The GLAAD Media Awards in New York are just around the corner, and JAY-Z’s mom Gloria Carter will be recognized with a particularly personal honor. Billboard has learned exclusively that Carter will receive a Special Recognition Award onstage for her powerful coming-out story through her son’s track “Smile,” from his 2017 album 4:44.
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/ Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian/ Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate,” JAY-Z raps in the song. “Society shame and the pain was too much to take/ Cried tears of joy when you fell in love/ Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”
Carter herself can be heard on JAY-Z’s song, delivering a sobering speech at the end about having to live your life as someone you’re not. “You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love,” she says in the song. “The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free. But you live with the fear of just being me.”
Along with accepting the award, Carter will take the stage to speak on the impact that coming out as a woman of color had on her life, her family and the world at large. GLAAD’s president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement that Carter’s willingness to open herself up to her son and the world allowed for deeper, more meaningful conversations about the intersections of race and sexuality.
“By sharing her truth with the world, Gloria Carter increased visibility of lesbian women of color at a critical time and sent a powerful message of empowerment to the entire LGBTQ community,” Ellis said. “Her story and the unconditional love that her family exhibits resonate with so many. The GLAAD Media Awards will be a critical platform to honor her work and further this important message.”
JAY-Z recently talked about witnessing his mother’s coming out and how it affected him. Speaking with David Letterman on the host’s new Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, the rapper said that he cried tears of joy when she came out to him. “For her to sit in front of me and tell me ‘I think I love someone’ … I really cried,” he said. “I cried because I was so happy for her that she was free.”
Carter is joining director Ava DuVurnay, who will be receiving this year’s Excellence in Media Award for her work in advocating for the intersectionality of race and sexual orientation, and actress Samira Wiley, who will receive this year’s Vito Russo Award for her continued work in bringing representation to each of the roles she plays.
GLAAD serves as the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization and aims to spread acceptance and promote equality for the LGBTQ community.
Following the 29th annual GLAAD Media Awards gala in Los Angeles on April 12 — where Britney Spears was presented with the Vanguard Award — the New York awards ceremony will take place on May 5 at the New York Hilton Midtown.
Watch JAY-Z’s music video for “Smile” below: