It’s been a year of ups and downs for lesbian visibility with wins and losses for same-sex marriage across the country. While lesbian characters on the small screen dwindled to only a couple in prime-time when The L Word bid its final adieu in March, real gay women continued to provide thoughtful, fun and important representation in reality television, on the Web and in talk and news’ shows.
To honor the year in real-life lesbians and bisexual women who were visible at all costs, we are launching our first annual SheWired’s Gay Woman of the Year. We’ve thrown a wide swath of tried and true favorites, icons who just came out, Web stars, writers, musicians and journalists. We’ve also included a few teams of lesbians whose work helped make the world a little bit better of a place for budding lesbians worldwide.
Please reminisce about the year in gay women with us, and don’t forget to vote at the end! We will close the voting on New Year's Eve and announce the winner shortly after. You can vote for multiple people. And while we are voting for a winner, these women are all winners for even being on our radar to make the list.
Fans of folk singer Carlile have known for years that the singer of "The Story" is gay, but it wasn't until an October interview with the Los Angeles Times that the subject came up and she publicly came out. Carlile, who gained fans after songs from her last album were featured on Grey's Anatomy, hit the road again this year in support of Give Up the Ghost, her third full-length album. Featuring songs like "Dreams" and "I Will," the emotionally charged album continues to win the out singer-songwriter fans by the handful. An addition to Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fair 2010 was almost a no-brainer.
Hailey, as Alice Pieszecki, was the only out actress to survive all six seasons of The L Word. Jenny stole her script, her best friend and her spotlight, but she couldn't steal the spirit of the landmark lesbian show, which ended its run in January. While the show really revolved around Jenny's lesbian experience, Hailey was and will remain the heart and driving force of the drama. Hailey continues to make beautiful music with her band Uh Huh Her.
She was queen of the big screen in the late 80's, facing off with heavy hitters Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford and Jodie Foster in Top Gun, Witness and The Accused, respectively. And while that lesbian urban legend about Kelly McGillis’ three-way battle royale with Jodie and Whitney Houston was the stuff that gay girls’ dreams are made of, 20 years after The Accused, McGillis came out as a lesbian on SheWired’s Girl Rock video blog with Jennifer Corday. She did dip her toes professionally playing a lesbian in indie The Monkey’s Mask and as a closeted DADT prosecutor on The L Word, but McGillis’ classy and humble coming out paired with a successful return to stage in The Pasadena Playhouse’s Little Foxes as well as a spot on the Out 100 makes her a strong contender for our Woman of the Year.
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Since her 2005 race to become America’s Next Top Model, Kim Stoltz has parlayed her savvy and smarts into an impressive journalism career that really took off during the Presidential primaries in 2008, in which she interviewed hopefuls John Edwards, Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama for MTV news. But that was just the beginning. Stoltz continues to hold politicians’ feet to the fire with her thoughtful, prescient pieces that often appear on The Huffington Post.
Since Sykes stepped up to the podium at an anti-Prop 8 rally in November of 2008 to announce she was gay her career and personal life have continued to skyrocket. In 2009 the wickedly funny comic continued playing foil to Julia Louis-Dreyfuss on The New Adventures of Old Christine, landed a late-night talk show with The Wanda Sykes Show and hit it big with her HBO comedy special I’ma Be Me. Last April Sykes became mom to twins when her wife Alex gave birth to a girl and a boy.
The Gossip’s take-no-prisoners frontwoman Beth Ditto has been an outspoken lesbian for years, but in 2009 she landed front and center on the notorious gay men’s mag Out and fully nude on Love magazine. The gorgeous babe also launched a plus-sized fashion line for the British –based UK retailer Evans. Beyond that, Ditto lands a spot on our list for being proud and just plain fucking badass.
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Jane Velez Mitchell
No longer content to merely go toe to toe with Nancy Grace on her show, the lesbian darling of court TV, Jane Velez Mitchell rose through the ranks to anchor her own show, HLN’s Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell in 2009. An openly recovering alcholic, animal rights’ activist and avid vegetarian, Mitchell chronicled her triumphs and struggles in iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life. Mitchell also nailed the dubious honor of becoming DListed’s Hot Slut of the Week for her famous hair and finger pointing.
