No awards ceremony is complete without a round of celebratory speeches, and the honorees and presenters at GQ’s second annual Global Creativity Awards did not disappoint. Last Thursday at WSA in New York City, our April issue cover stars braved the rain to walk the purple carpet and soak up some well-deserved praise and admiration from their close friends and collaborators.

I May Destroy You creator and star Michaela Coel recounted dancing in German nightclubs and drinking “full fat” sodas with American actress and activist Hunter Schafer. Journalist and Apple Music radio host Nadeska Alexis honored Asake for his eclectic artistry and “ass out” showmanship. Erykah Badu, the queen of neo-soul, shared a touching anecdote about what made Francesco Risso the world-renowned designer he is today. Ken Burns lauded Oscar-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Adam DeVine described Danny McBride as comedy’s “North Star,” and Mellody Hobson praised the humility and drive of her “chosen little brother,” F1 powerhouse Lewis Hamilton.

Read on for a few more highlights from a high-spirited and inspiring evening.

Michaela Coel

Coel kicked off the evening with a touching ode to Hunter Schafer. Schafer said the pair, who worked together on the just-wrapped A24 film Mother Mary, had bonded between takes and during after-hours excursions to German nightclubs. “She is a woman who makes others, including me, feel safe when in a dangerous territory,” Coel said. “She is a woman who shouts for others who can only whisper. She is a woman who advocates for the world.”

Hunter Schafer

“Before our friendship, Michaela had been a role model to me for years,” Schafer said. The Euphoria star said it’s artists like Coel who fuel her creative spirit: “It’s vital to have people to look up to, people whose work makes you feel seen, or feel something, and ultimately incites you to create with the same intentions toward searching for and yielding those feelings in other people.”

Nadeska Alexis

After Alexis featured Asake’s music on her Apple Music show for the first time, she recieved a voice note from the Nigerian artist, who said he was “totally blown away” to have made it to her playlist. This was in early 2022, seven months before Asake’s first album, Mr. Money with the Vibe, became the highest-charting Nigerian debut in Billboard history. Alexis praised Asake for creating a unique sound, blending Afrobeats, amapiano, and the influence of legends like Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti, and recounted witnessing the electric showman dazzling an audience even after ripping his pants during a show in London. “Nothing could stop this man when he’s on stage,” she emphasized.


Asake kept his speech light and brief, thanking God for his wisdom and talent, his family and record label, and his collaborations and bosses Olamide and Ghazi. “God bless Afrobeats,” he concluded.

Erykah Badu

Badu revealed that Francesco Risso, her friend and collaborator, insisted on writing his own introduction. “Francesco Risso is a genius,” she said, reading from a text message he’d sent her. “Anything he touches turns to gold. He is better than anybody. He’s never done a bad thing in his life.” Then she pivoted to a devastatingly raw story: When Risso was in second grade, his teacher sent him home with a note pinned to shirt. His mother told him the note said he was too smart for school; from then on, she homeschooled him, teaching him sewing and other skills he uses to this day. The note had actually said that he could not keep up with his coursework. “Had his mother told him that,” Badu said, “he wouldn’t be the genius he is today.”

Francesco Risso

Risso’s arrival was heralded by a marching band, who paraded through the room adorned in the Badu Marni capsule collection he’d created in collaboration with Badu. “Creativity is a gift from the gods, and being rewarded for such a privilege is dizzying and a bit embarrassing,” he began, before adding that it can also be “a demon, Jungian Daimon… shrink, vampire, life-saving drug, a fire angel, a temping shadow, and always a tyrant.”

Ken Burns

Ken Burns used 4 words to describe the works of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: art, invisible, showing, and immediacy. Burns met the collaborators—who’ve worked together for almost twenty years— when they scored his 10-part, 18-hour film on the Vietnam War. “It’s the invisible music that holds our films together,” he declared. “It is the only art form that gets into our hearts the fastest.” The documentary legend said he couldn’t have been happier to present this award to Reznor and Ross, who he praised for helping to revolutionize film scoring as an art form— and being “the two baddest motherfuckers” he knows.

Trent Reznor + Atticus Ross

A couple of days before the GCAs, Trent Reznor said, he’d texted his Nine Inch Nails bandmate and film-scoring partner Atticus Ross, begging him to go first during their speech. A documentary about the genre-bending American artist Roberta Flack inspired him to push past his nerves. “Creativity is about getting into the space of possibility,” he said, paraphrasing Flack’s words, “and through that possibility we can reach a state of otherness and if we access otherness we’re able to affect other people’s emotions and our own. That’s why I think it’s artists and creators who eventually will save the world.”

Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas found a creative kinship with Lauren Halsey at Yale, where Thomas was a teacher and Halsey was her mentee. “She has always had a very incredible innovative spirit, passion, and compassion for her community,” Thomas said. “Her connection to her cultural heritage and to what Black history was and is palpable. [She] embodies the vibrant energy, rhythmic pulse, and dynamic pace of Black folk living, working, and creating today.”

Lauren Halsey

Before Thomas’ speech, host JB Smoove told the audience that Lauren Halsey would not be doing any form of public speaking. But after Thomas’ introduction, Halsey was moved to say a few words. “Thank you for believing in my chat and my tangents,” the artist said to her mentor. Halsey, who’s set to debut an exhibition at the 2024 La Biennale di Venezia this April, closed with a shout-out to her partner Monique, who she said “created space and time for me to go through my funk.”

Adam DeVine

Adam DeVine, who plays Danny McBride’s brother in the hit HBO show The Righteous Gemstones, first glimpsed McBride through a haze of marijuana smoke at a Hollywood party. In a room dominated by what DeVine describes as “too much big-swinging-dicks star power,” he was struck by McBride’s self-assured, non-pompous demeanor. “Danny McBride,” he remembers thinking, “you’re a bright shooting star.” He still feels that way to this day, and gleefully presented a GCA to the man he called “the Leonardo Da Vinci of dick jokes.”

Danny McBride

Many mango margaritas deep into the night—27 was his estimate—McBride bravely confessed to a room full of menswear aficionados and authorities that at the age of 47, he still does not know how to tie a tie, and added that his 9-year-old daughter told him his suit made him look like a stuffed animal. McBride then switched to a more earnest gear: “This is fucking awesome to be here with all these people here,” he said, “being acknowledged for something I would do for free with zero acknowledgment because it’s just in me and I love it and I think it’s so much fun.”

Mellody Hobson

American businesswoman Mellody Hobson wears many titles, but one of her favorites is Lewis Hamilton’s chosen older sister. The two met in 2007, during Hamilton’s F1 rookie year, and became close friends all these championships later. Glowing with admiration, Hobson told the audience, “Lewis became a champion by not following a formula in formula one.”

Lewis Hamilton

As much as the GCAs celebrate past accomplishments, they also aim to inspire forward-looking action. As Hamilton put it, beautifully, in the last speech of the night: “We need to use our platforms to champion artists, designers, and innovators of tomorrow, especially those from diverse backgrounds. Not just because it’s a good thing or it’s the right thing to do, but because of what creativity brings to humanity.”

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