CEO, Apple, 52
When Cook took charge of the tech giant in late 2011, many regarded the enigmatic successor with skepticism. But over the past year, the CEO has guided Apple through significant upgrades on all of the company’s product lines and led the brand’s market share to increase to 20% of all money spent on U.S. consumer technology, up 2% from 2011. And did we mention Cook sat next to Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address?
Talk Show Host/Producer/Spokesperson, 55
It’s hard to believe that it ever seemed exceptional to have a lesbian hosting a daytime TV show, but Ellen was a pioneer whose sheer force of charisma, wit, and charm has earned her an enduring place in the affections of America. In March she posted her own public brief to the Supreme Court to strike down California’s gay marriage ban, writing that she and her wife, Portia de Rossi were “just trying to find happiness in the bodies and minds we were given, like everyone else.” Amen, sister.
Adding another primetime sitcom, NBC’s The New Normal, to his growing roster, the TV mogul continues to broadcast some of the most progressive entertainment around to millions of Americans each week (read "Murphy's Honor" here). Aside from his relatively subversive cultural influence, Murphy continues to build his a cappella empire (Forbes listed FOX’s Glee as one of the top five most profitable TV shows last year by ad revenue) and is working on a much-anticipated adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart for HBO.
TV Host/Political Commentator, 40
Now king of the mountain at MSNBC, Maddow gave Fox News a run for its money during the 2012 election cycle and was nominated for an Emmy this past December, all while holding on to her loyal viewership and delivering hard-hitting criticism of the political climate. The host has become a staple in the political media by standing up for the marginalized, sticking to her core values, and making a few cocktails, all with that lopsided smirk of hers.
Journalist/TV Personality/Author, 45
Although his daytime talk show, Anderson Live, was cancelled after its second season, Coop hasn’t curbed his drive for media ubiquity. After publicly coming out last year via Andrew Sullivan’s blog, Cooper could finally let it all hang out (and he did, with Kathy Griffin during their annual New Year’s Eve lovefest). He remains anchor of the Emmy-winning Anderson Cooper 360, which has strong ratings despite CNN’s slump, and is a correspondent for CBS’s 60 Minutes. He was also awarded the Vito Russo Award at the 2013 GLAAD Media Awards.
Statistics Guru, 35
Haters gonna hate -- but that didn’t stop the wunderkind statistician from prognosticating the 2012 presidential election with, at final count, 100% percent accuracy on his New York Times blog, FiveThirtyEight. As a result, on the day after the election, Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise, skyrocketed in sales, hitting number 2 on the Amazon bestseller list. The numbers nerd is currently planning his next move, while continuing to apply his data-driven model to everything from the Oscars to the Super Bowl.
Venture Capitalist, 45
“What happened to the future?” is a pretty good summation of the philosophy that drives billionaire Thiel’s libertarian utopianism. A cofounder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, his Founder’s Fund backs transformational technologies, from Elon Musk’s space travel venture SpaceX to music streaming app Spotify, and he recently joined Bill Gates in funding LightSail, a start-up to store alternative energy.
News Anchor, 49
A lone, trusted voice in a sea of just plain awful, Smith has steered his nightly series, Fox Report With Shepard Smith, to high ratings and a solid reputation that even its association with Fox News just can’t sully. With a viewership that beats out both competing networks and the rest of his own network’s lineup, it’s safe to say the Mississippi native isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
She shattered a glass ceiling when she became the first openly gay senator elected in U.S. history. Although a junior senator, Baldwin previously served as a congresswoman representing Wisconsin from 1993–2013. Asked on the campaign trail what it would mean for her to win, Baldwin replied, “When you’re not in the room, the conversation is about you. When you’re in the room, the conversation is with you.”
The impact this young R&B singer has had on popular culture in such a short period shouldn’t be underestimated. Just before releasing his debut solo album, channel ORANGE, to wide acclaim, the news that he’d also loved a man ricocheted around the world, garnering support from members of the hip-hop and R&B music communities, more usually associated with outspoken homophobia.
