1. Ellen DeGeneres Talk Show Host/Producer/Spokesperson, 56
Everybody loves Ellen, and that’s one of the reasons she’s regained the top spot. In March, The Ellen DeGeneres Show shattered its own 10-year ratings record in the episode that immediately followed her Academy Awards hosting gig, which also gave the awards its best ratings since 2004. And her star-studded Oscars selfie almost shut down Twitter when the pic became the most retweeted ever.
Although Apple continues to battle for its share of the global marketplace against industry behemoths Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon, Cook remains the most powerful gay man in corporate America. His influence hasn’t faltered, but as he strategizes to keep the company on top in a fiercely competitive environment, he still hasn’t increased his public persona. Cook has never publicly discussed his sexual orientation, but in December 2013, the Alabama native gave a landmark speech at an event organized by his alma mater, Auburn University, in which he finally discussed suffering personal prejudice. “Since these early days, I have seen and have experienced many types of discrimination, and all of them were rooted in the fear of people that were different than the majority.”
Rachel Maddow’s climb up the cable news food chain has recently kicked into overdrive. Already reigning queen of MSNBC—The Rachel Maddow Show is the network’s most watched program—Maddow has been rising in the ratings with the all-important 25-40 demographic and gaining ground on Fox’s bottle blonde du jour, Megyn Kelly. Maddow’s show got a huge boost from her coverage of the Chris Christie Bridgegate scandal, a story her colleague Steve Kornacki played a role in breaking.
The liberal Democrat’s voting record since being sworn in proves Wisconsin offers up far better things than cheese. She’s dedicated her political career to ending discrimination and creating a more equal America. Through her various committee assignments, her influence has grown and she has cosponsored a number of bills to assist students and unemployed Americans, along with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, which seeks to end gender and sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.
Greenwald immediately became a household name (and the bane of the U.S. government) for interviewing whistleblower Edward Snowden and reporting on Snowden’s leaks regarding the National Security Agency. He also captured the attention of eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, who has funded The Intercept, the new digital lightning rod launched by Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill as a platform for investigative and watchdog journalism. He still operates from his home in Brazil, far from prying eyes, but his impact on American politics and culture is only beginning to be felt.
NBC’s The New Normal was cancelled and FOX’s Glee is drawing to a close, but Murphy is not slowing down. The prolific entertainment mogul is pushing forward with the American Horror Story franchise; ratings for the FX series have nearly doubled since season 1, reviving 65-year-old Jessica Lange’s career and making her one of the hottest actresses on TV. And after nearly four years, Murphy is finally getting his passion project, an adaptation of The Normal Heart, on HBO this May and is already prepping a sequel to the award-winning Larry Kramer play. Having conquered TV and film, Murphy is now eyeing a stage revival of Funny Girl.
A perennial favorite of stage and small-screen audiences, Harris — a.k.a. Barney Stinson on CBS’s Emmy Award-winning sitcom How I Met Your Mother, which wrapped this year — has swapped his tailored suits for a blond wig and heels as he stars as the titular transgender punk rocker in the Broadway production of John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Although the popular awards host won’t be available for this year’s Tonys, he is featured in David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl, further elevating his entertainment cred.
In recent years, Cohen has become a bigger star than the housewives on his cable network, Bravo. Last year, he relinquished his executive duties in order to focus on Watch What Happens Live, and Bravo recently renewed the late-night show for two more years, having negotiated a multiyear deal with his production company, Most Talkative. But don’t worry, he’ll always be the producer (and most reliable) face of the Real Housewives franchise.
The former Missouri Tigers defensive end and SEC Defensive Player of the Year came out in a New York Times interview, singlehandedly shifting the discussion about gay men in professional sports before ever playing in a pro-level game. By coming out at the beginning of a promising career, when he’s a solid prospect, he’s forced every player, owner, coach, and sports reporter to take a position on the presence of out players in America’s most popular, most macho sport.
For almost a decade, Americans have awakened to get their news from Roberts, anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America—the highest-rated morning news show program on television. Roberts, a 30-year TV news veteran, came out last year in a Facebook post that celebrated the cancer survivor’s 100 days after a bone marrow transplant during her fight against myelodysplastic syndrome. Among others, Roberts thanked her girlfriend of 10 years, Amber Laign. The Peabody Award winner has since become the face of the Be the Match Registry, a nonprofit run by the National Marrow Donor Program.
The congressman from Colorado’s second district was first elected in 2008 and has been very active in Congress ever since, introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, among other legislation. He’s one of the 10 wealthiest members of Congress, and his philanthropy work includes the founding of two charter schools and his education-focused Jared Polis Foundation.
