Out And Proud: 15 Celebrity Lesbians3
Out And Proud: 15 Celebrity Lesbians
To come out of the closet as a celebrity may have spelled career suicide for the public figures of past generations. But American culture is more accepting of gay and lesbian celebrities in the new Millenium, and today it is often both cool and beneficial when stars embrace their homosexuality. Famous lesbians in particular seem to leverage their celebrity status to advocate for gay rights and marriage equality, increasingly serving as role models to today’s teens and young adults. KoldCast’s original series, “Anyone But Me”, zooms in on a new generation’s openness and curiosity about sexual orientation — and the efforts of those adults who help young people embrace their diverse identities. With this climate change in mind, take the below collection of successful and influential lesbians as proof that openness about sexual orientation doesn’t necessirily damage careers anymore. In fact, it just might give them a boost.
1. Ellen Degeneres
Ellen Degeneres may be the best-known and most beloved lesbian in entertainment today. Closeted during her early standup career, it wasn’t until she segueyed into television as the star of the hit series, “Ellen”, that she came out publicly. She disclosed her sexuality on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1997, and her TV persona, Ellen, came out in one of the show’s highest-rated installments, The Puppy Episode. Degeneres’ career did not suffer in the long term (to say the least), and for the last few years her talent has been in higher demand than ever. She voiced the character Dori in Pixar’s 2003 hit, Finding Nemo and hosts a successful daytime talk show, “The Ellen Degeneres Show.” She has hosted both the Emmy Awards (2001) and the Academy Awards (2006) and, most recently, stepped in for Paula Abdul as the newest judge on “American Idol.” There is no stopping this woman.
2. Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge had been performing in lesbian bars since she first moved to Los Angeles in the 1980′s, but the crooner didn’t come out publicly until 1993. The revelation surprised no one and did nothing to harm her career: Etheridge has released 10 albums, three of which went multi-platinum. In 1996, she won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “I Need to Wake Up”, written and performed for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Etheridge and her former partner, Julie Cypher, became one of the first well-known same-sex couples and had two children via David Crosby’s sperm donations.
3. Rachel Maddow
The host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”, Maddow has become a darling of the liberal media since her show debuted to instant critical acclaim in September 2008. Maddow is a perennial thorn in the side of Fox News host Glenn Beck, her outspoken TV counterpart on the right. She studied at Oxford University and was the first openly gay American to receive a Rhodes scholarship. Maddow currently lives with her partner of more than 10 years, Susan Mikula, in Manhattan. She has been “out” her entire career.
4. KD Lang
This Canadian country singer, who recently sang at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, came out as a lesbian in a 1992 magazine interview for The Advocate. But it was her provocative 1993 Vanity Fair cover, which featured supermodel Cindy Crawford pretending to shave Lang’s face, that put the singer’s sexuality in the spotlight. While she initially feared her sexuality would alienate her country music fan base, Lang remains one of the most prominent lesbian musicians today.
5. Jane Lynch
Actress Jane Lynch has been stealing scenes from the likes of Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Meryl Streep and Christopher Guest for years. With recent appearances in hit films such as Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, The 40-Year Old Virgin, Role Models, and Julie and Julia under her belt, she currently stars in the hit Fox series, “Glee”, for which she received a 2010 Golden Globe nomination. Openly gay throughout her entire career, Lynch is currently engaged to her partner, Dr. Lara Embry.
6. Lily Tomlin
Actress, comedian and sketch performer Lily Tomlin has made audiences laugh since her tour in the popular 1960s series, “Laugh In.” Though primarily a television actres, Tomlin has also appeared in hit films like 9 to 5, The Incredible Shrinking Woman and Nashville, for which she received an Academy Award nomination in 1975. She is also a Grammy and Tony winner. While she did not publicly acknowledge her sexuality until 2001, Tomlin has been with her partner since the early 70′s. She has said that she never tried to hide her relationship, and that everyone in the industry knew she was a lesbian.
