This post is also available in: Español
The rap, hip-hop and R&B worlds aren’t always the most welcoming to LGBTQ artists, and they consistently receive flak for homophobia both behind the scenes and in front of the mic. But Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the indisputable “first couple” of those beloved genres, have long presented themselves as allies to the queer cause. That’s why this year will see the 2019 GLAAD Vanguard Award go to the legendary music duo.
“Beyoncé and Jay-Z are longtime allies and supporters of the LGBTQ community who use their global platforms to share messages that inspire and change the world for the better,” reads a press release issued today, ahead of the March 28 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards, which take place annually in both New York City and Los Angeles.
(Beyoncé and Jay-Z will receive the GLAAD Vanguard Award in Los Angeles. During the May 4 GLAAD Media Awards in New York City, Madonna will receive GLAAD’s “Advocate for Change” award.)
The musical duo — married to each other since April 2008, with three children together — are in good company, as past recipients of the GLAAD Vanguard Award include Jennifer Lopez, Cher, Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Britney Spears and Elizabeth Taylor.
“Beyoncé and Jay-Z are global icons and passionate defenders of human rights and acceptance for all people,” says Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president and CEO. “When Beyoncé and Jay-Z speak, the world becomes inspired, and when it comes to LGBTQ people, their voices of acceptance have been heard loud and clear. We could not be prouder to stand with them to send a message of love during the biggest LGBTQ event in the world and to honor their work to bend the arc of justice forward for LGBTQ people, people of color and marginalized communities everywhere.”
It was only last year that Jay-Z was honored at the 2018 GLAAD Media Awards for his track and music video “Smile” (above), which featured his mother, Gloria Carter, speaking about her years as a closeted lesbian. She was on-hand at the awards and accepted the award from openly lesbian Good Morning America host Robin Roberts.
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay-Z rapped on the track. His mother also reads a spoken-word piece at the end of the track.
Years prior, in 2012, Jay-Z spoke about marriage equality during an interview on CNN. “I’ve always thought [marriage inequality] was still, um, holding the country back,” he said. “What people do in their own homes is their business, and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It’s no different than discriminating against Blacks. It’s discrimination plain and simple.”
Beyoncé also has a history of supporting LGBTQ rights, though four years ago she was heavily criticized by LGBTQ advocates for her failure to speak out about the 2015 Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). While the anti-discrimination ordinance was originally passed in Beyoncé’s hometown, it later faced legal challenge and a referendum was put to the city’s citizenry, which overturned it.
For years before that HERO criticism, however, Beyoncé had voiced support for the LGBTQ community. In a 2011 interview she commented on being influenced by her gay hairstylists and makeup artists, who also led her to incorporate gay slang into her work. In that same interview, she commented that in her track “Run the World (Girls),” the “girls” referred to not just women but the gays as well. Asked about the idea of women and gay men uniting to ‘run the world,’ she laughed, “Well, that’s what I meant when I said girl.”
In 2015, the year the U.S. Supreme Court solidified marriage equality, Beyoncé posted a video celebrating the ruling, during which she danced in rainbow clothing to her track “7/11.”
“Never Too Late #LoveWins,” she captioned the Instagram video.
Following the Pulse massacre in 2016, Beyoncé dedicated a performance of her track “Halo” to the horrible hate crime’s victims.
Beyoncé has also worked with many LGBTQ artists over the years, including Big Freedia, Messy Mya and Frank Ocean.
In 2017, Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox revealed that she was collaborating on a secret project with Beyoncé, which we later learned was an ad campaign for the music icon’s activewear brand Ivy Park. Cox was made the face of Ivy Park, and the hashtag #TransIsBeautiful was incorporated into the rollout.
Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z have proven to be powerful advocates for the LGBTQ community through the years, in both their work and private lives. So it makes sense that GLAAD — which has a history of awarding A-list actors and musicians with its highest honors — would choose to honor the famous couple with its GLAAD Vanguard Award during this year’s 30th annual celebration.