The womenswear designer made his debut on the Forbes billionaires list this year. The Long Island native has seen his company grow steadily since he took it public in 2011, proving that there is hope for FIT dropouts. After many years as a reality judge on Project Runway, he received the ultimate celebrity endorsement when Hollywood starlet Lupita Nyong’o wore one of his designs at a pre-Oscars cocktail party. Kors is also a humanitarian champion with his Watch Hunger Stop campaign, an initiative to end global hunger launched in partnership with the UN’s World Food Programme.
13. Peter Thiel Hedge Fund Manager/Venture Capitalist, 46
With more than $2.2 billion under his belt, Thiel wields power in multiple arenas. Cofounding PayPal earned the young gay entrepreneur a sizable fortune, but being Facebook’s first outside investor turned Thiel into a powerhouse. He’s the only openly gay man at the upper echelons of the investment industry and continues to invest in eccentric areas, such as antiaging efforts, space travel, and encouraging students to drop out of college. His focus of late has been on Palantir, a CIA-backed data-mining software company he thinks could be bigger than Facebook. A conservative libertarian, Thiel believes gay rights are a nonpartisan issue and supports many Republican candidates and conservative super PACs.
When his talk show, Anderson Live, was canceled, Cooper finally seemed to relax, showcasing a softer, funnier side of the sometimes stuffy news anchor. Even though he’s primarily focused on breaking news on the Emmy-winning Anderson Cooper 360, networks took notice. Last year, he was reportedly approached about anchoring the Today show, and Jeopardy! considered him as a replacement for Alex Trebek. Until he makes his next move, he’ll continue reporting from the frontlines.
15. Barry Diller Chairman & Senior Executive, IAC/InterActiveCorp, 72
This billionaire business mogul has most likely affected your life without you even knowing it. The chairman of IAC, the company that holds brands like OkCupid, DailyBurn, and About.com, Diller has changed the way we date, work out, and generally go about our daily lives. The bisexual businessman and philanthropist has also mentored men and women who went on to become studio execs at Paramount, Disney, Columbia Pictures, and DreamWorks. He’s married to the sophisticated and sexy Diane von Furstenberg, and this power couple seems to have it all (while keeping their private life pretty private).
Since putting together the legal dream team that took down Prop 8, Griffin has directed HRC in its efforts to remove barriers for transgender service members and battling Jim Crow-style antigay legislation in Kansas, Ohio, and Arizona. A growing international focus will galvanize equality efforts in Nigeria, Uganda, and Russia.
17. Mary Kay Henry International President, SEIU, 56
Henry leads the fight for working-class unions, striving to keep the voices of much of America heard. She was integral to the success of SEIU’s Lavender Caucus and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Most recently, she’s worked closely with President Obama and various government officials to discuss state-level efforts to raise the minimum wage.
18. Ken Mehlman Businessman/Political Strategist, 47
Since coming out in 2010, former Republican National Committee chairman Mehlman has been a revolutionary leader in his party. Through his work with the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), Mehlman persuaded dozens of conservatives to sign a brief to the Supreme Court condemning California’s Prop 8. Mehlman’s position at AFER has also helped win marriage equality in New York, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota.
Romero defends Americans’ individual freedoms through his work at the American Civil Liberties Union. Since he took control of the organization right before 9/11, the ACLU has launched the Keep America Safe and Free campaign and the John Adams Project. Romero has also been vocal in response to President Obama’s changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs, arguing that the government should stop collecting and retaining data on law-abiding citizens.
Having conquered film, TV, and the stage, Lynch has transformed into a marquee entertainer; she’s the go-to personality for award shows, game shows, and anyone wanting to have a good time. In addition to cohosting New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly on NBC, the actress hosts Hollywood Game Night, now in its second season. Her lesbian super PAC continues to raise funds to endorse political candidates that support women and LGBT rights, and she’s standing beside Beyoncé in a campaign to boost girls’ self-esteem.
The popular mayor of a major U.S. city, Parker not only continues to push for progressive politics in her second term, she also married longtime partner Kathy Hubbard in a January 2014 ceremony that was celebrated in the media (even in her conservative home state of Texas). Personal life aside, Parker has big professional dreams: Rumor has it she plans to run for higher office in 2018.
With a net worth of $6.1 billion, Geffen landed the number 227 spot on the Forbes list of the richest people on the planet. The media mogul continues to donate to various charities and institutions, including a recent $25 million check for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s museum, set to open in 2017.
23. Jennifer Pritzker Businesswoman/Philanthropist, 63
For the first time ever, the Forbes billionaires list this year includes an openly transgender billionaire: Pritzker. In August 2013 Pritzker came out as transgender, not long after granting $1.35 million to the research institute the Palm Center to study transgender service in the military. Granddaughter to the founder of the Hyatt hotel chain, Pritzker is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and CEO of private wealth management firm Tawani Enterprises in Chicago.
