It was an emotional night at the Beverly Hilton for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who accepted an award for being allies to the LGBTQ community.
At Thursday night’s 30th GLAAD Media Awards, the power couple delivered a touching speech honoring family while accepting the human-rights organization’s Vanguard Award.
“Life, this journey, is filled with highs, lows and a lot of learning,” Jay-Z said to the sold-out crowd of more than a thousand, who collectively raised more than $2.5 million for charity.
The rapper thanked GLAAD and his mother, Gloria Carter, who received last year’s Special Recognition Award for her role in “Smile,” Jay-Z’s song that documented her coming out as a lesbian. “I’m following in her footsteps of spreading love and acceptance,” he said at the podium.
Then Beyoncé, resplendent in black, delivered her part of the speech. She said she felt “overwhelmed” by the recognition and thanked their several presenters, which included stylist Ty Hunter, trans director Janet Mock and actress, writer and producer Lena Waithe.
“The LGBTQI community has always supported us and lifted us up, and we thank you guys,” said Queen Bey, who shared a few images of the couple with their award on her Instagram account Friday morning.
“We’re here to promote love for every human being, and change starts from supporting the people closest to you,” she added. “So let’s tell them they are loved. Let’s remind them they are beautiful. Let’s speak out and protect them. And parents, let’s love our kids in their truest form.”
Beyoncé dedicated the award to her Uncle Johnny, “the most fabulous gay man I’ve ever known .… He lived his truth. He was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn’t as accepting.” Witnessing his battle with HIV was “one of the most painful experiences” of her life, she said.
She echoed the idea that brought everyone together at the event.
“LGBTQI rights are human rights. To choose who you love is your human right. How you identify and see yourself is your human right. Who you make love to and take that ass to Red Lobster is your human right!” she said to a cheering audience, making a lyric reference to her song “Formation.”
But some would argue that Shangela Laquifa Wadley stole the night. The “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star stunned guests by lip synching and dancing to a medley of Beyoncé hits. The hair-flipping, seven-minute performance even earned the approval of Bey and her husband, who gave Shangela and her backup dancers a standing ovation.
Oscar-winning actress Allison Janney presented the evening’s other honoree, Sean Hayes, with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which is given to an openly LGBTQ person in the media or entertainment industry. Janney credited the “Will & Grace” star with “portraying one of the most iconic gay characters in television history.”
Accepting his award, Hayes joked with Janney about the difference between TV and film celebrities: “A movie star can get a reservation at any restaurant in town. A TV star can actually buy the restaurant,” he said.
Others from TV, film and sports on the star-studded guest list included Gwyneth Paltrow, Stephanie Beatriz, Jenifer Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jameela Jamil and Michelle Kwan.
At one point in the evening, GLAAD President and Chief Executive Sarah Kate Ellis noted the critical role media play in broader acceptance of LGBTQ people, especially when they advocate for inclusivity.
Ellis said society “will continue to embrace members of all marginalized communities and support them with the same pride and commitment that we feel for our own — responding to hate and injustice with empathy and respect.”