17 LGBTQ+ people of colour who blazed a trail in the arts this year

LGBTQ+ people of colour rocking it in 2023.

It’s been a standout year for diverse LGBTQ+ talent, so we’ve created a roundup of the queer people of colour who have made their mark in the arts industry in 2023.

From newcomers to established talent, LGBTQ+ folks from marginalised communities have slayed this year – on screen, on the page and in our headphones.

We’ve witnessed TV history with Ncuti Gatwa’s casting as the first queer Black Time Lord in Doctor Who; seen our music playlists taken over by two-time Eurovision winner Loreen; and been blessed with heartfelt LGBTQ+ representation in cinema, with groundbreaking films such as Joyland.

So, drum roll please as we celebrate the changemakers who shook up the arts industry this year, and opened the door a little further for future generations of LGBTQ+ talent.

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Ncuti Gatwa

Ncuti Gatwa in a black and white shirt and black and yellow neck tie.
Ncuti Gatwa. (Getty/ Raimonda Kulikauskiene)

It feels foolish to start this list with anyone other than the man of the moment, Ncuti Gatwa.

The 31-year-old actor has been making onscreen magic as Eric in hit Netflix series Sex Education since 2019 and cemented his influence after making the TIME 100 list in 2022. And he is only going from strength to strength as his long-awaited stint as the Doctor in beloved British sci-fi series Doctor Who kicks off with a bang this Christmas.

As he stands up for authentic representation in media, we have no doubt Gatwa will to continue to blow fans away when he sets off on this new adventure in space and time.

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Jason Patel 

Jason Patel.
Jason Patel. (Getty)

It’s no understatement to say that Jason Patel is one to watch. This year has seen them growing their inclusive, joyously queer, music career.

But his biggest standout moment has to be their starring role in James Floyd’s Unicorns, opposite Ben Hardy. Unicorns, which premiered at London Film Festival to huge praise, highlights Patel as a force to be reckoned with on the acting scene, bringing much needed queer South Asian representation to the arts industry.

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Bob the Drag Queen

Bob the Drag Queen. (Provided)

Bob the Drag Queen already proved his star quality after winning the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race but since leaving the runway, he has continued to gag drag fans around the world with sickening outfits. Earlier this year, Bob dropped her first EP, Gay Barz.

It has to be said that this might just have been Bob’s biggest year yet. With the art of drag increasingly under attack across the US, Madonna – the Queen of Pop herself – announced Bob the Drag Queen as the support act for her global Celebrations tour.

We simply have to stan.

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Fawzia Mirza

Fawzia Mirza (L) with wife and producer Andria Wilson Mirza (R).
Fawzia Mirza (L) with wife and producer Andria Wilson Mirza (R). (Getty)

Pakistani-Canadian director Fawzia Mirza has wowed audiences over the past decade with her witty and heartfelt films that celebrate the LGBTQ+ Muslim experience at their heart.

This year saw a landmark moment in Mirza’s career after the premiere of her magnum opus, The Queen of My Dreams. The feature-length film, set across two countries and starring Sex Live of College Girls actor Amrit Kaur, has garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews.

With her offering of bold and fresh takes on time-honoured queer tales, this is one director we certainly haven’t see the last of yet.

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Rina Sawayama 

Rina Sawayama performs at Leeds Festival.
Rina Sawayama performs at Leeds Festival. (Getty)

Singer, actor and model Rina Sawayama is already huge, but this year saw her career climb to even greater heights with a star turn in the Keanu Reeves box office smash, John Wick 4.

Alongside her thriving music career, the pansexual pop star has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in Japan and added her name to the growing movement calling for UK prime minister Rishi Sunak to ban conversion therapy.

A singing powerhouse and activist queen? We cannot ask for more.

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Kai-Isaiah Jamal 

Kai-Isaiah Jamal slams UK government for 'trans cleansing'.
Kai-Isaiah Jamal. (Getty)

In the world of modelling, trans artist Kai Isaiah Jamal is bringing desperately needed LGBTQ+ representation to a historically cis, straight, white industry.

