‘I Wanted To Live, Not Just Exist’: Cynthia Erivo Opens Up About Coming Out, Bringing Her Full Self to ‘Wicked’

Photo by Araya Doheny/Getty Images for the Los Angeles LGBT Center

Cynthia Erivo received the Rand Schrader Award at the annual Los Angeles LGBT Center Gala over the weekend and used her acceptance speech to discuss embracing her queer identity and how it has positively impacted her life. According to Hollywood Reporter, the award specifically honors her championing of the LGBTQ+ community. In her speech, Erivo acknowledged she knew she was taking a risk in her career when she initially came out and began publicly displaying her queerness. “I wanted to live, not just exist,” she said of that decision to come out publicly.

She was presented the award by Jada Pinkett Smith, who said: “Beyond her artistic achievements, Cynthia is a steadfast advocate helping bring visibility to the intersection of Black and queer identity.”

“It is a privilege to be on this stage tonight because for so long I lived in deep admiration of anyone who could fully embody their true authentic self, wear their queerness like a feather boa and proudly state ‘This is a beautiful part of who I am,'” Erivo said in her speech. She also said she felt as if she had been looking at her “own community from inside the glass box,” but that “now, the glass has shattered.”

Erivo also nodded to her upcoming role as Elphaba in the film adaptation of the musical Wicked. “As I stand here in front of you: Black, bald-headed, pierced and queer, I can say I know a thing or two about being the other,” she said. “Elphaba’s story is the cautionary tale of what it can sometimes mean to have to stand in your individuality, your otherness, even when systems of oppression are set against you.”

Erivo suggesting she is bringing parts of her identity to her performance as Elphaba is all I need as evidence that the Wicked movie can be considered queer, but let’s be real, Wicked in all its forms has always dripped with dense sapphic subtext.

Gay pop group MUNA was also presented the Leslie Jordan Award for Excellence in the Arts as part of the evening’s celebrations.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 861 articles for us.

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