Gay Iconography: All Hail Disney Queen Idina Menzel

 

Menzel first struck stardom as bisexual performance artist Maureen in Rent. The role (which she revisited in the 2005 film adaptation) earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She described the experience to GayRVA.com in 2012: "I’ve carried so much through my relationships with my audiences and through boys and girls writing letters, connecting with the characters from Rent. I learned what empathy is and I understand a little bit more."

 

She won her first Tony in 2004 for originating the role of Elphaba in Wicked. While the show is not as explicitly about LGBT issues as Rent, Menzel did see some parallels. " It's not necessarily about whether or not you're gay, but it's about finding who you are and celebrating that," she said to The Advocate in 2012. The show included the song "Defying Gravity," which became one of her signature songs. Watch her sing it at a gay club above.

 

During the height of Glee's success, Menzel guest starred as Rachel's (Lea Michele) birthmother. The two shared multiple duets, but the most intense was this mother-daughter musical sequence to "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables.

 

They also performed a duet to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." Menzel performed a solo version of the cover during Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony, conducted by Marvin Hamlisch. In the clip above, you also get a sense of Menzel's audience banter.

 

Today, we are in the midst of something of a Idinaissance. As the voice of Queen Elsa in Disney's Frozen, Menzel sings one of the most powerful, stick-to-your-brain ballads in film history. (It's also one hell of a coming out anthem.) The success of the Academy Award-winning song has made Menzel the first Tony Award-winning actress to ever break into the Billboard top ten. Whether she's singing it with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots or soldiering on at the Oscars despite a botched intro from Danny Zuko, the world just can't get enough of "Let It Go" and its seasoned singer. This month's Billboard magazine, featuring a flawless photo of Menzel on its cover, is the magazine's first to sell out Billboard's online store this year. She's currently starring in the Broadway production of If/Then.

Do you count yourself among the 'Fanzels?' Tell us what you think about Idina Menzel in the comments.

Comments

  1. David From Canada says

    Idina Menzel. I had not even heard of her before until the Oscars this year. But she sounds like a very nice and talented lady. Continued success to her.

  2. says

    Much to the dismay of my neighbours, I have been incapable of *not* singing Let It Go, fifteen times a day, since November.

    Bless you, Idina!

  3. Steve says

    Loved her for years. It is great that she is finally getting the attention she deserves.

  4. Wavin' Dave says

    …and she got to go to bed each night with Taye Diggs ! Where’s that sex tape?

  5. peterparker says

    Jesus Effing Christ, this Gay Icon column is relentlessly pointless and stupid. PLEASE discontinue it!

  6. sam says

    I find Idina Menzel utterly over-rated. Will gay men ever stop salivating over Disney’s estrogen production line? These women pander their way to the top.

    Disney needs to produce some MALE role models for us gay guys. Why hasn’t it done so? Disney sucks.

  7. says

    Sam, you should be really empowered by the story of Quasiomodo in Hunchback…

    just think..one day, you may be able to live out THERE! Out THEEEERE! and not on your computer screen :)

  8. graphicjack says

    Adele Dazeem was also in Chess, the musical written by Benny and Björn from ABBA.

  9. bobbyjoe says

    @Sam

    Idinia Menzel has been around long before her association with Disney. If “pandering” means earning her stripes and originating crucial roles in two of the most successful Broadway shows of the past twenty years– “Rent” and “Wicked”– and winning the Tony Award as “Best Leading Actress in a Musical,” then I guess Disney ought to hire more pander-ers.

  10. B. Wilson says

    Idina Menzel and RENT were a huge part of my coming to accept my identity as a gay youth and helped me gain confidence and pride in my identity. Not to mention that she is extremely talented and hasn’t aged a day since RENT.
    She is tremendously talented and has a very long history and a very bright future.

  11. rocker rocker says

    Blech. “Wicked” was wretched and Menzel is a shrill, caterwauling singer. Her prominence amongst gay men is head-scratching and peculiar.

  12. NotSafeForWork says

    The Gay Iconography is one of the best series on Towleroad outside of Ari Waldman’s legal analysis. Please, continue this great feature!

  13. KYLE says

    Apparently Rocker has extremely poor taste in musicals and singers. He probably hasn’t even heard Idina sing. She’s a great artist and a great person and has done more for the gay community than those who put her down.

  14. Nelson says

    I have never been able to stand her pinched little forced voice. Broadway singers have gotten so far away from real singer there are only a few who know how to mix proper training and belting any more and stay healthy

  15. M. Scott Hernandez says

    I fell in love with her in Broadway’s RENT. I began to worship after seeing Wicked. Her solo album was great. It’s shameful that it didn’t “grow legs”. She is an amazing woman!