LOUD & PROUD: 30 LGBT Stars Who've Conquered TV

LOUD & PROUD: 30 LGBT TV Stars You Should Know About
loud and proud

We've come a long way since a time when the only gay people on TV were either closeted or unable to openly express their sexuality.

Previously, stars such as Frankie Howerd, Larry Grayson and John Inman often appeared sexless and neutered in a bid not to alienate 1970s family-friendly audiences.

Now, their contemporaries are welcomed and admired in the mainstream, and the small screen is filled with LGBT stars from all genders, ethnicities and walks of life.


As part of HuffPost UK Entertainment's Loud & Proud series, we present a Who's Who of today's LGBT TV personalities, whose acting talents and presenting skills have transformed the TV industry into a much more diverse and accepting place.

Rylan Clark-Neal
David M. Benett via Getty Images
Best known for? Competed on ‘The X Factor’ in 2012, before winning ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in 2013. He’s since gone on to launch a successful presenting career, fronting ‘Big Brother’ spin-off show ‘Bit On The Side’, and filling in on ‘This Morning’. He recently announced news of his own chat show for Channel 5.

Other info: Rylan married partner Dan Neal in November 2015, who he met when the former police officer was a housemate on ‘Big Brother’ and he was presenting ‘Bit On The Side’.

He says: "I get loads of messages from 16-year-old gay lads saying they’ve come out to their parents because of me. I didn’t realise going on [‘X Factor’] would help someone else other than myself."
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Best known for? US drag star who is host and head judge on reality show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’. During the 1990s, Ru was known in the UK for his appearances on the Channel 4 series ‘Manhattan Cable’.

Other info: Despite being one of the most recognised faced in the LGBT community, RuPaul does not consider himself a gay icon, saying: “That's for someone else to consider me that.”

He says: “Regular, straight pop culture has liberally lifted things from gay culture as long as I can remember. And that's fine, because guess what? We have so much more where that comes from. Take it!”
Laverne Cox
Jason LaVeris via Getty Images
Best know for? Plays transgender character Sophia Burset on ‘Orange Is The New Black.

Other info: A transgender woman herself, Laverne has been lauded as a trailblazer for the trans community and won many awards for helping to spread awareness.

She says: “I think transwomen, and transpeople in general, show everyone that you can define what it means to be a man or woman on your own terms. A lot of what feminism is about is moving outside of roles and moving outside of expectations of who and what you're supposed to be to live a more authentic life.”
Sue Perkins
Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive
Best known for? She is one half of TV duo Mel and Sue, who have been on our screens for nearly 20 years, hosting the likes of ‘Light Lunch’ and ‘Great British Bake Off’.

Other info: Sue revealed her sexuality in 2002, when she went public with her relationship with Rhona Cameron. She later had a five-year relationship with journalist and author Emma Kennedy, and is now dating presenter Anna Richardson.

She says: “Being a lesbian is only about the 47th most interesting thing about me.”
Alan Carr
Ian West/PA Archive
Best known for? The stand-up comic hosts his own Channel 4 chat show, ‘Chatty Man’.

Other info: Alan has claimed he doesn’t believe he is a role model for the gay community, as he doesn’t consider his sexuality to be a focal part of his shows, saying: “I think what better equality for gays than that?

He says: "I wouldn't change myself for the world. It's made me a lot of money, being this camp."
Nick Grimshaw
David M. Benett via Getty Images
Best known for? Having hosted the Radio 1 Breakfast Show since 2012, last year saw him become an ‘X Factor’ judge. He’s also presented the likes of ‘T4’, ‘Sweat The Small Stuff’, ‘The One Show’ and ‘Children In Need’.

Other info: Grimmy publicly addressed his sexuality for the first time in 2012 during an interview with The Guardian, where he described Frank Ocean as his perfect man.

He says: “I never felt as an adult that I even had to come out. I only feel like you’re coming out if you’ve been married, or pretend you were straight. I never felt I had any false thoughts in my brain. I didn’t have three kids and then go, ‘Guess what, guys?’ There were no bulletins to be delivered because it was all I ever knew.”
Russell Tovey
Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment
Best known for? Playing Steve in BBC Three sitcom ‘Him & Her’ and as George Sands in drama ‘Being Human’. He’s known starred in the likes of ‘The Job Lot’ on ITV2, and had small roles in BBC One dramas ‘The Night Manager’, ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Doctor Who’.

