Blame our need to be accepted, but we queers tend to be over-achievers. Some of us seem able to do everything. Like Ricky Martin, for instance. We all knew he was gay before he came out it on his blog because he was just too good at too many different things. A bilingual Latin pop-singing sensation with international appeal raising two sons with his “friend” and running his own charity against child trafficking? Puh-leaze… of course he’s gay! Only someone used to keeping a secret identity could juggle so many commitments while save the world on top of it all. But he’s only one of the 10 giving-est homos, lesbians, and bisexuals we found that work as hard entertaining us as they do at saving those less fortunate.
Let’s meet the superheroes.
WHO IS HE?: The altar boy turned musical theater/soap opera actor is the biggest Puerto-Rican pop sensation since Menudo (which he was also in).
BEST KNOW FOR HIS CHARITY WORK WITH: The Ricky Martin Foundation which fights child trafficking and also promotes health, educational, and disaster initiatives for kids worldwide.
WHY HE MATTERS: As a bilingual entertainer, he’s got worldwide appeal in English and Spanish-speaking countries. Combined with his warmth, good looks and love of children, he’s the ideal ambassador for the young.
QUOTE: “Traveling the world from an early age and witnessing unimaginable crimes against humanity has stolen part of the innocence that I had as a young boy. But that moment of disconnection was many years ago, and thanks to the work that I do with my foundation as a part of my daily life, I’m fortunate enough to say that I have reconnected with that inner child and continue to learn from him. One of the most important things I have learned is to SHOUT to the world when I encounter injustice…”
Some folks greeted Ricky Martin’s coming out with a collective “Meh,” saying that they’d known for years and that it would have mattered more 10 years ago at the height of his American popularity. But that overlooks his continued widespread appeal throughout the Spanish-speaking world. After the Haiti earthquake, he used his celebrity to help fundraise for Habitat for Humanity. He got other celebrities (like the Black Eyed Peas, Will Smith, the Jonas Brothers, Justin Timberlake, U2, and Stevie Wonder) to donate signed hardhats for an auction to encouraged a ton of other celebs to make a PSA encouraging donations to the earthquake’s youngest victims and their families.
WHO IS SHE?: The 1980’s “female Sienfeld” came out to Oprah WInfrey in 1997, dated bisexual space-case Anne Heche until 2000, landed her own talk show in 2003, married actress Portia de Rossi in 2008, and replaced Paula Abdul as an American Idol judge in 2009.
BEST KNOWN FOR HER CHARITY WORK WITH: The Humane Society which fights to end the cruel treatment and suffering of animals.
WHY SHE MATTERS: As a comedian she can deliver messages about animal suffering, breast cancer, and racism with a teaspoon of sugar to make the serious issues go down easy.
QUOTE: (at the 79th Academy Awards) “What a wonderful night, such diversity in the room, in a year when there’s been so many negative things said about people’s race, religion and sexual orientation. And I want to put this out there: if there weren’t blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars, or anyone named Oscar, when you think about that.”
Just as she’s proved herself to be an able dancer, comedian, and talk show host, DeGeneres is also a versatile humanitarian working with over 20 charities including Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Artists Against Racism, and Musicians on Call (which brings live and recorded music to hospital patients). Most recently, she got turned into a comic book character in Female Force, a series chronicling the lives of influential American women like Michelle Obama and Hiklary Clinton. The comics’ proceeds will go to the Humane Society.
WHO IS SHE?: The bisexual American actress has grown up in front of the camera, spent her career playing strong-willed women, and has recently spoken out for LGBT rights in Prop 8 protests.
BEST KNOWN FOR HER CHARITY WORK WITH: The United Nations World Food Programme which gets food to victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. The UNWFP named Barrymore an Ambassador Against Hunger in 2007. Since then, she has donated over $1 million to the program.
WHY SHE MATTERS: She’s advocated for passage of a Department of Argiculture bill which would feed millions of school children in the US each year, employing lots of farmers, food manufacturers, and school workers as a result.
QUOTE: “Feeding a child at school is such a simple thing – but it works miracles. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. School feeding not only fills stomachs, but has a proven track record of boosting enrollment, attendance and academic performance. For just pennies a day per child, this program changes lives – and ultimately can impact the futures of poor countries around the world in a profound way.”
