Stephanie Beatriz lit up the Oscars stage last month, performing a rendition of the hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” with her fellow voice cast members of Disney’s “Encanto.” But Disney itself is currently at the center of a different free speech issue, as the company feuds with Florida government officials over its opposition to the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Speaking to Variety at the 2022 Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival Gala at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center on Friday, Beatriz said the current wave of anti-gay and anti-trans legislation, which has recently taken hold in Alabama, “keeps me up at night.” Although Disney is currently facing backlash from both ends of the political spectrum, she’s thankful for the positive representation she’s taken part in through the animated movie.
“I understand that many people have issues with Disney, as well they should,” Beatriz said. “But one of the things that I’m really proud of is that Walt Disney Animation set this film in Colombia, with a family that was all Colombians and Latinos, and all different races, because it’s really big to show children all over the world that Latinos don’t only look one way, they look all sorts of ways.”
Beatriz, who is openly bisexual, was honored by Outfest with its Fusion Achievement award for her contributions to LGBTQ representation in media. Outfest executive director Damien S. Navarro echoed Beatriz’s sentiments about the political landscape, telling Variety that it’s up to his and other organizations to influence progress.
“We already know that by watching each other’s stories in film, in this particular case, that empathy does build,” Navarro said. “We’ve actually been able to quantify the fact that, whether it’s at the voting booth [or] through legislation, people’s hearts and minds, when changed, actually manifests itself in law… There are such a select group of filmmakers and television executives that are from our community, and that needs to expand exponentially.”
The gala was held as Outfest commemorates its 40th anniversary and the 19th year of Outfest Fusion, so the colorful crowd had much reason to celebrate. This year’s film festival tells queer stories from Los Angeles to Beirut, but it was not lost on Beatriz the privilege that artists have while LGBTQ people across the country face oppressive legislation.
“How can we turn our backs on people in our community that have less resources than we do to discuss this stuff openly?” Beatriz added. “The fact that people are so terrified of each other, so xenophobic and so full of internalized hatred, that they then create legislation to keep other people from fulfilling their destinies on this planet is wild. How can I not speak up?”
Along with Beatriz, Outfest honored “Killing Eve” actor Sandra Oh with the James Schamus Ally award, in recognition of her contributions to the LGBTQ community. Due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, Oh accepted the award virtually, with the honor presented by her friend and 2014 Outfest Fusion honoree, actor Alec Mapa.
“In these times, I feel we need to examine and question our place in the order of life and take responsibility at every turn, to examine the way we can bring our voices, our work, our art to bring change to the world by opening hearts and minds,” Oh said in her speech.
Writer and actor Gloria Calderón Kellett was on hand to present Beatriz with her award. In 2019, she cast Beatriz on her Netflix sitcom “One Day at a Time” in the guest role of Pilar, “Elena’s only gay relative.” In her introduction, Calderón Kellett praised Beatriz’s groundbreaking work on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as detective Rosa Diaz, whom the creator said she’s “obsessed with.”
“It might seem strange that a character openly saying, ‘I’m bi’ on TV in 2017 was revolutionary, but it was,” Calderón Kellett recalled. “In a world where bi erasure is still a huge issue, Stephanie’s work in this role created much needed visibility… She is a one-woman-resolution.”
After a screening of selected short films from this year’s festival lineup, attendees mingled and ate beignets and hot dogs from the food trucks parked outside the theater, enjoying an undeniably queer selection of music that included a seamless transition from Azealia Banks’ “212” into Enur’s party staple “Calabria 2008.”