RIP: Remember the beloved LGBTQ figures and allies we lost in 2022

Anne Heche, Leslie Jordan and Andre Leon Talley
Anne Heche, Leslie Jordan and André Leon Talley (Photos: Shutterstock)

Just a handful of the noteworthy names we mourned over the last 12 months.

Manfred Thierry Mugler, 73

French fashion designer Manfred Thierry Mugler died on January 22rd, 2022, aged 73.

Mugler was born and raised in Strasbourg, where he trained in his teens as a ballet dancer for six years. He relocated to Paris at the age of 24 and launched his eponymous fashion line in 1973. He opened his first boutique in 1978 and his fame skyrocketed in the 80s. In later years, he became as well known for his perfumes as his clothing.

“I didn’t have a problem with my sexuality or identity,’ Mugler told Fashion in 2019. “I had a problem with my family, and I had a problem with the world. I was feeling out of place, and I was feeling very miserable. I was in the ballet for six years, and no one in my family came to see me onstage; I was the ugly duckling who left the theatre alone. I guess I was too bizarre. I would watch the skies at night and look for the blue star and know that I had to hold on.”

Leslie Jordan, 67

Leslie Jordan in 2021
Leslie Jordan (Photo: Shutterstock)

The diminutive (4′ 11″) Leslie Jordan was already a much-loved, cult figure for his many TV appearances in such shows as Will & Grace and Sordid Lives by the time the pandemic came around. However, his fame shot to another level in the early months of 2020. He started posting short, funny Instagram videos about life in lockdown with his mom in Tennessee, and sharing memories from his life in the entertainment industry. He amassed a huge following.

Jordan went on to release his first album as a country artist and land a role in the sitcom, Call Me Kat. He passed, age 67, on October 24th, after crashing his car in Los Angeles. He suffered a medical emergency while driving.

Related: 5 times Leslie Jordan won our hearts

André Leon Talley, 73


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André Leon Talley, a pioneering, influential editor at Vogue magazine for more than three decades, died at the age of 73 on January 18. Besides Vogue, his byline also appeared in Vanity Fair, Women’s Wear Daily, W magazine, HG, and Interview. He edited Numero Russia and wrote several books, including a 2020, best-selling memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. He also served as a judge on America’s Next Top Model.

Standing six-foot, seven inches tall, Talley was a well-known figure on the front row of fashion shows around the world.

Kevin Conroy, 66

Actor Kevin Conroy died November 10, at the age of 66, following a short battle with cancer. Conroy, who was gay, was best known for playing the voice of Batman for over three decades, first in Batman: The Animated Series, and then in later shows and video games. He studied drama at Juilliard alongside Christopher Reeve and was a roommate of Robin Williams. He landed small roles in the 80s in Dynasty, Tour of Duty, and Ohara, but it was as a voice actor that he found his greatest success.

“Kevin was perfection,” said Star Wars legend Mark Hamill, who played the Joker opposite Conroy.

“He was one of my favorite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him — his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated.”

Anne Heche, 53

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Actress Anne Heche died following a car crash on August 5. Heche, who had cocaine in her system at the time, crashed her car into a house in Los Angeles. The vehicle burst into flames.

Heche suffered injuries and inhaled a fatal amount of smoke. She was declared brain-dead and taken off life support a few days later.

Heche’s career peaked in the late 90s with movies including ​​Volcano, Donnie Brasco, and the remake of Psycho. However, she made headlines with her high-profile relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. For a while, they were one of the most famous same-sex couples in the world, before splitting in 2000. Heche later said she believed the media attention harmed her career.

“The stigma attached to that relationship was so bad … I didn’t do a studio picture for 10 years. I was fired from a $10 million picture deal,” she later said.

Hunter Reynolds, 62


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Hunter Reynolds was an artist and HIV activist. He used his art to raise awareness around HIV as the virus wreaked havoc on the LGBTQ community in the 80s and 90s. Reynolds himself discovered he was HIV-positive in 1989. That same year, he created his drag persona, Patina du Prey, who featured in some of his work.

One of his most famous works was his Memorial Dress: a black gown with gold letters spelling out the names of 26,000 New Yorkers lost to the AIDS epidemic. Reynolds later recounted wearing the dress as performance art. He said some observers broke down in tears when they saw the name of someone they knew.

Reynolds died at his home in New York’s East Village on June 12, 2022.

Aaron Carter, 34

Aaron Carter

Singer Aaron Carter enjoyed a pop career in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was the younger brother of the Backstreet Boy’s Nick Carter. In 2018, on a podcast, he said he embraced his bisexuality. He later clarified his comments, saying he was talking more about a specific incident in his teenage years.

“I grew up in this entertainment industry at a very young age and when I was around 13 years old I started to find boys and girls attractive,” he wrote. “There were years that went by that I thought about, but it wasn’t until I was 17 years old, after a few relationships with girls, I had an experience with a male that I had an attraction to who I also worked with and grew up with.”

Aaron’s famed pop career faded in the mid-00s and he struggled with substance abuse and addiction issues. He died on November 5, aged 34.

Jim Kolbe, 80

Former Arizona GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe died on December 3. He served between 1984 and 2006. He came out as gay in 1996 after fearing he was going to be outed after voting against federal recognition of same-sex marriage. After stepping down from office, he married his partner, Hector Alfonso. He left the Republican Party in 2018, citing Donald Trump as the reason. He later wrote a guest column saying he would vote for Biden in 2020.

Kolbe sometimes found himself at loggerheads with those on the left and the right, “but no one could question his integrity and his love for Arizona,” said Alfonso after his husband’s death.

Kolbe himself once said, “I would rather be known as ‘Jim Kolbe, the trade expert in Congress who happens to be gay,’ rather than ‘Jim Kolbe, gay congressman from Arizona.’”

Angela Lansbury, 96

Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury at the Creative Emmy Awards in 2005 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Lansbury died on October 11. Although not LGBTQ, she was a longtime ally of the community and had a devoted queer following.

She had a long, successful career on both the stage and screen, earning plaudits on Broadway and for her big and small screen roles. To many, she will forever be remembered for the iconic role of Jessica Fletcher, the elderly detective star of the long-running Murder She Wrote. Besides her performances, she was also fondly remembered as standing up for women in the entertainment industry and raising millions of dollars for HIV-related charities.

Related: Let’s not forget what Angela Lansbury did during the worst years of the AIDS epidemic 

Olivia Newton-John, 73

Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John (Photo: Shutterstock)

Singer and actor Olivia Newton-John died at the age of 73 on August 8, 2022. Born in England, John was raised in Melbourne, Australia. She already had a successful music career when she was cast to play the role of Sandy in Grease in 1978. It went on to become one of the most successful movie musicals in history. She followed it up with the disco-tinged, camp classic, Xanadu.

John sold over 100 million albums, with her hit song, ‘Physical’, the biggest-selling staying at the top of the US charts for ten weeks in 1981. The video was groundbreaking for showing a pair of men holding hands.

John, who had a loyal gay following, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. She was successfully treated for the disease, but it was to return again in 2017. She founded her own cancer-related non-profit and was a vocal advocate for raising awareness of the disease that was to eventually take her.