution and marketing). She’s also an LGBT ally.
My brother was so jealous—it would have been a great bonding moment. But I recorded the show on DVR and we watched it the next night. In fact, I was in the broadcast.
LD: Walk me through the moment you entered the cathedral.
JS: It was surreal—I was at my first televised event. It felt good to be part of something that brought light to such an important cause.
I was excited to see Rachel Platten on the red carpet; I’m a huge fan. I saw Candis Cayne from I Am Cait, Carson Kressley, and Snooki. Snooki and I actually talked about the Jersey Shore—Growing up, I watched the show and took vacations there.
LD: That’s awesome. Can you tell me a little bit about the cathedral itself? I imagine it was a spectacular venue.
JS: It was gorgeous. The lighting was magnificent, and the colors and candles set up a perfect vibe. It was an emotional atmosphere to begin with, and they did a good job reflecting that with decorations.
LD: How were your seats?
JS: Incredible. We sat three feet away from the stage.
LD: What were some of the most remarkable moments of the ceremony?
JS: Definitely Harvey Fierstein’s acceptance speech. It was completely off the cuff.
And all of the musical performances were amazing. Rachel Platten has a phenomenal voice; the way it echoed with the reverb in the cathedral was crazy.
LD: What was the atmosphere like throughout the ceremony?
JS: It was emotional, but I felt a sense of collective pride. There was so much love and support. Despite everything that recently happened in Orlando, the LGBT community is a family. That’s what the speakers kept saying. It’s a strong family.
LD: How did it feel being a Viacom employee at this event?
JS: During Mary Lambert’s performance of Same Love it hit me—I work for a company that is a pioneer of equality. It made me feel so lucky.
LD: What was the after party like?
JS: It was subdued and classy. It was held by the red carpet right where the candles were set up. We mingled with other Viacom employees and discussed what a beautiful tribute it was.
LD: What was going through your mind as you walked out the door at the end of the night?
JS: How surreal it was to be a part of something that honored trailblazers.
LD: Has attending the Trailblazer Honors changed the way you view Pride?
JS: I have more perspective this year than in the past. I now know more about the history and issues. Billie Jean King told us what it was like coming out 30 years ago. I’m only 21; I had no idea what it was like years ago. I’m only aware of the snapshot of right now with LGBT rights. Learning about the pioneers brought more light to the big picture.
Read more about Viacom’s efforts to further LGBT rights here, and stay tuned for our interview with the next employee lottery winner.