The past year in entertainment has been groundbreaking. We’re all over television in series such as How To Get Away With Murder, Looking, American Horror Story and RuPaul’s Drag Race. We’re the focus of movies great (The Danish Girl) and not-so-great (Stonewall). We’re on the music charts with Adam Lambert and Sam Smith, to name but two awesome musicians. Plus, we have straight allies like James Franco, Ariana Grande, Madonna and Nick Jonas who helped make 2015 a banner year for queer-themed entertainment.
Here are 11 entertainers — some queer, some straight, all fabulous — who kept us consistently thrilled since New Year’s Day. Cast a vote for your favorite in the poll below.
The filmmaker of the Oscar-winning drama Precious is already a favorite with Queerty readers for showcasing Zac Efron dancing in wet white undies in The Paperboy, but truly became a household name with Empire, his buzzy hit series about the music industry that launched the smoldering Jussie Smollet to fame and introduced the world to the fierceness that is Cookie Lyon.
Although One Big Happy, the lesbian-centric sitcom she produced, was swiftly axed, Ellen DeGeneres continued to use her popular daytime chat show as a platform to draw attention to LGBTQ issues, giving free money to cute couples and just being endlessly entertaining. She also made this always-shirtless guy semi-famous.
Zac Efron deserves a place on this list just for boldly impersonating James Franco’s foreskin, if for no other reason. OK, maybe all of his films aren’t hits (did anyone see We Are Your Friends?), but he’s never been shy at offering us some tasty eye candy, which he’ll do again when he stars in the big screen adaptation of Baywatch.
The out filmmaker, best known for apocalyptic blockbusters, surely had good intentions when he decided to direct Stonewall, about the most pivotal moment in the LGBTQ rights struggle. We know where good intentions lead, right? The controversial film bombed big time with critics and moviegoers alike and was laughed out of theaters within two weeks, grossing a total of $187,674! Still, let’s give it up for the man who’s given us what could be the campiest film since Showgirls.
There’s never been an actor quite like James Franco. The envelope-pushing entertainer won’t stop gay-baiting us, not that we want him to anyway. This year alone the man has starred in or directed 437 films, including a movie about the real-life gay porn murder scandal. He also interviewed himself to find out if he really is gay. As if that wasn’t enough he also performed as a wild west saloon girl, Carrie Bradshaw and Suzanne Somers!
Ariana Grande’s incredible pipes have garnered her scores of fans and two number one singles so far. The golden-throated, chart-topper also entertained us with a spectacular Dance on the Pier concert during New York’s Pride weekend and appeared in Ryan Murphy‘s horror-comedy series Scream Queens. She’s also a bona fide ally, thanks in part to her gay brother Frankie, and made a big impact when she told the world that she was raised in a household where being gay was no big deal.
Although his dramedy Looking struggled in the ratings and was sadly ultimately axed, Jonathan Groff will reprise his polarizing, eternally perplexed manchild Patrick in the upcoming two-hour finale to give us some much-needed closure. Besides an appearance in an inspiring video for the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation, Groff rebounded with Hamilton, the most wildly-acclaimed Broadway musical in eons (Beyonce was so impressed she told him she’s stealing his moves).
The former purity ring-wearing boy bander went solo, might have hooked up with a guy or two, played gay, often-nude characters in his series Kingdom and Scream Queens, performed in gay bars, professed his love for queer fans, but really got us going with his sexy photo shoots.
The Queen has always been and will always be on this list. Her wacky Instagram account is a source of constant bemusement, but her Rebel Heart tour reaped raves and entertained countless fans around the globe. Bitch, she’s Madonna!
With Glee ending and the beloved Jessica Lange splitting from his hit American Horror Story anthology series, Ryan Murphy remained at the forefront of the entertainment industry by convincing Lady Gaga to take the lead in AHS: Hotel, gave Cheyenne Jackson a job and created a new series, Scream Queens, that gave Nick Jonas another opportunity to get undressed in front of the camera. Keep up the great work, Ryan!
The undisputed “it girl” of 2015, Amy Schumer seemed to have everything (a hit series Inside Amy Schumer and movie Trainwreck) and be everywhere (a sold-out stand-up tour), she became besties with Jennifer Lawrence, photobombed a gay couple’s engagement pics and bitch even opened for Madonna on a couple of her Rebel Heart concerts.