Peppermint, Wayne Brady Among Honorees At Young Trailblazers Gala

The organization also presented $5,000 educational scholarships to three high school seniors who have shown outstanding leadership in the LGBTQ+ community.

Live Out Loud, a national nonprofit dedicated to serving queer youth, held their 23rd Annual Young Trailblazers Gala on Monday night, lighting up the Chelsea Pier with a gathering of major advocates in the queer community. 

Over 400 donors, supporters, teachers, and elected officials flitted down the red carpet with flutes of champagne and tiny hors d’oeuvres. While the event was a safe space with laughs echoing in every corner, it was also a chance to gather amidst anti-trans and queer legislation. 

“It’s so important that we come together as a community, in a safe space, to just be together and make new friends,” said Leo Preziosi, Founder and Executive Director of Live Out Loud. He started the organization in response to disproportionately high rates of bullying among LGBTQ+ young, which he personally experienced. 

Live Out Loud has been hosting the gala since 2001, awarding advocates for their hard work and dedication while their very existence is being threatened. The organization also presented $5,000 educational scholarships to three high school seniors who have shown outstanding leadership in the LGBTQ+ community. This year, Jada Perez, Mercuri Lam and Carla Espina were chosen. 

“It’s about creating a safe space,” Preziosi told GO. “It’s about listening to our students so they feel safe. Sometimes you just don’t have the words as a gay kid. But, as students see their peers share, it gives them the courage to share as well.”

Among this year’s honorees is Peppermint, a trans woman who stepped into the spotlight on Rupaul’s Drag Race and has since performed in a lead role in Broadway’s Head Over Heels and become the ACLU’s Artist Ambassador for Transgender Justice. She’s advocated for trans representation and spoken openly about racism and hate. This year, she accepted Live Out Loud’s Vanguard Award.

“A lot of us here spend so much time focused on community, so that’s usually right at the forefront of my mind,” Peppermint told GO Magazine. “It’s rare that we get recognized for the things we do, so I’m really grateful to take a moment to not only be recognized, but also to celebrate the other honorees.”

Wayne Brady, TV celebrity, Broadway star and five-time Emmy Award winner, was also honored for his on-air achievements and commitment to advocacy with the Pathfinder Award. Since coming out as pansexual last year at 50 years old, Brady proves it’s never too late to be yourself. He hosted the 2024 GLAAD Media Awards and is constantly pushing for further inclusivity, even within the LGBTQ+ community. 

After being presented with his award, Brady thanked the gay community for all the support, advice and love they have shown him in the past year. 

“I’m honored to be in this room. I look out and I see people that are living out loud. You are being who you are, authentically,” Brady said. “The teenager who is at war with themselves, trying to conform to what society says you need to be or who you need to love and if you don’t you are bad. I pray for that young person: learn the lesson to be authentic and live your life now so you don’t have to wait until you’re 50.”

Tiyale Hayes was presented with the Founders Award for his dedication to Live Out Loud on the Board of Directors, advocating for diversity and inclusion. He also works as the Executive Vice President of Insights and Multiplatform Analytics. Ashe McGovern received this year’s Soaring Spirit Award. He serves as the Head of Global LGBTQIA+ Affairs at Amazon, where he supports queer employees and customers globally. He has also worked as the Senior Policy Advisor for LGBTQ Initiatives for the NYC Mayor’s Office. José Rolon, better known as nycgaydad on social media, was presented with the Luminary Award. With nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram, Rolon uses his platform to dismiss misconceptions around gay parenting and show off the real, loving truth with his three kids Avery, Lilah and London. 

While the event honored the hard work and dedication of this year’s award recipients, it also looks toward the future by helping fund queer high schoolers educational journeys. 

“[Live Out Loud] recalibrates folks here locally in New York City and people beyond who might experience the message of Live Out Loud,” Peppermint told GO. “It connects our queer youth to the future. That’s really important to me because queer youth are our future. We have to let them know that the atmosphere is scary and looks scary but it gets better. We are in their corner.”

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