Producer/director Ryan Murphy received VH1’s Trailblazer Award on June 28. Murphy, the force behind dozens of successful TV shows and movies including The Normal Heart, Glee, American Crime Story: Versace, Pose, and American Horror Story, spoke about the challenges he had to overcome to achieve success.
Said Murphy, in part: “When I was first starting out in this business in the late 1990s, it was not easy for me. I was told not to follow my instinct, to be someone else. I was told I was too weird, I was too faggy, I was too unusual. My mannerisms and my voice were mocked by executives in note meetings…But honestly, it was very painful to be discriminated against because what I wanted to do with my life, with my career, was very simple. And that was to see myself and my experiences on television.”
He added: “Oprah Winfrey speaks very movingly about watching the Academy Awards and seeing herself and what she could possibly be when Sydney Poitier won an Oscar in 1964. As a gay man I never had that experience. I never saw triumphant, or at the very least, complicated gay people or gay characters on television. Where in the movies as a child or as a teenager, they were always marginalized punchlines at best, beaten for who they were most of the time, killed for who they were. I believe strongly in the power of television because I believe in the following: if you see yourself and some part of your human experiences reflected back at yourself, you will not feel alone. And people with hatred and bias in their hearts can often be converted if a character or situation they’re invested in feels like a friend.”