Cyndi Lauper | Gay Iconography

Gay Iconography: Cyndi Lauper Is A Not-So-Unusual Choice


The phrase "gay icon" gets tossed around a lot, but why is it that some figures amass more of a gay audience? Welcome to Gay Iconography, a feature where we present a proposed iconic figure or character and then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts. 

In February 2013, Cyndi Lauper told the Huffington Post "One of my friends … she said 'Well, you should be a gay icon.' So then I did it, and I started to see discrepancies and things that weren't right, and I didn't want to just shut my mouth, because I don't believe in that."

She makes it sound so easy.

Among those considered to be gay icons, few embody as much of the grit, style and talent as Cyndi.

Her career spans more than four decades, earning her Grammy, Emmy and Tony Awards, (among others). With a four-octave range and perfect pitch, Lauper's unmistakable voice has graced some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century. Throughout her career, she's not only left an indelible mark on pop music with more than 40 singles, but she's been an incredibly vocal ally of the gay community.

Eli"Your civil liberties are my civil liberties," she said in an interview. "I have had many experiences and I'm lucky to have the platform that I do. I want to use it not only to make great music, but make change."

Inspired by her lesbian sister, Lauper has written several songs about gay issues, partnered with organizations like Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG and the Matthew Shepherd Foundation, and she's appeared at various pride events (including serving as Grand Marshall of the New York City Gay Pride Parade in 2012).

She has made her gay advocacy known on soap operas like As The World Turns and reality shows like MTV's Made.

She also started the True Colors Fund, which advocates for runaway and homeless LGBT youth, a cause she continually and tirelessly champions with campaigns like the Forty to None Project to educate the public and "Home for the Holidays" benefit concerts.

Celebrate Cyndi with some of our favorite clips, AFTER THE JUMP ...


Lauper was a superstar from the very beginning. Her debut solo album, She's So Unusual, spawned four top-five hits on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the first debut album from a female artist ever to do so. The lead single, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," is one of the most memorable music videos of all time, but we also love this video of Lauper singing the song to a bunch of stranded passengers in an airport in Argentina.


She described herself to, "I guess I’m just one of those 'straight' people that gets it. The commonality of all people is what inspires me. As Cyndi Lauper the artist, I connected because of my music and my visual aesthetic and I guess my 'outsider' vibe helped." She had less luck connecting with the Parents Music Resource Center. They placed her song "She Bop" on their "Filthy Fifteen" list. (Also on that list? Fellow gay icon Madonna, as well as Prince, who originally performed one of my personal favorite Lauper songs, "When You Were Mine.")



Her song "True Colors" has become an anthem for the gay community. In 2007, Lauper launched the True Colors Tour, featuring Erasure, Debbie Harry and others. In 2009, the tour was relaunched as a series of monthly cabaret performance featuring Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele and Rufus Wainwright.



One of Lauper's initiatives, The Forty To None Project, focuses on homeless LGBT youth. (The name references the fact that 40 percent of American homeless youth identify as LGBT.)



In addition to her music and philanthropy (not to mention her acting, including an Emmy Award-winning turn on Mad About You), Lauper took Broadway by storm in 2013. She composed the music for Tony Award-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots, and earned a Tony herself for Best Original Score, making her the first solo female to ever win this category.

What's your favorite Cyndi Lauper moment? Share it in the comments.

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  1. Hell Yeah!! Shes probably number 1 in my book.

    Posted by: Lazycrockett | Feb 28, 2014 6:26:57 PM

  2. far as the "Diva's" are concerned.

    really wish there was an edit.

    Posted by: Lazycrockett | Feb 28, 2014 6:29:09 PM

  3. I LOVE this fabulous person, this gorgeous talent, this sensuous woman. She is THE style, by intellect, by creativity AND by heart. And she just keeps on displaying those true colors.

    Posted by: Chazwm | Feb 28, 2014 6:52:27 PM

  4. Of all the "gay icons" Cyndi is the Queen.

    Posted by: Chadd | Feb 28, 2014 7:25:23 PM


    Posted by: lukefromcanada | Feb 28, 2014 7:49:53 PM

  6. # 1 for sure! She talks the talk, walks the walk. She only got 4 comments? That's sad. She pretty much dedicated her whole career to trying to make a difference for our community. Her record company pretty much decided to stop promoting her music because of her work with the LGBT Communtity. She marches to the beat of her own drum and that makes her so unique and real. I wish our community would support her music more. She deserves much more success. Her songs: Boy Blue (dedicated to her best frind who passed away from AIDS) You Don't know (about coming out) Brimstone and Fire (lesbian affair) are incredible tunes. Give Cyndi a chance....she is one of a kind! Of all "gay icons" Miss Lauper is IT.

    Posted by: Josh | Feb 28, 2014 7:54:41 PM

  7. I think that Cyndi Lauper is one of the most under-rated talents of all time. The novelty thing didn't serve her well, other than getting her into the spotlight. She really his a brilliant artist.

    As a young closeted gay boy/man, I was very unhappy with the lot life had dealt me.

    Once I got over it, came out, and accepted who I was, those feelings faded away.

    When I saw Cyndi Lauper in the first "True Colors Tour," she made me remember that I was a pitiful victim of society. It made me wish I could travel back in time to my teenaged self and seriously consider suicide.

