Wanda Sykes is blowing up. In addition to her regular role on CBS’ The New Adventures of Old Christine, the seasoned comic also has I’ma Be Me, her HBO stand-up comedy special in heavy rotation on the premium cable station and is now on DVD. Add to that her late-night talk show on Fox — which she called “Rupert Murdoch buying back all the hate” and “saving him from going to hell” — and Sykes is everywhere.
Sykes featured Constance McMillen on her talk show last month and melted hearts when she invited the teen activist to come to L.A. and present her with the GLAAD Media Award. Sykes was the recipient of GLAAD’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award for LGBT media professionals who promote equal rights and, this weekend, she paused on the red carpet to discuss Constance, being on the LGBT community’s radar and how her show can be gayer than Glee.
AfterEllen.com: What does your GLAAD Award mean to you?
Wanda Sykes: It means a lot, it really does. It’s the community saying, “Hey, thank you for what you’re doing and keep up the good work.” Or it could be they’re saying, “Hey, we’re looking at you and don’t screw it up.” I don’t know. [Laughs] So either way.
AE: Out actor Rupert Everett recently advised young actors to stay in the closet. What do you think of that?
WS: Because I’m not just an actor, I’m a comic, so I don’t have to worry about people wondering if I can play this role or that role or if I’m believable and things. Anytime you tell someone not to be themselves, I think it’s sad. There’s nothing better than being totally authentic and who you are. I can’t explain how great it feels. No regrets.
Wanda and wife
AE: Your inviting Constance McMillen here was incredibly touching. Was that a no-brainer?
WS: Total no-brainer. I read about her story, and they were asking me, “Who do you want to present the award to you, we need to start going after people to give you this award. Do you want Julia [Louis-Dreyfus] or … .” Those people would be great, but when I read about her story, I said, “Wait a minute, I want to ask this girl, Constance McMillen, to give me this award.” This is what GLAAD is all about. I’m deeply honored that she’s here.
AE: You’ve been a part of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors tour in the past. Any plans to do that again?
WS: I would love to, yeah.
AE: Is your show gayer than Glee?
WS: Yes! You have me, you have Portia, I have a drag queen on my show and what else … Glee is pretty gay. If I had a bigger budget, I could be extra, extra gay. I would have big numbers, I would have ice sculptures. Set up a volleyball net, a little softball, yeah.
When Sykes took the stage to accept the prize from Constance, she joked that she should give the teen activist the award instead — there was no doubt that “Constance’s courage will be a story for the ages” as GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios said — and that we won’t see the last of the young woman who is only getting started.
AfterEllen.com caught up with McMillen on the red carpet — only hours after she posed for her NOH8 Campaign photo — to talk Promgate, the Second Chance Prom and what her future holds.
AE: With all the media attention Promgate has been getting, what’s been your personal highlight?
Constance McMillen: It’s probably meeting the celebrities that I’ve met, just having their support. That’s the best.
AE: You’re sporting a NOH8 Campaign tattoo here on the red carpet. How was your photo shoot with Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley like?
CM: They’re both very nice people and I fully support the cause.
AE: What does your girlfriend think about all the attention that’s come your way?
CM: She’s really supportive and her parents don’t want her in the media. I wish she could come with me to more things, but she can’t. But she’s very supportive and she’s proud of what I’m doing.
AE: You’ve got the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition’s “Second Chance Prom” coming up in May with Cat Cora and Lance Bass. What does that mean to you?
CM: It means a lot to me because the MSSC hosted the prom last year and they’re hosting it again this year. I think the prom that MSSC hosts is generally great because there are a lot of kids who don’t get to go to their prom because they don’t feel safe or they don’t feel comfortable at their own prom. I was hoping that with what I did, to maybe change things so they do feel safe at their own prom and they can go to their prom how they are and don’t have to worry about going through what I went through.
AE: Friday was the National Day of Silence, in which thousands of students nationwide vow to take a day of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment at their schools. Did you take part in that?
CM: We were on the plane and I was trying to talk because I was trying not to cry, because I cry on planes. But I completely support it.
Constance with date Ceara Sturgis
AE: How has this experience shaped what you’d like to do career-wise?
CM: I want to continue to be an activist. I want to be a psychologist, and I want to live in L.A., but you never know what’s ahead.
AE: Why do you think the GLAAD Awards are important?
CM: Everything that they’re about is equality. That’s what I stood up for, that’s what I believe is OK. Nondiscrimination, equality of people, that’s why they’re important.
AE: What part of the show are you most excited for tonight?
CM: I’m nervous but excited about presenting the award to Wanda Sykes.
AE: Is there another celebrity whom you haven’t met yet that you’d like to? I think Ellen DeGeneres is pretty hard to top.
CM: Ellen is pretty awesome. I don’t know, there’s so many that you’d like to meet. I’d really like to meet the people who supported the Second Chance Prom, like Green Day and Cat Cora. I can’t wait to meet Lance Bass and Adam Lambert. There’s quite a few.
AE: What advice do you have for your classmates?
CM: I think they should stand up for what they believe in and not be afraid of going through stuff. Stand up like I did. It was hard but it was worth it.