As anyone paying attention is likely to know, the LGBTQ+ community has been integral to the performing arts since the dawn of entertainment itself, even if the entertainment industry refused to admit it. Back in the days of the Hays Code from the 1930s to the '60s, movies that depicted same-sex love interests were censored by studios. Even today, movies that feature gay sex or LGBTQ+ characters are typically rated more strictly than movies with straight characters—if directors can overcome the odds to make them at all.
Given the stigma around showing LGBTQ+ content on the silver screen, it makes sense that celebrities who identify as being LGBTQ+ haven’t always been able to speak freely about their status. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that the entertainment industry took every conceivable measure to keep the sexual orientation of its foremost stars under wraps. Look no further than Old Hollywood actor Rock Hudson, whose homosexuality remained a tightly guarded secret during the height of his fame.
Thankfully, many of today’s LGBTQ+ celebrities aren’t overly pressured into keeping their status a secret. Likewise, both the entertainment industry and society have made strides since the heyday of Rock Hudson, at least in terms of how both those entities approach and accept one’s sexual identity. This increased visibility of LGBTQ+ celebrities matters. Celebrities speaking openly about their identity and experiences can help destigmatize LGBTQ+ identities and boost the self-esteem of LGBTQ+ people by allowing them to see that there are successful people out there who are like them.
Although there is still quite a way for civilization to go when it comes to inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals, it’s becoming more and more apparent that a celebrity’s sexual orientation is not necessarily the career detriment it may have been in the past. Proving as much are a number of celebrities who have come out as LGBTQ+ in recent years. Stacker is highlighting 30 celebrities—in no particular order—whose LGBTQ+ identity may not be as widely known, but who are out and proud nonetheless.
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Since graduating from the role of Hannah Montana in 2011, actress and singer Miley Cyrus hasn’t shied away from expressing her sexuality through performance art—sometimes to downright scandalous effect. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that Cyrus announced she was gender-fluid, meaning she doesn’t exclusively identify with one particular gender. In the time since then, she’s become a passionate and vocal advocate for various LGBTQ+ issues.
Those who know Ellen Page by name are probably aware that she’s been openly gay since 2014, when she declared her LGBTQ+ identity during a powerful speech at a human rights conference.
As the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook is easily among the most powerful men in the world. He’s also been openly gay since 2014, after coming out in a poignant Bloomberg editorial. While Cook doesn’t consider himself an activist, he did once tell Stephen Colbert that he felt a “tremendous responsibility” to speak up about his LGBTQ+ status, particularly on behalf of all the young people who are bullied or even disowned because of their sexuality.
Actress Drew Barrymore is famous for many things, and yet her LGBTQ+ status is hardly one of them. In 2003, the “Santa Clarita Diet” star told Contact Music, “I have always considered myself bisexual.” However the thrice-divorced celebrity has stuck to the gents when it comes to holy matrimony—at least so far.
After bursting onto the mainstream in 1994, rock band Green Day has more or less been a fixture in pop culture ever since. And while frontman Billie Joe Armstrong is no stranger to headlines, it’s not widely known that he’s been openly bisexual since 1995. That was when he told The Advocate: "I think I've always been bisexual… I think people are born bisexual, and it's just that our parents and society kind of veer us off into this feeling of, 'Oh, I can't.' They say it's taboo. It's ingrained in our heads that it's bad, when it's not bad at all. It's a very beautiful thing."
A powerful music mogul, Clive Davis is best known as the man who helped launch or revive the careers of Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, and Billy Joel among numerous other superstars. In 2013, the twice-married executive released an autobiography, “The Soundtrack of My Life,” in which he detailed two long-term relationships with other men. Still identifying as bisexual, in a 2013 interview with Katie Couric, Davis said, “You don’t have to be only one thing or another. For me, it’s the person.”
Between her former gig with the Black-Eyed Peas, her prior marriage to actor Josh Duhamel, and her unpopular 2018 performance of the National Anthem, Fergie definitely manages to stay in the public consciousness year after year. What’s lesser known about the singer, however, is that she’s identified as bisexual since the early naughts, even if the press acted like it was new information in 2009. She addressed the discrepancy in an interview with The Advocate, saying, “The funny thing is that I was very open and honest about that from the very beginning, and everyone was acting like it was some new trend. Go back four or five years, people, and you’ll see the same answer.”
