Survivor: Game Changers has been awarded the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Programming, beating out the likes of Viceland’s Gaycation With Ellen Page, TLC’s I Am Jazz, VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race and NBC’s The Voice.
As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, former contestant and transgender activist Zeke Smith accepted the award which seeks to honor works of media that fairly and accurately represent the LGBTQ community and the issues that affect their daily lives.
“My grand public outing made global headlines. Together, we changed millions of people’s perceptions of transgender people,” Smith said while accepting the prize at the GLAAD Rising Stars Luncheon on Friday. “We shattered stereotypes. We created a worldwide conversation about privacy and respect.”
Smith, who appeared on back-to-back seasons of Survivor, was outed by fellow contestant Jeff Varner during a heated Tribal Council in the final pre-merge episode of Game Changers. In a desperate attempt to avoid elimination, Varner accused Smith of being deceptive because he hadn’t shared his gender history with the rest of his tribemates. It was a disgusting crossing of the line which sent shockwaves through the tribe and the audience watching at home.
Before the episode aired, GLAAD worked alongside CBS and Smith to ensure that Smith was given a platform to speak for himself and address the controversy. GLADD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis later shared her reasons why Survivor: Game Changers and Smith were so deserving of the award.
“Reality television has long been at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion on the small screen, and Survivor: Game Changers continued that legacy with its thoughtful and responsible handling of Zeke Smith’s story,” Ellis said. “By ensuring that Zeke would have the opportunity to share his story in his own words, the show sparked a national conversation about the trans community.”
Earlier today, THR published a guest column from Smith, where he opened up about the impact his public outing has had in the past year. You can read the full article here.