The model, poet and trans activist has steadily seen their star rise in recent years for their gender-inclusive fashion work with major brands such as Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Rhianna’s Fenty.

This culminated in Jamal receiving their well-deserved flowers at the British Fashion Awards as the first trans model to be nominated for the coveted Model of the Year award. The multi-talented creative took the opportunity to criticise the UK government for their well-documented anti-trans stance and accused them of “trans-cleansing”.

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Alina Khan 

Joyland
Joyland: Alina Khan (Getty)

Trans Pakistani actress Alina Khan made their mark as one of the global breakout artists of the year with their astounding and heart-wrenching performance in Saim Sadiq’s feature fim, Joyland.

Although the film originally came out in 2022, it received an international release earlier this year and was met with major acclaim as the first ever Pakistani film to be shortlisted for an Oscar – but missed out on a nomination.

Meanwhile, its impact moved British actor Riz Ahmed and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai to come on board as executive producers.

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Yasmin Finney 

British actress Yasmin Finney attends a red carpet event
Yasmin Finney. (Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Getty Images)

We’e breaking up the list with yet another Netflix star turned Doctor Who actor – this time with Yasmin Finney.

Trans actress Finney truly cemented her place as a rising star when she took on the role of Elle Argent in Netflix’s hit adaptation of Alice Oseman’s graphic novel Heartstopper. Now, she’s making history in Doctor Who as major out trans character Rose Noble, whose trans identity is integral to her saving the world.

After back-to-back roles in some of the biggest shows of the year, we’re certain this is only the beginning of Finney’s thriving career as she becomes a beacon of hope for countless trans youth across the country.

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Adiba Jaigirdar

Adiba Jaigirdar is changing the publishing industry one YA sapphic romance at a time. (Supplied/Hachette Children's Group)
Adiba Jaigirdar. (Supplied/Hachette Children’s Group)

Bangledeshi-Irish writer Adiba Jairgirdar is cooking up a storm in the publishing world with her diverse and joyous queer Young Adult novels.

This year saw two releases from the author: A Million to One and The Dos and Donuts of Love. Jaigridar joins just a handful of Bangladehi authors worldwide taking up space in fiction.

Explaining the driving force behind her work, Jairgirdar told PinkNews earlier this year: “There is someone out there who is looking for your story, and who needs your story. So, when I’m facing an obstacle I’m thinking about that person, because that person does exist and they’re waiting for you.”

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Jasmin Savoy Brown

Jasmin Savoy Brown
Jasmin Savoy Brown has addressed the lack of diversity in the horror genre. (Getty)

For the sapphic horror girlies, Jasmin Savoy Brown is the moment. The queer actor has captured the hearts of LGBTQ+ fans with her beloved roles in Scream VI as Mindy Meeks-Martin and cannibal survival thriller series Yellowjackets as Taissa.

Brown has been a defining part of queer horror in 2023 and more than deserves her flowers for it. She’s even spoken out about a lack of diversity in the genre.

Away from the screen, the actor also made headlines hard-launching her relationship with partner Anouk on Instagram.

Here’s to Mindy, the first explicit queer character in the Scream franchise – we can’t wait to see what barriers Brown breaks down in 2024.

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Ice Spice

Ice Spice.
Ice Spice. (Getty)

What standout year it has been for bisexual rapper Ice Spice. The 23-year-old artist was part of some of the biggest cultural waves 2023 had to offer.

From her “Barbie World” collab with Nicki Minaj – which soundtracked this year’s biggest blockbuster Barbie –to her partnership with the biggest pop artist today, Taylor Swift, it’s no wonder she landed the MTV VMAs Best New Artist award.

And all her hard work looks like it has paid off after scoring a Best New Artist nomination for the 2024 Grammys.

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Mawaan Rizwan

Mawaan Rizwan.
Mawaan Rizwan. (Getty)

British Asian comedian Mawaan Rizwan is frankly, hilarious. He wowed audiences with his laugh-out-loud, and yet surprisingly tender, six-episode BBC miniseries Juice opposite Russell Tovey earlier this year.

