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25 Creative LGBTQ People Who Are Making the World More Inclusive
Meet the 2019 #PRIDE25!
The way the LGBTQ+ community has been portrayed in popular culture has come a long, long way in recent years. Although there's still a lot of work to be done, so many creative queer folks have been making awesome and inclusive movies, music, TV shows, and more that better represents our lives and our stories, so in honor of Pride Month, we're taking the time to honor 25 of these inspiring people! This is the 2019 #PRIDE25!
Scroll down to learn more about the amazing work of each of this year's #PRIDE25 honorees, and to see some colorful, illustrated artwork by artist Brendan Haley!
Executive producer/showrunner, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Noelle's reboot of the classic '80s series (which is currently in its second season) is filled to the brim with big gay energy, and is super empowering and inclusive, something young queer audiences need.
"I grew up in a very conservative environment where I didn't know any gay people as a child and didn't have access to any media representation of gay people, much less positive representation," Noelle tells PRIDE. "The result of that was clear: being gay was not an option. Once I got a little older, gay content was something that was "adult" and "edgy," and the characters usually ended up dead. But I remember the first time I saw a gay character and thought, "That's me, I think that's me." It was transformative. So for my part, I want to give queer viewers, especially young queer viewers, their own feeling of being seen, to be able to imagine a positive future for themselves and a world where they belong. And for viewers who aren't queer, to see being queer as a normal and positive thing."
You don’t earn a nickname like Lesbian Jesus unless you’re really out there working miracles for the queer community. Hayley Kiyoko had begun a promising career as both an actor and a singer before one day stunning fans with the seemingly out of nowhere release of an overtly gay music video for a new song called “Girls Like Girls” back in 2015. After that, she committed to singing music about her feelings for girls without mincing words — and found a devoted, energized fanbase because of it.
Since coming out, Kiyoko has aimed to be a champion for young queer girls, and particularly young queer Asian girls, wanting to “encourage the youth to find [the] confidence now” that she wasn’t able to find until after years of struggling to claim her own voice.
"[Singing about girls], to me, was never an option because no one did that on the radio, [or] in the mainstream pop world," Kiyoko told Paper Magazine in 2018.
But it’s Lesbian Jesus herself who is changing that, and paving the way for not only future musicians who don’t want to have to hide behind gender neutral pronouns, but for all the fans singing along to music that finally speaks to their own experiences.
Indya Moore swept onto the scene with a breakout role in Ryan Murphy’s Pose, a drama spotlighting the LGBTQ Black and Latinx underground ballroom scene in NYC in the '80s and '90s, and there’s absolutely no question that they’re here to stay.
"This influenced cis people’s perspectives in a way that made trans people safer to be around them," they told Teen Vogue of working on Pose. "It got to reaffirm the value and necessity and the legitimacy of trans people’s lives."
Actor, Pose and American Horror Story
It wouldn’t be a proper list of influential LGBTQ celebrities without referencing Billy Porter, who has been absolutely celebrated in the theater scene for over two decades, but who has really exploded into the eye of the general public lately with his roles in Pose and American Horror Story. Of course, also of note is Porter’s consistently show-stopping appearances on the red carpet. The tuxedo dress hybrids he’s worn on several occasions, including to the 2019 Tony’s and Oscars, have broken down barriers and sparked important conversations about living outside of the expected gender binary.
"LGBTQ narratives and stories and archetypes are initially very performative, right?" he said in conversation with Esquire. "So you make the statement. What I’m interested in is the conversation that comes after the statement."
Singer/songwriter, While We Wait
While Kehlani is hesitant to define herself with an outright label, when she took to Twitter last year to describe herself as someone who believes “that love lies in every gender there is,” she ruffled some feathers but ultimately made a bold statement with her refusal to define herself in the way that’s so often expected of queer people.
And the singer has been open about her sexual fluidity in her music as well, putting songs out into the world that are about relationships she’s had with people of various genders, not just men as is so often expected of female R&B and pop artists.
"I’m very openly queer," Kehlani said in an interview with MTV News. "And I thought that my music lacked representation of how my actual life is, and I thought it was important to be myself fluidly, in my music and not just in my life."
