By Valerie Milano
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 10/26/19 – GLSEN (Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network) held their 15th Respect Awards on Friday night at the iconic Beverly Wilshire. The organization, which aims to create safe and inclusive schools and learning environments for LGBTQ youth across the country, honored Oscar Award winning actor and activist Octavia Spencer with the Inspiration Award.
“GLSEN is deeply honored to present the Inspiration Award to Octavia Spencer, an actor who has devoted her career to diverse storytelling, promoting social good, and is a steadfast ally for the LGBTQ community,” said Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN. “Octavia is a role model for combining art with activism and a true embodiment of the Inspiration Award.”
Spencer is world famous for her roles in “The Help”,”The Shape of Water,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Snowpiercer.” The honor was well deserved–She’s been an outspoken and effective ally for LGBTQ rights including marriage equality and issues surrounding homophobia and equality. Her advocacy has been both an inspiration and a boon to the community at large. Ms Spencer arrived looking radiant as always, and accepted her award with the grace and humor she’s come to be known for on the Hollywood social scene.
“I hopefully live my life respecting other people, and that is somehow reflected,” she said on the red carpet, prior to accepting her award. “I’m honored and I’m humbled.”
“I stand in awe of these kinds of values,” said Judith Light, a well-known advocate herself. “Particularly now, in our world that is so fraught with disruption and lies.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook was honored with the Champion Award; the cast and producers of the Warner Bros. Television/The CW television series “Riverdale” received the Gamechanger Award, and Amazon’s Jennifer Salke accepted the Visionary Award on behalf of Amazon Studios. Student Advocate of the Year Elle Smith was there, along with; presenters and special guests including Kalen Allen, Jonathan Bennett, Shannon Beveridge, Bruce Bozzi, Raymond Braun, Connor Franta, August Getty, Liv Hewson, Our Lady J, Jeffrey & Marilyn Katzenberg, Juan Ramon Law-Valdez, Chelsea Kane, Judith Light, Mary McCormack, Max Mutchnick, Erik Hyman, Melissa Peterman, Glen Powell, Cammie Scott, and more.
In accepting her award, Spencer took the stage to, once again, advocate. “School should be a place where you can be yourself, make friends, and learn about the world,” she said. “Where you shouldn’t have to worry about how the bathroom you’ll use, or who you take to prom, will somehow get you bullied. Or that you’ll never see yourself reflected in the books you’re reading, or the history you’re learning.”
Since 2004, GLSEN has been honoring individuals like Spencer, and Friday night’s ceremonies were a poignant reminder of exactly why the organization’s mission is so paramount to the general health of society.
“GLSEN awakens the world to be more responsible to the lives of these extraordinary individuals in this glorious community.” said Judith Light.