Ellen, Sara Gilbert, Linda Perry, Michelle Paradise and more at The 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in LA

The 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards got off to a laugh-filled start Saturday night when Ellen DeGeneres started the event, held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. DeGeneres gave up some humor about Betty White‘s presence at a gay event, having to make the trek downtown for the night (agreed, Ellen!) as well as briefly acknowledging the support for her controversial JCPenney ad campaign.


All photos by Getty

Here’s what Ellen had to say in her opening speech:

Thank you very much. That’s very nice. [loud, into mic] Oh, that’s very loud. Thank you very much. How is everyone feeling tonight? Good?

I’m very happy to be here tonight for GLAAD. Of course, GLAAD is an acronym for “Gays and Lesbians Who Couldn’t Get Tickets For Coachella.”

I heard that Betty White is here. Betty White is here. [to Betty] I didn’t know you were gay. Welcome, Sister. That’s wonderful.

This is the largest award show honoring LGBT people in the media except for the Oscars, the Tonys and the Emmys. I think all of us being here tonight proves one thing — it proves that it’s possible to have a gay awards show not hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.

So we’re here tonight to celebrate how far the gay community has come. For most of us, it’s 10 miles. Why are we downtown? That’s my question. There was nothing in Beverly Hills? Nothing? West Hollywood? The Pacific Design Center is building buildings and there’s nothing in there? There’s a green one, a red one — they’re, like, building our headquarters down there. Nothing there?

It’s very convenient for all of you artists here. How many of you people have a loft down here? Anybody living in a loft? I’ll be staying with you tonight. I’m not making this trip twice. Really, because we could be anywhere. We’re in a hotel ballroom. I mean, it’s a grand ballroom. There are chandeliers so it’s grand and that’s nice. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful room. And it’s a very historic hotel. The Bonaventure — of course, Bonaventure is French, of course, for chocolate dentures, I believe.

Actually, I learned a little bit about this hotel. I don’t go to any hotel without doing research. I saw that on Dateline with the bedspread and the black lights. There’s a restaurant and a bar upstairs that revolves and have you been up there? It actually makes you feel better about yourself if you drink too much. “Is the room spinning? It is? Then more tequila, please, that’s fine.”

Obviously I don’t come downtown a lot but I wanted to be here because I’m so proud of the work that GLAAD does. GLAAD does amazing work. With their help, we have made a lot of progress this year. Gay marriage is now legal in six states. Which means we now only have 32 left to go, so that’s good. We are on TV more than ever. We are on commercials, we’re in magazines, we’re all over the media and that’s just my JCPenney campaign. [re: applause] That was amazing, you guys, really.

Tonight is going to be an amazing night. Good luck to all the nominees. I’m not getting an award tonight but that’s cool. Let’s start things off. Let’s take a look at how gay we’ve been this year.

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