Creator/actor, Schitt's Creek
It’s not every day that we’re gifted with a show like Dan Levy’s Schitt’s Creek — hilarious, heartwarming, and beautifully open to exploring facets of LGBTQ life that don’t often get screen time in popular shows.
"I have made a very strong point to not ever show bigotry, homophobia, or intolerance on our show because to me, it’s a celebration of love," Levy told The Advocate earlier this year.
What we’re left with is a show that explores queer relationships through a fresh lens of hope and relatability, and a creator who understands the importance of having queer characters who are truly just seen as people and not othered even by their own narrative.
"As humans we learn through osmosis," Levy told PRIDE about the importance of LGBTQ representation. "The more we see, the more we learn. By depicting a world where love between two people can only result in more love, I’m hoping to help change the conversation in people’s homes surrounding queer love."
Singer/songwriter, Dirty Computer
When Janelle Monáe decided it was time to come out publicly, she held nothing back. Her latest, Grammy-nominated album, Dirty Computer, was unapologetically queer, and the 46-minute film she released alongside it was a pained plea for a more inclusive and accepting society.
Fans have always known Monáe as a private person, and though many in the LGBTQ community recognized a kindred spirit through her music early on, her eventual coming out as pansexual rocketed her to role model status as an out, queer, Black musician.
And it’s the story of her journey that resonates so much to those who have followed it. Her early career saw Monáe hiding behind an adopted persona of an android, something she admitted to Rolling Stone "had to do with the fear of being judged"—something so many LGBTQ fans can relate to. But shedding that mechanical barrier and opening up as Janelle the human created a new opportunity for activism and connecting with fans within the community.
Teddy Geiger has been in the spotlight since she was just a teenager, making highly celebrated music and quickly being labeled a teen heartthrob. And while some specifics of all that may have changed, she’s still out here dominating the music industry and winning hearts.
Geiger came out as trans in 2017, in response to a fan on Instagram who asked why she had been looking differently as of late.
“Love it or hate it, this is who I’ve been for a long time,” Geiger said.
Though Geiger took a step back from the spotlight after just two albums, the time away allowed her not only to explore the feelings she needed to work through in order to embrace who she is, but also to spend time nurturing her songwriting career. And now, she’s one of the most in-demand and well-respected songwriters in the business, creating hits for artists such as Shawn Mendes, John Legend, 5SOS, One Direction (RIP), and many others.
“Having a hit is fine, but doing the work is what I want,” she told the New York Times. “I get more excited the day of creation than once it’s big.”
Actress, Avengers: Endgame and Men in Black: International
Tessa Thompson is the queer queen the world needs, even though it’s unlikely we deserve her.
The actress was blunt in discussing her sexuality in an interview with Porter last summer: “I’m attracted to men and also to women. If I bring a woman home, [or] a man, [my family and I] don’t even have to have the discussion.” And when people subsequently labeled her as bisexual, she didn't hesitate to clarify that she “doesn’t think in those binaries.”
It’s that brazenly confident attitude that drew the LGBTQ community to her, both before and after she was publicly out (though Thompson also points out she never considered herself to be “in” the closet either).
And she’s been good to us. When a scene from Thor: Ragnarok that would have confirmed her character, Valkyrie, as bisexual was cut, she let us know, and insisted she would continue playing Valkyrie as queer regardless of what was displayed on screen.
She’s also been a champion of queer fandom in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As soon as fans latched onto Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel as a potentially queer character and began shipping her with Valkyrie, Thompson did the opposite of what many actors do—she supported it. In fact, she went above and beyond with that support, sharing fan art, uplifting the queer fans, and playing up her interactions with Larson in a way that avoids queerbaiting, because you can tell she’s completely genuine at every step.
Artist/content creator, Bubbles
Over the past few years, artist and content creator Ari Fitz has been using YouTube as a platform to tell stories. Whether it's through documentaries, short films, or vlogs, she's creating timely, important work that explores topics like gender, identity, and love, and helps her over 262,000+ subscribers feel seen and represented.
"Representation normalizes our lives and helps reduce those weird ass stereotypical and preconceived notions we have about each other," she told PRIDE. "Representation helps all of us see each other a bit more honestly, and honesty is the most beautiful thing in the world to me."
