VOTE: SheWired's Out Woman of the Year 2012
2012, being the year of a national election and the Olympics, has been a big year for LGBTs in pop culture, politics and sports. Now SheWired would like to pay homage to the unabashedly out women who’ve moved visibility for queer women forward.
It was a year in which we saw several women come out in the national sports arena, the first-ever openly gay senator elected to office, an out actress nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globes, Saturday Night Live’s first-ever lesbian cast member and lesbian journalists front and center offering in-depth election coverage.
Please join us in reminiscing about the year in out women, and don’t forget to vote for who you think should be Woman of the Year. We will close the voting on Wednesday, December 19 and announce the winner the following day. You can vote for multiple people per submission, but only one submission per day, per device, is accepted. And while we are ostensibly voting for a winner, these 20 women are already winners for their continued success and devotion to furthering visibility and representation for LGBT women.
The show's first out lesbian comic arrived just as Saturday Night Live lost the star comedy power of Kristen Wiig, adding pressure to keep audiences laughing. That's what Kate McKinnon has done this season. And maybe her success is because McKinnon isn't exactly a novice, coming from Upright Citizens Brigade and The Big Gay Sketch Show. Don't miss McKinnon on SNL doing a spot-on impersonation of Ellen DeGeneres. Even Ellen loved it, suggesting McKinnon go to Thanksgiving in her place.
This New York widow just may be the woman who brings down the Defense of Marriage Act. Windsor sued the federal government because its DOMA-based refusal to recognize her marriage to Thea Spyer meant she owed $363,000 in estate taxes after Spyer’s death in 2009—taxes she wouldn’t have owed if her spouse had been a man. In October a U.S. appeals court ruled that DOMA violated Windsor’s constitutional rights, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case next year, meaning it may decide the fate of DOMA, and same-sex marriage rights in general, once and for all. Windsor told CNN she was “elated” at the news that the high court would take her case, saying, “Did I ever think it could come to be, altogether?… Not a chance in hell.”
Wouldn’t you know that the people behind True Blood would introduce viewers to Lilith, the gorgeous earth mother of all vampires, by having her appear nude and covered in blood? Jessica Clark, the Indian/Nigerian and out lesbian actress who plays Lilith, embraced the racy role—for years she worked as a model and even appeared on the cover of Vogue India. Married to her longtime partner, Clark first gained notoriety for her roles in well-received queer films, Sara and The Perfect Ending. As brilliant as she is beautiful, Clark is well on her way to major stardom. She recently told The Advocate, “I'm a huge feminist. We've made huge strides but we're still not equal in the workplace in terms of what we're paid and CEO representation.”
Fashion designer Kara Laricks blew the competition off the runway in the debut season of Fashion Star on NBC this spring. Not only did the out schoolteacher-turned-designer win the entire competition, she had Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and H&M in a bidding war that ultimately netted the designer an impressive $6 million capsule collection to roll out her gender-bending designs in each of the stores. Pushing the boundaries of traditional women’s wear, Laricks’ designs evoke classic male silhouettes in an updated, female-friendly way.
Sarah Paulson is such an amazing actress that each week of watching American Horror Story: Asylum we’ve turned away from the television, more horrified at the cruelty she’s enduring than we should be considering it’s a television series. But Paulson got a rare chance with this series: to be one of very few out lesbian actresses to play a lesbian on screen and to face off with the legendary Jessica Lange. A Tony nominee for The Glass Menagerie and an Emmy nominee for Game Change, we fully anticipate seeing an Emmy nomination for Paulson’s visceral turn on AHS.
Lana Wachowski, one half of the famed Wachowski siblings who came to fame while making the Matrix trilogy, reentered the limelight to promote their latest blockbuster, Cloud Atlas, with shocking pink dreads, a genuine, beaming smile, and one line that said it all: “Hi, I’m Lana.” After staying out of the media for years, Wachowski—who transitioned in recent years—showed that coming out as a transgender woman, and a lesbian, didn’t have to be a big shocking deal. She reminded us that you are who you are, and labels are what you make of them. Bonus points: Now married to her second wife (whose name she’s always kept from the media) used her new pulpit to talk to HRC and other LGBT groups about suicide, bullying, and coming out.
