During the 2018 MTV Movie Awards, Lena Waithe was honored with the Trailblazer Award as she has been dedicated to using her platform to uplift those who have been marginalized by society. During her acceptance speech, Waithe took the time to honor the LGBTQ+ icons in the 1990 Pairs Is Burning documentary.

I was so elated when I heard I was going to get the Trailblazer Award that I decided to look up what the word actually means. It means to be a pioneer or an innovator, and I am truly grateful that you guys see me in that light.

But I believe the only reason why I’m even allowed to stand here is because of a few other trailblazers that some of you might not be aware of. And I discovered these trailblazers when I watched a brilliant documentary I saw many years ago called Paris Is Burning.

This movie was released in 1990, and it documents the lives of some of the bravest human beings to ever walk the face of this earth. Jenny Livingston’s film takes an intimate look at ball culture in Harlem, New York in the 1980s, and it introduced me to trailblazers such as Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, Angie Xtravaganza and Willi Ninja, just to name a few.

Tonight, I want to share this award with them. I want to do what we as a society should’ve done a long time ago, and that’s give them the glory and the shine they deserve.

A lot of people featured in this film are no longer with us, but their legacies will never die because they live on in all of us. And every time someone says “shade” or talks about “reading,” or just decides to “serve face” for no reason at all, please look up to the sky and give thanks, because we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. They strutted through a brick wall so we wouldn’t have to.

Watch Lena Waithe accept the Trailblazer Award at the 2018 MTV Movie Awards below:



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The HBR Media Team is a collective group of black women filmmakers, writers, and studio/network executives who are passionate about bringing visibility to women of African descent working in film and television.

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