Since her breakout role with E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial, Barrymore has always been a spokesperson for different charities and movements. She infamously attended Studio 54 as a little girl, tried cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana by age 12, and had a full-blown cocaine addiction at 13. She ended up in rehab and joined up with Nancy Reagan soon afterwards as a child spokesperson for the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Barrymore later formed the successful film production company, Flower Films, which releases romantic comedies (and helped make Jake Gyllenhaal’s career via Donnie Darko). Thus, she’s positioned very well to address younger audiences as she speaks out in favor of young voter registration for Declare Yourself and as an advocate against animal cruelty for Much Love and The Rescue Train. GLAAD will recognize her positive portrayals of lesbian characters and protests against Prop 8 with a Media Award this year.
WHO IS HE?: An actor who played child doctor on TV’s Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989), a drug-crazed lecherous version of himself in the Harold and Kumar stoner comedies (2004/2008), Dr. Horrible in the award-winning web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog (2008), a womanzer in the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and the host of every awards show ever.
BEST KNOWN FOR HIS CHARITY WORK WITH: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a cancer cure institute which he advocated after his partner’s mother died of leukemia.
WHY HE MATTERS: Harris has “crossover appeal.” He’s well-liked amongst both straight and gay audiences. And his recent MC work and surprise appearance at the most recent Oscars have given him the stage to speak out against AIDS and gay teen suicide to an even larger audience.
QUOTE: “The public eye has always been kind to me, and until recently I have been able to live a pretty normal life. Now it seems there is speculation and interest in my private life and relationships. So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love a lot.”
As a media savvy ‘mo, Harris deftly combines charity, advertising, and entertainment in his humanitarianism. For example, he donated his winnings in a guest appearance on Wheel of Fortune to Children International. He agreed to get splashed into a dunking booth on Ellen DeGeneres’ show so that Microsoft would then donate $10,000 towards her breast cancer drive. And to those who get down on NPH for playing a straight poon hound on How I Met Your Mother, you should know he also sang a gay duet of “Take Me Or Leave Me” (from Rent) to raise money for the LGBT Community Center of New York at their annual event, Broadway Backwards.
WHO IS HE?: Although he’s recently become tabloid fodder for his drug arrests, the androgynous British singer first became famous as frontman for the “blue-eyed soul” group, Culture Club. Fun Fact: The band used to be called Sex Gang Children, which is an infinitely better name.
BEST KNOWN FOR HIS CHARITY WORK WITH: Children With AIDS, an organization that provides practical, emotional and educational support for children affected by HIV and their families. He appeared as a special guest at their 2009 benefit.
WHY HE MATTERS: He’s been a gay icon for decades and continues to experiment with music in solo projects and collaborations. He’s also got his own fashion line, B-Rude, which he says is fun, flashy clothing for the disenfranchised—more Debbie Harry than Paris Hilton.
QUOTE: “Part of me looks at the gay movement now and worries that we’re losing our individuality… A lot of what I’ve been learning in the last two years is due to therapy – about my sexuality, why things go wrong, why relationships haven’t worked. It isn’t anything to do with anybody else; it’s to do with me.”
Apart from his work with Children With AIDS, he had a lead vocal role on the Band Aid international hit single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”—it was the biggest selling single in UK singles chart history. Proceeds from the single were donated to feed famine victims in Africa. Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, George Michael, Kool and the Gang, Sting, Bono and Adam Clayton of U2, Phil Collins, Paul Weller, Bananarama, and many others worked on the single as well. He’s also served as the pin-up boy for MAC Cosmetic’s Viva Glam lipstick line, which donates a portion of proceeds to help those infected with HIV.
WHO IS HE?: A Scottish-born actor who’s done work on TV, film, stage, and the occasional musical. You might smell like him.
BEST KNOWN FOR HIS CHARITY WORK WITH: Norm-UK, a voluntary organization which gives men medically supported advice on circumcision and the foreskin. Cumming considers circumcision an unnecessary genital mutilation.
WHY HE MATTERS: He’s got his talented fingers in lots of charitable pies, many of them devoted towards fighting homophobia and AIDS, advancing LGBT health, and promoting world peace; no, really.