The Wisconsin Democrat carries on her state’s progressive political tradition by being elected as the first openly LGBT U.S. senator. She moves up from the House of Representatives, where she has served since 1999, being the first LGBT person elected to Congress while being out from the get-go (her predecessors had come out while in office). She’s also the first woman her state sent to the U.S. House, and now the first to the Senate. “Having a seat at the table matters, and I think we will see a Senate that is more reflective of America,” she told CNN after the votes were counted. “We’re certainly not there yet, but this will be a change that moves us forward.”
Anchoring election night coverage for MSNBC, Maddow was the first newscaster to announce that President Obama had won a second term. Her eponymous nightly program has frequently bested archrival Fox News in the ratings, and while she is up front about her liberal beliefs, on her show she argues her case elegantly and eloquently, backing it up with exhaustive research on LGBT issues, women’s rights, economic concerns, and foreign policy. This year she often called out Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his tenuous relationship with facts and took down other politicians for untruths, and she continued to delight us with her “Moment of Geek” segment. The year also saw Maddow publish the book Drift, a much-praised critique of U.S. military spending, and receive the prestigious John Steinbeck Award, with Steinbeck’s son Tom calling her “a first-class observer and commentator.”
Although Ryan Murphy tends to hog the spotlight, Ali Adler, the lesbian co-creator and showrunner of NBC’s The New Normal (who formerly worked on Glee) has had a pretty banner year. Bouncing back from her breakup last year from longtime partner Sara Gilbert, Adler is now top-billed on a hit show that has the nation talking. Adler even managed to squeeze in a lesbian cameo when out actress and musician Leisha Hailey and Constance Zimmer played an icy lesbian couple of dinner guests on Normal in October.
Sundhage landed the head coaching job of the US Women’s National Soccer Team (WNT) back in 2007, and in her 5 years at the helm, she lead the team to two Olympic Gold medals (Beijing and UK), a second place finish behind Japan to claim silver in the 2011 World Cup, and an impressive 91-10-6 record (.897 win percentage) in 107 international contests. She is currently the third longest reigning coach in US Women’s Soccer history. At the time that Sundhage took the job, she was interviewed by Swedish television personality, Lasse Bengtsson about her new role with the club and it was during that interview that Pia came out, “There has been no problem for me to be openly gay as head coach in the U.S,” Sundhage said. Sadly, Sundhage resigned in August in order to return to her native Sweden to coach their national team.
Dutch Field Hockey:
At least a quarter of the Olympic gold medal-winning Dutch women's field hockey team happen to be lesbians (Marilyn Agliotti, Kim Lammers, Maartje Paumen, and Carlien Dirkseke van den Heuvel), making them the most out team at the summer games. Both Paumen and van den Heuvel each scored in the final game. And, let's face it, among the entire team, they are all easy on the eyes.
Kim Stolz has been on a roll since she made history as one of the first out contestants on America’s Next Top Model in 2005. After a four-year stint as an MTV correspondent, in August Stolz was named vice president of equity-derivative sales at Citigroup. And in December, proving she has the chops for finance, fashion, and food, Stolz opened a new “lesbian-leaning” restaurant in Brooklyn. Stolz teamed up with The Real L Word’s Amanda Leigh Dunne to launch The Dalloway, named after the unforgettable Virginia Woolf heroine.
WNBA champ and Olympian Seimone Augustus was part of the gold medal-winning U.S. women's basketball team, which won their fifth straight Olympic title this summer. She also came out publicly to The Advocate earlier this year, announcing her engagement to her girlfriend LaTaya Varner, making her one of the few professional athletes who is currently playing and openly gay. The Minnesota Lynx was bested by the Indiana Fever for the 2012 WNBA championship title, but the 6-foot Louisiana native scored big in Game 2, and is a top player going into the 2013 season.
