This past Friday, June 24, same-sex marriages were made legal in New York, continuing conversations in the media and within many homes about the subject. While some are celebrating and making wedding plans others are protesting, as the hot political debate continues. The notion of being Black and openly gay—especially in the entertainment industry—remain controversial and traditionally hush-hush, with many artists choosing to remain in the closet. In light of Black Enterprise’s upcoming Black & Gay in Corporate America cover story [on stands July 19] and BlackEnterprise.com’s continued Black Music Month coverage, we’ve highlighted a few celebrity entertainers who are out and proud. —Janell Hazelwood
Drag queen performer RuPaul got his start as an underground entertainment sensation on the New York and Atlanta club scenes in the ’80s and ’90s. The glam diva has gone on to become a multimedia superstar, blazing a trail with top Billboard hits that led the house dance craze of the ’90s. Touted as the “first drag queen supermodel,” RuPaul is famously known as the glam face of MAC cosmetics, as well as host of Logo TV’s top-rated reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Gospel singer Tonex has always been known as a game changer, infusing hip-hop and R&B grooves in his music. He also made a groundbreaking move last year, speaking publicly about being homosexual, and becoming the first openly gay gospel artist. Facing much public scrutiny upon coming out, the pastor and musician advocates acceptance and love, while continuing to speak out against homophobia in the church.
Grammy-nominated and critically acclaimed singer, Meshell NdegeOcello, saw Billboard chart success in the early and mid ’90s with her soul and funk-infused songs. The multitalented musician, who has reportedly been pegged as the “angry, Black, gay person,” has never been shy about advocating for equal rights both in her personal life and in her music.
Comedian and show host Wanda Sykes is a Hollywood veteran, having appeared in hit films such as Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. The actress was a vocal opponent of California’s Proposition 8, which prohibits gay marriages in the state, and went public about her same-sex marriage at a 2008 Las Vegas rally. She was also the first openly gay performer at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2009.