The 2009 AfterEllen.com Hot 100

We introduced the first annual Hot 100 in 2007 to give lesbian/bi women a way to express what, or who, we find attractive, since our voice is largely missing from mainstream, heterocentric pop culture.

We made it into an annual event because it was so popular — and because it’s fun, something we need a little of in-between fighting for our civil rights or searching in vain for decent lesbian/bi visibility in TV shows and movies.

Here are a few of the comments from past Hot 100 winners:

Leisha Hailey [on being No. 1 in 2007]: "I have to say this really makes up for the time I was on the Homecoming Court in High school with my boyfriend (yes I had one) and he won and I didn’t. So thanks to everyone. I’ll try and keep up my hottness."

Tina Fey [on being No. 1 in 2008]: "[making] the AfterEllen [list] is flattering. I think those girls take more of a 3-D picture before they decide they like somebody."

Sara Ramirez [on being No. 8 in 2008]: "That’s really flattering!"

Sarah Shahi [on being No. 5 in 2008]: "I did not know that. I thank [lesbian/bi women] for staying so loyal to me and for coming with me on the ride of The L Word, and I hope they continue on with me."

Olivia Wilde [on moving up from No. 53 in 2007 to No. 30 in 2008]: "That’s awesome!"

Lena Headey [on falling from No. 4 in 2007 to No. 10 in 2008]: "My God, I have to go to the gym! I’ve fallen six. That hurts…Vote for me! Vote for me, I’ll change the world! [laughs]"

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE RESULTS
Over 150,000 votes were cast this year, and as usual, most of the women who made the list are actors, and many have played lesbians on TV or film. But we also have several musicians (and actor-musicians), as well as a professional athlete and a president’s wife (yes, Michelle Obama made the list).

You voted for more women of color this year (24 vs. 18), and of these women, eight have never appeared on the Hot 100 before. Slightly fewer openly gay or bisexual women made the list this year (19 vs. 21), but five of the top 10 women are openly gay or bisexual (in 2007 only two of the top 10 were out, and in 2008, it was three). Five of these are also first-timers (note: staff are excluded from the list, but freelance vloggers and writers are not). 13 women over 40 made it onto this year’s Hot 100.

About a quarter of the women on the list are completely new, including out political commentator Rachel Maddow, actors Lisa Ray, Anna Torv, and Kristen Stewart, and actor/supermodel Laura Sanchez. Jackie Warner, Jennifer Garner, and Angie Harmon are among the women missing from this year’s list who have made the list both years prior.

Although the majority of women on the list are American, about 25% of the list hails from other countries, with Canadians leading the international pack, then Brits and Australians. Three come from Spain; and there are also women from India, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, and South Africa.

SUPPLEMENTARY LISTS
We decided to create additional, supplementary lists for the Hot 100 this year, with the goal to give a little extra exposure to those women who tend not to get as much coverage from the mainstream media: women of color, out lesbian/bi women, and women over 40. After counting the votes, we realized listing the 10 Hottest in each category would duplicate the women already named on the Hot 100, which wouldn’t accomplish our goal of highlighting more women in those categories.

So we’ve revised these lists slightly to include those women in that category who made the Hot 100, but to also feature the next 10 women in these categories — women who didn’t quite make the Hot 100 but were next in line, vote-wise. You’ll find links to these lists at the end of this one, or you can go directly to them here: Out Women, Women of Color, Women Over 40.

NOW ON TO THE LIST!
We’ve provided descriptions for each of the women who landed in the top twenty of the list. We’ve also put asterisks next to the names of all openly gay/bi women, noted their previous rank if they’ve made the list before, and added a "new" badge next to the names of those women who have never appeared on the Hot 100.

When you’re done looking at this year’s hottest women, you can peruse the 2008 Hot 100 and the 2007 Hot 100, or check out The 2009 AfterElton.com Hot 100 to see who the gay men voted for this year!

1. Portia de Rossi*

(No. 39 in 2008)

What do you get for the woman who has everything? How about the crowning achievement of being No. 1 on the AfterEllen.com Hot 100 list? Admittedly, things have already been going well for the Australian-born out actress, what with getting married to Ellen DeGeneres, starring in a new series (Better Off Ted) and signing on for the long-awaited Arrested Development movie. And its been a pleasure for all of her long-term queer fans to watch her embrace her status as a high-profile out performer.

