At the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles, Emmy-nominated actress, singer, and activist Michaela Jaé Rodriguez accepted the Stephen F. Kolzak award, presented by tick, tick…BOOM! costar and Academy Award nominated actor Andrew Garfield.
The Stephen F. Kolzak Award is presented to a LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting LGBTQ acceptance. The award is named after a legendary casting director, who devoted his life to raising awareness in the entertainment industry about the discrimination faced by LGBTQ people as well as people living with HIV. Previous Stephen F. Kolzak honorees include Laverne Cox, Jim Parsons, Wanda Sykes, Troye Sivan, Ruby Rose, Chaz Bono, Stephen Warren, Melissa Etheridge, and Sir Ian McKellen.
Garfield sang Rodriguez’s praises as he presented her with the award, stating: “Through her art and her energy, Michaela Jaé is making the world respect Black women, Latinas, and all women as we should. In a moment of reckoning for our industry, she is leading the charge to create and produce stories centered on LGBTQ lives and experiences, particularly those of trans women of color. She reminds us that you can’t just say you’re an ally. Allyship means action. She inspires me to love others as boldly as I can.”
Upon acceptance of the award, Rodriguez thanked her mother, and all parents who champion LGBTQ children, stating: “I have to thank my mother and father for seeing me and loving me. When a child is loved, whether you are LGBTQIA or not, it makes all the difference. When you tell your queer child that you love them, they think, ‘I love me too.’ I thank all the parents in Texas, Florida, Idaho, Arizona, and around the world who are standing up to fear and ignorance, and grounding their LGBTQIA children in love and acceptance.”
View Garfield and Rodriguez’s full speeches below:
The star-studded ceremony for the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards took place at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Recipients for 16 of this year’s 30 categories were announced, including Eternals, Hacks, We’re Here and RuPaul’s Drag Race, Saved by The Bell and more. For a full list of winners announced thus far, click here.
About Michaela Jae Rodriguez’s legacy, and her receipt of the Stephen F. Kolzak Award
Rodriguez rose to fame with her critically acclaimed performance as Blanca Evangelista in FX’s Pose. Her portrayal as the young house mother living with HIV earned her a Golden Globe win and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role, making her the first trans woman to earn a win in the entire history of the Golden Globes and the first trans woman to earn an Emmy nomination in a lead or supporting acting category. Rodriguez is also the first openly transgender woman to win Best Actress – Television at the NAACP Imagen Awards. Before appearing on Pose, Rodriguez worked primarily in theater, appearing in Off-Broadway productions at the New Ohio Theatre, New World Stages, and Encores! Off Center.
Rodriguez’s career-defining, history-making turn as Blanca has only opened more doors for herself, as well as other trans actors, within the industry. In 2019, Rodriguez appeared in Little Shop of Horrors as Audrey at Pasadena Playhouse, marking the first time a trans woman appeared as the role in a major production. That same year, Rodriguez became the first Latinx trans woman to partner with Olay Body for a skincare campaign, and the year prior, she received the 2018 Trailblazer Hispanic Heritage Award for her work in Pose. In 2021, The Advocate named Rodriguez its Person of the Year, an announcement that came as she was preparing to appear as Carolyn in Netflix’s tick…tick…BOOM!, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Next, Rodriguez will be starring alongside Maya Rudolph in the upcoming Apple TV+ series Loot.
In addition to her work as an actress and activist, Rodriguez is also breaking ground as a singer. Rodriguez hopes to expand on trans representation in the music industry as a versatile genre-bending artist. “Something to Say,” the lead single off her upcoming EP, is a message of unity and love. Upon releasing the music video, Rodriguez shared that she hopes the track reminds everyone that “we are one!”
A Black and Latinx trans woman, who with her critical acclaim and visibility alone has moved the needle for acceptance, Rodriguez stands boldly in the many intersections of her identity. Alongside Pose cast members Indya Moore and Dominique Jackson, Rodriguez served as a grand marshall of the 2019 Pride March in New York City. Months later, Rodriguez used her platform to reach today’s youth, returning to her hometown of Newark and visiting a school to talk about identity, struggles she faced growing up, and the power in being an artist. She has used her voice to publicly support the Black Lives Matter movement, urging fans to join her in the movement and advocated that racial justice organizations also prioritize protection of Black trans lives. Rodriguez told Variety how being trans in and of itself is activism, stating: “I’m obviously fighting for my community simply because I’m trans, and I have to do that, and I do it because that’s my existence. I wake up in the morning, and that is my activism.” On her legacy, Rodriguez simply told Harper’s Bazaar: “Michaela Jaé is here to stay, and she’s here to make sure that we’re changing the world in all diasporas.”