QUOTE: “Actually I like working kind of fast, because if you got it, why bother doing it over and over? I like working on things that are very different and that involve different disguises. It is not hard to feel like an outsider. I think we have all felt like that at one time or another.”
Cumming does metric tons of charity work all over the world. Back in his home country, he’s a patron of Scottish Youth Theater, Scotland’s National Theatre ‘for and by’ young people. He’s modeled kilts for Dressed to Kilt, a fundraiser gala for paralyzed, wounded, and hospitalized veterans. He also walked the Great Wall of China to raise money for the American Foundation for AIDS Research “Treat Asia” program.
On this side of the world, the bisexual-identified LGBT rights campaigner has held a comedy benefit for the Trevor Project, performed on behalf of several AIDS charities—including AMFAR and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS—and is a member of the Creative Coalition, a non-profit that raises awareness about a variety of social issues (from artistic education to campaign finance). For a while, he donated 20% of the profits from his Cumming fragrance-line to the Empire State Pride Agenda, a lobbying group for gay rights in New York State and across the country. He’s a recipient of GLAAD’s Vito Russo Award, a recipient of the San Francisco Human Rights Campaign’s Humanitarian Award, and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to film, theatre and the arts and activism for LGBT rights.
WHO IS SHE?: One of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 funniest people in America. In 2009, she became the first openly gay black woman ever to speak at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. While there, she called Rush Limbaugh “the 20th hijacker” and offered to waterboard Fox News’ Sean Hannity for charity. Fun.
BEST KNOWN FOR HER CHARITY WORK WITH: Soles4Souls, a charity facilitating the donation of shoes to needy folks worldwide. She spoke for its “50KShoes” campaign to help get 1.3 million shoes to Haitian earthquake survivors.
WHY SHE MATTERS: Despite The Wanda Sykes Show’s shaky premiere, she’s still one of the hardest working comedians today. To be female, African American, and openly gay on top of it makes her a perfect liaison between queers and communities of color. Her sharp politically-incorrect observations cut to the bone in jaw-dropping “I can’t believe you just said that” style while making you feel like part of the joke rather than the butt of it.
QUOTE: “If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it. If you’re passionate about your work, it makes the people around you want to be involved too… I think [comedy’s] harder for women because comedy is so opposite of being ladylike. But I try to massage it a little and not be as cutting, come behind it with a joke: Hey, I cut you deep, but now let me put a couple of stitches in you. It’s easier to rip somebody to shreds while you’re making them laugh.”
Maybe you first saw the Emmy-award winning comedienne hosting Comedy Central’s Premium Blend or in the “Buy, Buy Baby” episode of Will and Grace. No sooner had she come out at a Las Vegas Prop 8 protest in 2008, than she began appearing in GLSEN’s Think Before You Speak campaign against the expression, “That’s So Gay.” She’s performed for GLAAD and recently appeared in Cyndi Lauper’s We Give A Damn campaign supporting a new New York LGBT youth center and equal rights for the LGBT community overall. She scored the 35th spot in Out magazine’s 2009 Power 50 List. But what’s really exciting is that her career just seems to keep going up. Who knows what audience and influence she’ll have in five or 10 years… and what unbelievable things she might do with it!
WHO IS SHE?: This former cheerleader, straight-A student, spelling bee champ, and Girl Scout is now a fashion designer, actress, and rapper with the soul-pop group Black Eyed Peas.
BEST KNOWN FOR HER CHARITY WORK WITH: The Peapod Foundation, an organization founded by Black Eyed Peas with the broad aims of addressing “social issues affecting children worldwide.” The Black Eye Peas played a Peapod fundraiser to provide four-year college scholarships to students of great financial need.
WHY SHE MATTERS: After joining the Black Eyed Peas, the band scored it’s first #1 hit in U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. The West coast rapper’s racked up quite a few music awards and is gaining popularity through her solo and international career. Her growing influence gives her a podium to speak about HIV and environmental issues affecting the Mexican, Irish, Scottish and Native American communities of which she is a part.
QUOTE: “I started doing Ecstasy. Then I got addicted to crystal methamphetamine. My weight dropped to 90lb. I lied to my friends and said I was bulimic. Finally I started going crazy. In that moment I talked to God and He said: ‘I’ve given you all these gifts, so what are you doing?’ I decided to get clean. I told everybody what was wrong. I’m very lucky. You know, I started in show business at about seven years old. That’s why I feel so appreciative of everything now because I’ve been working hard at this all my life.”
