Outfest Holiday Benefit: Wilson Cruz and Margaret Cho Help Raise Funds for the Queer Film Organization

Outfest Holiday Benefit: Wilson Cruz and Margaret Cho Help Raise Funds for the Queer Film Organization

Outfest’s holiday fundraiser “’Twas the Night Before Give-Mas” on Monday night featured appearances by prominent LGBTQIA+ leaders and creatives, including Wilson Cruz, Margaret Cho, Charlie Carver, Candis Cayne, Alexandra Billings and “Veneno” star Jedet.

The evening helped raise funds for Outfest initiatives, including OutSet, a joint collaboration with the Los Angeles LGBT Center that empowers queer youth to share stories through film; the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, which documents LGBTQIA+ history and Outfest Fusion People of Color Festival celebrating queer filmmakers of color. The event was co-sponsored by Variety and hosted by the magazine’s senior culture and events editor Marc Malkin. It was produced by Kyle Shea, who also co-wrote and co-directed with Mav Viola.

The line-up also included remarks and performances by Steve Canals, Ian Harvie, Cheyenne Jackson, Gretchen Wylder, Nikki and Jill Goldstein, Nneka Onuorah, Jeremy Glazer, Ally Pankiw, Shakina Nayfack and Sherry Cola.

“It was almost nearly 40 years ago when the first ever Outfest Los Angeles was created, with just a couple of students from UCLA,” Outfest executive director Damien S. Navarro said. “Since then, we have evolved into a multi-tiered, multi-program national and even international festival, as well as a series of forward programs — our education, mentorship and fellowship programs.”

For writer and director Pankiw, Outfest allowed her to showcase her first short film in 2013 that cost just $800: “It was the first time anything of mine had ever screened at a big venue … and I just remember that being the first time I felt like I could do this as a career,” said Pankiw, who has gone on to direct for the British dramedy series “Feel Good” and written on the Emmy-winning “Schitt’s Creek.” “I’ve been really proud to help bring to life a lot of nuanced queer characters over the course of my career.”

The benefit’s guests also shined a spotlight on trans creatives, as well as queer people of color, who often face additional barriers in the entertainment industry.

“As a transgender artist, it brings me great joy and relief to know people in this industry are working tirelessly to tell our stories,” Jedet said. “Through their programs and with our support, Outfest is able to hold our industry door open and equip us with the tools to walk through.”

The event was also in partnership with The Out100, Out Magazine’s compilation of the year’s most impactful and influential LGBTQIA+ people. Melanie C. and Parson James performed during the ceremony. Presenters included Ashley Graham, Denis O’Hare, Joe Mantello, Lily Aldridge, Mary Trump, Matt Bomer and more.

“This year brought an onslaught of challenges for America, but it also welcomed opportunities to reflect about what really matters to the LGBTQ+ community and what lies ahead in the fight for equality and justice,” Out magazine editor-in-chief David Artavia said. “Now more than ever, it’s vital to recognize the powerful voices leading the charge and sounding off the new vanguard of queer leaders.”

The Out100 cover stars include Cruz and Mantello, as well as Janelle Monáe and Janaya Khan. Additional pioneers were honored across a diverse array of activists, politicians, executives, creators, artists, influencers, athletes and journalists. Honorees also included National Press Secretary of Biden-Harris campaign Jamal Brown and LGBTQ+ Engagement Director of Biden-Harris campaign Reggie Greer, Chief of Staff to Kamala Harris Karine Jean-Pierre, Lizzo, Hamed Sinno, Gia Woods, Pablo Alborán, Bretman Rock, Jeremy Pope, Wanda Sykes, Theo Germaine, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Jo Ellen Pellman, Jonathan Bennett, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Jameela Jamil, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Patrick Starr and more.

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