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Gay Iconography: Kristin Chenoweth Is A Good Christian Belle

Glee - Maybe This Time

They say good things comes in small packages, and that’s certainly the case with pint-sized star of stage and screen Kristin Chenoweth.

The blonde Broadway belter has been bringing down the house since her first show on the New York Stage, Animal Crackers, in 1993. Since that time, she’s racked up a Tony Award, an Emmy Award and a Grammy, among other accolades, charming audiences with her big voice and bigger personality.

Since growing up in Dallas, Texas, Chenoweth has considered herself a Christian. She was initially raised Southern Baptist, but has become what she described to The New York Times as a “nonjudgmental, liberal Christian.” In 2012, she further reiterated her commitment to her gay fans in an interview with ABC News:

“Even as a young child, I thought, 'Why is being gay bad?,'" she said. "I didn't understand it. So I asked my grandma, who is the best Christian I ever knew. I'd say, 'What about my friend Denny, he's gay, is he going to hell?' She told me, 'I read the Bible like I eat fish. I take the meat that serves me well but I don't choke on the bone.’”

At times her faith and her gay fans have clashed. To promote her 2005 album, As I Am, she appeared on The 700 Club, hosted by the notoriously bigoted Pat Robertson. She later admitted that she regretted doing the show and clarified her personal beliefs to The Sioux City Journal in 2006:

"I'm a very controversial figure in the Christian world. I don't believe if you're gay or you have a drink or you dance you're going to hell. I don't think that's the kind of God we have. The Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world are scary. I want to be a Christian like Christ -- loving and accepting of other people."

Perhaps her most vocal support for the gay community came in support of her Promises, Promises co-star Sean Hayes. After a writer for Newsweek made the assertion that gay actors can’t convincingly place straight roles, Chenoweth responded with her own take: “Audiences aren’t giving a darn about who a person is sleeping with or his personal life. Give me a break! We’re actors first, whether we’re playing prostitutes, baseball players, or The Lion King.” Her support earned her a Vanguard Award at the 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2011.

Check out some clips of Chenoweth’s performances, AFTER THE JUMP

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Gay Iconography: Tracy Chapman's Political Folk

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Earlier this week, beloved pop star and American Idol Kelly Clarkson delivered a powerful performance of “Give Me One Reason,” originally performed by folk singer Tracy Chapman. And, while Kelly is adored by legions of fans gay and straight, Chapman has earned her spot as a legendary singer, songwriter and activist.

Growing up amidst racial tension in Cleveland’s recently integrated schools, Chapman’s interest in social activism was stoked at an early age. She grew up in a working-class household, raised by her mother, but received a scholarship to attend a private school and then graduated from Tufts University. She described her educational experience to The Guardian in 2008:

“The city had been forced to integrate the schools so they were bussing black children into white neighborhoods, and white children into black neighborhoods, and people were upset about it so there were race riots. A lot of kids spent more time out of school than in, but I always loved school and thought it was my way out of Cleveland, and out of poverty."

While Chapman has been steadfast about keeping her personal and professional life separate, she did have a romantic relationship with author Alice Walker in the 1990s, which Walker discussed with The Guardian in 2013. As a socially-conscious artist, Chapman has been an advocate for LGBT rights and AIDS-research, among other human rights issues.

Relive some of our favorite Tracy Chapman performances, AFTER THE JUMP

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Gay Iconography: Does 'Sex and the City' Stand the Test of Time?

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Earlier this week, I joined a group of gay journalists in a roundtable interview of Madonna. While awaiting our time with the Queen of Pop, we chatted over wine and snacks about a variety of topics, including our thoughts on the album, HBO’s Looking and RuPaul’s Drag Race. The conversation picked up though when a certain television show came up.

Perhaps we need a corollary to Godwin’s Law (which posits that any online debate that goes on long enough will eventually invoke Hitler or Nazis). Maybe any conversation between pop-culturally savvy gay men will invariably reference Sex and the City at some point. Once the topic was broached among our group, references flew across the table, including episode numbers, titles, guest stars and storylines.

It’s the kind of show that feels embedded in the DNA of a large swath of the gay community. In its seemingly perpetual airings in syndication, the show certainly shows its age, but the impact of its six seasons (and maybe one of the movies) is still worth discussing today. Driven largely by gay creative forces Darren Starr and Michael Patrick King, the show not only brought openly gay characters to a mainstream series, but it embodied a sort of fabulous, urban lifestyle that spoke to the independent, creative spirit that permeates a wide, cross section of the gay community. Even its central protagonists — with their frank sexuality, over-the-top styles and witty retorts — feel like they’re ripped straight from Drag Race.

Still, the show’s portrayal of actual gay characters was far from revolutionary. The mostly sexless sidekicks, Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson) and Anthony Marentino (Mario Cantone), are quintessentially shallow representations. The show also clumsily tackled topics of bisexuality and trans characters. (And that’s nothing to say about the lack of racial diversity, rampant consumerism and class privilege that made the show feel continuously more out-of-touch the longer it went on.)

