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True Blood, 30 Rock, Essence.com receive awards at New York event presented by American Airlines and Prudential

Tina Fey, Patrick Wilson, Denis O’Hare, Pauley Perrette, Wilson Cruz, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and Lawrence O’Donnell were among the celebrities who joined the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) as it honored Ricky Martin, Russell Simmons, and the best in television and journalism last night at the 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York, hosted by Andy Cohen.

The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the issues that affect their lives.  The GLAAD Media Awards also fund GLAAD’s work to amplify stories of LGBT people and issues that build support for equality.

At the ceremony, film and Broadway producer Craig Zadan, presented the Vito Russo Award to Grammy Award-winning pop star, Ricky Martin, whose decision to speak about his life as a gay man has had a tremendous impact worldwide, especially for Latino youth and their parents.   The Vito Russo Award is presented to an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality for the LGBT community.

A transcript of Martin’s acceptance speech follows:

“What an honor.   I have no words but to say, ‘thank you.’   GLAAD has helped me so much.   A couple of months ago, I was being attacked by someone in the media in Puerto Rico, and I called GLAAD and I said ‘What do you do?   Because I’m new at this, I really don’t know what to do.’   And they said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.’   And they hopped on a plane and they went to Puerto Rico and they did what needed to be done.   And today, Puerto Rican television is one step closer to being free from hate, thanks to GLAAD,” Martin said.   He continued, “I just want to be free.   I can say today I’m free.   And for that I definitely need to thank my parents for being so supportive, my mother and my dad for their unconditional love, and my friends, my family, my fans.   And my partner in crime and my boyfriend Carlos.   And GLAAD let’s go to Latin America, let’s share the love!   Let’s go to Mexico!   Let’s go to Columbia!   Let’s go to Argentina!   Let’s go to Chile!   Let’s go to Brazil!   We need you GLAAD — we need you down there, we need to spread the love in Latin America.   Let’s do it in Spanish.   I can help, I can do it!   I’ll be part of it.   I want to be part of it.   Thank you so much for everything, God bless you all and see you on my tour here in New York!”

Also at the event, the Rev. Al Sharpton presented the Excellence in Media Award to pioneering hip-hop producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Russell Simmons, who has repeatedly spoken out on issues of concern to the LGBT community, urging Americans to support full equality.  The Excellence in Media Award is presented to individuals who, through their work, have increased the visibility and understanding of the LGBT community in the media.

“It’s a great honor and I’m truly appreciative of the GLAAD Media Awards including me in this special night,” Simmons said in his acceptance speech.   “I’m humbled by having one of my mentors and heroes Rev. Sharpton giving me this award.   It’s no secret that faith-based communities, in some cases, have been difficult, and I think that for all of us who step outside of our comfort zone and fight for the rights of others, we are blessed.   And Rev. Sharpton [has] stood up in so many ways and has been very special.   And to the gay and lesbian community he’s a true blessing.   I’m honored and appreciative and I just want to thank everybody.   Thank you.”

Actress, writer and producer Tina Fey accepted the award for Outstanding Individual Episode for the “Klaus & Greta” episode of 30 Rock. Openly gay actor Denis O’Hare, who played Vampire King Russell Edgington, accepted the award on behalf of True Blood which received the nod for Outstanding Drama Series.   The award for Outstanding Digital Journalism ““ Multimedia was accepted by journalist Bobbi Misick, Emil Wilbekin, managing editor of Essence.com, and Danielle and Aisha Moodie-Mills for the Essence.com story “Bridal Bliss: Aisha and Danielle.”   This story was the first time Essence.com included a lesbian couple in its weekly wedding feature.

“The year’s honorees, nominees and award recipients represent diverse stories that are building acceptance and understanding about our community through their excellent work,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “GLAAD thanks all in attendance for joining us and voicing their support for equality.”

Bravo’s Executive Vice President of Original Programming & Development Andy Cohen hosted the evening, and Cirque du Soleil performed an act from their newest show Zarkana for the capacity crowd.   Other guests and presenters at the event included: Vinny Guadagnino (Jersey Shore); Miss USA Rima Fakih; Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge (The Fabulous Beekman Boys); film and Broadway producer Neil Meron; Zac Young, Gail Simmons (Top Chef: Just Desserts); Ted Allen, Alex Guarnaschelli (Chopped);  Sandra Lee (Semi-Homemade Cooking); Liz Lee (My Life as Liz); Mike Ruiz, Sahara Davenport, Manila Luzon (RuPaul’s Drag Race); Laverne Cox, Jamie Clayton (TRANSform Me); sports journalist LZ Granderson; Chris March (Mad Fashion); Nathan Williams (Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys); Spencer Liff (So You Think You Can Dance); Sonja Morgan (The Real Housewives of New York City); Phillip Bloch (fashion designer); LGBT advocate Janice Langbehn; Texas student activist Bianca “Nikki” Peet; and GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios.   Guests at the after-party enjoyed the music of renowned DJ Tracy Young.

This year, GLAAD expanded its Young Adults Program from Los Angeles to New York.   Support from corporate partners like Bridgestone Americas and Cirque du Soleil, and GLAAD supporters Glenn Close, Alan Cumming, Tom Ford & Richard Buckley, Suze Orman, Bishop Gene Robinson, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Walters allowed GLAAD to offer free tickets to the event to over 300 youth and young adults from the greater New York area.   Students affiliated with Columbia University, the AIDS Center of Queens County, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and the Streetwork Project enjoyed the show and a private after-party.

In 2011, the GLAAD Media Awards is celebrating GLAAD’s 25th anniversary year, looking back at a quarter-century of work to build acceptance and advance equality through LGBT images in the media.

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