True to form, Kristin Chenoweth offered up a quirky anecdote this weekend when speaking about how her Christian faith coexists with her passion for LGBTQ advocacy.
The Emmy- and Tony-winning actor and singer appeared Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2020 Greater New York Gala, where she was honored with the organization’s Ally for Equality Award. In a heartfelt but nonetheless playful speech, she explained how she began developing an interest in LGBTQ causes as a child in Oklahoma.
“In the third grade, I had a friend named Jackie Bell,” she told the starry crowd, which included fellow honoree Naomi Campbell and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). “One day we were walking … and somebody yelled, ‘Hey dyke!’ I could tell she was embarrassed.”
The conversation continued, Chenoweth said, once she returned home. Her mother’s explanation for the word “dyke” was simple.
“She goes, ‘It’s when two girls love each other,’” the star of “Wicked” and “Pushing Daisies” said. “I go, ‘Is it wrong?’ She goes, ‘I don’t think so.’ Can I just say how lucky I am that I had that for a mom in Oklahoma? As an adopted child, I say thank you God for putting me in the right family.”
Chenoweth has never shied away from incorporating religious and queer themes into her stage and screen work, often garnering media coverage in the process.
Pointing to a discussion she had with her Southern Baptist grandmother, Chenoweth explained why she believes her faith and support for the LGBTQ community don’t have to be seen as mutually exclusive.
“I said, ‘Grandma, I have a question. I want to know why gay people are going to hell,’” she recalled. “She said, ‘Well, you know what I do, I read the Bible like I eat fish. I take the meat that serves me well, but I don’t choke on a bone.’”
Taking a page from Carol Burnett, she concluded her speech with a pledge to continue to “laugh, fight … be strong and stick together.”
One of several HRC honorees to hail from New York’s theater world, Chenoweth released a new album, “For The Girls,” last fall. Next up, she’s slated to appear in the Netflix original film “Holidate” and the Disney+ series “The Biggest Star In Appleton.”
Also present were playwrights Jeremy O. Harris and Matthew Lopez, who wrote the Broadway hits “Slave Play” and “The Inheritance,” respectively. Both men picked up HRC Equality Awards for their work.
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