The annual Power 50 list recognizes those working to make a positive impact on LGBTQ culture, beyond simply being at the pinnacle of their field/professions. This year, the list includes figures from politics, news media, entertainment, technology and more.
They join the big three familiar faces, led by No. 1 Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper (2) and Ellen DeGeneres (3).
“For 25 years Out has reflected the growing visibility and progress of the LGBTQ community, and nowhere is this visibility and progress more clearly evident than in our annual Power 50, now in its 11th year,” Out editor Aaron Hicklin says. “As a reflection of where we stand today, the Power 50 shows LGBTQ leadership in all walks of life. … All of them are working hard not only to make the wider world a better, and more accepting, place, but using their platform to remind us of those who paved the way.”
Here’s SPY’S list with the reasons why these people are worthy:
1. Rachel Maddow. TV host, political commentator. Why: Maddow’s instincts have steered her show to prime-time glory at the moment when her kind of detail- obsessed precision reporting is more vital than ever.
2. Anderson Cooper. News correspondent. Why: Just trying to imagine the Anderson Cooper of old doing his now-famous eye roll during an interview with Kellyanne Conway is enough to realize that coming out was the best thing to happen to the veteran journalist and anchor. On TV, he is more relaxed, more enjoyable, more, dare we say, himself. There’s always been a refreshing spontaneity and transparency to his best reporting, as with the Pulse shootings last year when he teared up while reading the names of the victims.
3. Ellen DeGeneres. Comedian, talk-show host. Why: In a world fueled by anger, DeGeneres has remained an unwavering source of light. This is why, with her talk show, her booming brand, and her growing social-media clout, she has enough trophies to fill many mantels and enough fans to fill many stadiums. She’s the everyday person whom everyday people aspire to be.
4. Jill Soloway. Writer, showrunner. Why: You know there’s something progressive in the air when a gender-nonbinary — and altogether nonconforming — talent is among the most influential showrunners. Soloway accessed personal family experience to craft the Emmy-winning Amazon series Transparent. Her new show, I Love Dick, continues to challenge gender norms — and television traditions.
5. Ryan Murphy. Showrunner. Why: With his most recent shows The People v. OJ Simpson and Feud: Bette & Joan, he became one of the most acclaimed showrunners. The man with the Midas touch spreads his wealth with the Half foundation, which is dedicated to filling 50% of all director slots on his shows with women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.
6. Anthony Romero. Executive director, ACLU. Why: This year, the ACLU Executive Director leaped into action to torpedo a ban on immigrants from six Muslim- majority countries. And when it comes to our freedoms, Romero is an equal-opportunity defender. When students sought to bar conservative provocateurs Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campuses like Berkeley, the ACLU was quick to remind us that free speech is not an à la carte proposition.
7. Tammy Baldwin. U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. Why: After criticizing first daughter Ivanka Trump’s inactivity as a moderating voice in the White House, Baldwin penned a letter to the president regarding his planned Medicaid cuts and its harsh effects on veterans. The Wisconsin native also co-sponsored a bill calling for Veterans Affairs reform.
8. RuPaul Charles. Drag queen, TV mogul. Why: Now that he has an Emmy under his waist-trainer, Charles, the erstwhile supermodel of the world, may just find himself eating his words. Perfecting his craft for decades, Charles once said that drag will “never be mainstream.” And yet, with nine seasons and counting, RuPaul’s Drag Race has brought Charles’ chosen art form into living rooms in every corner of the globe.
9. Mary Kay Henry. Union organizer. Why: At the forefront of the fight to secure a $15 federal minimum wage, Henry has been buoyed in recent years by cities, such as Seattle, embracing her cause.
10. The Wachowskis. Filmmakers, showrunners. Why: Lana and Lilly Wachowski extended their massive following with their Netflix series Sense8, a show with a diverse international cast rich with queer representation. While steering the show through two seasons (before it was sadly axed), both sisters are active members of their Chicago trans community, with Lana hosting film screenings for trans organizations and Lilly showcasing paintings of trans murder victims.
11. Tim Cook. CEO of Apple. Why: After coming out in 2014, he became the world’s most powerful openly gay CEO, and he continued to carve his own path, well beyond the shadow of the late Steve Jobs. Following last year’s scuffle with the FBI (when he refused to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone), Cook hasn’t shied away from lending his voice to politics.
12. Frank Ocean. Singer-songwriter. Why: After Ocean came out, his music career took on a vital, intersectional role, bringing male pronouns into romantic mainstream R&B and emphasizing the complexity of human sexuality. His sophomore effort, Blonde, continued his rise.