The news didn’t hurt record sales either. Nominated for six Grammys, Ocean took one for Best Urban Contemporary Album, as well as the Album of the Year award at the Soul Train Music Awards.
Publisher and Editor in Chief, The New Republic, 29
This past January, the Facebook cofounder finally unveiled his redesign of The New Republic’s print magazine and website, starting with a cover-story interview of Barack Obama. Though his recent foray into magazine publishing has puzzled many, Hughes’s public profile has risen steadily over the past year, after he wed his college sweetheart, Sean Eldrige, who recently filed paperwork for a 2014 bid for a congressional seat in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Chairman and Senior Executive, IAC/InterActiveCorp, 71
Shuttering the print edition of Newsweek this past year wasn’t necessarily a high point for Diller, but he forged ahead with a promising e-publishing venture (partnering with Scott Rudin, ex-Picador executive Frances Coady, and the Atavist’s Evan Ratliff) set to challenge Amazon, who currently reports 65% of all e-book sales. Diller also invested $20 million in Aereo, a browser- and tablet-supported TV platform that severely undercuts the traditional cable model and will expand to dozens of major U.S. cities this year.
The indefatigable Harris has hosted the Tony Awards three times, received two People’s Choice awards for Favorite TV Comedy Actor, and signed a book deal for a tell-all memoir, set to be released in 2014. When he’s not having fun producing and acting in his own web series or collaborating on other side projects, he’s bringing home $200,000 per episode on the longest bedtime story of all time, How I Met Your Mother, to his adorable family, David Burtka and twins Gideon Scott and Harper Grace.
TV Executive/Host, 44
The man behind the Real Housewives franchise wasn’t content to simply share his opinions on his popular late-night Bravo talk show, Watch What Happens Live. So last year he released his memoir, Most Talkative: Stories From the Front Lines of Pop Culture, which became a New York Times bestseller. He also hosted his second Miss USA pageant and discussed coming out with Anderson Cooper on Anderson Live, where he was a regular cohost.
These three statesmen are the real deal in the new gay-friendly climate on Capitol Hill.
A freshman congressman, Takano (D-California) joined the House this term as its first openly gay, non-white member. Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) won re-election this November in a heated race. A co-chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Polis (D-Colorado) cosponsored and helped pass a version of the Violence Against Women Act, updated to protect LGBT women.
HRC President, 39
Hailed as a game changer when he took over as Human Rights Campaign president in June 2012, Griffin was handed the responsibility to heal the negative perception many had of America’s largest LGBT organization. So far, it seems to be working. In what was labeled a “tipping point” year for marriage equality, Griffin was credited for prompting Vice President Joe Biden to talk publicly in favor of marriage equality -- which was followed by President Barack Obama. The HRC not only raised millions, it worked closely with other organizations, strategically giving large sums to ballot initiatives and seeing successes in Washington, Maryland, Minnesota, and Maine -- what Griffin and his team branded an “equality landslide.”
Film and Theater Producer, 54
In 2012, Rudin became the first producer to have won all four major entertainment awards, clinching a Grammy win for the cast recording of The Book of Mormon. He plans to adapt the award-winning musical to the big screen, building off his Oscar momentum from cinematic titans like The Social Network.
Editor in Chief, Time Inc., 60
The founding editor of InStyle, Nelson has steadily risen up the chain of the publishing company founded by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden. Despite the turmoil Time Warner undergoes as it reshapes itself and the big losses Time Inc. continues to report, Nelson became just the seventh editor in chief in the company’s 90-year history and the first woman. Although circulation has declined, Nelson oversees immensely popular and venerable titles -- People, InStyle, Sports Illustrated, Time, Fortune -- that continue to reach millions of Americans and are clear market leaders.
