The European Music Awards were given an award Monday night in Hungary honoring the achievements of LGBT+ activists around the world.
The 21st annual MTV EMA was held at the Hallenstadion, the 30,000-seat, venue that has also staged the UEFA Champions League final three times and hosted the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest.
The night’s presenting recipients were Billy Corgan, lead singer of Smashing Pumpkins, and the non-profit group Coalition for LGBTQ+ Refugees, whose head is Bas van Abel. The group was established last year to support and shelter gay migrants.
Corgan met the group’s founders in Germany where he performed at a concert for refugees. He has since helped raise money and travel and stay costs for them.
In an interview with the Euronews network last year, Corgan described his reaction to seeing an asylum seeker’s son kissing his dad: “It was kind of like the first time I saw myself… I had to go and see [the refugees] and then they came to my show. And it just touched me to see the [child kissing] for the first time. I didn’t know anything about that. But seeing that when I was in a foreign country, it was just like, ‘Huh? What’s up, man?’”
Vee Shoha, a New Zealand drag queen, presented the award to Bas van Abel and several others. In addition to Corgan and Van Abel, the recipients were Samira Saetta, a Moroccan transsexual activist who was awarded the festival’s Hero for Diversity award, and comedian and activist Ricky Gervais, who received the Game Changer award.
MTV said that more than 100 million viewers had viewed the live broadcast of the ceremony at the Hallenstadion, “the largest number ever.” Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Chris Martin and Shawn Mendes were among the many winners.
Earlier this month, Muse was called out by one member of the LGBTQ+ community for wearing the rainbow triangle that dates back to the 1980s, the year before a brief court case over the right of gays to marry was argued in Holland. The band member, Steven Salley, expressed his displeasure in the comments section of a Muse video and suggested that their costume choice was insensitive.
Salley later told the The Guardian he would not elaborate publicly on his comments about the band until MTV met with him and addressed their costume choice.
A spokeswoman for MTV said there were no plans for the organization to meet with Salley. “Our award shows have a long history of celebrating music, culture and community and we celebrate the music of every artist that performs,” the spokeswoman said.
Salley, who came out as gay at age 16, is artistic director of DJ&T Magazine, which he founded in 1995 to publish the work of a self-declared “flamboyant gay DJ” and three male models. The magazine is best known for an article written by Salley in 1996 about homophobia within the music industry and for profiles and research that led to the creation of the Stonewall Historical Society.
Salley first met with a Muse publicist to discuss being used as a publicist for a by-invitation-only series of events for their LGBT+ fans in 2016.
Then, in 2017, Salley met MTV’s Rainbow Campaign after noticing that his Twitter bio read “Muse fan and advocate.”
“It was a feeling of pure shock,” Salley said of finding out he was hired to be a publicist for MTV’s Rainbow Campaign. “I didn’t think that it was appropriate to put that on my bio. In 2018. For the MTV EMA.”
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