While a certain percentage of Kristen Stewart’s fan base probably prefers to think of her as the perennial soulmate of “Twilight” co-star Robert Pattinson, the edgy actress has definitely moved on to new partners from both sides of the gender spectrum. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the fans from clamoring for a reunion with Pattinson, or at least trying to box Stewart in as far as her sexual identity is concerned. In response, she’s done not one, but two poignant interviews with Nylon, in which she makes it quite clear that she’s openly bisexual, and definitely not confused about it.
It wasn’t until she began watching sci-fi TV series “The X-Files” that "SNL’s" first openly gay female, Kate McKinnon, realized she had a thing for the ladies. Specifically, McKinnon found herself swooning over actress Gillian Anderson in the 1990s. Even decades later, McKinnon continues to describe Anderson as the “queen of my heart.”
Could Kate McKinnon have a chance with Gillian Anderson after all? In 2015, Anderson told The Telegraph that she’d previously engaged in same-sex relationships, and was open to doing so again. Anderson is currently a star in the popular Netflix series, “Sex Education.”
With her open-minded performance style, provocative lyrics, and massive LGBTQ+ fan base, it was not terribly shocking when pop star Lady Gaga identified as bisexual in a 2009 interview with Barbara Walters. However, in the time since, the pop star has been accused of possibly making up her LGBTQ+ status for marketing purposes. She addressed the accusations head-on during an album release party and Q&A session in 2013, stating, “It’s not a lie that I am bisexual and I like women ...This is who I am and who I have always been.”
In yet another scoop by LGBTQ+ outlet The Advocate, Aubrey Plaza confessed to having intense feelings for both sexes back in 2016. Specifically, the former “Parks and Recreation” actress declared, “I fall in love with girls and guys. I can’t help it.” She was also quick to point out that she emanates “masculine energy,” and subsequently draws in both males and females alike.
All the “Game of Thrones” fans out there will recognize actor Kristian Nairn as Hodor, a burly hero who says nothing but his own name when speaking. In a 2014 interview with Winteriscoming.net, Nairn professed, “I’ve never hidden my sexuality from anyone, my whole life in fact, and I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about it in an interview, cos it’s not something you just blurt out.” Look for Nairn in an upcoming big screen adaptation of “Robin Hood,” or even in a DJ booth.
A member of hip-hop collective Odd Future as well as a breakout solo star, Frank Ocean is among the biggest names in contemporary music. In 2012, he posted a statement on his Tumblr account, in which he seemed to declare his love for another man. A few years later, Ocean released his album, “Blonde,” to substantial acclaim and healthy sales numbers. As famous and respected now as he ever was, Ocean occasionally uses his celebrity status to help spread LGBTQ+ awareness.
Given the outward sense of machismo that permeates both professional sports and its overzealous fan base, it’s no surprise that most LGBTQ+ athletes keep their sexuality a secret. Helping to change that is former NBA player Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay man to play in one of the four major professional team sports. In a 2014 Sports Illustrated article written by Collins, he expressed a desire to see more of his fellow athletes come out without facing repercussions, but ultimately conceded that we’re “not there yet.”
Actress and director Angelina Jolie has been openly LGBTQ+ for so long that some folks might have forgotten about it. When asked in 2003 if she was bisexual, Jolie replied, “Of course. If I fell in love with a woman tomorrow, would I feel that it's OK to want to kiss and touch her? If I fell in love with her? Absolutely! Yes!"
An actor more recognizable by face than by name, Victor Garber has starred in films like “Titanic” and “Argo,” along with TV shows like “Alias” and “The Flash.” In 2013, Garber confirmed that he was gay, though he hadn’t exactly been hiding his LGBTQ+ status—or his more than 20-year relationship with Rainer Andreesen for that matter. At the time, Garber said of his sexual orientation, “I don’t really talk about it, but everybody knows.”
According to a 2016 video for “It Gets Better,” actress and singer Raven Symone knew she was sexually attracted to other females as early as the age of 12, but hid the fact from others so that it wouldn’t harm her brand. In the time since, Raven hasn’t exactly become Hollywood royalty, but that might have more to do with her critiques of various hip-hop figures than it does her LGBTQ+ status.
She might have been engaged to Krazee Eyez Killa on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but in reality, Wanda Sykes prefers partners of the feminine persuasion. After coming out at a Prop 8 rally in 2008, the comedian claimed she was subsequently treated like a “unicorn,” in that most gay or bisexual African-Americans don’t openly share their LGBTQ+ statuses. Sykes—who still performs to sold-out crowds—has been married to her wife Alex since 2008. The couple has a pair of twins, Olivia and Lucas.