Fashion Designer/Creative Director, 50
After more than 25 years in fashion, the skirt-wearing designer is still an industry darling. On top of overseeing his own label and the fashion lines of luxury giant Louis Vuitton, in 2013, the unweary Jacobs added a revamp of Diet Coke’s image to his portfolio (including a commercial with him shirtless) and made his movie debut in the Hollywood thriller Disconnect.
New York City Council Speaker, 46
She may have officially announced her bid to become mayor of New York City just this March, but in reality she’s been running for years, as one of the most visible and open lesbian politicians in America. She married her longtime partner, Kim Catullo, in May 2012; the guest list included Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Audra McDonald singing for the brides. Just as much fun? The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck parked curbside for guests to enjoy for dessert.
Drudge Report Creator/Editor, 46
What started as an email newsletter of gossip and opinion for friends in Los Angeles in the early ’90s remains an essential news aggregator for political gossip junkies -- of course, with Drudge’s conservative viewpoints at the forefront. The Internet media kingpin now runs his site from his two Miami homes -- maybe he’ll start stepping into the spotlight more?
ACLU Executive Director, 47
Since the start of the Bush administration’s War on Terror, Romero has played a critical role in defending individual freedoms at the helm of the American Civil Liberties Union. Plus, the organization has doubled its budget and staff under his direction.
Media Mogul, 70
The often private film and music industry mogul was thrust into the spotlight this year with the debut of the PBS documentary American Masters: Inventing David Geffen. But aside from his purchase of a 12,000-square-foot penthouse overlooking Central Park and a $100 million donation to UCLA’s medical school, Geffen maintains a low profile.
The pushbutton political blogger and journalist called Obama our “first gay president” on the cover of Newsweek this past year, but that didn’t keep the weekly mag from folding. After 18 months writing his popular The Daily Dish blog at the Daily Beast (owned by Barry Diller), he jumped ship to go indie once again with a potentially lucrative idea of charging a $20 subscription fee (minimum, though many paid in excess) for the privilege of reading. So far it’s proved successful, with more than $625,000 accrued and the hopes of reaching a goal of $1 million by year’s end to support him and his eight staff members.
TV Producer/TMZ Founder and Managing Editor, 62
Having founded TMZ.com in 2005, Levin is an executive producer for and host of TMZ on TV. When not onscreen, he works as the celebrity gossip site’s managing editor, breaking news on celebrity deaths (Michael Jackson, for example) or sharing live video footage of Lindsay Lohan’s latest court drama.
Software Pioneer/Philanthropist, 59
It’s been nearly 20 years since Quark, Inc. founder and publishing pioneer Gill started the Gill Foundation, one of the nation’s leading funders of gay rights work. Colorado’s 1992 passage of the equality-snuffing Amendment 2 inspired Gill to raise LGBTQ awareness in his home state, so he turned to his checkbook. The Gill Foundation has since invested $220 million in nonprofits across the country.
CEO, The Victory Fund, 50
Celebrating 10 years as its president and CEO, Wolfe and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund were credited with impressive results during the 2012 elections: Tammy Baldwin was elected to the Senate, becoming the first openly gay senator, and the openly gay Mark Pocan succeeded her as a U.S. representative from Wisconsin. Congress also welcomed its first open bisexual, Kyrsten Sinema, and Mark Takano, who is the first non-white openly gay member.
TV Host/Author/Financial Advisor/Entrepreneur, 61
The motivational speaker and financial guru to millions has done a fantastic job of heeding her own advice. As the author of 10 books on success, host of her own television program, and Oprah’s favorite financial advisor, Orman not only influences the financial stability of many Americans who view her as an economic oracle -- urging them to pay off high-interest credit cards and reduce their overall debt burdens -- she’s also gotten wealthy doing it.
Managing Partners, CAA, 52, 54
When almost everyone who is anyone is your client (George Clooney, Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Michael Patrick King, Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Glenn Close), it’s difficult not to be celebrated in a town like Hollywood. Lourd and Huvane are also big supporters of amFAR; the latter was recently feted by his many clients for all he’s done for the AIDS charity. And don’t forget that Lourd and Carrie Fisher have a child together.