Singer/songwriter, "Without Me"
No one could ever accuse Halsey of not speaking her mind. And in a world where bisexual identities are so often erased, it’s impossible not to appreciate her refusal to quiet down.
She hasn’t hesitated to embrace all aspects of her sexuality in her music. Her song "Strangers" is explicitly about a woman, and the video for "Ghost" off her first album features a same-sex relationship. Meanwhile, the entire storyline for the series of videos released in conjunction with her sophomore album hopeless fountain kingdom is about a tragic love story with a man. And let’s not forget the beautiful performance she’s done several times publicly for her song "Without Me," a dance interpretation that features a toxic same-sex relationship.
For Halsey, being unapologetically bisexual has gone hand in hand with fighting for the queer community every step of the way. Most recently, she spoke at length to an audience at her London concert about the dangers queer people face, wearing a shirt that featured images of a lesbian couple that was attacked in the city recently, and that read “Fuck Your Straight Pride” on the back.
"You need to promise me that you will not be afraid," she told the crowd. "Say it with me, 'I will not be afraid!'"
Actor, Grey's Anatomy
28-year-old actor Jake Borelli publicly came out as gay late last year after being inspired by Levi Schmitt, his character on ABC's long-running medical drama Grey's Anatomy, and his relationship with Nico Kim (played by Alex Landi). Since then, Jake has been inspiring LGBTQ fans of the show to live authentically and be visible.
"The fans have been amazing. Since day one, they've been showing their support and their love. The fans were the ones that inspired me at first to come out," Jake said during the GLAAD Awards earlier this year, talking about how fans reactions to his Grey's character coming out helped him come out IRL.
"..it's because of them that I felt the courage to be vulnerable also and say, 'Hey guys, me too. We're all in this together. I see you, I feel seen by you, this is beautiful, let's all talk about it.'"
"We look toward art to learn more about ourselves and about humanity in general so that we might feel understood and less alone," Jake said told PRIDE about the importance of queer representation. "But when you look at art, and can't seem to find yourself mirrored back at all, it can quickly have the opposite effect. It starts to separate you from society and then validates your shame. That's what it feels like to grow up queer without visible and positive representation."
Actor, The OA
Ian Alexander may only be 18, but he’s already making waves as the first out transgender, Asian-American actor on television.
Alexander stars in Netflix’s The OA, both as a Buck Vu, a teen trans character who identifies as male, and also as a version of Buck in an alternate dimension who still currently identifies as female.
"I was in a very, very dark place before [The OA] and I just really had this limited view of the world," he told NBC News. "And I didn’t see that there was a world outside of that where people could accept me for who I was."
It was just a simple casting call on Tumblr for aspiring actors that changed Alexander’s life, and now he hopes to stay in a position to inspire other trans kids to both be true to themselves and to follow their dreams.
"I want to be visible for people like me because during that dark period, I needed someone to inspire me like that," he said.
Since its premiere earlier this year, writer and actor Ryan O'Connell's Netflix series Special has been a groundbreaking force in the effort to increase visibility for queer people with disabilities and to destigmatize queer sex and sex work.
"I feel like the TV show I made was pretty conventional; there's an A story, there's a B story," he told PRIDE. "But the things I'm talking about, the package that it's coming in, it's unconventional. Quite frankly, it's embarrassing that it's groundbreaking for 2019. It should have been normalized a long time ago. But better late than never, honey!"
His advice for aspiring queer creatives?
"Don’t worry about catering to the industry and trying to give them what they say they want," Ryan said. "Spoiler: they don’t know what the fuck they want. It’s your job to tell them."
Actress, The Umbrella Academy and Tales of the City
Ellen Page has been acting since she was a kid. And though she knew she was gay long before she came out publicly in 2014, she stayed in the closet due to pressure from people in Hollywood.
"I was distinctly told, by people in the industry, when I started to become known: 'People cannot know you’re gay,'" she told Porter earlier this year.
Page has been one of the most visible out actors helping to get movies and TV shows featuring queer storylines and characters greenlit, something it’s not abnormal for queer actors to shy away from for fear of getting typecast.
“I felt, and I feel, a sense of responsibility,” she said. “I want to be able to help in any way I can, and I want to make queer content.”
