The 2008 Visibility Awards


Gro Hammerseng and Katja Nyberg

The teammates in life and on the field currently resident in Denmark have long been celebrities outside the U.S. for their domination of the popular sport of European handball, and their openness about their own relationship — Gro and Katja came out publicly as a couple a few years ago, and their personal and professional lives are routinely covered by lifestyle newspapers and magazines. But their performance at this year’s Summer Olympics (the Norwegian handball team took home the gold medal, with Gro as team captain proudly bearing the flag) brought them even greater attention world-wide.

Hammerseng and Nyberg have won many American hearts for their obvious devotion to one another and their sport, even as they tend to lead a private life off the field. Gro’s increasing status as a sex-symbol (she was #82 on The 2008 Hot 100 list, and was recently photographed as Joan of Arc for a popular Norwegian magazine) and the couple’s growing international fan base will likely make them even more popular in the years to come.


Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi

America’s most high-profile lesbian couple (they also won last year’s Lesbian Couple of the Year) became even more high-profile this year with their much-publicized wedding, which made the cover of People magazine and was breathlessly covered in detail by media and news outlets around the world.

Ellen and Portia’s wedding — along with Ellen’s discussion of gay marriage on her extremely popular talk show — arguably did more to make the public comfortable with gay marriage than just about anything else, which was especially important in a year in which gays and lesbians were fighting for the right to marry across America.


Shamim Sharif

The multi-talented writer and director, who lives in London with her partner Hanan Kattan and their two children, debuted their first film, I Can’t Think Straight, at festivals this year, and released their second film The World Unseen theatrically, to critical and popular acclaim. Her novels have been equally well-received.

As one of the few out lesbians of Indian descent making movies that feature lesbian characters of Indian descent, Sharif’s work provides entertainment of broad appeal that also sheds light on an invisible minority.

Runner-up: Gro Hammerseng


Rachel Maddow

Although she’s been doing political commentary for years on Air America radio, mainstream America discovered political commentator Rachel Maddow en masse this year when she was tapped to host her own political talk show on MSNBC in the fall, and co-hosted the cable network’s election coverage. Ratings doubled for her time slot, and suddenly Rachel was the toast of the town, earning photoshoots and length interviews in everything from Newsweek to The Advocate to Vogue.

Uber-smart, sarcastic, and quite comfortable being openly gay and "dressing like a 12-year-old boy," Rachel is a welcome change from the many vapid celebrities who get so much media attention these days.

That’s it for this year’s Visibility Awards. Let us know what shows, movies and people made your best-and-worst lists for 2008!

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