From Like a Virgin to Vogue to Evita to Ray of Light and everything in between, Madonna has traversed the pop culture terrain as a curator of style and trends in music, TV, film, and advocacy. That said, GLAAD is set to honor the Material Girl (we’re still calling her that, right?) with the Advocate for Change Award at the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City on May 4.
“From the HIV crisis to international LGBTQ issues, she fearlessly pushes for a world where LGBTQ people are accepted,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Her music and art have been life-saving outlets for LGBTQ people over the years and her affirming words and actions have changed countless hearts and minds.”
Madonna is the second person and first woman to be honored with the Advocate for Change Award. The first was Bill Clinton who received the award in 2013 during the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards for his advocacy work to overturn the anti-LGBTQ Defense of Marriage Act and advance marriage equality nationwide.
It’s no surprise that Madonna would be honored with an award of this stature. She has been an ally to the LGBTQ community starting at the beginning of her “boy toy” career when she was donning lace and leather. She was at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the ’80s, performing at AIDS benefit concerts and demanded more action be taken at a time when HIV and AIDS was invisible in the media. Her HIV/AIDS advocacy was very present in her work as she included a leaflet in her album Like a Prayer (which also celebrates its 30th anniversary this year) entitled “The Facts about AIDS” and wrote a song on her Erotica titled “In This Life” as a tribute to her friends who had passed away from AIDS.
She has appeared in numerous films including the aforementioned Evita, for which she received a Golden Globe award as well as Desperately Seeking Susan, A League of Their Own, Four Rooms and The Next Best Thing. In her 1991 provocative (then again, almost everything she did in this era was provocative) documentary Truth or Dare, she showcased her dancers, who were almost all gay and were free to depict themselves authentically on camera, as encouraged by Madonna herself. She made her directorial debut in 2008 with Filth and Wisdom and went on to produce I Am Because We Are, a documentary on the problems faced by Malawians. For her second film, she tackled the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in W.E.
In 1997, Madonna played a key role in Ellen DeGeneres’ historic coming out, giving DeGeneres words of support and comfort, despite the fact that the two had never met before. She hosted Saturday Night Live in 1985, but made guest appearances numerous times after. She made her sitcom debut in 2003 when she appeared on the NBC comedy Will & Grace.
Madonna continues to use her iconic platform to support the LGBTQ community. In 2019, she continues to speak out against anti-LGBTQ laws, policies, and practices — not only in the United States, but all around the world. Madonna has spoken out for LGBTQ equality in Romania, Malawi, Russia and more. She has also spoken against bullying of LGBTQ youth and related LGBTQ youth suicide.
Her music has reached legendary status and it can be heard pulsating in clubs and karaoke bars all across the world, but in everything she does, she pushes the envelope (remember the SEX book?). But with all her shock and awe, there has always been advocacy and protest sewn in. In 2013, when presenting Anderson Cooper with the Vito Russo Award at the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, she dressed as a Boy Scout in protest of the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on LGBTQ people. This past New Year’s Eve, Madonna gave a surprise performance at the Stonewall Inn, a historic venue for LGBTQ rights, to celebrate its upcoming anniversary. She also spoke at the first Women’s March on Washington for women’s equality and has spoke against Trump’s child detention policy.
The 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards honors media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues. The 151 nominees in 27 categories were unveiled earlier this month at the Sundance Film Festival.
Events for this year’s GLAAD Media Awards will be held in Los Angeles on March 28 and continue in New York City on May 4.