rising stars luncheon
rising stars luncheon

Nico Tortorella to Host GLAAD’s 2018 Rising Stars Luncheon in New York City

GLAAD announced the recipients, host and special guests of the 2018 Rising Stars Luncheon in New York City on May 4, 2018. The Rising Stars program empowers and invests in the next generation of LGBTQ change makers, whose advocacy is changing their local communities and the culture at large. Grants are awarded annually to LGBTQ youth and support initiatives that champion intersectional LGBTQ issues, including racial justice, immigration rights, transgender equality and more.

“Through their powerful initiatives to advance LGBTQ acceptance and visibility, these young activists are going to change the world,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, said in a statement. “We are a living in at a time when LGBTQ acceptance is eroding, but by empowering and supporting these changemakers, we are working to ensure a brighter future.”

rising stars luncheon 2
Last year’s recipients of the Rising Stars Grants

The 2018 recipients of the Rising Stars Grants in New York are:

Priscila Alegria Nunez a.k.a. Peamis a non-binary cinematographer and documentarian. Born in Trujillo, Peru, Pea grew up with with an activist mom, who brought them to the streets to protest corruption and unemployment, the aftermath of an era of terrorism and dictatorship they were born into. In search for greater opportunities, Pea arrived in the U.S. at 15 and they began their journey as a visual storyteller. Now a proud graduate of UCLA’s film school, Pea has shot documentaries, short narratives, and is about to embark on their first VR docudrama with their team and the generous contribution of GLAAD’S Rising Stars–all to make their mama and Pachamama proud.

Kosoko Jackson is a Maryland native. He is the author of A Place For Wolves, a diverse Historical Thriller Young Adult Novel, coming out Summer 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire, and advocates for an increase in diverse authors and characters within the YA literary canon. Kosoko will continue championing literary diversity by using the Rising Stars Grant to create a mentorship program for queer authors, who can learn from a published queer author about craft, brand management, and the world of publishing for two months, culminating in a pitch event to literary agents and sponsored attendance at a literary convention.

Akila Prayaga is a senior at Cornell University. On campus, she has helped lead several LGBTQ+ organizations and events. Akila has continued her outreach off campus through her involvement in diversity organizations and conferences like Grace Hopper and Out for Undergrad. As a Rising Star grantee, Akila will expand her website, “The LGBTQ Agenda,” that promotes opportunities, conferences, and other resources for queer students interested in professional careers. to include interviews with queer professionals from a variety of backgrounds, professional skills webinars, and broadening the scope of the website to be the best resource it can be for queer students. She hopes to empower LGBTQ+ students to be the representation that the corporate world currently lacks.

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Zeke Smith and Nico Tortorella

The event will be hosted by out actor, activist and author Nico Tortorella. Tortorella currently stars in the TV Land’s series, Younger, and was previously on Fox’s The Following. In addition to hosting his podcast, The Love Bomb, Tortorella recently released a book of poetry titled “All Of It Is You.”

The luncheon will also feature a performance by Parson James, and appearances by Auli’I Cravalho (Rise), Ellie Desautels (Rise), Joshua Rush (Andi Mack), Milk (RuPaul’s Drag Race), activist Blair Imani, Jackie Evancho (singer), Juliet Evancho (activist), Frankie Grande and Zeke Smith (Survivor).

The GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Programming will also be presented at the event. This year’s nominees include Gaycation with Ellen Page, I Am Jazz, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Survivor: Game Changers, and The Voice. Previous winners include Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The Real World: Philadelphia, Project Runway, The Amazing Race, I Am Jazz and Strut.

Watch our video from last year’s Rising Stars Luncheon:

The Rising Stars Luncheon takes place at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City on May 4, 2018.