At this year’s American Music Awards (Nov. 19), Diana Ross will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to music. It goes without saying that the self-monikered “Boss” deserves the title after slaying the game for nearly 60 years starting with the iconic girl group The Supremes before becoming a magnetic solo act and all-round superstar.
As a large portion of her fan base, the LGBTQ community has considered the legendary diva an OG gay icon for her dynamic personality and inspirational rise to the top. Billboard Pride celebrates The Boss’ latest accolade with six reasons on why she’s earned the title of gay icon.
Her Glitz & Glamour Has Always Been Admirable
Her fellow Supreme, Mary Wilson, reflected on how the girl group had a massive gay following. The legendary singer told GayStarNews “I think because we were so glamorous that it automatically was a great attraction for the gay community.” With straightened hair and shimmering gowns, the Supremes remained a style inspirations during their heyday and afterwards. After departing for solo superstardom, Ross would make the hair and outfits bigger and glitzier to match her diva attitude and stage presence. No wonder she has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The drag superstar has made it no secret that Diana Ross is his childhood idol. He’s co-starred in the music video for her cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” and referenced her in his music. The diva has also appeared on RuPaul’s self-titled Vh1 talk show in 1996.
Her Thoughts On Gay Marriage Were Ahead of Its Time
“Love is love and maybe you don’t need it to be legal,” The Boss, Ms. Ross told The Advocate in 1999. She continued: “It seems like girls, guys, whatever, should be able to live together without a legal contract.” Although this was seen as a soft answer, it actually spoke volumes for its timing echoing a sentiment that people should be in love with their soulmates, no matter the gender, and no one or court of law should judge otherwise.
Superstar on the Big Screen
We at Billboard Pride can’t fail to recognize The Boss as an Academy Award nominated lead actress. Her role as Billie Holiday in 1972’s Lady Sings The Blues earned her the nod. It’s far from her only memorable role: she falls in love as supermodel Tracy in Mahogany and eases “on down the road” alongside Michael Jackson in The Wiz.
It’s widely speculated that the Broadway production turned motion picture is based on the drama of the Supremes, Berry Gordy, and Motown. If this is the case, the lead character Deena is a subtle depiction of Diana Ross. In a metaphorical moment of passing the baton, another lead singer from a girl group who’d go on to be a mega-selling solo star would play Deena. It’s safe to say, we all know who that is.
“I’m Coming Out” Is The Ultimate Gay Anthem
July 12, 1979 will forever be known as the day disco died. That night, rockists filled Chicago’s Comiskey Park to destroy and burn tons of records in a Disco Demolition. Soon the genre was deemed uncool, and artists found themselves avoiding it to please consumers. The following year, Diana Ross went against the trend, and released a disco heavy self-titled album which included “Upside Down” and her boldest career single, “I’m Coming Out.”
After attending a drag performance featuring various Diana Rosses, songwriter Nile Rodgers wanted to embrace the fall of disco with a flamboyantly, rebellious anthem. He noted that the jam was also influenced by the Disco Demolition Night, where he realized no black or LGBT people were in attendance, basically categorizing the infamous event as racist and homophobic towards the true fans of the genre. The song reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and would later on become a stepping stone for those truly needing to come out. In 2016, “I’m Coming Out” topped Billboard Pride’s list of gay anthems.
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