Ellen Page—the actress best known for roles in Juno and Hard Candy—came out yesterday during an emotional speech to a group of LGBT teens at a Human Rights Campaign conference in Las Vegas.
The speech has received a lot of buzz since she delivered it last night, and it’s easy to see why. It’s magnificent.
Ms. Page struck the perfect tone with her speech. Yes, this platform served as her public coming out—but even so, she made sure that the focus of her comments remained on the audience. This easily could have become an indulgent, self-focused speech, but she repeatedly returned the spotlight to the people in the audience who have already come out and are dealing with the issues that involves.
It was impossible to watch Page’s speech without noticing her fear. She spoke for five minutes before coming out—and because she knew what she was leading up to, she appeared vulnerable the entire time. But that was a good thing. Audiences often perceive authentic vulnerability as a gift from the speaker, and Page served as a perfect demonstration of that.
“I’m tired of hiding, and I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered, and my relationship suffered. And I’m standing here today with all of you on the other side of that pain.”
Even with her vulnerability, or perhaps because of it, Ms. Page was fully connected with the audience the entire time. She remained conversational but intense, nervous but focused.
And that leads me to a technical point. Ms. Page read her speech off of a teleprompter. But unlike the 99 percent of people who sound like they’re reading off a teleprompter, she didn’t. She infused each line with meaning, punching certain words and phrases for emphasis. Her acting background certainly helped there; she knows how to communicate the emotion behind each word. That’s a critical lesson for all public speakers who use a teleprompter.
Finally, she used a wonderful speaking device that bookended her speech. It involved the word “weird.” I won’t spoil it for you, but it was a delightful moment.
To the LGBT community, for whom these coming out speeches offer hope, Ms. Page’s speech served as a wonderful moment of inspiration. I only hope we’re nearing the point when these speeches become unnecessary, anachronisms from a less-accepting time.
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