Newspaper Chain Chairman, 50
Still well-connected in the baseball community, the former CEO and managing general partner of the Pittsburgh Pirates came out publicly this year in a New York Times story, hoping to influence professional sports to change its backward views on gay equality. He continues as the chairman of the McClatchy Company, the third-largest newspaper chain in the country, and is investing in small tech start-ups.
Fashion Designer/Film Director, 51
The designer who built an empire on the motto “sex sells” is entering fatherhood and loosening up a little. This year, Ford embraced the global success of his own brand (100 stores worldwide and counting) and presented his first full-scale runway show at London Fashion Week, revoking the ban on bloggers and photographers he had applied in previous seasons.
Businessman, Political Strategist, 46
Many have not forgiven his complicity, passive or otherwise, in Karl Rove’s former efforts to use same-sex marriage to mobilize Republicans, but Mehlman has traveled a long way since coming out in 2010 and scored a coup this year after persuading dozens of influential conservatives to sign an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in its review of Prop. 8. As well as being on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group behind the brief, he has deployed his skills to help win victories for marriage equality in New York, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota, and his influence can only grow as Republicans continue to play catch-up with public opinion on gay rights.
White House Social Secretary, 51
Bernard caught our eye when he became the first openly gay man to serve as White House social secretary. Though he’s kept a polite distance from the media, his performance has not passed unnoticed. Continued for a second term, the nation’s best-placed party planner often connects potential supporters with the president via fashionable -- albeit strategic -- events.
The blockbuster sci-fi film director’s PG-13 fable Jack the Giant Slayer had a weak showing at the box office (sorry, Nicholas Hoult), but that didn’t slow him down as he continued with X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is as anticipated as his original X-Men trilogy was and set for a summer 2014 opening. Singer has taken to Twitter to disseminate his wisdom to fanboys and provoke consternation among his detractors.
Publishing Magnate, 67
While Wenner Media struck a deal with Yahoo! to get Us Weekly and Rolling Stone content on its OMG and Music feeds (and vice versa), hoping to increase already robust web traffic and advertising revenue, the man behind the titles—which include Men’s Journal—has kept a low profile amid recent cutbacks and low earnings reports.
Mayor of Houston, 55
Just a few years ago, a lesbian mayor in the fourth-largest city in the United States -- especially in Texas -- seemed impossible, but Parker has proved pessimists wrong with two successful terms in office and an undeniably left-of-center agenda. At the Democratic National Convention in September, she spoke about her commitment to progressive politics, stating, “This is a war that has already been won with young people. Full equality in this country is going to be in our lifetimes.”
International President, SEIU, 55
While unions continue to get pummeled in the political arena, the Service Employees International Union remains the fastest-growing one in North America, with Henry at the helm. She continues her 30-year fight for the working class in which she’s formed unions, improved health care for millions of children, and put an emphasis on immigrant and LGBTQ rights in the workplace as cofounder of the SEIU’s Lavender Caucus.
President and Executive Creative Director, J. Crew, 44
Lyons’s two-decade climb to the top of
J. Crew was well worth the wait. Her leadership ushered in consistent profit gains for the company last year, and the First Family’s fascination with her brand certainly can’t hurt. As carefree as she is quirky, the designer confirmed rumors of a same-sex relationship (à la Jodie Foster) when she publicly thanked jeweler Courtney Crangi at Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year Awards.
CEO, Gawker Media, 46
A decade after he spearheaded an Internet revolution with his flagship blog, Gawker, Nick Denton continues to expand his empire while staying ahead of his competition by focusing as much on user interaction as on scoops, such as the site’s expose last October of Michael Brutsch, the Reddit moderator who gained notoreity by posting sexually charged pictures of underage girls. This year, Denton is rolling out his new commenting system, Kinja, designed to turn users into full-fledged contributors on an equal footing with editors. He also plans to resurrect his former Silicon Valley gossip site, Valleywag -- adding a ninth site to his diverse blog universe.
