Tag Archives: Tony Awards

LGBT History Month 2013: Cyndi Lauper

24 Jun

cyndi  lauperToday I would like to honor and celebrate a fierce  and lifelong LGBT ally — a woman dedicated to civil rights for all and social justice, not to mention a personal hero of mine, Cyndi Lauper.  Lauper founded  the Give A Damn Campaign, which strives for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality. What a lovely voice of solidarity for the LGBTQ community.  Her activism is greatly appreciated and she uses her celebrity for the greater good.

Lauper’s True Colors tour — taking its title from her #1 ballad to being true to yourself –  is a wonderful spectacle of support for the LGBTQ community and for strong voices in the music community representing marginalized populations. She truly exemplifies the values she speaks. Activist neo-divas like P!nk and Lady Gaga owe a great debt to her bold example.

More recently, Lauper started True Colors Residence, providing housing for LGBT youth.  Yes, sadly, there are far too many LGBT youth who find themselves homeless after coming out. Announcing the facility, she stated:

These young people often face discrimination and at times physical assault in some of the very places they have to go to for help. This is shocking and inexcusable!

Lauper also successfully turned her many talents in a new direction with a recent Broadway hit. Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell asked her to write the music and lyrics for a stage adaptation of the true-story movie Kinky Boots. Harvey Fierstein came on board to write the book for this story of a young man who recruits a drag queen to help him save his family shoe factory by designing comfortable and stylish drag footwear. Nominated for 13 Tony Awards, the show’s win for Best Musical may be the gayest Tony ever. Lauper became the first woman to win Best Original Score solo, adding another first to her list of accomplishments.

From the very beginning, Lauper has used her star power to help the under-represented. On her groundbreaking video for Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, she insisted that the performers be as diverse as possible wanting:

every girl who saw the video to see herself represented and empowered, whether she was thin or heavy, glamorous or not. I wanted women of every race.

She has used that same philosophy to great impact in her support of the LGBT community. Thank goodness for allies like Lauper.

Black History Month 2012: Phylicia Rashād

24 Feb

Today we celebrate an actress and activist, the wonderful Phylicia Rashād. Born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in 1948, she has blended her long acting career with a passion for celebrating black history and breaking down barriers. As a child, Phylicia, her older brother Andrew and younger sister, Debbie Allen, lived in Mexico to escape US racism. Rashad is fluent in Spanish and upon returning to the United States, became a champion for civil rights. After graduating from Howard University, she made her early career on the Broadway stage. In 1983, she moved to television, starting with a role on One Life to Live.

Rashād took on the role for which she is best known the following year when she was cast as Claire Huxtable on the long-running sitcom The Cosby Show. Playing a wise, practical mother, she also made a point of injecting black history lessons into a number of shows. During the program’s eight-year run, she was nominated for two Emmy awards. After the series ended, she took on a number of other TV and movie roles. She also returned to the stage as time permitted.

While maintaining an active career, Rashād also worked tirelessly to promote the arts in America, especially the contributions of African-Americans. Her work has been recognized with a number of awards and honorary degrees. When she received an NAACP Image Award in 2009, the presenters called her the mother of the African-American community. In 2008, she also won a Tony Award for her performance in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry‘s A Raisin In the Sun. What is shocking to me is that it was not until 2008 that an African-American won a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.

Still going strong at 64, Phylicia Rashād has much more to offer and much energy and wisdom to share. Let’s close with her own words:

The stubbornness I had as a child has been transmitted into perseverance. I can let go but I don’t give up. I don’t beat myself up about negative things. There’s always something to suggest that you’ll never be who you wanted to be. Your choice is to take it or keep on moving.

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