Nathan Lane Reflects on Coming Out, Praises Robin Williams and Bette Midler at LGBTQ+ Celebration

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Veteran actor Nathan Lane became a beacon of courage and humor at the inaugural Critics Choice Association’s LGBTQ+ Celebration of Cinema & Television. The event, held on June 7th, 2024, honored achievements from the LGBTQ+ entertainment community, both on and off-screen. Lane, a recipient of the Career Achievement Award, used his acceptance speech to share a personal journey of self-discovery and pay tribute to friends who helped him navigate the challenges of coming out as gay in the public eye.

Nathan Lane Reflects
Nathan Lane Reflects

A Long Road to Public Acceptance

While Lane had come out to his family in his early twenties and actively participated in Pride parades, his career trajectory in the 1990s, fueled by his breakout role in the hit comedy “The Birdcage,” brought with it intense media scrutiny surrounding his sexuality. He openly expressed regret for not being more forthcoming at the time.

“There were moments when I could have been braver,” Lane admitted during his speech. “Oprah Winfrey, for instance, asked me on her show about playing a flamboyant character in ‘The Birdcage.’ Looking back, I wish I had simply said, ‘Yes, I’m a gay man and proud of it!'”

Lane eventually came out publicly in 1998, following the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay student. He felt a responsibility to use his platform to raise awareness and potentially inspire others.

A Supportive Community

The LGBTQ+ Celebration wasn’t just about Lane’s story. The ceremony recognized a diverse group of LGBTQ+ talent, including Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (Pose), Matt Bomer (Fellow Travelers), and the teams behind shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “We’re Here.”

Among the presenters and attendees were prominent figures like Charlize Theron, Greg Berlanti, and Ricky Martin, highlighting the growing visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ voices in entertainment.

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Robin Williams: A Friend and Protector

A particularly poignant moment came when Lane recounted the support he received from his late co-star, Robin Williams. During the period of heightened speculation about Lane’s sexuality, Williams became a shield, deflecting unwanted attention and offering unwavering friendship.

“Robin, with his characteristic kindness, told me not to worry, that I didn’t have to address it publicly if I wasn’t ready,” Lane shared. “He went above and beyond to protect me whenever he could.”

Bette Midler: A Dose of Reality

Another source of strength came from the legendary Bette Midler. Lane revealed her blunt advice on dealing with negativity in the public eye: simply ignore it.

“Bette told me to stop reading the garbage people write,” Lane said with a chuckle. “She reminded me that there are always going to be haters, but their opinions don’t matter. It was a powerful and honest lesson.”

A Celebration of Progress

The Critics Choice Association’s LGBTQ+ Celebration represents a significant milestone. It acknowledges the historical underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ voices in film and television while celebrating their contributions and paving the way for greater inclusivity in the entertainment industry. The event serves as an inspiration to aspiring LGBTQ+ creators and performers, showcasing the power of authenticity and self-acceptance.

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