There are few sounds as ubiquitous to queer life that they are instantly recognizable: the chirp of a Grindr notification, the clack of a drag queen's fan, the soft smack of an air kiss between old friends. But is any sound as pervasive and thrilling as the comforting cackle of Fran Drescher, best known as The Nanny's Fran Fine?
Since it premiered in 1993, The Nanny -- and the woman who created it -- have been an indelible part of queer culture thanks to its camp sensibility and outrageous fashion."It just made sense that [the show] would've been embraced by the gay community because it was us creating it and we have that sensibility," says Drescher, now 62, referring to her collaboration with former husband Peter Marc Jacobson. Drescher believes her character resonated with queer audiences because of her position as an over-the-top outsider. "[Queer people responded to] the fact that I was a fish out of water, the fact that I was self deprecating, the style, the look, all of it. The whole package."
But Drescher isn't a gay icon simply because drag queens love to don their best vintage Moschino and emulate her look, it's also because of decades of activism on behalf of her fans -- something she'd been committed too long before she was a household name. "The advocacy came before the fandom. I don't do it because they're my fans. I advocate for the gay community because I believe in equality," she insists, referencing her 2010 Human Rights Campaign ad supporting marriage equality. "I had always been a defender of the gay community and gay civil liberties, and I obviously had a lot of gay friends."When Jacobson came out after the couple divorced in 1999, supporting the community that loved her "went onto a whole other level."
Since her days caring for the Sheffield children, Drescher has appeared on Broadway, battled breast cancer, written three books, and starred in a sitcom based on her own divorce. In February, she'll return to TV in NBC's Indebted, which follows a baby boomer couple who are forced to move in with their son and his wife after going broke.
Drescher teases that a Nanny-related project is on the way and that she and Jacobson are also considering a reboot. And she's even suggested that Cardi B, who has cited Fran Fine as a fashion influence numerous times, star in the sequel series. "She and I are connected because of our styles and funny voice," Drescher laughs. No matter what projects she takes on, Drescher is a part of an elite pantheon on queer icons, someone who has made us laugh and fought for us -- and the adoration is mutual. "I love the gay community, and I feel the love."
This piece originally appears in Out's Culture Issue, available on newsstands on 2/25. To get an advanced look at the issue, download it for Kindle or Nook, and grab your copy by subscribing now.