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Stars Align at NYC
GLAAD Media Awards

Stars Align at NYC
GLAAD Media Awards


Tyra Banks, Suze Orman, Vanessa Williams, and others speak of progress, passion, and more at the New York City GLAAD Media Awards.

Pride, progress, and anticipation marked the 20th annual GLAAD Media Awards on Saturday night in New York City, where the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation celebrated outstanding achievements in film, television, and journalism. Awards announced in 19 categories included special honors and recognition for Tyra Banks, Suze Orman, and Phil Donahue.

The awards, established in 1990, recognize and honor media figures and outlets for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBT people and the issues that affect their lives. Attendees and speakers reflected on two decades of history throughout the milestone ceremony at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square.

"I started with them in Los Angeles 20 years ago," said Judith Light, star of the ABC series Ugly Betty, on the red carpet prior to the awards show. "We used to do it in a little tiny hotel room, and there were just about 10 tables. This now is phenomenal. It's such a thrill."

Her Ugly Betty costar Vanessa Williams echoed that sense of achievement to reporters. "Our acting staff, and our entire cast and crew, I think we embody exactly what GLAAD was invented for," said Williams.

Among the pioneers recognized on Saturday night was Emmy Award-winning talk show host Phil Donahue, whom out actress Cherry Jones introduced as a "personal hero" and "all-around nice guy."

Donahue urged the crowd of hundreds to focus on making alliances as the next step in the movement for equality.

"In 2009, we're popular," said the heterosexual talk legend. "The majority of the people in the nation agree with us. Our job now is to summon these people to stand up and say so out loud."

Prior to the show, Jones chatted about the rigors of her ongoing role as President Alison Taylor on the Fox series 24.

"What I know is, it's no easier pleasing the nation as a play-pretend president than it is as a real president," she said. "I wish we could work in a little health care reform next year."

Later, financial guru Suze Orman dispensed her trademark, no-nonsense advice for tough economic times on receiving the Vito Russo Award for outstanding contributions toward eliminating homophobia. She energized the crowd with a proposal of gay pocketbook activism as a strategy to defeat prejudice.

"You are going to think about every single penny you spend from this day forward," she said. "And the only thing I ask of you is to spend it and invest it in those companies that invest in you."

Orman also challenged the characterization of her coming out in TheNew York Times Magazine in 2007.

"Deborah Solomon -- she irritated the hell out of me," Orman said of the journalist who wrote the profile revealing she was gay. "Let me tell you why. I was never in the closet. She just didn't know. So she thought she was making news."

Tyra Banks, creator and host of America's Next Top Model on the CW, received the Excellence in Media Award for increasing visibility and understanding of the LGBT community. American Idol veteran Clay Aiken introduced her.

Banks spoke of the connections between homophobia and racism, and she credited the gay community for her rise to stardom during her acceptance speech. "You empowered me, and in turn, when I finally had a platform and the power and a voice to get across the points and the messages that are important to me, I brought you along with me, because you embraced me," she said.

The drag-friendly supermodel also apologized for bringing the word fierce to such widespread popularity, and she petitioned the crowd to help her generate a substitute.

"I know people are so tired of it, and I apologize for overusing it, I so apologize for overexposing it," she said. "So, we're gonna fit it in a little bit of a retirement folder, and I am taking suggestions for the new fierce. "

Fans may not want to send suggestions via Twitter, however. Banks confessed on the red carpet to being in need of a tweeting lesson from her pals Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. "They're explaining to me what the Twitter thing is, and that I need to get on the bandwagon," Banks said. "They say that I'm so ancient times that I'm not on it."

Also on Saturday night, Stockard Channing issued a special recognition to Sirius XM Radio for The Laramie Project, 10 Years Later: The Lasting Legacy of Matthew Shepard. Here! took home an award for Outstanding Film -- Limited Release for Shelter .

Other presenters and guests at the GLAAD Media Awards included Keith Olbermann, T.R. Knight, Tim Gunn, S. Epatha Merkerson, Ana Ortiz, Michael Urie, David Mixner, Chris Noth, Heather Matarazzo, Jenny Shimizu, Christian Siriano, Simon Doonan, Jonathan Adler, Van Hansis, and Jake Silbermann.

Olbermann received the award for outstanding television journalism segment for his "special comment" about Proposition 8 on MSNBC. On accepting the award, he read the recent remarks from Republican strategist Steve Schmidt voicing support for marriage equality.

"One down, a couple of million to go," Olbermann said.

Additional GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be held in Los Angeles on April 18 and in San Francisco on May 9.

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