Lee Daniels talks HRC Atlanta and gay agenda

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imageWith just a week until Atlanta’s HRC Dinner, filmmaker Lee Daniels discusses being out in Hollywood, the gay rights movement, his upcoming film, and his Oscar winner and fellow HRC guest Mo’Nique.

As he makes plans to attend the May 14 gala, the director of “Precious” and producer of “Monster’s Ball” reflects thoughtfully on all that and more, including his own priority for the gay agenda, which he says relates perfectly to the African-American civil rights movement of the ‘60s.

“I think we are walking the same line that my grandfather did then. There’s no difference,” he says. “We have to protest, beg, justify ourselves to have the same rights as heterosexuals in regards to marriage. It makes me scratch my head that we are in the same position my grandfather was in trying to vote.”

Daniels has been out since arriving in Hollywood at age 18 and admits that being gay may have affected his life and career, but that it made him “ferocious” not only in his work, but in his advocacy against bullying, which he places as a top priority in the movement.

“I was bullied, and I know that feeling of really wanting to kill yourself, of feeling being alone, so I identify,” he says, noting that the adversity made him “a fighter.”

“I became ferocious and didn’t take no for an answer, but for a lot of these kids it doesn’t work this way. I don’t’ think we even hear about half the kids that are bullied and where their heads are at, and we owe it to them.”

And although Daniels was able to adjust and come out early in life with what he calls a “fuck ‘em attitude,” he’s quick to point out that pressure for gay public figures to live openly should be tempered with respect.

“It is important to live your life and what works best for you,” he says. “You come out in your own time. You have to come out and do your own thing in your own time.

image“We all have our inner struggles to deal with, and as long as we’re not hurting the cause with what it is that we’re doing, then to each his own,” he adds, asserting that Hollywood can lead the way “if there are more courageous filmmakers that are out there that don’t’ play it so safe.”

Daniels’ next project is based on the novel “The Paper Boy” about two brothers, one of whom is gay. That’s before work begins on his historical drama “Selma.” But before all that, he basks a bit more in his “Precious” success by accompanying Mo’Nique (second photo) to Atlanta’s HRC dinner.

The two have been to a couple of other black-tie affairs together (bottom photo). The comedian and actor won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe and Oscar for her role in Daniels’ most recent film, and Daniels was right by her side. Mo’Nique will receive HRC’s Ally For Equality Award at the local event, and the director defends gay cracks that she sometimes makes in her comedy act.

image“She makes anti-black jokes, she makes anti-Lee Daniels jokes,” he says, explaining that Mo’Nique “really jumps in for gay rights in a way that is not superficial, that comes from the heart. She understands gay rights and our movement more than any other actor that I know, or any celebrity that I know. The time that she spends is deserved of her making as many jokes as she wants to. It comes from nothing but a place of love.”

Daniels says that by inviting him and Mo’Nique to the dinner, HRC begins to address critics that the organization and the dinner are disproportionately white.

“By having Monique there, I think that that’s the statement, that’s the beginning of a bridge,” the director says. “By having me there is the beginning of the bridge, and that’s a good reason why we’re there. I think that our mere presence is a statement that HRC is bringing in and embracing of people of color.”

And ultimately, the gay rights movement is headed in the right direction, Daniels says.

“I believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel with our struggle,” he says. “I believe that in the next 10 years, it will still be an issue, but I think we will have those rights. They are in sight.”

In addition to Daniels and Mo’Nique, two longtime activists from Atlanta will also be honored at the Atlanta HRC Dinner. Paul Plate, executive director of Positive Impact, will receive the Leon Allen & Winston Johnson Community Service Award. Attorney Jeff Cleghorn will receive the Dan Bradley Humanitarian Award. Some 1,000 people are expected to attend after months of lead-up events.


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