Actress/model, When They See Us
Isis King has been making waves after her scene-stealing role in Ava DuVernay's Netflix series When They See Us. Although the four-part show chronicles the heartbreaking story of the Central Park Five back in the late '80s and early '90s, considering how prevelant racism, police bias, wrongful incarceration, and the increasing murder rate of trans women of color are, the series delivers an alarmingly timely message. And King, who plays Marci, a Black trans woman and sister to one of the accused Central Park Five, wants people to know that.
"It's like a magnifying glass on the world right now," she told PRIDE. "And not just my part, but the whole story. The whole story is relevant to right now, which is the crazy part."
"Her (Marci's) story is so important because she really affected her brother's life. And I just want people to see that trans women, especially trans women, especially black trans women and trans women of color, matter. Our lives matter. We do and can impact this world and we are amazing people and we just need the platform and the safety to do so. And support from our families and friends really do make a difference. We should be able to live long, healthy lives too."
Singer/songwriter, "Heart to Break"
In the age of streaming, where quick-hit, viral singles dominate, it's hard for pop stars to leave lasting impressions like they used back in the '90s and early '00s. But Kim Petras is here to save pop music. Over the past two years, the German singer-songwriter has been reliably releasing bop after bop after bop, and as one of the very few openly trans pop artists in the industry, by being her unapologetic and authentic self in front of the world, she's been helping increase visibility while doing so.
"I definitely always have a responsibility to the transgender community because I’m a part of it. But I don’t want to let anybody down," she told Out. It’s always going to be important to me to help young transgender kids. You can be a cool person and you can live a cool life being transgender. It's definitely difficult to have role models being transgender."
"At the same time, I’m just having fun making my music, being artistically whatever I want to be and being free. My music’s not about me being transgender, but I’m writing songs about how I feel, what I’m obsessed with, what I love, what I hate, what makes me happy—just human emotions. It’s not songs specifically about being transgender."
Actor, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
The world doesn't deserve him, but Ezra Miller is the kind of gender-bending style icon we all need right now.
The queer, gender-fluid actor, who is best known for his roles in titles like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Justice League, and the Fantastic Beasts franchise, is just as comfortable wearing a iron suit for a superhero movie as he is wearing heels, a gown, and makeup down the red carpet at the Met Gala. That, paired along with his norm-defying charisma, has garnered him a special place in the hearts of many LGBTQ fans that feel seen.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
Singer/songwriter, American Idol
After blowing away the American Idol judges earlier this year with an emotional, original song, singer-songwriter Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon (who grew up the gay son of a pastor in a super conservative, Christian family) has been inspiring audiences all over the country to be themselves, no matter what.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
"I think people have really felt empowered to share their stories with me. A lot of people have reached out and said, 'I came out to my family. I’ve struggled with accepting myself. Thank you for sharing your story. I feel less alone and I feel like you’ve helped me in some way.' There’s been a lot of that and honestly, that’s been so amazing to hear because I know that I’m not alone," Jeremiah, who came in sixth place during Season 17 of the reality singing competition, told Metro Weekly in an interview when asked about the response he's been getting from fans and viewers since being on Idol.
"And people, we connect to each other by our stories. We give each other meaning when we do that, and hope. That has been something that I didn’t foresee — such a huge response, as big as it has been. You kind of get the sense you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, and I think that’s been really cool to experience."
Drag queen/actor, A Star Is Born
Ever since her controversial loss on All Stars 3, Drag Race legend Shangela Laquifa Wadley has been extremely booked and busy, working hard to make sure everyone knows she's one of the best entertainers in the game! Between starring alongside Lady Gaga in the Oscar-nominated film A Star Is Born, to releasing music, to touring all over the world, to performing in front of Beyoncé herself at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards, Shangela is proof that you don't need a crown or a title to be a true queen!
"My message to everyone is never give up honey, because look where I am," she told V Magazine when asked about her work ethic and her ability to cross over to places in media where other queens haven't gone before. "I say "hallelu" a lot but that’s because I look for the silver lining in life. So, it’s putting the work behind something; you see it and you go after it. That’s definitely what has brought me to this point."
