Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala - Arrivals

Lena Waithe Used Her MTV Movie & TV Awards Speech to Shine a Light on Paris Is Burning

During the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards, Common presented Lena Waithe with the Trailblazer Award for her incredible work creating The Chi, appearing in Ready Player One and mentoring so many young people. Oh yeah, and becoming the first black woman to win an Emmy for writing a comedy series (Master Of None). And she's something of a queer icon, going to the Met Gala dressed as a damn rainbow! She also attended the awards with her fiancée, it's all really sweet.

And since she's Lena Waithe, she used her acceptance speech to teach all the young people in the audience about the incredible, groundbreaking 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning and its drag queens stars. Paris Is Burning showcases the voguing and drag ball scene of 1980s New York as marginalized people, most of them trans women of color, who find vibrancy, family, love and acceptance in their art, even as they battle ignorance, hate, and the AIDS crisis. Many of the stars, as Waithe pointed out, have since passed away, but "they live on," she said, in the culture they created. Waithe reminded us that when we talk about serving face, or reading someone, or throwing shade, we owe those terms to queens like Carmen Xtravaganza and Pepper LaBeija.

They didn't just blaze trails. They "strutted through brick walls," as Waithe said.

Related: Lena Waithe: There Are More Donald Glovers, Sterling K. Browns, and Lena Waithes Out There