13. DeRay McKesson. Activist. Why: After an unsuccessful bid to become the mayor of Baltimore, and an arrest for protesting in Baton Rouge, the Black Lives Matter advocate seems to have re-emerged more energized, Increasingly determined to spread his message.
14. Kate McKinnon. Actress, comedian.Why: McKinnon continues her residency at Saturday Night Live with some daring portrayals of today’s political heavy hitters, and is also one of the longest-running cast members on the iconic sketch show.
15. Laverne Cox. Actress, activist. Why: America’s reigning trans icon, Cox once said, “It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.” Cox’s visibility on Orange Is the New Black is now just a small part of her own revolution.
16. Ellen Page. Actress, producer. Why: While tackling a full slate of upcoming film projects, Page continues to challenge the system with the second season of Gaycation, her popular Viceland docuseries co-hosted by Ian Daniel, committed to tracking the living conditions of LGBTQ people around the world.
17. Tarell Alvin McCraney. Playwright, screenwriter. Why: When Moonlight unexpectedly defied the odds and took home the Oscar for Best Picture this year, it proved a historic moment for black people and LGBTQ people alike. At its center was McCraney, the movie’s co-screenwriter, the author of the work from which it was adapted.
18. Scott Rudin. Producer. Why: Rudin can now boast nearly four decades in Hollywood. This year, Rudin’s production credits include The Meyerowitz Stories, from director Noah Baumbach, and Lady Bird, directed by Baumbach’s girlfriend, Greta Gerwig.
19. Jared Polis. U.S. Representative from Colorado. Why: The first openly gay parent in Congress, is also the co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, fighting for rights both at home and abroad. His political agenda spans the liberal spectrum, from providing opportunities for newly immigrated Americans to regulating proper nutrition in schools.
20. Dustin Lance Black. Filmmaker, activist. Why: This past year the writer, director, and activist married his Olympian boyfriend, Tom Daley, and he was also behind the ABC miniseries When We Rise, a celebratory chronicle of queer resistance through history and a call to action.
21. Michael Kors. Fashion designer. Why: Kors has built a brand that moves beyond retail and onto television, having been a witty judge for Project Runway for nearly a decade. In 2010 Kors received the CFDA’s most prestigious honor: the Lifetime Achievement Award.
22. Larry Kramer. Writer, activist. Why: Famously declaring the AIDS crisis a “plague,” queer writer, activist, and living legend Kramer leads a legacy marked by his work as co-founder of both the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP. Through multiple arrests, Kramer successfully put medical treatment in the hands of HIV+ Americans, despite the government continually ignoring its dying citizens.
23. Glenn Greenwald. Journalist. Why: Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Greenwald continues to be a voice that many turn to for truth. With his celebrated outlet The Intercept, Greenwald leads a team that mirrors his own dedication to holding people in power accountable.
24. Chris Kelly. Writer, producer, comedian. Why: To say SNL’s past year was as explosively political as it was hilarious is an understatement, and much of the credit goes to co-head writer Kelly, the first gay ringleader in the show’s history.
25. Shepard Smith. Editor, TV host. Why: Smith, who came out as gay in a public speech this year, wields considerable power at the famously conservative Fox News, hosting Shepard Smith Reporting and serving as the managing editor of the channel’s breaking-news division.
26. Raf Simons. Fashion designer. Why: Known as fashion’s rebellious minimalist, Simons has spent his career working behind major brands, from Jil Sander to Christian Dior. Now he’s brought his Belgium youth–inspired edge to the classic American label Calvin Klein, serving as its creative director.
27. Roxane Gay. Writer, activist. Why: A regular contributor to The New York Times, the writer and Purdue University professor makes bold moves in the name of justice and social change. After Simon and Schuster’s brief acquisition of Milo Yiannopoulos’s book deal, Gay pulled her book from the publisher, saying she was sending a message to anyone who supports bigotry.
28. Darren Walker. Ford Foundation president. Why: He has spent much of his life campaigning to make life better for those who need it most — from helping to bring supermarkets to Harlem to donating $125 million in Ford Foundation grants to help save Detroit (and the Detroit Institute of Arts) from bankruptcy.
29. Janet Mock. Writer, TV host. Why: Since coming out as trans in the pages of Marie Claire, Mock has become a contributing editor for the magazine, not to mention a New York Times best- selling author and highly successful TV host.
30. Tom Ford. Fashion Designer, filmmaker. Why: Ford has solidified a legacy of sex appeal through his work at Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and his eponymous label. The designer more recently moved into writing, directing, and producing two films: A Single Man (2009) and Nocturnal Animals (2016), which were both Oscar-nominated.
31. Robin Roberts. News anchor. Why: The acknowledgment of her longtime girlfriend during a Good Morning America segment may have seemed, to some, like a tacked-on sentiment, but Roberts has since exposed millions of Americans to an LGBTQ woman of color by simply doing her job.
