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Time For Tea: The Outfest Legacy Awards Honors LGBTQ Entertainment Trailblazers - LA Weekly

Outfest, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization promoting equality by creating, sharing and protecting LGBTQ stories on the screen, will be holding its annual Legacy Awards Gala on Sunday, October 27.  Aimed at “protecting our past and building our future,” it will be hosted by Emmy-nominated actress Sheryl Lee Ralph and will include a special performance by Dana Goldberg. Presented by Cadillac and produced by Tony Award-winning producer Scott Mauro, the event will honor Emmy Award-winning Queer Eye production company Scout Productions and Vida creator, executive producer and showrunner Tanya Saracho. It was also announced last week that Pose star MJ Rodriguez will be honored with the Individual Trailblazer Award at the Gala — themed “Unveiling of a New Era” — as well.

“Tanya and Scout Productions have both created something wholly unique that has spoken and broken through so many audience boundaries with an unequivocal and unapologetic approach to their characters, their intentions and their stories,” says Outfest executive director Damien Navarro, who joined the organization 11 weeks ago. L.A. Weekly spoke to Navarro about the honorees and he definitely had a clear take on why the organization chose to honor each.

Queer Eye is something that I believe was critical to bring back after all these years as acceptance among young people and those in Middle America was dropping significantly for the first time in history. Who would have known the show would be so undeniably important in helping bridge the gap and build empathy among an entirely new generation of allies,” Navarro says. “Tanya’s Vida is equally a groundbreaking show in which the characters move so elegantly between English and Spanish and are perfectly placed in an area of Los Angeles that was craving critical attention and complex female characters. The women in her show, whether queer or not, have been given such unique storylines and traits that truly carve out a three-dimensional arc that is otherwise rarely seen in Latin, much less, mainstream entertainment.”

Rodriguez plays House of Evangelista’s mother Blanca, a trans, HIV-positive woman of color who is really the heart of Pose. “In line with our new mission, Outfest is going to be really looking closely for both people as well as projects that inspire empathy, both in ourselves as well as across the general public,” says Navarro. “It is so critical that we discover stories that not only can entertain and bring out a range of emotions, but that resonates with the audience in ever deepening layers of inclusivity that everyday content can’t.” Queer Eye, Tanya Saracho and MJ Rodriguez all seem to fit the bill perfectly.

So just who exactly will benefit from this benefit? Navarro explains, “The Legacy Awards is a fundraiser for our world renowned Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, the only program in the world exclusively dedicated to preserving LGBTQ+ film heritage for future generations. Today, the Legacy Project archive has amassed over 40,000 works and has restored 25 films. The event also supports our OutSet youth (16-24) driven filmmaker program, as well as our many other professional programs, including our Screenwriting Lab and Anthony Meindl Actors Fellowship, a scholarship program for trans and non-binary actors.”

Previous Legacy Award winners include Justin Simien (Dear White People), FX Network’s Pose, Rita Moreno (West Side Story), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black), Jill Soloway (Transparent), Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) and Sean Hayes (Will and Grace). Representation matters, and while LGBTQ representation on screen has improved, it’s still nowhere near where it should be. Thank goodness for Outfest, who puts on events like the Legacy Awards to help make sure that our community’s presence  stays strong, never gets erased.

Outfest’s Legacy Awards Gala, at Vibiana, 214 S. Main St., downtown. Sun., Oct. 27.  Tickets are on sale now at outfest.org. For information about tables, contact (213) 480-7066 or thelegacyawards@outfest.org.