The Human Rights Campaign held its Cleveland Gala August 27 and awarded the HRC Visibility Award to actor Conrad Ricamora.
Most recently, Ricamora appeared in the critically acclaimed, Tony-winning revival of The King & I. In his Broadway debut, Ricamora played Lun Tha—the lover of the King’s newest concubine, Tuptim. Ricamora was doing double duty at the time, playing Lun Tha on Broadway and simultaneously filming ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder in Los Angeles—he plays Oliver Hampton.
The Visibility Award honored Ricamora for his talent and for being outspoken on his identity in public life. He plays the only openly gay Asian-American character on primetime television.
In a highlight reel prior to accepting the award, Ricamora said, “I want to tell any kid that is not living in a diverse community, that may be out in a small town somewhere, that feels ashamed of the shape of their eyes, or the color of their skin or who they are attracted to naturally, that you are loved.”
Ricamora himself grew up in small-town America—Niceville, FL, to be exact, the son of a Filipino father and German/Irish mother. “It’s a little ironic to be getting the visibility award because so much of growing up as a kid was spent trying to be invisible,” he said in his acceptance speech.
But he expressed pride at the opportunity to represent and advocate “for gay men, for gay men of color and for HIV-positive people.”
Ricamora was quick to remember his roots, too. “As an actor, you’re only visible if someone casts you in something,” said the singing actor. “So I want to thank Alex Timbers and David Byrne, who directed and created the first musical I was in only four years ago; it’s called Here Lies Love.”
He originated the role of Ninoy Aquino in the Off-Broadway sensation at the Public Theater, earning a Theatre World Award and a Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical. It was a chance for Ricamora to embrace his heritage, but also tell a new story and represent the Asian-American acting community. “Bringing acceptance and promoting equality and justice for Asian-Americans of all types is just really important,” he said.
The honoree finished by thanking his parents “for providing the space and acceptance to grow into who I am.”
Watch his full acceptance speech here: