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Center Women’s Event Honors ’OITNB’ Star Laverne Cox

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Friday Nov 22, 2013

The New York City LGBT Community Center invites you to attend Women's Event 16, honoring Laverne Cox and cast members from "Orange is the New Black." The event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Edison Ballroom.

"It's a great event, and we love doing it because it's so fun. People have a great time, and always walk away happy and full and most importantly, inspired," said Center Executive Director Glennda Testone. "I just like it because there's not enough events specifically focused on women in this community. We are typically in the minority, so to have an event with 500 people who love us there...well, we are just really committed to continue to do this."

The event is expected to attract more than 500 lesbians and their supporters for cocktails, dinner and dancing to raise funds for the Center's Women's programs like the Lesbian Cancer Initiative, the Coming Out group for young lesbians, and the Center Families groups.

"We're hoping this year's event will raise about $350,000 for the women's programs," said Testone. "Last year's event took a real hit with the hurricane, and these funds are crucial to us, because the reality is that some of these women's programs are underfunded, and it's only through events like this that we can ensure that we can keep these programs running, and continue to provide a lifeline for women to lead great lives in this great city of ours. We are thrilled that the money raised goes to programs to help lesbian, bisexual and trans women."

Honorees include transgender actress Laverne Cox, who plays African-American transgender prisoner Sophia Burset on the Netflix's hit series, "Orange is the New Black." Cox is the first woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream TV show. She was named one of the top 50 trans icons by The Huffington Post, and has taken her empowering message of moving beyond gender expectations across the country.

Other cast members expected to attend include lead Taylor Schilling, Lea DeLaria, Kate Mulgrew, Selenis Leyva, Dascha Polanco, Danielle Brooks and Michelle Hurst.

"I started hearing about 'OITNB' a while ago, and I binge-watched every episode," said Testone. "It's a great show, and we don't see our community represented nearly enough, so the fact that this show has gotten so much attention and enabled actresses like Laverne to have a platform that is publicly embraced is wonderful."

Testone said that it was a no-brainer for them to choose Cox, who has a long connection to the Center, to receive the Community Leader Award. But she admitted that she was pleasantly surprised to see the outpouring of support from Cox's co-stars.

"It’s so great that when we asked the other cast members to come, they really wanted to come to support Laverne, and that speaks volumes that they want to see her be honored," said Testone. "And it’s great for us, because so many people are so engaged with the show, they are really asking how they can get tickets."

Other honorees include Beth A. Brooke, the EY Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, who has been named six times to the list of Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. Brooke will be honored with the Corporate Trailblazer Award.

Brooke is one of the highest-ranking lesbians on Wall Street, who came out toward the end in 2011 in a very public way. Since then, she has made an "It Gets Better" video, and did a lot of media about climbing the ranks of corporate American while in the closet, then while she was out.

"She has really developed into an amazing role model for LGBTs in the workforce today," said Testone. "She wants to set an example for other people, and be a visible role model."

The other honoree is longtime GMHC board member Joy Tomchin, who served as national co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund from 1992-96. Tomchin is executive producer of the documentary, "How to Survive a Plague," a finalist for an Academy Award. Tomchin will receive the Community Activist Award.

"I consider Joy a friend, and she is an activist and a philanthropist who puts her money where her mouth is," said Testone. "She is one of the most consistent forces in the HIV/AIDS community; and [her film] took my breath away."

Among the many splendid silent auction events, the evening will offer a live auction, with three great prizes: an Olivia cruise; a Barney’s shopping spree with Testone; and a coveted set visit for "OITNB," which she called "a great opportunity for someone to get a behind-the-scenes look at the show everyone is talking about."

The Center’s Young Leaders Council will stage the After Party event, featuring DJ Whitney Day. Tickets are $75 and include the dessert bar, open bar and dancing in the Edison Ballroom.

The 16th Annual Center Women’s Event will be held from 7 p.m.-midnight at the Edison Ballroom, 240 W. 47th Street btw. Broadway and Eighth Ave. For information or tickets, click here.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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