How to Make the AfterEllen Hot 100 Top 10


Voting closed last week for this year’s AfterEllen Hot 100 and results will be posted today at 12 pm PST. According to its tagline, this poll represents “The sexiest women, according to women.” Unlike similar polls, such as by Maxim or FHM, that are largely based on physical beauty and voted on by heterosexual men, this poll claims to take into account non-physical features such as personality and talents. And it does, but the poll is more than that. It provides a picture of the queer female community as seen through the mirror of what we respect, value, emulate, and find attractive. And, most immediately, what we’re watching on TV this year. The collective Hot 100 aren’t necessarily the most conventionally attractive women per se; they are the women we want to be, date, or befriend.   

Can any conclusions be drawn about the women who make the list? Absolutely. The following are the key takeaways of the poll results by year: 

2007: The first year’s results were unexpectedly different from other “sexiest” polls done by heterosexual publications. For example, eight of AfterEllen’s the top 10 women weren’t mentioned anywhere on the Maxim list and only four of the women who made Maxim‘s top 10 appeared at all on the AfterEllen list. The implication was clear: queer women vote using different criteria than straight men. This criterion, in fact, has been the most consistent predictor of who makes it into the top 10: queer women prefer women who have played queer characters or are themselves queer. In 2007, slightly over half the women on the list overall had played gay in their careers. Nine of the 100 were openly queer. Every year since the list began, it has become increasingly difficult to reach the top 10 without having played a queer character. This year, the top 10 winners were: Leisha Hailey, Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet, Lena Headey, Sarah Shahi, Jennifer Beals, Tina Fey, Jordana Brewster, Salma Hayek and Natalie Portman.


2008: This was a much more diverse list than in 2007, with several nationalities represented and more women of color, probably reflecting an influx of international voters. The number of queer women skyrocketed to 23. The top 10 remained relatively similar to 2007, reflecting voters’ strong loyalty to queer women (half the top 10) and queer characters, particularly from The L Word: Tina Fey, Jennifer Beals, Jill Bennett, Bridget McManus, Leisha Hailey, Ellen Page*, Sarah Shahi, Sara Ramirez, Katherine Moenning, and Lena Headey. (As a side note, Lena wins for best ever response to the poll results. On learning she’d dropped six places from the year before, she cried, “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!”)


2009: This year the list continued to diversify: a quarter of the winners came from outside the US, a quarter were women of color, and 13 women were over the age of 40. Like the year before, half of the top 10 women were queer, while the straight other half had all played queer. Top 10 winners were Portia de Rossi, Jennifer Beals, Lena Headey (apparently her appeal from 2008 worked), Leisha Hailey, Sarah Shahi, Rachel Maddow, Tina Fey, Sara Ramirez, Angelina Jolie, and Norwegian handball player Gro Hammerseng


2010: The international trend that had begun to emerge in 2009 continued, with now almost half the winners hailing from outside the US. As in the two previous years, approximately a quarter of winners were queer. This year, more young actresses ranked higher on the list, suggesting perhaps more young voters voting this year. However, although all but one of the women (Tina Fey) in the top 10 had played queer, only three were actually queer, a slight drop from years past: Olivia Wilde*, Kristen Stewart*, Lily Loveless, Sara Ramirez, Portia de Rossi, Kathryn Prescott, Jennifer Beals, Jessica Capshaw, Lena Headey, and Katherine Moenning.


2011: This year more musicians made the list than usual, and the number of queer women rose slightly to approximately a third of the list. The top 10 reflected the massive influence of the show Glee (which replaced The L Word in the Hot 100. This was the first year since 2007 no cast member from the show made the list), and while only three of the ten were queer, every woman on the list but one (Lea Michele) has played a queer character: Naya Rivera, Heather Morris, Jessica Capshaw, Sara Ramirez, Olivia Wilde, Amber Heard, Shay Mitchell, Dianna Agron, Lily Loveless, Lea Michele.


2012: The queer winner count this year dropped down to a quarter again, and the international contingent appears to have dropped precipitously. AfterEllen concluded that the overall theme was “women with an edge,” although the Top 10 were largely a repeat of 2011, with Glee and Grey’s Anatomy continuing their reign. The number of queer women in the top 10 rose to half again, with the others playing queer roles: Naya Rivera, Dianna Agron, Heather Morris, Tegan Quin, Shay Mitchell, Jessica Capshaw, Sara Ramirez, Olivia Wilde, Tucky Williams of Girl/Girl Scene and Abisha Uhl of the band Sick of Sarah.


2013: This year could best be described as the year of shipping: Brittana, Doccubus, Rizzles, and SwanQueen. As a consequence, the number of queer actresses in the top 10 dropped to two, while for the first time since 2007 more than one straight actress didn’t play a queer role (in this case, three didn’t): Jennifer Lawrence, Zoie Palmer, Naya Rivera, Dianna Agron, Anna Silk, Heather Morris, Shay Mitchell, Rachel Skarsten, Sasha Alexander, and Jennifer Morrison.


2015: This year’s list added many new faces, most from TV shows with new queer characters. Several athletes also made the list, including soccer players because of the World Cup. Musicians continued to fare poorly. This was the first year a trans woman made the list, and there were two. Continuing with tradition, just under a quarter of the women on the list were queer. Disappointingly, less than 12 percent of winners were women of color; a massive backslide from early years. The top 10 represented a major shift away from previous voting patterns, with only Shay Mitchell returning from previous years. Overall, only three of the 10 were queer, and two of the 10 had never played gay: Ruby Rose, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Shay Mitchell, Lana Parrilla, Natasha Negovanlis, Laura Prepon, Evelyne Brochu, Tatiana Maslany, Elise Bauman, Kristen Stewart.   


Of all the top 10 winners, Sara Ramirez reigns supreme, with appearances in five different years. Lena Headey, Jennifer Beals, and Shay Mitchell each have four appearances. Based on the characteristics of the top 10 winners so far, the following characteristics seem to be almost essential to cracking the top 10:

1)   Winners are almost exclusively TV actresses.

2)   With one exception, all winners have been native English speakers.

3)   If straight, the actress must have played a queer role. Or the actress can be queer herself. 

4)   The show on which the actress appears must be ongoing at the time of the voting or recently ended.

5)   The show is almost certainly recapped by AfterEllen, probably because this increases the actress’ exposure to voters and increases the likelihood that sufficient voters will vote for her (call it the Skins recap effect).

Based on these findings, my prediction is we’ll likely see the following in this year’s Hot 100 Top 10 list: Alycia Debnam-Carey, Eliza Taylor, Katherine Barrell, Danielle Cormack and/or Kate Jenkinson, Shay Mitchell, and Kate McKinnon.

That said, the top 10 slots tend to be a reflection of what’s on TV at the moment. Far more interesting are all the slots 100-11, which can range from Helen Mirren to soccer player Megan Rapinoe to Brandi Carlile. It is these votes, which may represent more than just conventional “hotness” or passing TV fads that seem to really be the real mirror of the queer female community.  What do they say about who we find “hot”?


*Indicates the celebrity was not out at the time.


The 2016 AfterEllen Hot 100 will be posted at 12 pm PST today.

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