Megan Rapinoe made headlines after she came out publicly during a July interview with Out Magazine. A fan favorite for both her prowess on the field and her personality off, Rapinoe is one of the most feared players in the world, recording 18 goals in 66 international caps. During the women’s Olympic run in August, Rapinoe, one of only three out LGBT Olympians from the US, started all six games, had a team high four assists (shared with Alex Morgan), and recorded three goals, including the game winner against Colombia. She was named to the short list for FIFA’s 2012 Women’s World Player of the Year Award and is also a finalist for Sports Illustrated's Most Inspiring Performers of 2012. In November Rapinoe was honored by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center during their 41st Anniversary Gala, where she received the Board of Directors Award for her courage in standing up against homophobia in sports. In a recent interview with SheWired, Rapinoe said, “It’s gonna be more difficult for barriers to be broken down until people start coming out regularly. I think the goal is to get to the point where people don’t have to, but until then, I think it is important to come out.”
The writer of Pam's House Blend, which was folded into progressive website FireDogLake in 2011, has been on our list of Women of the Year before for her dogged advocacy for LGBT equality. But this being a pivotal election year, the North Carolina blogger once again showed why she is such an important voice. Spaulding was among the most reliable sources of news for what was happening in her home state's fight against a ballot measure that amended the constitution to ban same-sex marriage and other types of unions. It was a losing fight, but don't expect Spaulding to give up. She's been doing this since 2004.
Think you got problems? Tig Notaro’s got you beat. This year the comedian, who first gained attention as a lesbian cop on The Sarah Silverman Show, got pneumonia, was diagnosed with breast cancer, lost her mother, and endured a break-up. But Notaro rose to the challenge, turning her pain into brilliant humor though her much-loved droll delivery. A cancer-centric stand-up routine at L.A.’s Largo is now legendary and Notaro is currently working on the writing staff of Amy Schumer’s Comedy Central show. Oh, and Jezebel called Tig “one of the best living comedians in the industry today.”
Texas native Leslie Ezelle may not have won her season of HGTV’s Design Star but the out former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, breast cancer survivor and mom did go on to win Design Star All Stars this past August. Ezelle crushed the competition on All Stars with her design style that emphasizes “simple, traditional elegance” with an easy and inexpensive “less is more” philosophy. The show’s first-ever out lesbian, Ezelle proved that design is no longer just the domain of the gay boys.
Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers:
Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers may be the most talented, adorable real-life couple to ever parody politics in song. The young couple who’ve been together a little over a year became YouTube sensations with “Dear Chick-fil-A,” their hilarious song protesting Chick-fil-A’s antigay stance. From there Bria and Chrissy became touchstones melodically chronicling the national election with ditties including “Legitimate Rape” “Republican Convention 2012 (Someone Gets to Be a Dad)” and “I Love You Michelle Obama.” Gifted vocalists who can churn out a smash song parody before you can say “24-hour news cycle,” Bria and Chrissy are, at their core, LGBT activists who recently compiled inspirational messages for out and proud youth in with their Pride 2012 video.
A producer and co-executive producer on the hit American Dad, out showrunner Nahnatchka Khan delivered one of the best new network comedies of the year with her wildly irreverent and campy Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23, starring Krysten Ritter as a “girl behaving badly” who, at turns, torments and mentors her wide-eyed roomie played by Dreama Walker. Prior to Khan’s success with American Dad she wrote for Unfabulous and Malcolm in the Middle, but by television standards, Don’t Trust the B---- is a full-on success story. It premiered in April of 2012 and by May it had already gotten an order for a second season.
Stand-up comic and actress Bridget McManus has been entertaining early adopters of online viewing since 2008 beginning with her series Brunch with Bridget, in which she interviewed luminaries of the lesbian community for AfterEllen. A virtual renaissance woman, McManus has continually added new skills and talents to her résumé. This year, tello Films premiered the second season of McManusland, McManus’ hilarious self-skewering look at her celebrity that costars her wife, AfterEllen Editor in Chief Karman Kregloe. The always unapologetically out and proud comedian and costar of tello’s Cowgirl Up also costarred in their new web series The Runaways. If that weren’t enough she became a warm-up comic for The Jeff Probst Show as well as proving to be an accomplished painter who’s work has showed in several galleries throughout the year.
Remember: you can vote for multiple people per submission, but only one submission per day, per device, is accepted.