Gloria Carter, whose coming out as gay prompted the autobiographical song “Smile” by her rapper and music-mogul son Jay-Z, received a stating ovation Saturday at the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Manhattan.
Following an introduction by “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, Carter accepted the LGBTQ-rights group’s Special Recognition Award to the song, saying she accepted it “with pride and joy on behalf of my son and myself.” She went on to thank her family “for loving me unconditionally no matter what. Thanks to my partner for loving me and helping me free myself from being in the shadows. Thanks to you, to all the people whose lives I touched, for your support by just telling my truth.”
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” go lyrics to the song, released in December 2017, sometime after Carter came out to her son. “Cried tears of joy when you fell in love,” he wrote. “Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her / I just wanna see you smile through all the hate.”
“ ‘Smile’ became a reality because I shared with my son who I am,” Carter said. “Not that people didn’t know. I was just someone that they didn’t talk about but they loved me anyway. But for me, this was the first time that I spoke to anyone about who I really am. My son cried and said, ‘It must have been horrible to live that way for so long.’ My life wasn’t horrible,” she assured the audience, which included her partner. “I chose to protect my family from ignorance. I was happy, but I was not free.”
But, she said, “One day, I met someone that made my heart sing — made me no longer want to sneak a peep at them but actually look at them with loving eyes.” Becoming emotional, she added that, “Love gave me the courage to take the power that I allowed other people to have over my life for fear of them revealing my secret that wasn’t really a secret.
“Here I am,” she concluded. “I’m loving. I’m respectful. I’m productive! And I’m a human being who has a right to love who I love! So everybody: Just smile, be free. Thank you and God bless.”
Jay-Z retweeted posts with videos of Gloria Carter’s speech.