“Growing up in the Middle East as a gay man was extremely isolating,” says Haaz Sleiman
Haaz Sleiman, a Lebanese-American actor, was honored by being awarded with the Vanguard Award at the 11th Annual Fort Lauderdale’s Outshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival. The Fort Lauderdale edition of the OUTshine Festival is bi-annual. It’s mission is to: inspire, entertain, and educate: encouraging a sense of community though international and culturally diverse film, video, and other media that offer historical and contemporary perspectives on the LGBT experience. Sleiman received the award at the festival closing night ceremony.
Sleiman moved to the United States at the age of 21 and quickly began to develop a love for acting and film. He most notably played Tarek in his breakout role in the award-winning film, The Visitor. Sleiman is also known for playing Mohammed De La Cruz on Nurse Jackie, and as Jesus in the mini-series, Killing Jesus, and more recently as Ali on the hit TV show, Jack Ryan.
“I am honored to have been selected as this year’s OUTshine Vanguard Award recipient,” said Sleiman. “Growing up in the Middle East as a gay man was extremely isolating, but they couldn’t take away my empathy and compassion. I have an immense love for the unconditional acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Everything I do now, publicly is to ensure that no one ever has to feel alone, and that everyone has a sense of belonging.” Executive Director of OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Victor Gimenez said, “As a recently ‘out’, gay, Muslim actor in Hollywood, Haaz Sleiman has overcome tremendous obstacles to share his story of strength, truth, and acceptance.”
The Vanguard Award is presented by the Festival to a member of the LGBTQ+ community and recognizes individuals in entertainment industry for their contributions in helping to tell LGBTQ+ stories and leadership abilities. Previous Vanguard Award recipients are Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and WWE Superstar, Darren Young.