Other info: When Russell came out to his parents aged 18, it caused a huge rift with his father, who said he would have made him undergo treatment to “fix the problem” if he’d known earlier. They later reconciled after the birth of Russell’s nephew.

He says: “The only thing I can give to young gay people is that when I was growing up there were no role models that were blokey, that were men. Everybody was flamboyant and camp, and I remember going, 'That's not me, so even though I think I am gay, I don't think I fit into this world.”
Luisa Bradshaw White
Ian West/PA Archive
Best known for? Plays Tina Carter on ‘EastEnders’, having previously starred in ‘Holby City’ and ‘This Life’.

Other info: She has been with partner Annette Yeo for over 15 years, and they are parents to two children. The pair tied the knot last year.

She says: “People ask me if I want to be a gay role model and I say no, I just want to be me and if I do help people to come out then that’s fantastic.”
Jussie Smollett
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Best known for? As well as a singer, he currently stars as Jamal Lyon on ‘Empire’. The character has been praised for breaking down the taboos of homosexuality in the hip hop industry.

Other info: Jussie confirmed he is gay during an interview on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ in 2015, telling her: “There is without a doubt, no closet that I’ve ever been in, and I just wanted to make that clear.”

He says: “There is a responsibility for me as a man, as a man of color, as an artist to be myself and make things that reflect me and that are true. That’s what matters. It’s about all of us, not a particular group of people. I hope to make an impact on society and the world and as a human being, that’s what’s real and what I want to do.”
Graham Norton
Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty Images
Best known for? Host of his own BBC Friday night chat show, as well as the commentator for the broadcaster’s coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Other info: He was named the most influential gay Irish person in The Guardian’s World Pride Power List in 2014.

He says: “The only thing that makes me sad is that the most stick you get is from gay people. It’s always been the same, that there’s this sort of weird self-loathing in the gay community. But it’s heartbreaking.”
Anna Richardson
Yui Mok/PA Archive
Best known for? Fronts Channel 4 shows including ‘The Sex Education Show’, ‘Supersize vs Superskinny’.

Other info: Anna was in a heterosexual relationship for 18 years before she began dating Sue Perkins in 2014.

She says: “The sexual adjustment is easy. The emotional adjustment is something else. As you know, a relationship with a woman is far more intense. This I have learnt. It’s an emotional tsunami.”
Paul O’Grady
Doug Peters/Doug Peters
Best known for? For years Paul was the man behind colourful drag alter-ego Lily Savage, who was a TV regular in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays, he hosts his own ITV chat show, and animal shows ‘For The Love Of Dogs’ and ‘Animal Orphans’ for the broadcaster.

Other info: Paul was in a long-term relationship with business partner Brendan Murphy until his death in 2005.

He says: “I just find it very disturbing that in Russia, in a so called civilised country, gay men and women are being beaten to death in the street and it’s perfectly acceptable. And that gay men and women are afraid to leave their homes because they are going to be abused and they are going to be beaten up and imprisoned… they are going to be killed. What does that smack of? It smacks of the Jews in Nazi Germany and it has got to be stopped now.”
Kieron Richardson
Karwai Tang via Getty Images
Best known for? Playing Ste Hay on ‘Hollyoaks’, who made history for being the first gay character living with HIV to be featured on a British soap.

Other info: The actor came out to fans on live TV, during an appearance on ‘This Morning’ in 2010, having accepted his sexuality four years earlier. He is now married to long-term partner Carl Hyland.

He says: “The best thing about ‘Hollyoaks’ is, and I know people joke about this being the ‘gayest show on television’, but there’s so many different gay characters and they’re all so different.”
Clare Balding
Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport
Best known for? Clare presents horse racing coverage for the BBC and has also hosted many other great sporting events, including the Olympics. She also presents ‘Sports Personality Of The Year’ and her own chat show for BT Sport.

Other info: She is married to BBC Radio 4 continuity announcer and newsreader Alice Arnold. They tied the knot in 2015, having previously formalised their relationship with a civil partnership in 2006.

She says: “I’m very aware that it’s important for people to see a couple in the mainstream. But it can get a bit exhausting. I don’t walk down the street saying, ‘Hi! I’m gay!’ At the same time, I want to be one of the people who helps. What am I meant to do? I don’t know what the bloody answer is.”
Craig Revel-Horwood
Doug Peters/Doug Peters
Best known for? Dancer and choreographer Craig has served as a judge on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ since its first series in 2004.