32. Joel Simkhai. CEO of Grindr. Why: For nearly a decade, Grindr has been ubiquitous in the gay community, primarily for hookups but also for queer networking. Under the leadership of founder and Simkhai, the app has evolved into a lifestyle brand, with a clothing line and now an online magazine.
33. Lee Daniels. Director, producer. Why: Expanding his influence at Fox, Daniels paired the third season of Empire, his highly addictive — and inclusive — prime- time soap, with Star, another musical drama that stars Queen Latifah and follows a girl group as they conquer the Atlanta music scene.
34. Andy Cohen. Television mogul. Why: Cohen added game-show host to his résumé this year when he was tapped by Fox for its Love Connection reboot. Cohen’s exuberance and inclusion of gay and lesbian couples gives the revamp relevance.
35. Justin Tranter. Songwriter. Why: When named Songwriter of the Year at the 65th Annual BMI Pop Awards, Tranter — an artist and activist —demanded the industry put LGBTQ songwriters in sessions, a plea that echoed his work as a GLAAD board member.
36. David Cicilline. U.S. Representative from Rhode Island. Why: In May, the congressman, who is co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, reintroduced legislation for the Equality Act to establish nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit.
37. Tyler Oakley. Social-media personality, activist. Why: Arguably YouTube’s biggest success story, Oakley has parlayed his viral popularity into a continually booming career, anchoring it in LGBT activism and an accessible brand of self- affirmation.
38. Bryan Fuller. Writer, showrunner. Why: After earning multiple Emmy and Writers Guild Award nods for Pushing Daisies, he followed it with NBC’s Hannibal (arguably the decade’s most artful network show) and, this year, with Starz’s American Gods, a radical, allegorical, and ardently queer fantasy—which was renewed for a second season less than a month after its premiere.
39. Lydia Polgreen. Journalist. Why: Already a celebrated journalist, Polgreen saw her profile soar this past year when she was named editor in chief of the Huffington Post. As a queer woman of color in the world of male-run media, Polgreen has had to try that much harder to prove her merit, but she’s also surrounded herself with an army of allies along the way. Her positivity and perseverance have positioned her as one of the most influential people in journalism.
40. Gigi Gorgeous. Media personality. Why: After dominating YouTube for years (she boasts more than 2½ million subscribers), the trans icon recently made the leap to the big screen. This year’s Sundance Film Festival saw the premiere of Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s This Is Everything, a documentary charting Gorgeous’s life and transition.
41. Chad Griffin. President of the Human Rights Campaign. Why: Under Griffin, the HRC — the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights advocacy organization — has become one of the most important bulwark the community has against injustice and unlawful discrimination.
42. Hanne Gaby Odiele. Model. Why: This year, she came out publicly as intersex, and her glowing career is now paired with advocacy for intersex human rights.
43. Greg Berlanti.Writer, showrunner. Why: Continuing to churn out hit shows, the writer-producer made history in 2017, with 10 scripted series booked to air at once. Next, he’ll be in the director’s chair for the gay teen film Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.
44. Caitlyn Jenner. Media personality. Why: It’s been two years since Jenner came out as trans. She may be controversial to some, but Jenner’s visibility remains steadfast and crucial.
45. Tim Gill. Software entrepreneur. Why: In 1994, he created the Gill Foundation to support organizations dedicated to serving the LGBTQ community, and in 2011, he became a major force behind the strategy that led New York state to legalize gay marriage.
46. Sarah Kate Ellis. President and CEO of GLAAD. Why: Since taking the reins in 2014, she has worked to ensure the media are fair, accurate and honest in portraying queer lives, while the organization’s annual awards celebrate the best the media have to offer.
47. Don Lemon. News anchor. Why: Lemon has found his voice — and his journalistic principles, refusing to interview the Kellyanne Conways of the world.
48. Lisa Sherman. CEO of the Ad Council. Why: Sherman has been behind some of the most iconic media in recent history. She launched and led Viacom’s Logo, the LGBT television network and incubator for RuPaul’s Drag Race.
49. Hilton Als. Writer, journalist. Why: Als saw his writing handsomely — and prestigiously — rewarded this year, as he took home the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. It was a cementing of merit for the White Girls author and New Yorker theater critic, who was exalted for placing staged works in the context of the real world amid themes of gender, sexuality and race.
50. Mark Takano. U.S. Representative from California. Why: Takano became Congress’s first openly gay person of color in 2012 when he was elected to represent California’s 41st congressional district. He’s taken a witty approach to politics, telling The New York Times, “ ‘First openly gay person of color’ is a long moniker. I give people permission to use the word ‘Gaysian.’