First-time novelist Malinda Lo offered young women options to the classic hetero-centric Cinderella story with her critically acclaimed Ash, published this September. AfterEllen’s former managing editor Lo's Ash is a young adult novel with wide appeal to fans of the fantasy genre and to queer-identified women as well. Earlier this month Ash became a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award, given to debut young adult novels.
In addition to hosting her daily talk show, DeGeneres made quite a splash in September when she signed a five-year deal to replace Paula Abdul as the fourth judge on Fox's American Idol. DeGeneres' uncanny ability to connect and have stars like Lady GaGa and Adam Lambert open up will certainly bring a softer side to Idol. The heir apparent to Oprah Winfrey's hold on daytime TV will hopefully enlighten Idol fans across the country when she takes her seat on the judges' panel during Hollywood Week in February.
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There was one word on the lips of lesbians all over the country in 2009! SWEET! As in Sweet Travel. As CEO of the lesbian-friendly travel company Wentworth found a way to mix business with pleasure and philanthropy setting sail with the Sweet Caribbean Cruise and a couple of thousand lesbians this November. But sending gay women to exotic destinations was only a piece of Wentworth’s mission. Sweet’s eco-friendly tourism includes giving back to the communities that host Sweet’s travelers, as evidenced by the volunteerism Wentworth spearheaded at ports throughout the cruise.
A lovable sitcom mom in Family Ties – and an icon to many an eighties-era budding lesbian -- turned made-for-TV movie queen, Meredith Baxter beat the tabloids to the punch and came out in The Advocate and on The Today Show after she was spotted on The Sweet Caribbean Cruise in November. Baxter spoke openly about her coming out late in life and about her decision to live honestly. Next up, she’s slated to make an appearance on Cathy DeBuono’s and Jill Bennett’s lesbian-themed Web series We Have to Stop Now.
Jill Bennett and Cathy DeBuono
Individually, out actresses Jill Bennett and Cathy DeBuono have established themselves as strong independent actresses and wildly popular video bloggers with legions of dedicated fans. But as a team, both professionally and personally, these titans produced and launched their Web series We Have to Stop Now. At a time when the economy has production halted on projects all over Hollywood Bennett and DeBuono secured funding and produced and shot a second season of the series, which costars uber funny lady Suzanne Westenhoefer. And for fans who like to interact with the ladies, they created their weekly Skype-in with chat roll / livestreamed show, The Gloves are OFF, exclusively right here on SheWired. If that’s not enough, they made the film fest rounds this year as smokin’ hot lesbians in And Then Came Lola.
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Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem
This dynamic duo of lesbian scribes delivered one of the year’s breakout television shows and a main character teeming with sardonic wit and pathos in Nurse Jackie. Creators and writers of the Edie Falco-led Showtime hit, Wallem and Brixius even wrote in a pair of moms, played by Swoosie Kurtz and Blythe Danner, for good measure. The half-hour tragi-comedy came out of the gate so strong the network picked it up for a second season just hours after the premiere. Brixius’ and Wallem’s smash gets its second season premiere March 22, 2010.
Ginger-haired babe Cynthia Nixon won over gay men and women worldwide As one of television’s fab-four -- the Sex and the City gals, but since she fell in love with her partner, education activist Christine Marinoni, Nixon’s own activist colors are continually showing. The Emmy and Tony winning actress continues to speak in favor of gay marriage at events nationwide including at October’s National Equality March in Washington DC. A breast cancer survivor, she became and ambassador with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This coming year look for Nixon as her famous character Miranda Hobbes in the second big-screen incarnation of Sex and the City.
Sure, Maddow landed her top-rated news show in 2008, but the country’s first-ever openly gay news anchor continues to ask the tough questions with her brand of academia tinged with snark. Just this month she took a staunch member of the ex-gay movement to task, shredding his arguments with metered intelligence. Plus, she continues to be just about everyone’s favorite butch.
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If all lesbians could break up as smoothly as Jones did with actress Sarah Paulson this year, the "dyke drama" stigma could become a thing of the past. After scoring an Emmy win in September for supporting actress in a drama, the woman who plays the president of the United States on 24 continued her hot streak with the Point Foundation's Point Courage Award for setting an example to out, proud and accomplished individuals, as well as landing a Satellite Awards nomination for her role on 24.
