One of the world’s most iconic entertainers is hitting the big 7-0 today, and there’s never been a better time to get on your feet and commemorate The Boss with a dance party at your desk.
The legendary Diana Ross is not just an entertainer — she’s a pioneer, an ally, and an inspiration to a majority of the chart-topping superstars that sprung in her wake. Today, on her 70th birthday, we celebrate the record-setting career that inspired a community to Come Out, compelled the world to Survive, and turned the dancefloor Upside Down.
She embraced the gay community from the start
Diana Ross became the patron saint of gays in 1979 when she recorded “I’m Coming Out”, her second hit single that went on to become an instant gay anthem, which was played during “coming out” montages on television for decades to come and christened the dance floor of every disco since.
Songwriter Nile Rodgers reportedly wrote the song after watching three drag queens dressed as Diana Ross perform in New York City.
She gives Detroit a good name
We really don’t have to explain that the city of Detroit, Michigan gets a bad rap. But people often forget that in its glory days, Detroit paved the way for the automotive industry and Motown, a music genre that would shape the future of modern-day hip-hop.
Specifically, Ross grew up in the now-demolished Brewster Projects, a public housing neighborhood that also raised Mary Wilson, Lily Tomlin, and RuPaul.
She inspired Dreamgirls
If it weren’t for Diana Ross and the tumultuous first years of her career, Broadway would never have been blessed with Dreamgirls, Beyoncé would never have been nominated for a Golden Globe award, and Jennifer Hudson would never have sang “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going“.
The character Deena Jones was directly inspired by Diana Ross, and even though she technically has never seen the film, that doesn’t mean it’s any less iconic.
She paved the way for African American artists to find mainstream success
Diana Ross and Motown Records single-handedly brought African American music to the forefront of American culture in the 1960’s, and fought for the right to be accepted as equal on predominantly white radio. She later brought African American culture and soul music to television by starring in Mahogany (1975) and The Wiz (1978).
She went on to inspire the careers of Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Kelly Rowland, Lil’ Kim, Solange, Fergie, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J Blige, Leona Lewis, RuPaul, Rihanna and Nicole Scherzinger.
She performed in a 95-degree torrential downpour
As a testament to just how far Miss Ross would go for her unwavering fans, the unbreakable diva performed for 450,000 fans in Central Park in 1983 despite the sweltering heat and a downpour so thick she could barely open her eyes. “It took me a lifetime to get here, and I’m not going anywhere,” she told her fans.
The event became so iconic that it was memorialized in a 30-year anniversary DVD released last year, Diana Ross: Live In Central Park.
She is literally “the most successful female artist in history”
Miss Ross holds a Guinness Book record for being “the most successful female entertainer in history,” boasting more hits than any female artist in the charts with a career total of 70 hit singles and more than 100 million records sold worldwide.
She, along with The Supremes, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. She is also one of few artists who have two different stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
She shut down West Hollywood to perform with RuPaul
In 1996, she showed her true colors as a diehard LGBT ally by inviting Mama Ru to perform “I Will Survive” with her on a stage in the middle of Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Gay icon status certified.