Saturday evening, the New York Hilton Midtown played host to the annual GLAAD Media Awards, which honors outstanding representations of the LGBTQ+ community in different forms of media. There to watch Madonna receive the Advocate for Change Award were a bevy of A-listers, and everyone was giddy with excitement to be in proximity to the Material Girl. “I mean, who cannot name at least three of her songs that you’ve broken a sweat to in the club?” said Shangela, host of the event. “She’s also been such an ally and an advocate to the LGBTQ+ community for so many years when it wasn’t popular, and for that reason alone I say hats off, or should I say wigs off, to Madonna!”
Sarah Jessica Parker was also on hand to present her friend Andy Cohen with the Vito Russo Award, which goes to an openly LGBTQ+ media professional who has made a difference in the community through their work. With Parker running late to the event in a printed Elie Saab gown, there was, thankfully, one attendee who made sure Parker’s presence was felt on the carpet.
“Sarah Jessica Parker has always meant so much to me because of her explicit support for the community and support for LGBTQ+ causes, and GLAAD obviously!” said Dan Clay, with whom you might be more familiar as the beloved Internet personality Carrie Dragshaw. His Instagram @dan_clay is a colorful tribute to Carrie Bradshaw. Wearing the iconic pale pink tutu outfit that Bradshaw dons in Sex and the City’s iconic opening sequence, Clay was the next best thing to Parker herself as he bounced around the event making friends everywhere he went.
“In Carrie’s finest moments she embraced her individuality and, at least for me, taught me how to express myself through style,” Clay gushed of Bradshaw and Parker. “I feel like she has a lot of the same dynamic that us as queer people need to channel as well.”
The same could be said of the title character in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, whose star, Rachel Brosnahan, made an appearance in a chic white power suit. Brosnahan's wardrobe on the show is pure eye candy for viewers who delight in retro ’50s silhouettes and unabashed glamour, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that drag queens have begun gravitating towards Mrs. Maisel and her never-ending collection of colorful pumps, head-pieces, frocks, and gowns. "I haven’t seen them in person, but a friend of mine sent me an incredible video that we passed around the Maisel production office, it was very exciting," Brosnahan said of the recent wave of Maisel–inspired drag. "Someone’s gotta let me know when that’s happening next, because I am there with bells on!"
At least Brosnahan can say she was present for Shangela declaring herself a “black Madonna” during a song-and-dance routine that saw her donning the performer's iconic cone bra. It was a standout moment in an evening full of them, including Pose's win for Outstanding Drama Series with the cast and crew in tow, and Chelsea Clinton's speech highlighting the need for “hope and optimism” in the wake of Trump.
But it was all a lead-up to Madonna’s big moment, capping off the evening with a teary-eyed speech that felt like an emotional culmination of her 35-plus years of advocacy. Her relationship with the LGBTQ+ community is well documented; she's an artist who spoke out about the AIDS crisis and regularly denounced homophobia long before her contemporaries. “Why have I always fought for change?” she said. “That's a hard question to answer. It's like trying to explain the importance of reading or the need to love.”
Anderson Cooper and Rosie O’Donnell introduced Madonna for her speech, during which Madonna recounted her first trip to a gay bar—escorted by her ballet teacher Christopher Bailey. “For the first time I saw men kissing men, girls dressed like boys, boys wearing hot pants, insane, incredible dancing, and a kind of freedom and joy and happiness that I had never seen before,” she said. “I finally felt like I was not alone, that it was OK to be different and to not be like everybody else. And that after all, I was not a freak. I felt at home, and it gave me hope.”
Describing the AIDS epidemic as "the plague that moved in like a black cloud over New York City and in a blink of an eye took out all of my friends,” she also paid tribute to members of the gay community whom she considered her closest friends and who helped her become the industry titan she is today. "After I lost my best friend and roommate Martin Burgoyne and then Keith Haring, I decided to take up the bullhorn and really fight back," she said. The crowd erupted into fiery applause, inspired to do the very same.