Flaws and all, the series still holds a special place in many hearts, so let’s revisit some classic clips, AFTER THE JUMP

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Gay Iconography: Shonda Rhimes' Inclusive TV Empire

Shonda

Typically, we talk about icons in terms of notability, recognition, fame, impact. You know the names — Madonna, Gaga, Cher, Liza, Judy, Bette. We hear the arguments about vocally supporting the LGBT community, marching in parades and contributing to charities. Then there’s the argument that an icon needs to be the kind of person a drag queen could “do” in their act. But what about an ally that’s leaving her mark on pop culture behind the scenes?

Enter Shonda Rhimes, a TV master so powerful that ABC handed her an entire night of their primetime schedule. Her shows have become some of the most talked about series of the last decade, blending steamy sex scenes, ripped-from-the-headlines commentary and so much soapy melodrama. But through it all, she’s also been committed to diversifying the kinds of stories we see on television. Her casting process for breakout hit Grey’s Anatomy made headlines for the “colorblind” role descriptions that yielded one of the most richly diverse ensembles on television.

Part of that inclusive approach includes telling stories of LGBT characters. The Advocate named her one of the Coolest Straight People In Entertainment in 2014, saying “Rhimes isn’t simply setting the gold standard in character diversity for network television, she’s setting the standard for creators as well.” In 2012, she accepted GLAAD's Golden Gate Award. She’ll also be honored later this month at the 2015 Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles Gala Dinner. “We are thrilled to honor such a fierce and longtime advocate for LGBT equality at this year’s HRC Los Angeles Gala Dinner,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Shonda Rhimes is not only politically outspoken on issues of equality, but has also created some of the most groundbreaking portrayals of LGBT people ever seen on television, helping to change hearts and minds around the world.”

Get familiar with some of Rhimes’ work in a few of our favorite clips, AFTER THE JUMP

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Gay Iconography: Melissa Etheridge, Yes She Is

MelissaEthridgePressPhoto

Even today, there are few stars ready to come out at the height of their career. In the early ‘90s, it was even more of a rarity. That’s part of what makes Melissa Etheridge’s story special.

The singer-songwriter and activist blazed a trail as an openly lesbian artist, just as her career began taking off. "I had no desire to be closeted to the public. It didn't feel right," she told Philly Magazine in 2014. “So, being gay was the thing I talked about.”

GLAAD recognized her contribution to promoting equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in culture by presenting Stephen F. Kolzak Award to her in 2006. She’s not only a vocal activist for LGBT rights, but also the environment and the fight against cancer.

She explained her connection to these causes in an interview with The Daily Beast last year: “Well these are, and it’s always been, the issues that are me. I am a gay person. I did have cancer. I am affected by what happens to the world, to our earth. Those things absolutely affect me.”

Check out some of our favorite moments from Melissa’s career, AFTER THE JUMP

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Gay Iconography: RuPaul's Race To Stardom

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From Ru’s rise to prominence in the early ‘90s to the multimedia brand he’s become today, RuPaul Andre Charles has become a subversive pop-culture institution, a guide to learning to love yourself and one of the most iconic bastions of all things glam. From film to television to music and makeup, Ru has broken barriers and, seemingly against all odds, bent mainstream culture to his will.

Prior to the empire though, RuPaul was just a punk kid in 1980s Atlanta. From the underground scene, Ru first began with gender-fuck before evolving his drag look into the striking beauty we know today. After his single “Supermodel (You Better Work)” became a hit on MTV, the Ru-volution was in full effect. A talk show, film appearances and several more dance albums followed, but they didn’t capture the same success. The real ru-surgence (I swear that’s my last one) came in 2009 with the launch of RuPaul’s Drag Race, one of the most brilliant reality-TV competitions of all time and the cornerstone of the Logo Network.

While critically-lauded and a winner of a GLAAD Media Award, the show did run into some controversy last season. The show has weathered criticisms for using transphobic language, and Ru, adored for his warmth and sensitivity, pushed back in interviews. He shared his feelings following Lance Bass’ apology for using the word "tranny" in a 2011 interview with the Huffington Post: "I love the word 'tranny'...And I hate the fact that he's apologized. I wish he would have said, 'F-you, you tranny jerk!'" It was a stance seemingly at odds with the show’s open embrace of trans contestants like Sonique, Carmen Carrera and Monica Beverly Hillz during and after the competition. However, it was a segment called “female or she-male” that finally forced the show’s hand. Outcry over the mini-challenge led to the pulling of the episode and the loss of the recurring “She-Mail” bit.

With season seven of RuPaul’s Drag Race just around the corner, let’s take a look back at some of our favorite RuPaul moments, AFTER THE JUMP

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