The Point Foundation held its fourth annual Voices on Point gala on Saturday night in Los Angeles, and it was a star-studded event celebrating and raising money for some of the brightest young LGBT people in the world striving to make an impact on society. The money raised at the event supports the scholarships that help LGBT youth attend college, achieve their dreams, and change the world.
Point Scholar alumni Rhys Ernst (co-producer of the groundbreaking Amazon show Transparent) and Zach Zyskowski (producer of shows like Becoming Us and Big Brother) were the two guests of honor being presented with the Point Horizon Award by former Olympian and transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner at the event, and the crowd warmly supported all three.
In keeping with the themes of LGBT youth, The Advocate stopped by the red carpet at Saturday night's benefit and asked Ernst, Zyskowski, and other celebrities in attendance what exactly they would tell the younger versions of themselves if given the chance.
"It's just amazing to be thinking of coming full circle," Rhy Ernst, Point Alum and co-producer of Transparent, said of what it feels like to be honored with one of 2015's Point Horizon Awards. "After an incredible couple of years with Transparent and everything that's been happening, it's just really an honor and a privilege. I'm just so proud to be a part of this organization and everything they've done for other people and for myself. It's just overwhelming and it's really a joy."
"I just wish I had come out as trans earlier and kind of gone for it and sort of united my work and identity at an earlier stage in my life," he said what he would tell the younger version of himself. "It took me a little while to get there, and actually, my time at Point helped me get there, really helped me understand that I wanted to use my work as a filmmaker to talk about identity. I'm thankful for that but I wish I had started when I was a really young person. Hopefully, for future generations, there's going to be a lot more possibilities of people starting to be who they are at earlier ages, and be comfortable with that and be empowered. It's really exciting to look at the next generation and kind of imagine what incredible things they are going to be doing."
"It's an incredible honor to be honored by Point Foundation, which has shaped and changed my life," Zach Zyskowski said of his Horizon award. Zyskowski is the producer of the ABC Family docuseries Becoming Us, which follows an Illinois teen and his journey alongside his father who recently came out as a transgender woman. "Growing up as a gay kid in a small town, feeling completely alone, to getting an award for giving back to the LGBT community, means the world to me."
"If I could tell myself that there's a world of successful, loving people out there, and a community of exceptional people who will welcome you with open arms, as it is happening right now, I would love to have that message," he said. "I think that is a message every youth across the country should have."
"I just didn't think that I was enough and that there was something wrong with me, and once I went to college and I was in the drama department, and I found other gay people and I realized I wasn't alone," Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis said, recounting his life as a young man. "That's the important thing. When kids feel that they're not alone, then it gives them strength and courage to be who they are."
"I would've said to myself, come out a lot sooner than I did," said Jorge Valencia, the CEO of the Point Foundation. "I waited until I felt it was safe, and I didn't have to worry about rejection, and so I'm constantly inspired by our young people because they really are true to themselves."
"The importance of having diversity at all levels of society and the world, is so important," Valencia said. "We have young people in politics, we have young people that are lawyers, and doctors, and even theologians, and I think that as we start seeing diversity beginning in the school, and then going out into real life, I think we're going to get more of an equitable society."
Among the guests at Voices on Point was the young, popular YouTube vlogger Connor Franta, who caught national attention when he came out to his millions of subscribers in an emotional YouTube video in December of last year.
"This organization helps kids that are going through many things," said young actor Hayden Byerly of ABC Family's hit drama The Fosters about why he was excited to be a part of Saturday night's gala. Byerly was one-half of the reportedly first-ever, on-screen kiss between a young, same-sex couple in American history.
"In the next couple of years, I hope to be continuing what I'm doing," he said, opting to give us a peek at his future versus giving advice to his younger self (Byerly turns 15 this month). "I wouldn't even mind seeing myself on the same show in a couple years, because it is such an incredible show. But I see myself continue doing well in school, continuing to come to events like this, and work hard."
"Don't be an idiot!" Teri Polo said jokingly about what she would tell her younger self.
"My mom was always like 'don't follow the crowd, do your own thing,' that was always kind of her example for me, so I always feel like I did that," Sherri Saum said, reflecting on her experience. "The only thing I would tell my younger self is don't try to have bangs when you have curly hair! It's not happening!"
Polo and Saum play wives in The Fosters, raising a blended family that includes Byerly's character.
"It's important to invest in the next generation of leaders whether you're gay, lesbian, queer, transgender, or straight," Polo said. "We're lacking in the department of education, severely lacking, in so many facets. But it's important for everyone, especially the LGBTQ community, because they've been struggling for so very long to be acknowledged, much less supported. It's a true honor to be a part of this journey that is happening right now."
"It's really exciting to see her," television actress Brooke Sorenson said of attending a gala where Jenner was making one of her first few public appearances. "I've been following her, and everything that's going on, and I just really think that's awesome."
"For her to be here tonight, presenting, I think it's an honor to be here," said her boyfriend and The Fosters actor Gavin Macintosh, who shared the history-making on-screen kiss with Byerly.
"Be yourself," Sorenson said of her advice to her younger self. "It's kind of cliché, but don't let other people affect you or change you."
"Just stay true to yourself," Macintosh added.
"Just be patient, little baby," singer-songwriter Our Lady J (middle) said about the advice she would tell her past self, pictured above with her friends Transparent actors Amy Landecker (left) and Bradley Whitford (right). "The world is going to come around, just move forward."
"I have the conversation with myself all the time," she contined. "It's a healing way to connect with your past."
Ernst, Caitlyn Jenner, and Zyskowski.