7. Wanda Sykes
Standup comedian and actress Wanda Sykes came out publicly during a 2008 rally protesting California’s Propositoin Eight, which called for a ban on gay marriage. Having recently married her wife, Sykes’ statements at the rally helped galvanize the crowd. She began her career as a comedian and wrote “The Chris Rock Show.” She later starred in her own show on Fox, but is perhaps best known for her work on Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Julia Louis Dreyfuss’ “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
8. Suze Orman
Orman began her career as a financial advisor and has become a powerhouse in the publishing world. She has written six books, all of which have become New York Times Bestsellers. Her PBS specials based on the books (Orman produced them) have raised the most money in the network’s fundraising history. Orman has parlayed her popularity into TV hosting (“The Suze Orman Show” on CNBC), writing advice columns and appearing as a regular guest on talk shows across various news outlets. Orman has been with her partner, Kathy Travis, for seven years. She came out publicly in 2007 in support of gay marriage and has spoken out against unfair estate taxes imposed on gay couples who cannot legally marry.
9. Mary Cheney
Mary Cheney, the second daughter of former vice-president, Dick Cheney, was openly gay throughout her father’s tenure in the White House. Cheney has been with her partner, Heather Poe, since 1992, and the two have a child together. During her father’s 2004 re-election campaign, she served as Director of Operations. Cheney was highly criticized for keeping quiet on the Bush Administration’s support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which sought to limit marriage to heterosexuals and also ban domestic partnerships and civil unions. But she voiced her opposition two years later, and after the election in her book, Now It’s My Turn, a move many called hypocritical.
10. Portia DeRossi
The stunning Australian actress started turning heads as the hot, bitchy lawyer on “Ally McBeal”. But it was her turn as the hilarious Lindsay Bluth on “Arrested Development” that sealed her stardom. She was still in the closet at the time, and even married a man in 1996 to help him obtain a green card. DeRossi openly came out when she began dating none other than Ellen DeGeneres in 2005. The power couple married in 2008.
11. Cynthia Nixon
Most famous for her role in the hit HBO series, “Sex and the City”, Nixon is also an accomplished stage actress and has appeared in numerous Tony Award-winning plays. In 2003, Nixon left her boyfriend of 15 years, the father to her two children, for education reform activist Christine Marinoni. Nixon claims she’s been with men her entire life and has never felt closeted — she just happened to fall in love with a woman. Nixon and Marinoni are now engaged and have been vocal supporters of gay rights and same-sex marriage.
12. Meredith Baxter
Meredith Baxter is most well-known for playing hippie mom Elyse Keaton in the hit 1980s TV show, “Family Ties.” She cashed in on that fame with numberous TV movies, where she commonly played distress or traumatized characters. Although Baxter has been married three times and has five children, she was outed in 2009 when pictures of her on a gay cruise with a lover appeared in the tabloids. After the pictures surfaced, Baxter came out during an interview on “Today”. She currently lives with her partner of five years.
13. Amy Rae and Emily Saliers (The Indigo Girls)
Though not a couple (and yes, not an individual like everyone else on this list), these female folksters have been openly gay their entire careers. The singer-songwriters have sold millions of records and both remain strong advocates for the environment, human rights, and gay rights.
14. Martina Navratilova
By all counts, Martina Navratilova is one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, with nine Wimbledon titles for singles and 20 for doubles. Additionally, she holds 18 Grand Slam titles and numerous other tennis accolades. The Czech athlete filed for political asylum in America and became a U.S. citizen in the early 1980s. At this time, she announced her homosexuality, and has since strongly advocated gay rights.
15. Rosie O’Donnell
The always-controversial comedian, activist, and actress hosted the hit daytime talk show, “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”, for years and was dubbed America’s “Queen of Nice”. In the show’s final two months, O’Donnell came out as a lesbian. Since then she has produced a Broadway musical and several TV specials, was a controversial host of daytime TV’s “The View”, and has become a successful fundraiser and advocate for foster care and children’s rights. In 2004, she married her partner, Kellie Carpenter, in San Francisco, announcing the union as a partial response to the Bush Administration’s support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Though the couple recently ended their relationship, they have three adopted children together. O’Donnell remains both an influential activist and controversial figure.