Cynthia Erivo delivers a moving speech about queer fear and the right to exist

Cynthia Erivo speaks onstage during the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Annual Gala at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on May 18, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Cynthia Erivo speaks onstage during the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Annual Gala at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on May 18, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

If you’re not as excited about the upcoming Wicked film adaptation as we are, then in the words of Ariana Grande, we can’t be friends.

Just kidding, but in all seriousness, we cannot wait to see the end result of the first part of the project directed by Jon M. Chu and starring Grande as Glenda and Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba.

Over the weekend, the annual gala at the Los Angeles LGBT Center gathered for a dinner at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall for a dinner hosted by Joel Kim Booster, where Erivo was presented with the Rand Schrader award to celebrate her achievements in the industry as well as her activism for the LGBTQ+ community.

Jada Pinkett Smith, who introduced her, raved about Erivo’s “immense talent and spirit,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, saying she’s “a steadfast advocate helping bring invisibility to the intersection of Black and queer identity.”

Upon acceptance of the award, which is named after the pioneering L.A. gay rights activist, Erivo proceeded to deliver a moving and epic speech that addressed her queerness and her admiration of those who “could fully embody their true authentic self, wear their queerness like a feather boa and proudly state, ‘That is a beautiful part of who I am.’”

Describing how she felt that she’d looked at her “own community from inside the glass box,” Erivo went on to say that ignoring her queer identity was a disservice to herself and that the box had shattered.

“I've walked out into the wide open spaces, into the arms of you all, and it feels like home,” she said.

When it came to openly admitting her queerness under the public’s gaze, she said it meant taking a “risk” to find her own freedom and hit us all in the feels when she said, “I wanted to live, not just exist.”

We know the feeling well.

Erivo also took some time to talk about the upcoming Wicked adaption, saying, “I see it as no coincidence that the universe urged a director named John. M Chu to take on the mammoth task that is Wicked and the universe saw fit to lead me to him and play a character like darling, green Elphaba, who is branded ‘wicked’.”

Regarding her connection to the character, she said, “As I stand here in front of you, Black, bald-headed, pierced, and queer,” pausing while everyone took a moment to celebrate her for all she is, and continued, “I can say I know a thing or two about being the ‘other.’ Elphaba’s story is a cautionary tale of what it means to have to stand on your individuality, your otherness, even when systems of oppression are set against you.”

She described Elphaba as a “colorful, powerful, magical woman” who, “despite being disparaged, demonized, and discriminated against, becomes the hero. Wicked is the reclamation and the reimagining of all the labels that are used against her. It is the proclamation of her right to exist in all of her power. If that sounds familiar to you colorful, magical people in this room, it should be.”

This is further proof that Erivo was the perfect choice for the role, and we couldn’t think of someone more deserving of the award.

Mark your calendars for November 27 when Wicked hits theaters.