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Queer Joy Radiates at the Center Gala 2024: ‘Why Fall for Hate When You Could Fall in Love?’

Joe Hollendoner Center Gala 2024

Hosted at the legendary Shrine Expo Hall & Auditorium, the 2024 Center Gala was held to much success, bringing the community together to raise more than $1.6 million  in support of the lifeline services offered at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Hosted by actor, writer, and comedian Joel Kim Booster, the event  honored Cynthia Erivo, Mickalene Thomas, and MUNA for their contributions to the LGBTQ+ community. 

Multi-award winning singer, songwriter, producer and actress Cynthia Erivo was honored with the Schrader Award for her stellar achievements in activism, championing the LGBTQ+ community. She was presented with the award by actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who praised her as a “wise, deep-hearted woman whose soul glows of warmth and love.”

As I stand here in front of you: Black, bald-headed, pierced, and queer, I can say I know a thing or two about being the other.

Cynthia Erivo, Schrader Award honoree
Cynthia Erivo Center Gala 2024
(Photos by Hunter Abrams)

“We are, as we all know, living through intensely polarized times. It seems that, all over, we are keen on seeing the world in black-and-white, rather than embracing the difficult (but beautiful) complexities of our humanity,” Erivo said. “I see it as no coincidence that the universe urged a director by the name of Jon M. Chu to take on the mammoth task that is Wicked … As I stand here in front of you: Black, bald-headed, pierced, and queer, I can say I know a thing or two about being the other. Elphaba’s story is… about how a colorful, powerful, magical woman—despite being disparaged, demonized, and discriminated against—becomes a hero. Wicked is a reclamation and a reimagining of the labels used against her. It is the proclamation of her right to exist in all her power. If that sounds familiar to you colorful, magical people in this room—it should.”

Multidisciplinary artist Mickalene Thomas, considered one of the most influential visual artists of our time, was honored with this year’s Vanguard Award, for her advocacy and commitment to intersecting complexities of Black and female identity within the Western canon. In her introduction, presenter Tasha Smith reflected on her long friendship with Thomas and celebrated her as “a fierce mentor who supports the futures of talented young artists and creates safe spaces for queer artists.”

Cynthia Erivo, Tasha Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mickalene Thomas Center Gala 2024
(Photos by Hunter Abrams)

“As our community faces unprecedented challenges, we all have a responsibility to create change,” said Thomas. “Each and every one of us in the room has a responsibility in our own small ways—wherever you are, however we involve ourselves within the community. It takes one person.”

Queer power pop trio MUNA took the stage later in the evening, after being recognized with the Leslie Jordan Award for Excellence in the Arts to dazzle attendees with an amazing performance of their song “Silk Chiffon.”

The love within our beautiful queer and trans family will always blaze the trail forward.

Joe Hollendoner, CEO, Los Angeles LGBT Center

In total, the evening raised more than $1.6 million in support of the Center’s life-saving services. More than 800 guests attended the event, including Zaya Wade, Trixie Mattel, Lisa Rinna, and more.

MUNA, Jewel Center Gala 2025
(Photos by Hunter Abrams)

“Why fall for hate when you can fall in love?” asked Center CEO Joe Hollendoner at the top of his address, highlighting the importance of love and chosen family in the face of escalating political attacks against the LGBTQ+ community. 

“The love within our beautiful queer and trans family will always blaze the trail forward,” he said. “Our love will always heal and liberate us. And, be assured, our love will always win.”

This year’s Gala was supported by Diamond Sponsor Gilead Sciences, Inc. Platinum Sponsors include Glamazon L.A.—Amazon’s LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Gold Sponsors are Rick Caruso, Contractors State License Schools and Construction Insurance Agency, PS, and U.S. Bank. The event’s Official Airline Partner is American Airlines

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