Etheridge and DeGeneres in 1995, prior to DeGeneres’ coming out; Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc.
Celebrities coming out as LGBTQ doesn’t seem to be a big deal these days, but back in 1993, when Melissa Etheridge came out, it was. In fact, Melissa was such a pioneer that many other super-famous but closeted celebrities asked her for advice about doing it themselves.
Melissa tells The Daily Beast that Ricky Martin, Barry Manilow, Jodie Foster and Ellen DeGeneres are some of the now-out gay stars who approached her. “I had people come to me and say, ‘I see you being out,’ and they would apologize to me because they were not out,” Melissa recalls. “I would say, ‘Look, it’s very personal. It’s totally up to you, you don’t have to explain anything to me.’”
Melissa recalls that Manilow was concerned about coming out because, he said, “all my fans are women.” “I was so glad when he came out,” she notes. She says Ricky Martin was worried because he was a sex symbol. She says she told him, “Dude, it’s obvious you’re gay.”
“It’s been wonderful to see all these people finally come into themselves,” she adds. “The ones who come out do much better than the ones who don’t, or didn’t.”
Melissa also tells The Daily Beast that the TV show The L Word was based on her real-life group of friends in the late ’80s to mid-’90s, who at the time included everyone from Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts to k.d. lang, DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell. Another member of the group was Ilene Chaiken, who went on to co-create the show.
Melissa laughs, “I stopped watching The L Word because I lived it!”
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