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Watch Sherry Cola passionately defend LGBTQ+ youth: 'Queerness is such a superpower' (exclusive)

Sherry Cola
Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

The Joy Ride and Good Trouble star got emotional while talking to The Advocate about coming out and the new GLAAD campaign #ProtectThisKid.

From Joy Ride to Good Trouble, Sherry Cola’s face has been on plenty of screens — though none have been quite like this.

The actor recently partnered with GLAAD for a special campaign all about empowering LGBTQ+ youth. #ProtectThisKid features several celebrities like Cola — including Beanie Feldstein, RK Russell, and Yvie Oddly — who have all agreed to have one of their childhood photos displayed on a billboard in Times Square in New York City.

The campaign aims to highlight the crucial fact that queer youth will eventually become queer adults, and that their rights should not be dependent on their ages. Beyond that, it aims to remind LGBTQ+ youth that “the future is bright,” according to Cola. As a “bisexual Chinese-American immigrant woman,” the comedian said that she hopes queer youth “can feel empowered by seeing campaigns like this.”

“Queerness is something that society has brainwashed us into thinking we shouldn't embrace,” Cola told The Advocate. “I hope that this creates a ripple effect and shows all the LGBTQ youth that you should be proud of who you are. And I see it — the future is bright.”

Sherry Cola joins GLAAD for #ProtectThisKid Campaign

Alongside her photo, GLAAD has released a video about Cola’s life and journey as a queer woman. She said that while her loved ones accept her now, they had to work to get to this point, and she had to remind herself to give them grace.

Cola explained that her parents had different reactions to her coming-out at first. Because her dad “absorbed pop culture from the moment we landed in this country,” he was already exposed to LGBTQ+ identities. Conversely, she said that her mother’s “motivation was always survival and putting food on the table,” making her less privy as to how she should navigate her daughter’s confiding in her.

“For my mom, it took her a second to process,” Cola said. “She had to really come to terms with this new version of Sherry — her baby. So, through many conversations that were not overnight, she's officially on board. I'm so proud of her because I had to remind myself multiple times to be empathetic and patient with my mom's process. Our parents — we don't give them enough credit sometimes.”

What’s significant about the childhood photos used in the campaign, Cola noted, is that their parents are the ones who took them. Now they get to look back on them and see their queer children thriving.

“As parents, you wanna protect this kid in those coming-out processes. I know that society has brainwashed them into thinking that it's a terrifying place to be queer, but now we can have that conversation on the other side with them and tell them it's going to be OK because we have our queer community, we have our allies,” Cola said, tearing up as she added, “They had no idea who we were going to be and they could only hope for the sky to be the limit.”

Cola said this is what motivates her work as an actor, as “representation is directly correlated with protecting children in the LGBTQ community.” Many of her roles have “emphasized queerness,” and she “hope[s] to do more, because these stories need to be on the screen.”

“I've never felt so liberated in who I am, and I've never felt so fired up to amplify my voice and the voices of others because it's necessary,” she said. “I refuse to be seen as someone who says less.”

Though it’s not just a principle she wants to pass on in her work, but in her personal life as well, as Cola said that “when I have my own kids, I'm going to teach them that you are limitless.”

“You can do anything, you can be whoever you want. You are whoever you want, and I think that's what we're trying to preach here,” she continued. “Embrace your identities because they are your superpowers. And queerness is such a superpower. The resilience and the community of queerness is just unstoppable.”

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.