A lot of gay icons are described as brassy, bawdy, bombastic, over-the-top divas, but certainly not all. Contrast that with the grace and eloquence of Dame Julie Andrews, one the most beloved performers by audiences gay and straight.
The apparent duality Andrews embodies, as both a gay icon and the star of some of the most successful family-friendly films of all time, doesn’t escape the star, who shared her take with The Guardian in 2004:
“I’m that odd mixture of, on the one hand, being a gay icon and, on the other hand, having grandmas and parents being grateful I’m around to be a babysitter for their kids. And I’ve never been able to figure out what makes a gay icon, because there are many different kinds. I don’t think I have the image that say, Judy Garland has, or Bette Davis … But I don’t know whether longevity has something to do with it. I honest to God don’t know. It’s very flattering, in a way.”
A staple of stage and screen since first performing with her mother and stepfather in 1945, Andrews is just a Tony Award away from becoming an EGOT recipient. Once known for her pristine voice and four-octave range, Andrews vocal cords were irreparably damaged during a surgery to remove vocal polyps in 1997.
Although her voice was never the same, she continued to act, appearing in The Princess Diaries films, three Shrek films, Despicable Me and other movies. She’s also published an autobiography and several children’s books.
Take a spoonful of sugar and check out some of our favorite Julie Andrews clips below.
Andrews’ major film debut is also one of her most iconic roles. As the titular Mary Poppins, Andrews earned a Grammy Award (for Best Album for Children), a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress. During her acceptance speech, Andrews demonstrated some expert shade-throwing skills. She directed a barb at studio executive Jack Warner, whom passed over Andrews to play the lead in My Fair Lady. Andrews’ Poppins won over Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle that year, prompting Andrews to close her acceptance speech with, “And, finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner.”
Another icon Andrews role is her legendary performance as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music. One of the highest-grossing films of all time, the film’s soundtrack also reached the top of the Billboard 200 when it was released in 1965, and then again with a 45th Anniversary release.
Many would argue that Andrews’ queerest role yet was as Victoria Grant and Count Victor Grazinski in Victor Victoria. The dual role had Andrews portraying a woman pretending to be a man who pretends to be a woman. The film is full of LGBT characters, but Andrews’ drag act is the kind of thing that even RuPaul would have said “Shantay, you stay.”
Victor Victoria isn’t Andrews’ only work directly dealing with the LGBT community. In 1991, she starred in a made-for-TV movie as the mother of a gay son whose partner is dying of complications due to AIDS. Her son, played by Hugh Grant, asks her to accompany him to Arkansas to tell his partner’s estranged mother (Ann-Margret).
In her first Disney film since Mary Poppins, Andrews appeared as Queen Clarisse Renaldi in The Princess Diaries. It’s rare to see Andrews sing much since her vocal surgery, but she did sing for the first time on film following the incident in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.
What’s your favorite Julie Andrews role?