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how laverne cox and kelly ripa won the glaad media awards

Saturday night’s GLAAD Media Awards celebrated how far the LGBTQ community has come in the fight for acceptance and equality.

by Emily Manning
|
May 11 2015, 5:10pm

This weekend, everyone from small screen stars Laverne Cox and Kelly Ripa to models Andreja Pejic, Lindsey Wixson, and Rain Dove packed New York's Waldorf Astoria to attend the GLAAD Media Awards. The 26th annual event, presented by Ketel One Vodka, is held each year to honor media outlets that have produced accurate and inclusive representations of the LGBTQ community. No selfie bans or armies of stylists primping and preening, just people fired up to keep fighting for equality. From Empire actor Jussie Smollett to Sports Illustrated editor Chris Stone, the night's speakers stressed that while we've made immense progress as a culture, there's still a long battle to be fought on the road to acceptance for all. Here are our top moments from the ceremony:

Laverne Cox speaks out against violence: In her speech introducing GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, trans trailblazer Laverne Cox came out of the gate calling for the urgency of acceptance "not just in the LGBTQ community, but across all communities." "From Baltimore to Ferguson to right here in New York City, we cannot and will not stand for violence or harassment against people of color," the Orange is the New Black star stated. Just as Paris Lees recently argued in i-D, Cox affirmed that visibility is only the beginning for the trans community: "Although trans people are more visible than ever, visibility is only one part of the equation," she said. "We must still fight for LGBTQ rights in the workplace, for an end to policies that criminalize trans folks for walking down the street or using the bathroom, for protection from violence that devastates LGBTQ people, particularly trans women of color, in horrific numbers." Ellis echoed this rallying cry in her keynote address, using each of the hall's jumbo TV screens to make sure absolutely no one missed the night's main message: "You cannot legislate acceptance."

Kelly Ripa proves why she's "America's best friend": Kelly Ripa was the night's big honoree, bringing home the Excellence in Media Award for "sharing inclusive stories with her audience and loudly voicing support for her LGBT friends and fans," said Ellis in a statement. After presenter and pal Anderson Cooper called Ripa "a morning show host who is gleefully recounting a Saturday night dancing in a gay club" and "America's best friend," Kelly showed us why, delivering a knockout acceptance speech that addressed why she felt it odd that she was being awarded "for treating people like people." "The LGBT community has led the way in treating people like people. Oftentimes, those who are discriminated against are the most empathetic and the most inclusive. Quite frankly, I should be giving this award to all of you," Ripa said in her moving speech, just before copping to popping "half a Xany" to calm her nerves.

Real people were stars, too: For every Kelly and Laverne, there was a real person invited on stage to share the remarkable challenges they've faced. From Crystal Moore, the openly lesbian police chief who after twenty years of service, was abruptly fired from the force of her 2,000 person conservative North Carolina town; to Pepe Julian Onziema, an LGBT rights activist who spoke about the impact his appearance on John Oliver's Last Week Tonight has made on trans rights and representation in his native Uganda, where media outlets have since started using his proper pronouns, GLAAD movingly presented a full picture of a community making huge strides, but still facing immense challenges winning hearts and minds outside of Congress and courtrooms.

And it was real people who got standing ovations: The night's most moving moment was when Kristene Chapa—the south Texas teen who miraculously survived an execution style gunshot to the head after a man mugged and sexually assaulted herself and her girlfriend, who did not survive the attack, just for being in a park together—brought the crowd to their feet, where they stayed. "I know it's a tragedy, but it also brings a lot of people together, and shows all the great people out there that's willing to help and have good hearts," Kristene said.

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Text Emily Manning
Image via YouTube

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