Though the fight for true equality and accurate representation remains ongoing, visibility of LGBTQ+ people in entertainment feels like it’s at an all-time high this year, and that’s worth recognizing and celebrating. In the days leading up to Pride Month, May ended with SNL’s season finale bestowing the stage to Lil Nas X, a proud openly gay Black man, and FX’s Pose featured the wedding of a transgender bride to a cisgender groom in a ceremony full of queer people of color. This kind of visibility was unimaginable when I was growing up in a small town in middle America during the late ’90s and early 2000s, an era when LGBTQ+ representation in entertainment felt non-existent or forced, merely as slivers of stereotypes.
Nearly 4 million people tuned in to watch those joyful televised moments. Keyword: joyful. Not traumatic. For far too long, our community’s trauma was often the only aspect of our lives depicted on film and TV. And while pain and struggle have undoubtedly been a part of many of our life experiences, we have also lived lives sprinkled with moments of growth and happiness. Sometimes, that growth comes from learning from the talented people who are paving the way for the next generation of people in the LGBTQ+ community. Among those talents are celebrities who are leveraging their voices and leading by example with their actions to increase visibility and encourage progress — all while keeping us entertained during a time in history when we’ve needed escapism the most.
For Pride Month, join us in celebrating LGBTQ+ leaders, starting with our June 8 launch day stars Mj Rodriguez, Tan France, Niecy Nash, Priyanka, and Beanie Feldstein, as they tell us what advice they would give to their 16-year-old selves and where they see themselves 16 years from now in 2037. Head over to Bustle’s 2021 Pride Yearbook to see their advice and read about their goals — and come back every Tuesday in June as we’ll be adding more interviews with your favorite LGBTQ+ entertainers each week.
What we’re watching, what we’re hearing, and what we’re experiencing in entertainment is gayer and more representative than ever. And while Bustle is shining the spotlight on these entertainers’ careers and personal lives (marriages and babies!) all June, know that Bustle is committed to highlighting them and other LGBTQ+ stars all year long. They’re not going anywhere. See them. Hear them. Respect them. Love them. Happy Pride!
Pride Yearbook Sneak Peek
What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
- Pose star Mj Rodriguez: “I was a little crazy and off the wall. The first thing I’d say is, “Girl, calm down. You won’t have to do that much.” But also, live and love harder. Make sure you never stop being true to Michaela Jaé. Never stop yourself for anybody.” Read Mj’s full story here.
- Queer Eye star Tan France: “If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to continue to be as effeminate as I want to be, and naturally am, without having to hide my feminine traits to appease the greater world, because that’s bull. I would tell myself to just have more fun and stop focusing on what I’ll be like in my 30s ... I was so stifled by all my grand plans for my life that I don’t think I ever took enough time to just smell the roses.” Read Tan’s full story here.
- Canada’s Drag Race winner Priyanka: “The advice I would give my 16-year-old self is just be gay. It would have been nice to go through high school as an open, out-of-the-closet gay man, because I know my story is part of the reason why my fans are so excited about me because they relate — they understand being in the closet. There was this suppression that was happening in high school that I wished wasn’t happening, but I didn’t know that at the time. I thought everything was normal.” Read Priyanka’s full story here.
- Claws star Niecy Nash: “My 16-year-old self was kind of popping. I think my 16-year-old self would need to give myself now some advice. I guess if I had to give my 16-year-old self any advice, it would be always take the time to feel what you feel, especially the dark things. Give yourself permission to feel it, but don’t stay there.” Read Niecy’s full story here.
- American Crime Story: Impeachment star Beanie Feldstein: “I would tell my 16-year-old self to value and honor her intellect. I went through a phase in the middle of high school where I did not think I was smart because I didn’t always get perfect grades. I lost my way a bit and started to underestimate my own brain. So, if I went back to 2009, I would tell myself: You are a smart and capable gal!” Read Beanie’s full story here.
2021 Pride Yearbook
To find out where these stars see themselves 16 years from now in 2037, head over to Bustle’s 2021 Pride Yearbook for their revealing answers and their candid Q&As.
Project Editor: Brian Anthony Hernandez
Designer: Margaret Flatley
Contributing Editors: Jessica Andrews, Shannon Barbour, Chloe Foussianes, Sam Rogers, Samantha Rollins
Contributing Writers: Mekita Rivas, Jake Viswanath, Jordyn Tilchen, Erica Campbell, Emlyn Travis, Hugh McIntyre, Jack Irvin, Arya Roshanian, Sam Ramsden, Alice Broster