In the warm glow of the New York Public Library, in a evening hosted by Michelle Collins, a co-host on ABC’s “The View,” the Point Foundation held its annual Honors Gala on April 11. This year’s honorees were Olympic diver Greg Louganis and television showrunner Pete Nowalk.
Introducing Nowalk, actors Conrad Ricamora and Jack Falahee, who star in Norwalk’s hit television show “How to Get Away with Murder,” discussed how fortunate they felt to work on a project with such diverse representation. Falahee emphasized his satisfaction at playing an authentic gay character and not just a punch line.
“It’s about damn time,” Ricamora chimed in, who plays HIV-positive Oliver on “Murder.” He thanked Nowalk for allowing him to play a character he wished existed when he was a teenager growing up.
Accepting the Point Leadership Award to a standing ovation, Nowalk discussed growing up in the very heterosexual Jersey Shore, his parents’ unfaltering support, and the importance of education.
“The only reason I had the guts to write any of this is because I had parents who made sure I could go to college,” Nowalk said. “But most LGBTQ kids aren’t as lucky as I was. Most can’t even afford to hope for a college education. Thanks to Point Foundation, now a few more can and they are going to do big, world-changing things with their futures.”
He noted that the foundation’s long-lasting impact that goes above and beyond providing financial support to students.
“Gay sex — America loves it apparently,” joked Nowalk, discussing the early days of “Murder,” where he coyly snuck in network television’s most risqué, some butts about it gay sex scene to date. Responding to positive audience response, Nowalk continued to push the envelope in the show’s second season.
“The relationship between Connor and Oliver is one of the show’s most popular, and it has even encouraged me to write more LGBTQ characters into the show — including Viola’s character, who is now one of the only LGBTQ leads on TV,” he said.
Olympic freestyle skiing medalist Gus Kenworthy presented Greg Louganis with the Point Legend Award. The five-time Olympic medalist teared up as he recounted his 1984 and 1988 Olympic wins, his HIV diagnosis, and his long road to acceptance. Seconding Nowalk, Louganis stressed the importance of education and self-respect and applauded everything the Point Foundation does for its scholars. Evoking his mother’s words, Louganis addressed the Point scholars and alumni, saying, “Make everywhere you go better because you were there.”
He added, “Get in the pool — the pool of life, the pool of love, the pool of service. You will find others there, and together those ripples can become waves — waves of higher achievement, of self-acceptance and, just as important, the acceptance, of others from all walks of life.”
Singer and Broadway actress Lena Hall closed the night out with a performance of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Other performers included out country musician Billy Gilman and Maddie Shea Baldwin of Broadway’s “Bright Star.”
The Point Foundation, the largest scholarship organization working to support talented LGBT students, was founded in 2001, and provides financial support, comprehensive mentorship programs, leadership training, and community service opportunities. Since its founding, the group has supported 326 scholars, including 85 in the current academic year. For more information, visit pointfoundation.org.