As we grow, we find more people to inspire us to be our best and proudest selves. Being an openly queer person can be scary, but knowing that there are young artists facing the media with confidence gives hope for the approaching generations of LGBTQ people. Many celebrities are spreading positive affirmations for the community, and I chose those that have had the most impact on both my life and confidence as an individual. With each of the celebrities I chose being a part of the LGBTQ community themselves, they give a voice to those who can’t express themselves with the same freedom, that’s what makes them treasured within the community.
girl in red
Maria Ulven Ringheim, more famously known as girl in red, is an indie-pop singer hailing from Oslo, Norway. Her single “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” has gained over fifty-million streams, making her a rising name in the music industry. Her songs illustrate everything pertaining to love. From heartbreak to the excitement of a new romance, her music has a dreamy touch that gives it a unique genuineness. What makes her music so special is her women-centered lyrics and pure illustration of a love between two women. Her single, “Girls”, highlights just that, the lyrics show a pure display of her sexuality. “No, this is not a phase/ Or a coming of age/ This will never change”, she writes, “They're so pretty, it hurts I'm not talking about boys, I'm talking about girls”. Ulven is openly lesbian and makes it known through her music, and there’s no doubt that girl in red is becoming a teenage queer icon for other LGBTQ teens. She’s aware of her position and uses her growing platform to give confidence to those who feel uncomfortable with their identities. “Coming out - even though I don’t feel people should have to come out, it’s such an outdated term - it was really hard for me,” she reveals. “So honestly if I can help anyone with not having those feelings I had then that’s the best feeling and maybe the coolest thing so far. That is so amazing really, it’s out of this world.”
Chella Man, a 21-year-old artist, and actor based in Brooklyn, New York, strives to be a positive representation for those who haven’t seen themselves on the big screen before. Acting as a voice for both trans and deaf people, he’s amassed a massive social media presence with Instagram and YouTube accounts that span hundreds of thousands of followers. Chella started his Instagram and Youtube to document his transition in May 2017, and since then he’s used his account as a safe space for queer kids to make them feel supported. He also gained international attention after being cast for the DC television series, Titans, portraying the mute superhero, Jericho. Chella is also well versed with his artistic side; with pieces inspired by his experiences, you can see his emotion through his abstract monotonous pieces. He is thankful for his girlfriend, MaryV Benoit, who has supported and inspired him since they first began dating in 2016.
Rina Sawayama is the Japanese-born contemporary pop R&B artist that continues to unapologetically express herself through her creativity and range. Sawayama’s debut mini-album, “Rina”, was already a hit, but it wasn’t until she came out with her single, “Cherry'', that she rose to fame-dom. The music video for “Cherry” was based off of Japanese folklore, and contained a cast of an all-queer, POC cast. As a bisexual woman herself, Sawayama loves expressing her gender fluidity through her intricate music videos, each featuring elaborate makeup and expressive choreography. She was initially worried about being a good representation for the LGBTQ community, “I didn’t want to further stigmatize the bisexual or pansexual community or queer people in general... but the messages I’ve gotten from fans, and from people saying they came out because of me, it’s all just very emotional. It’s incredible. It was a risk worth taking.”
Frank Ocean is now a household name for his stellar albums, including his most critically acclaimed classic, Channel Orange. But Frank has also made major strides for queer people in hip hop R&B genre with quiet elegance. When Ocean publicly addressed his sexual orientation, he did so in an open letter to his Tumblr, in which he recounted falling for a man when he was 19. “It was my first love, it changed my life,” he wrote, detailing how he attempted to come to grips with this revelation through his songwriting. At the end of the letter came acceptance: “I feel like a free man,” Ocean concluded. “If I listen closely … I can feel the sky falling too.” Frank Ocean isn't exactly trying to be a spokesperson for queer hip-hop. As Impact89FM puts it, “He's making an honest work that is too critical, too touching, too beautiful for the hip-hop community to ignore. And if they accept his work, they have to accept all that comes with it.”
Hunter Schafer is the model, actress, and activist that is quickly rising in popularity thanks to her role in the hit CW show, “Euphoria”. She is proud of her trans identity and prides herself in being able to express her androgyny while still being confident in her femininity. Schafer told Variety, “I do like people to know that I’m not a cisgirl because that’s not something that I am or feel like I am. I’m proud to be a trans person.” Her character, Jules on Euphoria, is also trans and is in a relationship with leading lady Rue (portrayed by Zendaya), which is a big step for LGBTQ representation in the media. In regards to her sexuality, Schafer has said that she is closer to what people might call a lesbian.
Being a celebrity comes with gaining an influence over others; you have a voice that can act as a source of inspiration for countless amounts of people. Thankfully, queer people are giving their community more exposure, and representation is being seen in more mediums than ever. Whether it’s their intention to speak for the community, there’s no denying that they can play a big part in normalizing your feelings and identity. Thanks to these people, I have found confidence in myself, and I hope that you have someone who can do the same for you.