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2013 Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights

CYNDI LAUPER

Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Cyndi Lauper has brought both passion and persistence to the struggle for LGBT equality.

Cyndi Lauper burst on to the music scene in the mid-1980s with her album "She’s So Unusual," which included her smash single "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." The title track of her second album, "True Colors" instantly became an anthem of acceptance and inspiration for the gay community. She used her "True Colors Tour" to raise hundreds of thousands for a True Color Fund which provides support to pro-LGBT organizations.

Her album "Hat Full of Stars" contains lyrics that address the issue of homophobia and her song "Above the Clouds" celebrates the memory of Matthew Shepard, a young man beaten to death in Wyoming solely because he was gay.

As a member of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board, Lauper devoted a concert tour to promoting the Foundation's message of understanding and acceptance. And as an offshoot of her True Color Fund, Lauper created the Give a Damn Campaign which seeks to enlist the support of the straight community in eliminating abuse of the LGBT people while educating the public regarding the issues faced by LGBT people. The Give a Damn Campaign (www.wegiveadamn.org) has highlighted the problems that LGBT students face in school from bullying and harassment (verbal and physical).

Describing herself as "a straight ally and a person with many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family members, friends and fans," Cyndi Lauper became a very powerful advocate for the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which punishes assault based on gender, sexual, orientation, gender identity or disability as a hate crime. Fittingly, Cyndi Lauper was there in the White House when President Barack Obama signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law in 2009.

Cyndi Lauper's latest initiative—her Forty to None Project—aims at helping homeless LGBT youth. Each year, between 500,000 and 1.6 million youth in the U.S. are homeless, and up to 40 percent of the homeless youth are LGBT youth. Why so many? Half of all gay youth get a negative reaction from their parents when they come out, and some are even told to leave. Others are subject to emotional and physical abuse in their homes. On the street, LGBT youth are more likely to be sexually victimized than straight homeless youth—and three times as many LGBT homeless youth commit suicide. Finding safe shelters and assistance for LGBT homeless youth is exceedingly difficult.

Lauper has opened a True Colors Residence in New York City for GLBT youth. The 40-bed facility offers temporary shelter and aid for homeless LGBT youth as well as permanent housing, along with job placement help.

Cyndi Lauper walks the talk.

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