Keke Palmer and Pamela Anderson were both honored for their commitment to LGBTQ+ activism at the Los Angeles LGBT Center Gala on Saturday, held at Fairmont Century Plaza in Century City. The two received the Vanguard Award along with the late Leslie Jordan, a longtime center member and former host of the gala, who received a posthumous self-titled award.
The fundraiser, which is typically held annually, returned after a four-year absence due to the pandemic. Hosted by Ts Madison, the party raised $1.2 million for senior and youth services, cultural and culinary programs, and mental health resources. The center has the status of the largest non-profit organization serving international queer and trans communities.
“For me, it’s about freedom,” Palmer said of the center’s mission. “At the core, we are all trying to tell the world to be ourselves. Love me as I am, let me live as I am.”
In her speech accepting the honor, Palmer opened up about her own journey, saying, “I’ve always been my own person, and sexuality and identity have always been confusion for me. I never felt straight enough; I never felt gay enough felt; I’ve never felt woman enough; I’ve never felt man enough. I’ve always felt like I was a little bit of everything.”
The No star – who welcomed her first child with boyfriend Darius Jackson in February, with her first public appearance since birth on Saturday – has previously spoken about her sexuality as being on the spectrum. The actor’s voice became emotional as she spoke of past experiences being judged by her gender and sexuality, as she often led with masculinity and received contempt as a woman, causing “pain and resentment.”
“Why did my gender have to determine the power I have in the world? And why does my gender determine my sexuality?” continued Palmer. “Since I was younger I’ve always questioned the boxes I was forced to be in and it starts with who you’re supposed to be as a kid, you’re supposed to be as a black person, or whatever background you’re from. .” She continued, “those walls just try to crash into you from every goddamn angle – who you are as a creative, who you are as a friend.”
“There is no greater masterpiece than living your truth,” she added.
Jordan, who has been an integral member of the center and has performed dozens of sold-out theater shows at the Renberg Theater, received a tearful tribute from host Mayim Bialik, who starred alongside him in Fox’s Call me Kat, and Del Shores, a longtime collaborator who saw the actor-activist as his “muse.” The duo accepted the inaugural Leslie Jordan Award for Excellence in the Arts on his behalf.
While receiving her Vanguard award, Anderson recalled landing in Los Angeles during Pride, where she was teased by two men who insulted her highlights. “They say, ‘Honey, that’s not one of God’s colors.’ I thought: that’s how I think, that’s how I speak. I’ve arrived, it will be fine,” she joked.
Anderson, who was the subject of the recent Netflix documentary Pamela: a love story, thanked the center and the queer community at large for accepting her and said, “I’m rooting for you. Thank you for rooting for me.
The gala celebrated and supported the LA LGBTQIA+ community with live entertainment, both a silent and live auction, and other activities. The fundraiser, in which singer-songwriter and Rising Star Award recipient Durand Bernarr gave a special musical performance, was presented by Gilead Sciences, Inc. Also in attendance were Adam Lambert, Sarah Hyland, Madison Bailey, Colton Haynes, Orville Peck and Karamo Bruin.