The California Democrat is the first openly gay, nonwhite member of the House of Representatives; he has served on the Riverside Community College Board of Trustees since 1990 and is also a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus. In the fight for marriage equality, Takano was influential in overturning Prop 8 and DOMA by urging President Obama to file a brief against the legislations.
Cosponsoring many progressive bills, the Rhode Island politician has shown a willingness to work with others in the gridlocked House, but most of his focus has been on issues concerning domestic workers and helping his tiny home state. He's currently on the Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary Committee, the latter plays a critical role in shaping social policy and the Congressman has been a staunch advocate for international LGBT rights as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
26. Andrew Sullivan Author/Commentator/Entrepreneur, 50
After leaving the Daily Beast and launching The Dish, his subscription-driven news site, opinion was split over whether it would survive. Sullivan, as ambitious as he was when he was breaking stories at the New Republic, promised he’d have $1 million in revenue by the end of 2013. Though he fell short of that mark, the $875,000 The Dish raked in is certainly a benchmark for new media entrepreneurs, and in late 2013 he launched The Deep Dish, a monthly, subscription-only, longform journalism magazine online.
The CNN anchor and Twitter king’s stock has continued to rise since he came out in a revealing memoir in 2011. Lemon’s candid comments about the Michael Dunn verdict made headlines and boosted the national dialogue on “stand your ground” laws. Because of his no-holds-barred approach, he’s been tapped for The Don Lemon Show, an upcoming prime-time news program on CNN.
After recent box office disappointments (Jack the Giant Slayer?), Singer is back with X-Men: Days of Future Past and a slate of other high-profile projects. He’s also harnessed his Twitter account to tease and tempt Marvel’s most devoted fans, and says he doesn’t see any end in sight for the popular franchise.
The Academy Award–nominated actress caused a sensation earlier this year when she publicly addressed her sexuality at a Human Rights Campaign conference, after years of rumors. The impact of a leading lady in Hollywood making such a bold move is still being felt. Next up: She’ll star in Bryan Singer’s summer blockbuster, X-Men: Days of Future Past.
30. Evan Wolfson Founder and President, Freedom to Marry, 57
Wolfson deserves extra thanks for founding the organization that has helped marriage equality continue to spread across the country. His arguments against the Boy Scouts of America in front of the Supreme Court made Wolfson one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world.
Standing 6-foot-8, Griner is an intimidating figure on the court playing for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. Publicly discussing her sexual orientation hasn’t hurt her endorsement deals — she’s even modeled male clothes for Nike — and she continues to be an inspiration for a new generation of young women.
In 11 years, Rudin has earned an astounding eight Best Picture Oscar nominations. He’s also one of 12 people in history to EGOT, scoring Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. We’re happy that the entertainment kingmaker is continuing his good-taste reign on Broadway and in Hollywood.
33. Jess Cagle Editorial Director, People & Entertainment Weekly, 48
With major shakeups at Time Inc. as it prepares to spin off from parent company Time Warner, Cagle assumed the editorial director mantle at People magazine, one of the top-selling magazines in the United States, while also maintaining his influence at Entertainment Weekly, where he’s been editor since 2009. One of his first big decisions? No more celebrity baby photos from the paparazzi.
34. Harvey Levin Founder and Managing Editor, TMZ, 63
As founder, executive producer, and managing editor of TMZ both online and on TV, Levin continues to break ground in celebrity gossip. Last year, he was responsible for Alec Baldwin’s shame spiral after Levin reported the actor used a homophobic slur. While he makes life for celebrities difficult, he delights fans who feed on the latest Lindsay Lohan or Justin Bieber updates.
35. Suze Orman TV Host/Author/Financial Advisor/Entrepreneur, 62
It seems there’s no financial problem Orman can’t solve. As the author of 10 books on success, the host of her own television program, and Oprah’s favorite financial advisor, she is the voice and face of financial stability, helping many Americans pay off their debts. Of course, while they’re paying, she’s making millions on common sense and sticking to her guns.
Silver’s announcement that he would leave The New York Times and join ESPN, bringing his FiveThirtyEight blog with him and becoming its editor in chief, caused shockwaves. The new site’s focus is “data journalism,” according to Silver, and will cover sports stats, of course, along with predictions on anything else that strikes his fancy—from politics and social causes to science and Mexican food.
Proof that Ford is entering the realm of pop culture: Jay Z gave him more than a name-check on his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail; he wrote an entire song about him (highlight: “I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford”). Ford returned the favor with a fall collection echoing the rapper’s lyrics. Meanwhile, the launch of his new men’s grooming line last year was a success.