Fergie’s musical ambitions, bisexuality, and diverse ethnic background have all put her in a unique position to become a great humanitarian entertainer to many different communities. So far, Fergie has helped the M·A·C AIDS Fund support people affected by HIV/AIDS worldwide by hawking VIVA GLAM lipsticks (just ike Ongina from RuPaul’s Drag Race). She sold her Hummer on e-Bay to raise money for Global Green, an anti-nuke eco-design organization. She was also one of 23 major female artists (like Madonna, Melissa Etherdige, Dido, Pink, Shakira, and Céline Dion) to perform on Annie Lennox’s Sing single and help raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. By spearheading a fundraising initiative of her own, she could set herself as a powerful demi-goddess in the queer pantheon of humanitarian entertainers.
WHO IS HE?: This accomplished renaissance man of TV, radio, stage, film, literature, and music is mega-famous in his native UK. He ranked 6th in the BBC’s Top Living Icon Award and was called “the most intelligent man in television” and the second most influential gay person in Britain. You may know him from his film roles: he played Oscar Wilde in the 1997 film Wilde, a closeted late night talk show host in 2005’s V for Vendetta and the Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton’s 2008 version of Alice in Wonderland.
BEST KNOWN FOR HIS CHARITY WORK WITH: Equilibrium and Mind, two organizations seeking to treat and understand bipolar disorder. Fry made award-winning documentary about his own mental health struggles in 2006 called, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.
WHY HE MATTERS: He’s involved in numerous charities and has got millions of fans who hang on his every word. Fry crashed the Elephant Family auction website with a single Tweet when he offered to kiss the highest bidder. He now boasts over 1.4 million Twitter followers and growing…
QUOTE: “We judge ourselves by our ability to make a difference. Not noisily or with sanctimonious complacency, but deep inside, in that still small place where we really talk to ourselves.”
Over his 28-year rise to fame, the charming comedic intellectual has become one of the most influential entertainers in the world. He uses that power to mobilize his army of Twitter followers by tweeting about the artists and social issues that engage him most. For example, a tweet about Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir over her article on deceased Boyzone member Stephen Gately, caused his followers to set upon her, eventually pressuring her to issue an apology. His followers also tend to crash the websites of his favorite charities with thousands of visits moments after he tweets about AIDS, animal conservation, and children in need. Fry’s also a supporter of the Free Software Foundation which encourages community-created computer applications by sharing of open-sourced programming among its members.
WHO IS SHE?: You’re kidding, right? She’s only the hottest international glam pop sensation going with over ten million albums and over thirty-five million singles sold worldwide.
BEST KNOWN FOR HER CHARITY WORK WITH: The Haiti earthquake relief effort. She donated all the January 24th proceeds from her Monster Ball tour and online store to Haiti relief—it was over $500,000.
WHY SHE MATTERS: She’s a spectacular pop-icon with a big love for the gay community which helped her get her start. Not only did she speak out for LGBT rights at the National Equality March, but she’s also done a lot of fundraising for homeless LGBT youth and against AIDS.
QUOTE: “I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but I’ve made it my goal to revolutionise pop music. The last revolution was launched by Madonna 25 years ago. When I’m writing music, I’m thinking about the clothes I want to wear on stage. It’s all about everything altogether—performance art, pop performance art, fashion. For me, it’s everything coming together and being a real story that will bring back the super-fan. I want to bring that back. I want the imagery to be so strong that fans will want to eat and taste and lick every part of us.”
During her Monster Ball Tour, Lady Gaga offered premium VIP tickets to fans who volunteered at homeless youth organizations, “which raised more than $80,000 in proceeds… and generated 30,000 hours of community service for hundreds of charities across the country.” She raised $35,000 in a benefit concert for Virgin Unite, an organization fighting to stop the spread of “the Big 3” (Malaria, HIV and AIDS) worldwide. She also called her participation at the National Equality March the biggest moment of her career, saying, “I’ve got so many gay fans and they’re so loyal to me and they really lifted me up. They’ll always stand by me and I’ll always stand by them… I will always fight for the gay community…” God bless you, you wonderful monster, you.
[Charity information collected via LookToTheStars.org]