    Now I can relate to Jerry's kids.

    It makes me sad, because she really is a brilliant artist.

    Posted by: SteveInDE | Feb 28, 2014 8:02:48 PM


    Posted by: Josh | Feb 28, 2014 8:09:30 PM

  9. I'll never understand people who associate their sexuality with a performer on stage.

    Posted by: Knock | Feb 28, 2014 8:20:19 PM

  10. Cindi's just the best! In every way! And at least a little part of that is because she's not a Diva, she's a Star. She's an ordinary person with an extraordinary amount of talent and goodness inside.

    Posted by: Edgar Carpenter | Feb 28, 2014 8:35:42 PM

  11. Cyndi Lauper brought her little son wrapped around a gay flag in Los Angeles right before she started singing true colors.... A moment I would never forget. She spoke about real family values and had the audience in tears! This is not about associating your sexuality with a performer.... This is about associating your soul with a artist that can relate to you deeply and Cyndi can relate to us because of what she went through growing up. I admire her voice and unique personality but most importantly her hard work promoting equality for All

    Posted by: Steve | Feb 28, 2014 8:37:12 PM

  12. Cyndi Lauper is the epitome of artistic and personal integrity. She's never backed away from speaking up for LGBT people. Her autobiography is also a GREAT read, especially her story about threatening Jeff Goldblum on the set of the movie Vibes.

    Posted by: Kieran | Feb 28, 2014 8:51:27 PM

  13. to this day True Colors makes me want to cry like a little baby

    we're lucky to have an ally like her

    Posted by: Grover Underwood | Feb 28, 2014 9:44:00 PM

  14. fearless

    listen to the lyrics.....

    Posted by: Josh | Feb 28, 2014 9:54:06 PM

  15. How can anyone post a retrospective on Cyndi Lauper with music and not have Time After Time? Preferably the dance sequence from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

    Posted by: AndyinChicago | Feb 28, 2014 11:04:07 PM

  16. Into The Nightlife....

    Posted by: John | Feb 28, 2014 11:13:43 PM

  17. Beautiful woman... deserves the ICON tag undoubtedly...

    Posted by: George F | Feb 28, 2014 11:32:55 PM

  18. I'm so glad Cyndi was finally featured on this segment of Towleroad! No one deserves it more.

    Posted by: Thomas | Feb 28, 2014 11:37:01 PM

  19. Where are our male icons? Female icons ultimately serve the interests of women more than they do us guys. We need male icons.

    Posted by: roger | Mar 1, 2014 1:06:21 AM

  20. I especially loved her video for "At Last." She didn't have the overtones of Etta James, but I still like her version better.

    Posted by: John Conolley | Mar 1, 2014 7:47:50 AM

  21. God I love this woman I met her when she was with Blue Angel and talked about being gay in the 70's and how much of a struggle it was, she was so great to me, she hugged me and basically said hang in there baby, it's all going to get better IU promise you, but before we knew it the AIDS crisis happened, we never saw that coming, that of course changed everything, now HIV+ for thirty years now and she was right it has got a little better, but we still have a long was to go, miss you Vito, have a great gay day all my queens out there love to all of you.

    Posted by: gorde michaels | Mar 1, 2014 9:35:05 AM

  22. Cyndi is the epitome of Gay Icon. She's talented, awesome, outspoken, and one of the fiercest advocates for LGBT rights. Glad to see Towleroad give Cyndi the respect she deserves.

    Posted by: FuryOfFirestorm | Mar 1, 2014 11:40:55 AM

  23. oh HELL YEAH. Cyndi Lauper - you saved my life.

    There's an emotive reach in Cyndi's singing that is truly unparalleled She sings the lyrics, and you believe that she believes what she's singing.

    Her albums literally were my refuge as a tween. Hat Full of Stars. Sisters of Avalon. I don't know where I'd be had I not had her music in my life. The Outsider who embraced being "So Unusual" and in turn inspired me to do the same.

    I've seen her 9 times in concert, and she's a force of nature. You have not lived til you've witnessed "money changes everything" LIVE. And when she launches into True Colors, Time After Time.... the waves of emotion that sweep through the crowds are a testament to the transformative powers of art, and the bonding experience of Live Performance. Not a dry eye in the house. You know that there's no condenscension when she sings - she's with us, she's one of us, and she always has been and will be.

    Her autobio is a wonderful read, her output in music, her catalogue of genius songwriting, her astounding work as an actress (Check her out opposite Christopher Walker in The Opportunists - she's a dynamo) - this woman is Queen.

    God Bless Cyndi Lauper. We're so lucky to have her.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Mar 1, 2014 1:09:48 PM

  24. I frankly think that Cyndi Lauper can do no wrong. She is the only performer who has NEVER disappointed me. Nothing she's written and recorded has rung false—her interpretations and performances are perfection. She is a talent to look up to on the professional side, that she is truly sensitized and outspoken on gay issues is the cherry on the sundae. I guess I kind of worship here, so she must be my deity.

    Posted by: tinkerbelle | Mar 1, 2014 1:41:28 PM

  25. "don't try to push me away, 'cause I'm just gonna stay. you can shine, i won't deny you. and don't be afraid, it'll all be ok. it'll all be ok, may you shine"

    - Cyndi Lauper, SHINE

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Mar 1, 2014 2:05:23 PM

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