Other info: Craig admitted he was bisexual between the ages of 17 and 26, and “flitted between men and women quite a lot”. He was also married to a woman, Jane, who left him for another man.

He says: “We should encourage that sort of thing [same-sex partners on ‘Strictly’], absolutely. There are competitions throughout the world that have same-sex couples, you just have to decide who goes backwards, darling!”
Rebecca Root
David Livingston via Getty Images
Best known for? Star of ‘Boy Meets Girl’, where she is the first transgender actor in a lead transgender role in a British sitcom.

Other info: Rebecca began her transition in 2000, aged 34 and received the full support of her family. Having spent time gigging on the standup circuit, Rebecca also works as a voice coach, specialising in transgender voice adaptation.

She says: “We’ve had cisgender actors in trans roles for too long. It’s about time we had trans actors in trans roles.”
Gok Wan
Doug Peters/Doug Peters
Best known for? Having worked as a stylist, Gok fronted his own show ‘How To Look Good Naked’, before moving on to host ‘Gok’s Fashion Fix’ and ‘Fearne & Gok: Off The Rails’. He also pops up on ‘This Morning’ as one of their fashion experts.

Other info: Gok was placed at number six in the Guardian’s World Pride Power List 2014.

He says: “What you see on the telly is an act. I camp it up for the cameras. In real life I’m just a normal geezer. The only difference is I dress flamboyantly. But I love fast cars, football and lager.”
Jane Hill
Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Best known for? A regular face on the BBC News presenting team, fronting broadcasts on the BBC News Channel, BBC 1 O’Clock News and BBC Weekend News.

Other info: Jane came out publicly came out to her colleagues in 2009, during an interview with the corporation’s in-house magazine, Ariel. She is now in a civil partnership with her partner of seven years, TV camera woman, Sara Shepherd.

She says: “When I was growing up, I had terrible struggles with who I was,' she said. 'It was hugely difficult for me. I didn't know any lesbians. I didn't see any gay women in the media in magazines. It wasn't talked about it, it wasn't part of the conversation. What I think is truly incredible is that I now look in a magazine and I see Cara Delevingne, this beautiful model, just completely relaxed about who she is and not trying to hide it, not being secretive.”
Antony Cotton
Ian West/PA Archive
Best known for? Plays one of soap’s most-loved gay characters, Coronation Street’s Sean Tully.

Other info: Antony is a patron of the LGBT Foundation and The Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports young LGBT people who are homeless, living in a hostile environment or in housing crisis.

He says: “I get a lot of stick from people who say, and these are people who are 21 years old, 'you've put the gay cause back 21 years.' Or they say 'you're a disgrace to this village'. You'd be surprised how many kids say that to me."
Lena Waithe
Jason LaVeris via Getty Images
Best known for? Plays Denise on Netflix series ‘Master Of None’.

Other info: Lena’s character was originally written as a straight, white woman, but bosses decided to change Denise’s background to make her more like her.

She says: "I don't know if we've seen a sly, harem pants-wearing, cool Topshop sweatshirt-wearing, snapback hat-rocking lesbian on TV. I know how many women I see out in the world who are very much like myself. We exist. To me, the visibility of it was what was going to be so important and so exciting."
Riley Carter Millington
Best known for? Became the first ever transgender soap character to be played by a trans man, when he joined the cast of ‘EastEnders’ as Kyle Slater in 2015.

Other info: His casting was hailed as "the biggest thing to happen for the transgender community in Britain this decade" by journalist and transgender activist Paris Lees.

He says: “I have now fulfilled my two biggest dreams - to be living my life as a man and to be an actor.”
Michelle Hardwick
Karwai Tang via Getty Images
Best known for? Plays Vanessa Woodfield on ‘Emmerdale’, and previously played Lizzie Hopkirk on hospital drama ‘The Royal’.

Other info: Michelle spoke about her sexuality for the first time in 2013, revealing she had been in a relationship with a woman for 18 months. She and music teacher Rosie Nicholl later married in April 2015.

She says: “When I was in ‘The Royal’, the majority of our audience were older and I would have been nervous of revealing too much.”
Derren Brown
Matt Alexander/PA Wire
Best known for? TV mentalist and illusionist, whose Channel 4 shows include ‘Mind Control’, ‘Trick Of The Mind’ and ‘The Experiments’.

