10 LGBTQ+ stars dominating the second half of 2023, from Kit Connor to Kim Petras
Hollywood has been crammed full of queer talent for years, obviously, but now more than ever, in (almost) every TV show, on the big screen, on stage and on streaming services, our queer stars are shinning.
As we pass the mid-way point of 2023, here’s a comprehensive look at just some of the many LGBTQ+ celebrity artists slaying this year.
Kit Connor has arguably been “having a moment” for the past few years. He’s just 19, but has already starred as a young Elton John in the Oscar-winning Rocketman and bagged a recurring voice role in BBC’s His Dark Materials.
Then there’s a sweet little series called Heartstopper. Last year, Connor achieved international recognition for his role as benevolent rugby boy Nick Nelson. At times, his new-found fame has come at a cost: last year, some fans hounded him into revealing that he is bisexual.
Plus, he’s got some thrilling projects coming up: he’s playing lead Orion Maxwell in the upcoming film remake of YA novel A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, and he’s entering his scream king era in mystery horror flick One of Us.
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Bella Ramsey’s role as the fierce and fiery Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones was something of a training ground for the star they would become in 2023.
Thanks to their lead role in post-apocalyptic The Last of Us, alongside Pedro Pascal – easily one of the best TV shows of the year, if not the decade – 19-year-old Ramsey has been catapulted into A-list stardom.
As a non-binary actor, Ramsey’s success is a huge win for queer Hollywood. It’s likely to be a while until we get to see season two of HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama, but in the meantime, they’ve already lined up an impressive list of projects to ensure that the public knows they’re here to stay.
First up, there’s Ramsey’s voice role as Molly in Netflix’s upcoming comedy Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, the long-awaited sequel to the award-winning 2000 animated film.
The phrase “overnight success” is often overused, but with Ice Spice, it fits like a glove. The 23-year-old, queer Bronx rapper entered this year on the cusp of fame – fans knew she was about to make it big, but no one could predict quite how big.
In February, her single with British singer PinkPantheress, “Boy’s A Liar Pt. 2” hit the top three in charts across the globe. Since then, the phones have clearly not stopped ringing.
In the past few weeks alone, she’s collaborated with the world’s biggest pop star Taylor Swift, and released her second collaboration with the queen of rap Nicki Minaj. Oh, and that single is from the soundtrack of the much-talked-about, hugely hyped Barbie.
While the 24-year-old star found fame before this year with minor roles in Love, Victor and American Horror Stories, taking a huge queer series into Netflix’s top 10 most-watched list feels like a whole different ball game.
And considering she recently came out as a trans woman, 2023 feels like a complete, glorious rebirth for Miss Benny – and one we can’t wait to witness.
Although Lukas Gage, 28, has starred in small roles in both TV and film since 2014, he arguably got his big break in 2021, and in a unique way: being rimmed by Murray Bartlett in The White Lotus.
Ever since his expert anilingus, Gage has been somewhat difficult to avoid. His stardom received a nice boost earlier this year, too, when he came out and married celebrity stylist Chris Appleton in front of Kim Kardashian and Shania Twain.
His biggest TV role this year was in Netflix’s You, as part-time rich kid and full-time irritant Adam Pratt. While his character arc was wrapped up in his hasty marriage to Lady Phoebe, his scene stealing moment came in the form of receiving a golden shower from a waiter.
If you thought a theme was emerging, you’d be right. His next big movie is the filthy, twink-centric Down Low alongside Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, which reportedly opens with a scene in which Gage’s character, Cameron, gives the Star Trek stalwart the happiest of endings.
To give Gage his dues, though, it’s clear that he’s branching out, and has the potential to become one of the most exciting queer film stars of 2023. Alongside Down Low, he’s also got action film Road House – a remake of the Patrick Swayze vehicle from 1989 – coming up, alongside big hitter Jake Gyllenhaal, while his performance in this year’s Parachute signals a star on the rise.
Kyle Ramar Freeman
When the Tony-award-winning, Broadway-conquering musical A Strange Loop was confirmed to be coming to the UK earlier this year, there was a lot of excitement. Rightfully so: the “big, Black and queer-a*s great American musical” was bringing over a production team including Jennifer Hudson, Billy Porter and Mindy Kaling.
But it’s the show’s shining star, actor Kyle Ramar Freeman, who deserves much of the praise. He featured as an understudy for the role of Usher, a young, gay, Black theatre usher, who’s writing a musical about writing a musical (hence the loop).
In the London version, though, he’s in the spotlight. He’s Usher, not the understudy, and if the reviews are anything to go by, A Strange Loop will ignite a very bright end to 2023 for Freeman.
“The script is punchy and complex, but it falls to Freeman to make sense of it all,” PinkNews wrote in a review of the show earlier this month. “Fortunately, he makes easy work of it. His vocals are flawless and he inhabits the character effortlessly.”
And so it has. At the Grammy awards earlier this year, she and Sam made history once again by becoming the first trans and non-binary stars to win the Best Pop Duo Performance award. Just months later, and she’s collaborated with Nicki Minaj, graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and released her debut album, “Feed The Beast”.
When Noah Schnapp came out as gay in a TikTok that was as hilarious as it was heart-warming earlier this year, he instantly became one of Gen-Z’s biggest queer stars on the rise.
Yes, he’s played Hawkins’ resident nerdy queer kid Will Byers in Stranger Things since 2016, but his career is already promising to become much more than the retro sci-fi horror.
First seen in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War drama Bridge of Spies (as Tom Hanks’ son), earlier this year he starred in psychological thriller The Tutor alongside Victorious star Victoria Justice, while he’s drawn praise for his roles in films including 2020’s Waiting for Anya and Abe.
As Schnapp gears up to face Vecna in the fifth and final season of Stranger Things next year, the rest of Hollywood is his oyster. Plus, which other 18-year-old can say they’ve won an MTV award, People’s Choice Award and Screen Actors Guild Award?
The new generation of LGBTQ+ stars are acutely aware just how much authentic representation matters. Done are stereotypes and tropes, in 2023, audiences deserve honest, accurate depictions of queer lives.
No one knows that more than Jerrie Johnson. The actor, who has starred in Amazon’s Prime Video series Harlem, as queer dating app entrepreneur Tye since 2021, has gone as far to say that she would’ve asked the writers to “rewrite the script” if she thought it played into stereotypes.
Harlem follows four women living in the New York neighbourhood, navigating life in their 30s. While Johnson is one of four lead actors, she knows her character is giving “main character energy”.
If Harlem continues to emulate the success of its first two seasons with the upcoming third, Johnson will know exactly what it means to be a main character – casting directors will be begging her to take lead roles by the dozen.
To go from starring in BBC’s Saturday-night long-running Casualty in 2021 to HBO’s giant House of the Dragon in less than a year is quite a remarkable feat – but 20-year-old Emily Carey did it with ease.
The queer actor starred in the BBC medical drama as helicopter crash survivor Grace Beauchamp from 2014, when she was just 10 years old. But in the past 12 months, it feels as though her career is blowing up big time.
Alongside her role as young Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon, she’s been booked alongside Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Freddie Highmore in a remake of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost, as well as in a starring role in breakdancing feature Breaking Point.
It’s all happening on the small screen, too. Later this year, she’ll star in her first fully fledged lead role in Netflix’s adaptation of YA novel Geek Girl, as the “awkward, neurodiverse” teenager Harriet, who is head-hunted to become a model.
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