WATCH: Ross Butler’s Male Breakout Speech at the 16th Unforgettable Gala

Read the full transcript of Butler’s speech below:

Oh, geez. Wow. I am very nervous. I thought some compliments from Justin [Prentice] would have helped the nerves, but that’s actually just made me more nervous because now I have something to live up to.

How do I start? Growing up mixed-race, I had no idea what to do with my life. I had daily identity crises. I didn’t know who to hang out with, what to study. Do I go into chemistry? Do I learn how to speak Chinese? Do I indulge in the arts? Do I aspire to be a doctor? Do I aspire to be a lawyer? Or do I take a chance at being a part of the entertainment industry? Even simple things like, do I hang out with my white friends, or do I hang out with my Asian friends? Yes, these are all actual thoughts I had.

This is largely because who I was or who I felt I was, wasn’t represented in the world around me, especially in entertainment. Up until Ted Chung came up and mentioned this movie — “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” — if you have that, send that to me. I’m going to have to find a VCR for research. Purely research. I didn’t have a guide to follow, I didn’t have a path, I didn’t have a role model who looked like me or acted like me or shared my struggles. As a result, I felt lost. I felt like I was wandering around in the dark. I felt like I didn’t know what to do with my life.

No matter where I went, no matter who I hung out with, no matter what career path I chose, I just felt like I didn’t belong. Fast-forward 10 years, I’m in this room speaking to a bunch of very intellectual, strong, beautiful Asian Americans who are artists and creatives, or maybe not even in the industry at all. But I’m willing to bet that most of you, especially after hearing all the other speeches tonight, have been in the exact same situation of feeling like you did not belong. And you wished there was a community out there that would support you, or a community that just even existed.

The feeling of being thrust into the unknown, not having a path to follow, for the majority of my life, I thought that was a curse. It took me the greater part of my life to realize that it wasn’t. It was an opportunity. It was an opportunity to break through into new territory and carve my own path for others to follow, so that they can go on to carve their own paths. It was an opportunity to make the world re-evaluate their ideas and break the stereotypes of who they thought I was. It was an opportunity to be in the company of strong, driven individuals who had the same goal.

So first, I would like to thank everybody in this community that we have nurtured for being role models and being examples for the next generation. Maybe they can feel just a little bit less lonely in the world. Second, I would like to thank Kore Asian Media for this recognition. There are a lot of writers, directors, actors who have made tremendous strides this year in fighting for representation, and to be considered among them, I am humbled. And finally, to everybody in this room, and everyone who may be watching, I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for making me feel like I finally have a place where I belong. Thank you.