Other info: Derren came out as gay in 2007, having spent most of his early life trying to project himself as asexual. He claimed to have hid behind his Christianity to reject certain feelings and subjects, and tried to ‘train himself out of’ homosexuality.

He says: “Sexuality is often tied in with something you feel you lack in yourself and look for in others.”
Andrew Scott
Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Best known for? Plays Jim Moriarty in the BBC series ‘Sherlock’, and also featured in James Bond film ‘Spectre’, as villain Max Denbigh.

Other info: He ranked at number 22 in The Independent's Rainbow List 2014.

He says: “Mercifully, these days people don't see being gay as a character flaw. But nor is it a virtue, like kindness. Or a talent, like playing the banjo. It's just a fact. Of course, it's part of my make-up, but I don't want to trade on it. I am a private person; I think that's important if you're an actor. But there's a difference between privacy and secrecy, and I'm not a secretive person.”
Bobby Cole Norris
Karwai Tang via Getty Images
Best known for? Appearing on ‘The Only Way Is Essex’.

Other info: He previously dated co-star Harry Derbidge.

He says: “In this day and age, it makes me very sad that people even have to come out. It would be a much nicer society if it wasn’t even necessary.”
David Ames
Best known for? Plays Dominic Copeland on ‘Holby City’.

Other info: He’s previously admitted that he felt pressure people feel to be thin in the gay community, having slimmed down from 16 stone.

He says: “As a gay man playing a gay man, there’s definitely an element of myself in Dominic’s personality, because one thing I wanted to do with Dominic is to have fun with him.”
Evan Davis
Danny Martindale via Getty Images
Best known for? Presents BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ and ‘Dragons’ Den’, and previously acted as an economics reporter for the 10 O’Clock News.

Other info: Having come out to his parents after he graduated from university, he publicly announced he was gay during an interview with Gay Times magazine after he joined the ‘Newsnight’ team in 1998.

He says: “I'm very proud of my gayness. But there is lots I wouldn't want the press to write about me... it is a matter of regret that being gay is the most interesting thing about me.”
Daniel Brocklebank
Doug Peters/Doug Peters
Best known for? Currently plays vicar Billy Mayhew on ‘Coronation Street’, and has also starred as Sam Gosse in 1998 film ‘Shakespeare In Love’, for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance.

Other info: Daniel came out to his parents aged 15, but after he received a bad reaction from them, and suffered bullying at school, he went back in the closet. He then came out publicly after starring in ‘Shakespeare In Love’.

He says: “Having a progressive vicar in 'Coronation Street' provides the opportunity to educate people and give them a different point of view. The church won’t survive if it doesn’t update. Religion should be all-loving. Why would someone gay of my age join the church when all you get is backlash?”
Tituss Burgess
Robin Marchant via Getty Images
Best known for? Plays Titus Andromedon on ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'. Titus is also a singer and songwriter, and has starred on Broadway.

Other info: Tituss hit back at criticism his character was too much of a stereotype, claiming: “I know people like Titus. If a person exists, it’s fair game.”

He says: “It’s important for me to talk about my life as a gay man, not gay themes per se, in my work. I try to write in a perspective that’s both a representation of [myself] but also doesn’t alienate those from any other walks of life. I only write about it because I have it in me; I don’t shy away from it, but I don’t write about it necessarily to promote it in any way.”
Dr Christian Jessen
Ian West/PA Archive
Best known for? TV doctor on Channel 4’s ‘Embarrassing Bodies’.

Other info: Christian made a TV show for Channel 4 in 2014, entitled ‘Cure Me, I’m Gay’, which investigated possible "cures" for his homosexuality. He was fueled to make the show after being astonished by one patient’s request to make him straight.

He says: “There is a massive prejudice around being a gay doctor. It was different for me as I have never been ‘obviously’ gay and so people are often surprised when they find out. I have been exposed to off-the-cuff homophobic comments from other doctors, especially when being trained in sexual health.”

HuffPost UK is turning Loud & Proud. Over the next fortnight, we'll be celebrating how gay culture has influenced and, in turn, been embraced by all fields of entertainment, inspiring cinema-goers, TV audiences, music-lovers and wider society with its wit, creativity and power of expression.

Through features, video and blogs, we'll be championing those brave pioneers who paved the way, exploring the broad range of gay culture in British film, TV and music and asking - what is left to be done? If you’d like to blog on our platform around these topics, please email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you’d like to blog about.


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