And then, you guessed it, made his way into the Whoniverse after starring as Dalek creator Davros in a tongue-in-cheek Doctor Who sketch opposite David Tennant for Children In Need.

Rizwan’s offbeat original work has quickly carved him out as a fresh and unique voice within the British cultural landscape. And he’s doing it all with a truly stunning wardrobe, because he also happens to be a stylish icon. What’s not to love?

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Loreen

Sweden's Eurovision Song Contest 2023 winner Loreen wearing a cream top and placing a finger over her lips in a promotional photo for her Tattoo Uk and Europe Tour
Loreen. (Universal/Supplied)

Nothing says making it big like landing Rylan Clark’s top artist of the year, and now Swedish-Moroccan singer Loreen can claim the honour.

The singer made history in 2023 as the first woman to win Eurovision twice with her unforgettable performance of “Tattoo”, which quickly climbed the charts in several countries around the world. And her rise to super stardom is being encouraged by her massive LGBTQ+ fanbase, for whom she has endless love.

In an interview with PinkNews earlier this year, she said finding the queer community was finally finding as space where she belonged.

“I was searching, and wherever I went, there was ‘no’,” she said. “All of a sudden, I came knocking on this door to the LGBT community, and they’re like: ‘You know what? Come on in.'”

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Victoria Monét

Victoria Monét.
Victoria Monét. (Getty)

If there is one singer who has proven their remarkable talent this year, it is Victoria Monét. After producing world-class music over the past decade, 2023 saw the release of her debut studio album Jaguar II and needless to say, it made a splash.

Lead single “On My Mama” made the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and ultimately the R&B star landed seven Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year and Best New Artist.

Relaying her shock at her Grammys sweep, Monét told Variety: “It seemed like the end of my underdog story and era. Everything I’ve been working towards just came to such an affirming point, and I was really in shock for the week.”

Here’s to Victoria Monét supremacy in 2024!

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Erika Ishii

Erika Ishii.
Erika Ishii. (Getty)

Over in the gaming world, there’s no one whose star has shone more brightly than Erika Ishii.

The genderfluid, pansexual voice actor and host rose to prominence as the voice of lesbian character Valkyrie in video game Apex Legends and has staunchly advocated for LGBTQ+ rights throughout their career.

This year has seen them work on countless more major projects such as Starfield and Homestead Arcana. And the year ahead has her booked and busy with appearances in games such as Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths.

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Vico Ortiz

Vico Ortiz.
Vico Ortiz. (Getty)

Our Flag Means Death returned with a bang in October and with it came fan-favourite character, pirate Jim, played by non-binary Puerto Rican actor Vico Ortiz.

As well as bringing brilliant LGBTQ+ representation to the HBO comedy series, Ortiz has caused a stir as a drag king and vocal LGBTQ+ rights activist. They also voiced characters in animated series Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake.

Ortiz joins a wave of genderqueer actors attempting to diversify the industry and its binary representation of gender onscreen. We can’t wait to see them shake things up even more in 2024.

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Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monae performs in a dress made out flowers and a flower crown.
Janelle Monáe. (Getty/ Paras Griffin)

Last, but certainly not least, we have Grammy-nominated artist Janelle Monáe. The star proved there’s nothing they can’t do after blowing fans away with their star turn alongside Daniel Craig in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery last year.

And just when things couldn’t get any better, the non-binary queer singer dropped their long-awaited fourth studio album The Age of Pleasure, which quickly became the sound of the summer.

Singles from the critically acclaimed album were released alongside a series of stunning sexy, body-positive visuals which unapologetically celebrated queer Black bodies, best seen in their music video “Lipstick Lover”.

Monáe’s efforts in pushing for gender inclusivity within the music industry were richly rewarded after they landed the Spirit of Soul award at the Soul Train Awards. The traditionally female category – formerly called the Lady of Soul – was renamed in honour of Monáe’s fearless activism.

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