Jay-Z’s Mom, Gloria Carter, to Receive Special Recognition Award for ‘Smile’ at GLAAD Media Awards

Jay-Z with his mother, Gloria Carter, in New York in 2011
Jay-Z with his mother, Gloria Carter, in New York in 2011
Photo: Kristina Bumphrey (AP Images/Starpix)

By now we all know that Gloria Carter, the mother of Shawn Carter (that is, Jay-Z), is gay. The rapper famously revealed his mother’s story on the track “Smile” on his most recent album, 4:44.

“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian/Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate,” Jay-Z rapped on the track on the Grammy-nominated album. “Society shame and the pain was too much to take/Cried tears of joy when you fell in love/Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”

Gloria Carter made a special appearance, delivering a powerful spoken-word performance at the end of the track where she reflected on hiding her truth and finally revealing that truth.


“You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love. The world is changing, and they say it’s time to be free. But you live with the fear of just being me,” she recites. “Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be. No harm for them, no harm for me. But life is short, and it’s time to be free. Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed. Smile”

Now, according to Billboard, in the aftermath of the album and the song, Gloria Carter will be receiving a Special Recognition Award for her coming-out story on the album at the New York GLAAD Media Awards.

Carter will also take the stage at the ceremony to speak about the impact that coming out as a woman of color has had on her, her family and the world.

“By sharing her truth with the world, Gloria Carter increased visibility of lesbian women of color at a critical time and sent a powerful message of empowerment to the entire LGBTQ community,” GLAAD President and CEO Kate Ellis said. “Her story and the unconditional love that her family exhibits resonate with so many. The GLAAD Media Awards will be a critical platform to honor her work and further this important message.”


Ever since the song, Jay-Z has spoken about his mother’s story, telling David Letterman in an interview for My Next Guest Needs No Introduction that he literally cried when she came out to him.

“For her to sit in front of me and tell me ‘I think I love someone’ … I really cried,” he said. “I cried because I was so happy for her that she was free.”


Gloria Carter recalled her son’s reaction in a discussion on the D’USSE Friday podcast as well, and how it blossomed into the iconic song, Complex notes.

“I just finally started telling [Jay-Z] who I was. Besides your mother, this is the person that I am. This is the life that I live,” she recalled. “So my son started actually tearing. ’Cause he’s like, ‘That had to be a horrible life, Ma.’ I was like, ‘My life was never horrible. It was just different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it.”

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi

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Yes!!!!!! I love this! It’s an incredible song, my fave on the album. Her part of the song makes it so much more powerful. Wonderful news.