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! Oscar-nominated costar and actor Andrew Garfield.
The Stephen F. Kolzak Award is given to an LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting LGBTQ acceptance. The award is named after a legendary casting director, who has dedicated his life to raising awareness in the entertainment industry about the discrimination faced by LGBTQ people as well as people living with HIV. Past Stephen F. Kolzak laureates 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, saying, “Through her artistry and energy, Michaela Jaé is making the world respect Black women, Latinas, and all women the way we should. In a moment of judgment for our industry, she leads the charge to create and produce stories centered around LGBTQ lives and experiences, especially those of trans women of color. She reminds us that you can’t just say you’re an ally. Ally means action. She inspires me to love others as boldly as possible.
Upon accepting the award, Rodriguez thanked his mother and all parents who advocate for LGBTQ children, saying, “I have to thank my mom and dad 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 him, he thinks, “I love me too. I thank all the parents in Texas, Florida, Idaho, Arizona, and around the world who stand up to fear and ignorance and ground their LGBTQIA children in love and acceptance.
See 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. Winners in 16 of this year’s 30 categories have been announced, including Eternals, Hacks, we are here and RuPaul’s Drag Race, saved by the bell and more. For a full list of winners announced so far, click here.
About the legacy of Michaela Jae Rodriguez and her receipt of the Stephen F. Kolzak Award
Rodriguez shot to fame with her critically acclaimed performance as Blanca Evangelista in FX’s Pose. Her portrayal as a young stay-at-home mom living with HIV earned her a Golden Globe win and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role, making her the first trans woman to score a win in any Golden Globes history and the first trans woman to earn an Emmy nomination in a lead or supporting actor category. Rodriguez is also the first openly transgender woman to win Best Actress – Television at the NAACP Imagen Awards. Prior to appearing on Pose, Rodriguez worked primarily in theatre, appearing in Off-Broadway productions at New Ohio Theater, New World Stages and Encores! Off-center.
Rodriguez’s pivotal and historic turn as Blanca has only opened more doors for herself, and other trans actors, within the industry. In 2019, Rodriguez appeared in Little Shop of Horrors as Audrey at the Pasadena Playhouse, marking the first time a trans woman has appeared in 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 before 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 prepared to appear as Carolyn in Netflix’s Tick…Tick…BOOM!, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Next, Rodriguez will star alongside Maya Rudolph in the upcoming Apple TV+ series Loot.
In addition to her work as an actress and activist, Rodriguez is also breaking new ground as a singer. Rodriguez hopes to grow trans representation in the music industry as a versatile artist. “Something to Say”, the first single from his upcoming EP, is a message of unity and love. Upon the clip’s release, Rodriguez shared that she hopes the track reminds everyone that “we are one!”
A black, Latina trans woman, who with her critical acclaim and visibility alone has moved the needle for acceptance, Rodriguez boldly stands at the many intersections of her identity. Along with Pose cast members Indya Moore and Dominique Jackson, Rodriguez served as grand marshal for the 2019 Pride Parade 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, the struggles she faced growing up, and power. to be 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 for racial justice organizations to prioritize the protection of black trans lives as well. Rodriguez explained to Variety that being trans in and of itself is activism, saying, “I obviously stand up for my community just because I’m trans, and I have to, and I do it because it’s my existence. I wake up in the morning, and that’s my activism. On her legacy, Rodriguez simply told Harper’s Bazaar, “Michaela Jaé is here to stay, and she’s here to make sure we change the world in all the diasporas.