At L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Event, Netflix Is the New Black

Lorri Jean

Netflix made a splash with Emmy nominations, it’s about to embark on an Oscar campaign, and on Saturday they were front and center on the philanthropic circuit.

The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, at its annual anniversary gala, honored the streaming service with its Corporate Vanguard Award, first and foremost for the series “Orange Is the New Black,” about a woman sent to prison after being caught transporting a suitcase full of drug money for her former girlfriend. One of the breakout stars is Laverne Cox, a transgender actress who acts as the hairdresser for the inmates.

Cindy Holland, VP of original content for Netflix, reminded the crowd at the Westin Bonaventure of what Amy Pascal said at a Gay & Lesbian Center event in March, when she called for more authentic portrayals of LGBT figures, noting that “old stereotypes still exist.”

“‘Orange Is the New Black’ is an answer to that call,” Holland said.

While the past few years have seen a dramatic change in recognition of same-sex marriage, Lorri Jean (pictured), CEO of the center, said that “equality under the law has always been the floor of our expectations, never the ceiling.” To that end, she unveiled plans for a dramatic expansion of the center in Hollywood at McCadden Place and Santa Monica Boulevard, where the center has entered into a deal to buy a parcel of state-owned land to construct a campus of multi-generational affordable housing, offices and a new headquarters for the org.

Also honored at the event was Xiaogang Wei, responsible for launching the first AIDS Walk on the Great Wall of China; and NBA player Jason Collins, the first player from one of the four major sports leagues to come out earlier this year. “Not in my wildest dreams did I believe that my life would be transformed from one of isolation to sitting on my couch, with my family, next to Oprah Winfrey,” he said, with a tinge of humor, in recounting his very public coming out experience.

Also speaking at the event were Dan Bucantinsky and Lance Bass, as well as Fabian Quezada, a Mexican immigrant who relied on the center’s housing and support services and now works as a hairdresser in Beverly Hills. He and his partner, E!’s Marc Malkin, recently were engaged to be married.

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