6. Chely Wright
It’s been less than a year since country music artist Chely Wright released her memoir, Like Me, and her first album in six years, Lifted Off the Ground — but in that time, she has become of beacon of hope and warmth in the LGBT community. Like Me details the struggles of Wright’s life as a closeted lesbian. She takes readers on a journey from her awkward sexual awareness as a child in the Midwest to the moment only a few years ago when she stood in her bathroom with a gun in her mouth. She has been a vocal advocate for gay rights since coming out last year, campaigning for the end of DADT and for marriage equality. She is also the founder and spokesperson for the LIKE ME Organization, which seeks to provide refuge and answers for gay teens who are dealing with bullying and depression. Her personal quest for authenticity has been inspiring for us all. Like her? Absolutely. And we can’t wait to see where the future takes her.
After several years of hosting her own radio program on Air America, Rachel Maddow became the first openly gay primetime anchor when MSNBC launched The Rachel Maddow Show in 2008. Maddow quickly dominated her time slot, outranking even iconic CNN host Larry King in ratings. In 2010, Maddow traveled to Afghanistan to report on the ongoing American war on terror, and to the Gulf of Mexico to report on the BP oil spill. She has been nominated for multiple GLAAD awards, and, in 2009, hers was the only news program nominated for a Television Critics Association award.
This past year, she collected the Maggie Award for her healthcare reform coverage, and Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award, and honor she shares with Tom Brokaw, Larry King and Peter Jennings. She also appeared in a homey photoshoot in People with her longtime partner, Susan Mikula.
Maddow has never shied away from talking about her sexuality, and she has been a tireless advocate for gay rights, denouncing DADT, DOMA, Prop. 8, the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, “conversion therapy,” and Rick Warren‘s anti-gay mega-church. In the wake of Keith Olberman‘s departure, Maddow is heir apparent to the MSNBC throne, and with midterm elections on the way in November, and exploratory committees already being formed for the 2012 presidential race, we predict she will be the go-to voice in liberal media in the coming years.