A Wisconsin high school valedictorian who had planned to reveal he was gay in a commencement speech got some one-on-one time with Jennifer Lopez during the star’s Milwaukee tour stop last week.
Nat Werth graduated from Sheboygan Lutheran High School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in May. Though the 18-year-old finished at the top of his class, school administrators rejected his planned commencement speech because he’d used it to open up about his sexuality to classmates.
“In the rough draft of my speech that I submitted to the administration, I came out in it,” he told BuzzFeed in June. “I knew that they wouldn’t let me say that at graduation, but I put it in the rough draft because for me it was part of the writing process and how I was reflecting on my high school career.”
Though Werth told school faculty he’d be willing to edit the speech, he said they wouldn’t budge, noting, “Because they knew that I was gay, they chose not to let me give the speech.”
The Sheboygan Lutheran High School’s salutatorian was reportedly asked to deliver a speech in Werth’s stead at the May 24 graduation ceremony instead. But Werth’s story began to gain national attention following a May 30 interview with his local newspaper, The Sheboygan Press, as well as the BuzzFeed profile, published days later.
Soon after, he was honored with an award at PrideFest Milwaukee, the city’s annual LGBTQ Pride celebration, where he finally delivered the planned speech.
But an even more impressive honor awaited Werth at Lopez’s July 3 concert at Milwaukee’s American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Currently touring the U.S. in celebration of her 50th birthday (July 24), Lopez invited Werth backstage to commend him on his bravery before posing for a photo op.
In a caption accompanying a short video of the meeting, she told Werth she was “always standing with” him, and urged him to “continue to use your voice and spread only love and acceptance.”
For his part, Werth told the “Today” show it was “absolutely an amazing experience” he will “never forget,” according to co-host Carson Daly.
Lopez returns to the concert stage Monday night for the second of two shows at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.