Every Pride month, we are reminded of the great sacrifices the LGBTQ+ community went through and continues to go through to be seen as equals. Black LGBTQ+ pioneers like Storme DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson, and Bayard Rustin have paved the way for today’s out-and-proud celebrities, who are able to live out loud.
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More than ever, we’ve seen Black celebrities walking confidently and boldly in their authentic LGBTQ+ lifestyle. And while living an authentic life is a personal choice, their decisions inspire people worldwide to explore their personal truths. Growing up, LGBTQ+ representation was nonexistent. Today, we have Jonica Gibbs playing the lead in television series, MJ Rodriguez making history as the first trans woman to win a Golden Globe, and Saucy Santana, an openly gay musician with a huge following. We have arrived, honey!
Our community is growing, and it’s full of talented movers and shakers in the entertainment industry. LGBTQ+ celebrities are teaching folks to be true to themselves and they’re creating a safe space for the community to be seen and heard. Take a look at ten Black celebrities who are nowhere near the closet.
1. Janelle MonaeSource:Getty
Janelle Monae is in her unicorn era, and we love that for her. The actress and singer, who just released her latest project, The Age of Pleasure, is teaching what it feels like to be completely free, free from opinions, judgment, and clothing! In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the self-proclaimed “free-ass mothaf*cka” said, “I’m much happier when my titties are out and I can run around free.”
Monae identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns she/her and they/them.
2. Tessa ThompsonSource:Getty
Tessa Thompson keeps her dating life under wraps, but the actress is making one thing known; she doesn’t discriminate regarding gender. In an interview with Net-a-Porter in 2018, she said, “It’s so free, and you can be anything that you want to be… I’m attracted to men and also to women. If I bring a woman home, [or] a man, we don’t even have to have the discussion.”
3. Lil Nas XSource:Getty
Lil Nas X causes so much controversy as an openly gay musician, proving we have a long road ahead of us. His attitude is unapologetic and rooted in the utmost confidence in who he is meant to be in this world.
4. Niecy Nash-BettsSource:Getty
Niecy Nash-Betts shocked the world when she announced her relationship with musician Jessica Betts. And while the world tried to calculate the timing between her last relationship and this one, the LGBTQ+ Community welcomed her to their side of the world with open arms.
Their chemistry is undeniable, as seen in this exclusive interview with HelloBeautiful.
5. Lena WaitheSource:Getty
Lena Waithe knows the importance of telling Black, queer stories and uses her platform to do just that. Not only does she swag out comfortably as a masculine-presenting woman, but she also plays an intricate role in controlling the narrative of Black queer people through projects like Twenties and The Chi.
6. Jonica GibbsSource:Getty
Actress and comedian Jonica Gibbs was one of the first masculine presenting women to play the lead in a series. Gibbs played a struggling 20-something aspiring TV writer in Twenties. Her character was loosely based on Lena Waithe.
7. MJ RodriguezSource:Getty
Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, better known as MJ, continues to make history in the LGBTQ+ community. She is the first trans actress nominated for an Emmy in a drama series and the first trans actress to win a Golden Globe.
During her acceptance speech, she said, “This is for the LGBTQAI, Black, Latina, Asian, the many multi beautiful colors of the rainbow around the freaking world. This not just for me, this is for y’all,” she said. “There are going to be so many young individuals — young, talented thriving individuals — that are going to be able to trail in and storm in through the door. This is for y’all.”
8. Saucy SantanaSource:Getty
Saucy Santana hopped on the scene at the beginning of The City Girls’ buzzing career. The BFF to Yung Miami appeared on Love and Hip Hop Miami and released music that quickly hurled him into the limelight. In fact, he became a viral sensation on TikTok with his song, Walk, and he performed his hit song, Material Girl, with the original material girl, Madonna.
9. Keke PalmerSource:Getty
Keke Palmer “Big Boss” Palmer is one of the most authentic celebrities of our time. If it’s going on in her world, she’s gracious enough to let us in for the journey.
In April 2022, Palmer accepted the Vanguard Award during the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s The Center Gala.
“Sexuality and identity for me has always been confusion,” Keke said onstage as she accepted her award, according to Variety. “I never felt straight enough. I never felt gay enough. And I never felt woman enough. I never felt man enough. You know, I always felt like I was a little bit of everything.”
10. Janet MockSource:Getty
If there is anyone who has gone against the grain of blending into society’s norms, it’s New York Times best-selling Author, Director, Producer, Writer, and Trans Activist Janet Mock. The talented visionary has used her platform to tell LGBTQ+ and BIPOC stories through her award-winning series, Pose, and her books, Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty.
Mock transitioned in her teens, and she’s been shaking the table ever since.