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When Luck Beats a Lady: The Tragic Woman as Gay Icon

norma-desmondContinuing our series on gay icons, this week we look at the women we adore despite– or because of– the adversity they face, both real, imagined and self-inflicted. Now, to be totally honest, there’s a whiff of misogyny in our collective love of tragic women, though at the end of the day, who doesn’t love a good melodrama?

Whether they lived hard and fast and short or lingered on into a faded oblivion, these are the women who’ve inspired the gay community to keep your chin up no matter what the world throws at you– and that no problem can’t be solved with a sensible pump.

The Train Wreck
How You Know Her
Why You Quote Her/ Dress Up Like Her on Halloween
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Marilyn Monroe
The original blond bombshell Sure, Elton John was the “young man in the twenty-second row” who fell for her, but in recent years, Monroe’s image has gone from just being a pretty, pilled up face to one of a serious actress, whether stealing the scene in a All About Eve cameo or as a sexy divorcee in The Misfits.
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Judy Garland
You live on planet Earth Oh man, if we have to explain this one to you, you’re probably on the wrong site. A brilliant child actress who constantly sought approval from everyone she encountered and who died before her time. My college roommate would come home drunk and make us all watch her sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
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Britney Spears
Mousketeer to Muff Flasher A contemporary train-wreck, Britney Spears makes fantastic fluffy pop music, shaves her head when she’s upset and despite being treated as a cash cow by all who know her, still keeps getting up again and again.
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Lindsay Lohan
From Page Six Drugs, lesbianism and Disney would be enough to make anyone a tragic icon, but the weird codependent relationship with her mother makes Lohan the most likely to one day wander around a dilapidated mansion talking to rats.
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Katherine Hepburn
Iconoclastic leading lady Unlike most of the women on this list, Hepburn’s biggest tragedy came young, when her brother committed suicide. She channeled her pain into a career as a rules-breaking leading lady (as well as through a desire to cross-dress.) Her long affair with a married Spencer Tracy doesn’t hurt, either.
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Lana Turner
The original Schwab’s discovery. Dubbed “The Sweater Girl” for her form-fitting look, Turner married seven guys, never shied away from the fact she liked boys “and boys like me” and had her 14-year-old daughter stab one of her ex-boyfriends while she watched.
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Liza Minelli
Cabaret star We sort of feel bad putting Minellii on the list, but she has all the defining traits of a tragic heroine: pills, multiple husbands and an oversized diva’s approach to life.  Like the best tragic icons, Minelli has the good sense to kep getting up again and again.
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Eva Peron
Over-the top socialist political genius. “Little Eva” came from nothing, slept her way to the top of power and became a force for labor and women’s rights in Argentina, where she is still adored to this day, despite the emeral casket she was supposed to be interred in having gone missing. Side note: Argentines really hate the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
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Imelda Marcos
Over-the-top autocratic political dummy. Widow of Phillipines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda is most famous these days for her shoe collection, which numbers over 2500 pairs.  When not running for President, Marcos stands trial for the hundreds of crimes the Phillipines government keeps charging her with. She was acquitted last month in the most recent case.
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Tammy Faye Messner
Televangelist wife Married to con-man-of-God Jimmy Baker, Tammy Faye once presided over a television network and Christian theme park. The money went away, but that didn’t stop Tammy from living large– or marching in gay pride parades.
The Train Wreck
How You Know Her
Why You Quote Her/ Dress Up Like Her on Halloween