While her gay marriage PSA on Jimmy Kimmell Live! was funny, her charming debut appearance on her wife’s wildly popular talk show perhaps did more for gay visibility and gay rights than anything overtly "political" might have accomplished. Watching the obviously devoted DeGeneres playfully interview her wife, and even win a round of The Newlywed Game with her against a heterosexual couple, spoke quiet volumes about love, commitment, and true equality. Talent, smarts, looks and being out is clearly a winning combination.

2. Jennifer Beals

(same rank in 2008)

She was the unofficial leader of the girl-gang known as The L Word both on and off screen, and for good reason. For six seasons (the longest run ever for a Showtime series), Jennifer Beals‘s Bette Porter held court at The Planet, the CAC, and pretty much anywhere else in creator Ilene Chaiken‘s fictionalized world that she damn well pleased. Always bringing nuance, depth and passion to the role, Beals shaped her character into much more than a stereotype of the steely power dyke: Bette Porter was a gorgeous and complex woman of substance.

In the real world, Beals has brought the same conviction and nobility to the table when arguing on behalf of LGBT rights. Known for regularly making poignant speeches on the subject (see her appearances at Power Up, GLAAD, and the NYC Women’s Event fundraiser), Beals is just the sort of straight advocate that we need: articulate, intelligent and completely unswayable. Let’s face it, we’ve all wanted to, uh, educate Elisabeth Hasslebeck. But watching Beals do it with such nobility and restraint when she made an appearance on The View was proof that there’s nothing sexier than watching a beautiful woman speak her mind.

3. Lena Headey

(No. 10 in 2008)

Actress Lena Headey became a bona fide lesbian icon with her memorable turn as Luce, the bride-swiping florist, in the romantic comedy Imagine Me & You. When she taught Rachel (played by Piper Perabo) how to more-effectively harass soccer player number nine, it was a light touch to the midriff felt around the queer world.

Since then, Headey has continued to please AfterEllen.com readers with her appearances on AE vlogs Ghostella’s Haunted Tomb (the "Top Friends" episode) and Brunch With Bridget, as well as her pumped up action series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Maybe that’s why she shot from No. 10 on last year’s Hot 100 list to her spot in the top three in 2009.

4. Leisha Hailey*

(No. 5 in 2008)

For six seasons, actress and musician Leisha Hailey was the only openly gay central cast member of the groundbreaking lesbian drama The L Word. This fact alone could explain why the show’s queer fans so often named her character — the mouthy, funny Alice — as their favorite. But, of course, it wasn’t just that. Hailey brought a special charm to the role, playing Alice as sweet and sour, tender and fickle, and always with a certain sparkle. Whether in bondage with a "vampire," falling in love with her best friend, or mourning the death of her true love, Hailey’s Alice had a vulnerability that was sometimes lacking in her group of ambitious and glamorous friends. It didn’t hurt that Hailey brought an impish sexuality to the role, making all of Alice’s erotic misadventures not just amusing, but sexy.

Perhaps she has an advantage in that department, as Haley’s other job title is "rock star." Uh Huh Her, Hailey’s band with Camila Grey, has a rabid following of its own, as evidenced by their response to the band’s recent appearance on AE vlog This Just Out With Liz Feldman.

Ultimately, Hailey’s popularity, on stage or on screen, is only enhanced by the fact that she helped make television history as a compelling out performer on a show all about queer women.

5. Sarah Shahi

(No. 7 in 2008)

Queer women are loyal. The last time Sarah Shahi appeared on The L Word (and no, the finale does not count) was in 2006, when she was stood up at the altar by Shane (Kate Moennig). But she took us all with her when she made the leap to primetime in her series Life (in 2007).

Maybe it was the gun, maybe it was the badge, or maybe it was just the undeniable gorgeousness of the woman wearing them, but Shahi’s Det. Dani Reese was a hit with her L Word fans. Unfortunately, the show has just been cancelled, so we’ll have to get our collective Shahi fix elsewhere — and it could be some time before we have the chance, since she and her husband, actor Steve Howey, are expecting their first child very soon.

But, as we all know, Shahi is worth the wait.

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