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Oprah Winfrey shares emotional GLAAD Awards speech about late brother

Oprah Winfrey shares emotional GLAAD Awards speech about late brother

Oprah at the 2024 GLAAD Awards
Getty Images

His death helped fuel her desire to encourage authenticity in everyone.

@andrewjstillman

The iconic Oprah Winfrey took home the Vanguard Award at the 35th GLAAD Media Awards on Thursday, Mar. 14 to honor her status as an LGBTQ+ ally and all she’s done for the community.

During her speech, she took the time to discuss her brother, Jeffrey Lee, who passed away at the age of 29 from AIDS-related complications in the 1980s.

“Growing up at the time we did in the community we did, we didn’t have the language to understand or to speak about sexuality and gender in the way that we do now,” she said. “At the time, I really didn’t know how deeply my brother internalized the shame that he felt about being gay.”

Understandably, Winfrey got a little emotional as she talked about her brother. She also discussed how much she wished he could have lived long enough to “witness these liberated times” and to stand on the stage with her to accept the award.

Winfrey also discussed how her brother helped impact what she did on The Oprah Winfrey Show between 1986 to 2011, where she just wanted to “help people be more of their own authentic selves.”

A show in Williamson, West Virginia in 1987 became vital to her after the town’s pool was shut down because a man living with HIV had gone for a swim in it.

“I knew then, back in 1987, that I wanted to and needed to do more. So I did,” she explained.

Outside of HIV, she’s done a lot to celebrate awareness and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community over the years. She featured Ellen DeGeneres on National Coming Out Day after she came out in 1997, and she led one of Elliot Page’s first interviews in 2021 following his disclosure that he was a trans man in 2020.

Moving forward, Winfrey said she’ll continue to hire queer and trans filmmakers to keep authenticity as one of her main goals.

“This is what I know for sure,” she said. “When we can see one another, when we are open to supporting the truth of a fellow human, it makes for a rich, full, vibrant life for us all. That’s what I wish my brother Jeffrey could have experienced — a world that could see him for who he was, and appreciate him for what he brought to this world.”

You can watch Oprah Winfrey’s full acceptance speech at the 2024 GLAAD Media Awards below.

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Andrew J. Stillman

Contributing Writer for Pride.com

Andrew J. Stillman is a freelance writer and yoga instructor exploring the world. Check him out at andrewjstillman.com or follow him @andrewjstillman on all the things.

Andrew J. Stillman is a freelance writer and yoga instructor exploring the world. Check him out at andrewjstillman.com or follow him @andrewjstillman on all the things.