38. Dustin Lance Black Screenwriter/Activist/Producer, 39
Although he’s taken a step back from the Hollywood limelight — aside from causing a sensation by dating Olympic diver Tom Daley — Black has used his clout for political and social causes, helping take down Prop 8 with AFER, the organization he helped found, and continuing to write strong storylines about gay characters and issues. He now has two projects in the works—Under the Banner of Heaven and Statistical—as well as an 8-hour miniseries about the gay rights movement.
After 16 stellar years at the creative helm of Louis Vuitton, Jacobs parted ways with the company to focus on the IPO of his own brand. Two high-profile campaigns with Miley Cyrus and Jessica Lange are already foreshadowing an exciting new era for the designer as his empire continues to expand.
40. Chris Hughes Publisher and Editor in Chief, The New Republic, 30
A year after purchasing the legacy publication, Hughes is making good on his promise to bring the mag into the world of new media. Having announced it doubled ad revenue, “largely driven by growth in digital advertising,” Hughes’s pledge to update it is a testament to his previous work coordinating Barack Obama’s social networking website during his 2008 presidential campaign. With his husband, Sean Eldridge, running for New York’s 19th congressional district, Hughes is one-half of a power couple on the move in the world of media and politics.
The bisexual daughter of Larry Ellison (the fifth richest man in the world) is becoming a Hollywood powerhouse, having financed a string of critical hits, including the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal film Zero Dark Thirty. This year, she became the first woman and the fourth person ever to receive two best picture Academy Award nominations in the same year, for her work with American Hustle and Her.
The singer-songwriter was named one of Time’s Most Influential People of the Year last year, but he’s since taken a step back from performing after a vocal cord injury. Luckily, his collaborations with power couple Jay Z (“Oceans”) and Beyoncé (“Superpower”) have kept him firmly grounded in the musical landscape. His follow-up to the Grammy-winning Channel Orange is slated for a late summer release.
After inventing an impressive computer program, Tim Gill turned a $2,000 loan from his parents into a megafortune. Afterward, Gill threw himself into philanthropy, creating the Gill Foundation in 1994. Since then, the organization has donated hundreds of millions to nonprofits, advocating for the LGBT community and those affected by AIDS.
44. Bryan Lourd & Kevin Huvane Managing Partners, CAA, 53/55
They have the biggest clients in Hollywood — including Clooney, Madonna, Kidman, and Oprah — so of course their power is immense. Lourd also serves as director of Barry Diller’s IAC, which oversees a huge portfolio of websites (including some that dictate your dating life). Both Huvane and Lourd are important supporters of amfAR.
With old media getting savvier and BuzzFeed on the rise, Denton has seen his digital media empire threatened once again by powerful adversaries. A lawsuit by Quentin Tarantino against Gawker Media for copyright infringement is publicity that would have burnished the upstart’s cheeky reputation in the past, but it’s getting more and more difficult to outrun the competition.
46. Jenna Lyons President & Executive Creative Director, J. Crew, 45
The creative director of the preppy brand continues to clothe America, but also made her acting debut on Girls this year as an Anna Wintour–esque magazine editor, giving the ice queen treatment to Lena Dunham’s character (and then firing her without batting a lash). We want more!
Edith Windsor led the charge against the Defense of Marriage Act, but Kaplan was the force behind the icon. Her arguments in front of the Supreme Court broke down the country’s most egregious law, and her efforts afforded Americans equal rights throughout the country, making her a national hero. She has been recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers by the National Law Journal.
The organization has a simple objective: Get LGBT leaders elected into public office. As its head, Wolfe levels the playing field, helping leaders from both sides of the aisle win votes and take office. Although not all the candidates they endorse eventually get elected, many do — such as Houston’s Annise Parker.
By now, one would expect RuPaul to have passed the mantle of America’s Drag Queen Superstar to one of the six queens he has crowned on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but he has no plans to slow down. While he’s setting ratings records for Logo TV, he’s topping the dance charts with his sixth studio album, Born Naked, back as the face of MAC Cosmetics, and is partnering with ColorEvolution to launch his own makeup line. Someone should warn Tyra Banks—but it’s Oprah who should take notice.
50. Simon Halls & Stephen Huvane Founders, Slate PR, 50/53
Halls has three sons with his actor partner Matt Bomer, but it’s his business partnership with Huvane (brother to CAA’s Kevin) that keeps him in the spotlight, thanks to a roster of talent that includes Neil Patrick Harris, Jude Law, Ryan Murphy, Brett Ratner, and Tom Ford. These guys are pulling the strings behind the scenes and keeping the ball rolling.