Known for his roles in shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Teen Wolf,” actor Charlie Carver came out in 2016, using Instagram to make the announcement. Later, the actor claimed he made the decision in part because he was “ready to take on that conversation in a more public forum.” Carver has since been vocal about Hollywood’s tendency to perpetuate negative LGBTQ+ stereotypes, as well as pigeonholing openly gay actors into playing specific types of roles. Carver performed on Broadway in “The Boys in the Band,” which details the gay experience in 20th-century America before the Stonewall Riots occurred.
Star of the 2018 film “Aquaman,” Amber Heard has been openly bisexual since 2010, when she was dating artist Tasya van Ree. The former Mrs. Johnny Depp remains quite vocal about achieving equal rights, not just for members of the LGBTQ+ community, but for females in general. In a 2017 interview with Allure, she acknowledged that gender inequality is far graver than she once suspected, saying, “I had been living with my head in the sand… I did not realize how far we have to go to be equal.”
In a relatively short time, Golden Globe-winner Sarah Paulson has gone from Hollywood bit player to one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People. Meanwhile, the versatile actress has been openly dating women for years, though she prefers that people don’t think of her as a lesbian. Needless to say, Paulson’s sexuality hasn’t done any harm to her career whatsoever—in fact, she’s busier than ever.
Actress, singer, and fashion designer Bella Thorne declared her bisexuality in true, modern style. That is, she posted a picture of her kissing another girl on Snapchat, then confirmed that she was indeed a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Since that initial declaration, Thorne has made it a point to live life the way she wants to, making no apologies or compromises for her choices.
Before her untimely death, singer Amy Winehouse was in the news on a daily basis for just about everything one could imagine. Hence, it’s no surprise that word of her bisexuality might have slipped under the radar. Winehouse’s friends reported to News of the World that Winehouse once said, "There is something about being with a woman that is very satisfying. I don't care what people think about me being bi—I do what feels good.”
Best known for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Sir Alec Guinness kept his sexual orientation—and his arrest for a homosexual act in 1946—away from the public eye for the entirety of his adult life. In fact, it wasn’t until after Guinness passed away that his bisexuality was revealed.
Actor Marlon Brando once told his biographer, "Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much attention to what people think about me." Unlike many of his contemporaries, Brando was an actor who could land desirable roles no matter what he chose to do in his personal life. To this day, his performances are heralded as some of the best ever committed to the big screen.
According to music legend Quincy Jones, one of Marlon Brando’s homosexual trysts was with comedy legend Richard Pryor in the 1970s. Jones made the claim in a controversial interview with Vulture in 2018, and his assertion was later confirmed by Pryor’s own widow, Jennifer Lee.
After coming out as bisexual in 2010, and then marrying actor Stephen Moyer that same year, “True Blood” and “X-Men” actress Anna Paquin experienced some backlash from the LGBTQ+ community. In response, she said of her bisexuality, “I am a happily married woman and I married a man. I don’t think that negates that aspect of my life.” Accordingly, Paquin hasn’t let anyone or anything stop her from speaking her mind about LGBTQ+ issues. As she told Cosmopolitan in 2014, "The reason I feel like it's important to talk about this stuff is that the more normal and, frankly, mundane and boring this stuff becomes, I think the better it's going to be for everyone who is part of our community."
Long before directing movies like “Precious” or co-creating Fox’s “Empire,” Lee Daniels was a young gay man coming to terms with his homosexuality while growing up in Philadelphia. As Daniels told the Hollywood Reporter in 2017, his father once threw him in a trashcan after he came down the stairs wearing high heels—a scene that “Empire” fans may find familiar. The director’s struggles would continue through the '80s as his friends began dying from AIDS. In fact, Daniels considers it a “miracle from God” that he never contracted the deadly virus himself.
Due to her liberal use of gay slurs on Twitter and in her lyrics, singer Azealia Banks was facing accusations of homophobia in 2015. Hoping to quash the controversy, Banks came out as bisexual that same year, adding that nearly all of her friends are gay, and that one of her siblings is transgender. Bisexual or not, Banks has stirred plenty of pots in the time since. Not only was she banned from Twitter in 2016 for making a racist comment, her handle was deactivated again in 2018, in the wake of a disparaging tweet about a contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”