While Jamie Lauren was certainly not the first lesbian culinary artist to display her skills on Top Chef she made quite an impression on her gay fans as she sliced, diced, sautéed and sizzled her way through the ranks of the competition on Top Chef Season Five. The heavily-inked babe even managed to break the heart of one of her straight male competitors along the way. Executive Chef of San Francisco’s Absinthe, Lauren has lately had to balance her menu planning with her new-found status as a “celesbian.” This summer she cooked off against fellow Top Chef “Team Rainbow” competitor Rich Sweeney at an LA fundraiser for GLAAD.
She’s out, she’s proud, she’s adorable! One of the stars of the breakout lesbian-themed Web series Anyone But Me, Pacent casually interjected that she was gay in real life in an interview with SheWired last May, making her lesbian fans very happy to have another role model! Being the great sport that she is, Pacent even accompanied SheWired while we livestreamed Christopher Street West’s LA Gay Pride last June. For those who didn’t get enough of the New Yorker, Anyone But Me’s highly anticipated second season premiered Dec. 15th.
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Nothing short of juggernaut, Stefani Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga provided the soundtrack for 2009. The 23-year-old glam pop star released her debut album The Fame in summer of 2008 but her star continued to shine throughout 2009. While topping the charts week after week with impossibly catchy tunes including “Just Dance,” “Paparazzi” and “Poker Face” -- admittedly about her bisexuality--Gaga also took to the streets for the LGBT community speaking at the National Equality March and singing at the annual HRC dinner this October. The avant-garde fashionista also reached out to the community that helped make her when she accepted her Video Music Award saying, “This is for God and for the gays!”
The Cherry Bomb Girls (Dalila Ali Rajah, Tatum De Roeck, Gloria Bigelow, Nikki Caster and Bethany Landing)
There’s more than just eye candy to the Cherry Bomb quartet –quintet when you include co-creator and director Bethany Landing -- of lesbians with their fingers on the pulse of all-things topical. The on-air foursome that includes Dalila Ali Rajah, Tatum De Roeck, Nikki Caster and Gloria Bigelow continued their successful video blog on AfterEllen in 2009, but they also jumped to the bigger small screen landing a slot on Canada’s OUTtv in July of this year. Recently, the Cherry Bombers, who tackle lesbian issues from polygamy to meeting the parents, stopped passers by shooting a few episodes on the Sweet Caribbean Cruise. The group also got super socially conscious this year with a letter writing campaign to help stop corrective rapes in South Africa, participating in the NOH8 campaign and shooting a PSA for safer sex kits for women.
Having transcended her famous lineage, The L Word’s Clementine Ford is no longer known merely as silver screen beauty Cybill Shepherd’s daughter. After some media confusion about ‘is she, or isn’t she?” the actress came out in no uncertain terms in an Advocate.com interview earlier this year. And lo and behold, once she came out, the sky did not fall! The 30-year-old looker became a regular on The Young and the Restless.
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Tegan and Sara
The twin lesbian sisters aren't even 30 yet and, thanks to six full-length albums and a 10-year career, are already veterans of the music scene — and lesbian royalty. With the October release of "Sainthood," the sisters continue to sell-out bigger and bigger venues in L.A., New York and across the globe as the twins take their 13 new tracks — paired down from a whopping 51 songs — on the road to their devoted and growing legion of fans. Look for them as they return to the Lilith stage next year.
The openly gay Lynch traded in her ties as attorney Joyce Wischnia on The L Word for tracksuits on Glee and fans have responded by frequently quoting the insane Sue Sylvester gems. Quotes like, "I've never wanted kids ... don't have the time, don't have the uterus," add an injection of priceless humor between the fun and often emotional musical performances on the hit show. In addition, her Xbox commercial is perhaps one of few TV ads that aren't skipped over via DVR. Lynch is already receiving praise for her monster year by scoring a Satellite Awards nomination for supporting actress in a series from the International Press Academy, where she'll face off against fellow SheWired Woman of the Year nominee Cherry Jones.
Now, cast your vote! You can select MORE THAN ONE woman, but you can only submit a vote once per IP address! (This means you can choose anywhere from 1 to all 23 of the women listed, but submissions are limited to one per computer)