We’ve loved this funny lady ever since her Christopher Guest days. But it’s been her scene-stealing role on Glee that put her on the map. She now has a high-grossing movie, Escape From Planet Earth, and makes her Broadway debut this May when she assumes the role of Miss Hannigan in the current revival of Annie.
Founder and President, Freedom to Marry, 56
In many ways, Wolfson is the poster boy for marriage equality. The sharp legal mind behind the same-sex marriage fight, he and his Freedom to Marry campaign, launched in 2003, have worked tirelessly to pass marriage equality at the state and national levels.
Sony Music Executive, 81
Music industry icon Davis, who helped make the careers of Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, and Kelly Clarkson, talked about his sexuality for the first time in early February. In his memoir, Davis revealed that he’s been in a relationship with a man for the past nine years -- admitting he could be similarly attracted to a woman. He’s privately been out to his children and close friends for years.
A tireless activist and advocate for LGBT rights, the writer best known for bringing queer stories to the masses (Milk, J. Edgar) has written 8, a staged re-enactment of a federal trial that led to an appellate court’s overturning of California’s Prop. 8, enlisting Hollywood’s elite to aid in spreading the message and raise funds. Now that the law will be up for review at the Supreme Court, we’ll see how effective his creative efforts have been.
CEO, American Eagle Outfitters, 50
The American Eagle Outfitters CEO had big plans to turn the company around, and proved that it was possible in 2012, rounding out the year with a 9% revenue increase for the company, thanks largely to his refashioned inventory and a successful rebranding.
After same-sex marriage passed in Washington State in the 2012 election, Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, were part of the ceremonial first group of couples to receive a state marriage license that December. Savage continues to juggle being the editorial director of Seattle’s The Stranger with writing his syndicated newspaper column, hosting the corresponding radio show, “Savage Love,” and working with MTV on his college-based advice show, Savage U. He and Miller founded the It Gets Better Project.
Google Executive/Inventor, 48
For nine years, Smith was in charge of business development and overseeing the tech giant’s philanthropic wing, DotOrg, but now she’s taken over as vice president of Google[x], a new venture looking for “radical solutions” to some “really big problems.” So, essentially, she’s trying to save the
planet for us all.
Founders, Slate PR, 49, 52
While he’s known to the general public as Mr. Matt Bomer (the couple have three sons together), Halls is professionally partnered with Huvane, and the duo manage a stunning roster of A-list Hollywood talent, including Neil Patrick Harris and Jude Law, as well as directors Ryan Murphy, Ang Lee, Brett Ratner, and Tom Ford. Don’t forget Stephen’s brother Kevin is high up at CAA. Entrenched in Hollywood? You bet.
Web Entrepreneurs, 41, 36
If you don’t know them personally, you’ve surely shopped on their hugely successful site, Fab.com, an online emporium of all things design, from tech to furnishings, fashion to food. After struggling to make a success of their gay networking site, Fabulis, Goldberg and Shellhammer (profiled on page 62) recalibrated and relaunched under an abbreviated name and with a very different pitch. So far their gambit seems to be paying off: In the last quarter of 2012, Fab made $45 million in revenue.
Blogger/TV personality, 35
Originally the queen of gossip, Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr., a.k.a. Perez Hilton, has tried to shift from his mean streak over the years, but still has his moments. In his recent Azealia Banks beef, it wasn’t just her throwing shade! Although his ability to make (or break) pop stars may have waned, he still oversees one of the highest-ranking sites for entertainment gossip. This year, he also had a cameo appearance on Broadway in Disney’s Newsies -- and became the proud papa of a baby boy.
Gender pronouns have never been as fluid in everyday conversation as they are after six successful seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and its unprecedented ratings success for Logo, which is available in 51 million households across the country. The tireless drag performer, singer, and actor has certainly paid his dues with his ups (“Supermodel (You Better Work),” which charted at number 2 in ’93) and downs (the absence of media attention a decade later). But now he’s back.