Comedian, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Ever since his headlining-grabbing coming out on Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show, openly-gay, 24-year-old stand-up comic Jaboukie Young-White has been making waves as one of the comedy scene's best, and most hilarious, new voices.
Through his comedy, The Daily Show correspondent is carving out a space for himself (and in turn, other aspiring comics like him) in an industry that has notoriously been a straight, white boys' club—and serving up so many laughs while doing so.
"I hope people can learn that if you're willing to dedicate yourself and put in the work, something can happen even from a nothing meeting," he told Teen Vogue when asked about what he hopes young people learn from his work. "For me, I didn't really have family that was in entertainment. I didn't really grow up with an uncle that's a TV writer or something, so I didn't even know that it was possible at all. I slowly learned more about it and ended up here. I want people to not be discouraged by the fact that they don't have a legacy in Hollywood that's bringing them in. I know for me, and I'm sure other people, they don't come from Hollywood families. That's something that I really want to encourage [in] people: Don't be deterred from that."
Chella Man is set to steal the spotlight in the upcoming second season of DC Universe's live-action Teen Titans adaptation Titans. The Deaf, Chinese-American, trans model and activist will be taking on the role of Jericho, a powerul, mute superhero who uses sign language to communicate after his vocal cords were severed by assassins. This will be one of the first times in TV history where a trans person of color will be playing a superhero, and we can't wait to see what Chella Man brings to the role!
"As a trans, Deaf, Jewish person of color, I have always reminded myself of the power in my differences," he wrote on Instagram when the news of his Titans casting was first announced back in March. "It is a dream come true, now, as I will be able to showcase this power on the Titans."
Actvist/model, Amplify Entertainment
A passionate and visible Deaf activist, sexually fluid America's Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars alum Nyle DiMarco has beauty, brains, and a heart of gold. His intersectional activism is still very much needed in a world where queer people with disabilites are very underserved and underrepresented in all industries and aspects of life, especially in media. And this year, he co-founded the Amplify Entertainment Company, an organization that "empowers the 1.4 billion people living with disabilities to tell their stories."
"Everyday we see diversity, everywhere we go," Nyle said in an Instagram post after taking a pledge to help make the world more inclusive. "Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be and is not about ensuring representative numbers but about making the world as it is."
Ira Madison III
Host, Keep It and Writer, Daybreak
Ira Madison III's witty humor has made him an essential person to follow on Twitter, and with the continued success of Keep It, the podcast he hosts with Louis Virtel and Kara Brown, the writer is bringing a much-needed voice to the world of entertainment criticism and pop culture commentary. Besides his published words for the likes of The Daily Beast, MTV News, and GQ, Ira is also currently writing Netflix's upcoming teen, sci-fi series Daybreak!
Ira Madison III
"I think I was expecting the show to do well [but] it was a shock how big it was right out of the gate," Ira told Los Angeles Magazine about reactions to his podcast. "I think that people were really craving a show like this, that talks about pop culture in a smart way. We’re also fans of the things we talk about. It’s different from other pop culture podcasts in a way. We’re a bit more acerbic. There’s just a bit more of a bite on Keep It than you would see on most other shows."
Creator, Steven Universe
Rebecca Sugar is an animator, screenwriter, producer, songwriter, and creator of Cartoon Network's beloved LGBTQ cartoon series Steven Universe. As the network's first first non-male, nonbinary person to create their own series, Sugar's show has moved the bar higher and higher in terms of queer storytelling, and made history last year with TV's first same-gender proposal and wedding on a mainstream children's show.
Steven Universe and Sugar have been praised for showing same-gender couples, genderqueer characters, and even asexual and polyamorous characters. The children's show has surely started important conversations between kids, parents, and adults about sexuality, gender, and chosen family.
"We need to let children know that they belong in this world," Sugar told Entertainment Weekly. "You can’t wait to tell them that until after they grow up or the damage will be done. You have to tell them while they’re still children that they deserve love and that they deserve support and that people will be excited to hear their story. When you don’t show any children stories about LGBTQIA characters and then they grow up, they’re not going to tell their own stories because they’re gonna think that they’re inappropriate and they’re going to have a very good reason to think that because they’ve been told that through their entire childhood."