Throughout history, art has defended the human spirit. Especially in times of political crisis, art and activism become inextricably related.
This was clear after attending Logo’s Trailblazer Honors, which celebrates the work of honorees who have made indelible contributions to LGBT civil rights—through writing, dancing, singing and producing. This year’s honorees included Cyndi Lauper; activist and author Cleve Jones (his memoir, When We Rise, inspired ABC’s miniseries by the same name); the late Alvin Ailey, who is credited with making modern dance an inclusive space for LGBT African-Americans; and the creators of NBC’s Will and Grace, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan.
What do Cyndi Lauper, Will & Grace creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, Debra Messing, RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Valentina, activist and author Cleve Jones, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi all have in common?
They’re trailblazers of the LGBT community—using their prominence in society to spread a message of love, acceptance and equality.
Logo’s tentpole event, which culminates Pride month along with the New York City Pride Parade, presents “Trailblazing Honors” to three individuals or entities who have made outstanding contributions to the LGBT community. Past honorees include activist Harvey Fierstein, Edie Windsor, Judy and Dennis Shepard, the Obama Administration and the cast of Orange Is the New Black.
What do Target, Google, Nike, AT&T, and American Express have in common? They’re among the 25 most LGBT-friendly companies in the U.S., according to Logo, Viacom’s network inspired by the LGBT community.
Logo unveiled its second annual Trailblazing Companies list on the eve of Pride Month in June to compile the catalog of inclusive and supportive businesses.
So, how can Logo measure the economics of equality? With the help of Witeck Communications, a marketing firm focused on LGBT consumer habits, Logo scored companies based on seven criteria:
Courtesy of Logo/Witeck Communications.
Aside from promoting equality and inclusivity, why should companies care about promoting LGBT initiatives? Well, there’s this: the LGBT community has an estimated buying power of $971 billion, according to Witeck Communications President Bob Witeck.
“The footprint that gay people have today in the economy is much, much more present, much more visible,” Witeck said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Also, companies are responding not just to LGBT purchasing power, they are responding to others who are aligned and sympathetic.”
“Growing up, my mother was always saying that [if] any of her child become gay or lesbian, she would take them out personally,” says the unidentified man in the red tank top, his head sliced from the camera shot. “Meaning she would kill us herself.”
Facing these sorts of attitudes and resorting to clandestine behavior are the reality for the LGBT community in Jamaica, where same-sex relations are scorned by an enormous chunk of the population: more than 80 percent, according to a new video from Logo’sGlobal Ally campaign and the Where Love Is Illegal organization, believe that homosexuality is immoral. And while homosexuality is not illegal, “acts of gross indecency” – intimate relations between members of the same sex – are.
The Jamaica that unfolds on the video is a brutal realm where LGBT individuals often live in constant fear of violence, exiled from their families, unemployed and uneducated because they are forever shunning public places.
In an atmosphere so tainted, why, then, would anyone come out at all?
“Our personal stories, which display our humanity, are very important, because it’s not real to Jamaican people unless they know somebody who’s part of the community,” says one man, echoing Logo’s position that increased visibility of LGBT individuals – whether in one’s personal life or the media – is the best way to diffuse homophobia.
“If you can’t love yourself,” RuPaul declares at the end of each episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, “then how in hell are you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an amen?”
No reality television show seems to have resonated with the LGBT community quite like RuPaul’s Drag Race. It encourages viewers—no matter their sexuality—to love themselves, to cherish what makes them singularly precious, and not to let anybody make them feel otherwise.
Who’s the greatest reality show host working today?
According to the Creative Arts Emmys, it’s Logo’s RuPaul Charles, who on Sunday accepted his first winged statuette from the Television Academy, for outstanding host of a reality or reality competition series. The ceremony, which was held in Los Angeles ahead of next week’s Primetime Emmy Awards, marked Charles’ first Emmy nomination after eight seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The host topped an impressive list of finalists in the category, including American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, Dancing With the Stars’ Tom Bergeron, Hollywood Game Night’s Jane Lynch, Little Big Shots’ Steve Harvey, and Project Runway’s Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 11: RuPaul poses in the press room at the 2016 Creative Arts Emmy Awards held at Microsoft Theater on September 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)
“I really didn’t expect this,” Charles told The Hollywood Reporterbackstage after receiving his award. “I came here thinking I got invited to the prom and I’m going to dance my ass off tonight, but i didn’t expect that I would have this in my hand while I was dancing. It’s a very special night not just for me but for all the young people around the world who dance to the beat of a different drummer.”
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 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.
Every year, Logo celebrates the pioneers of the LGBT community with the Trailblazer Honors. This year’s ceremony aired on June 25, barely a week after It was a night of LGBT pride, comedic interludes, and speeches by legendary honorees—but the real honorees were the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting.
The event was held in Manhattan’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, where passionate, emphatic voices resonated against the high ceilings of the stately, gothic basilica. The speakers did not plea for equal rights, they demanded them, using the platform of the Trailblazer Honors to reinforce the urgent need for LGBT protections and respect.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars Alyssa Edwards, Alaska Thunderfvck, Ginger Minj, Tatiana and Phi Phi O’Hara perform at the 2016 Logo’s Trailblazer Honors at Cathedral of St. John the Divine on June 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Logo)
In addition to venerating trailblazers of the LGBT community, the Trailblazer Honors eclipsed standards in the world of broadcast communications by simulcasting with VH1—making it the largest televised LGBT Pride event in history. Thanks to this widespread coverage, Logo’s message of equality, love, and solidarity impacted a vast, worldwide audience. The Trailblazer Honors embraced the spirit of Pride with its inclusivity.
Below are some of the night’s most evocative moments.
Ross Mathews, judge on Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, hosted the event. Nick Jonas presented an award to honoree Demi Lovato, and Taylor Swift surprised the crowd to present an award to honoree Ruby Rose. Queen Latifah, Lea Michele, Caitlyn Jenner, Patricia Arquette, Michael Sam, as well as Logo talent Daniel Franzese and Stephen Guarino were among the celebrity guests speaking out for LGBT equality.
This year, you can check out all of the big moments when Logo airs the highlights of the Los Angeles event on Monday night after an all-new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.