Although it looks so very glamorous, being famous does have a dark side. One of the worst parts of being a celebrity is that sometimes it serves celebrity fame better to keep secrets about their true selves than it does being honest. This has led to decades and decades of actors and actresses keeping their sexuality a secret in order to maintain an active career in Hollywood. It does seem extreme but there are so many celebrities that come out of the closet to find themselves without any work or only receiving only supporting roles when they should be a lead. This bias is birthed from centuries of stereotypes surrounding those that live on the LGBTQ side of the sexuality spectrum.
Sometimes an actor or actress doesn’t tell the world that they are queer because they are worried about getting parts or losing their fan base. Others don’t come out because they come from a religious background or a very conservative family. No matter what the reasoning is behind staying in the closet, it generally comes from a very real threat. These actors, athletes and musicians have all revealed their true selves but ended up seeing their careers peter out because of it. No matter what happened in any of these people’s lives, they’ve all stated that they are so much happier now that they can tell the truth about who they are.
15 Anne Heche
Early in her career Anne Heche was one of the up and coming actresses to look out for, but now she is mostly seen here or there in supporting roles. Soon after Ellen Degeneres came out in 1997 she and Heche walked the red carpet publicly as a couple. The tabloids went wild as this was a time when gay relationships were not at all tolerated in the public eye. People bashed the couple, saying that they were pushing their gay lifestyle down America’s throats. This was nonsense but it still put a complete halt on Anne Heche’s rise to the A-List.
Despite claiming to media outlets that they would get a civil union if it became legal in Vermont the pair split in 2000, Heche has very publicly and defensively stated that all of her other relationships were with men. Just after moving out of their shared home Heche was famously found wandering around looking for a spaceship to pick her up. Shortly after, Heche shared that she had been living with her alter ego ‘Celestia’ and then married a cameraman just one year later. After coming out Anne Heche has had some lucrative roles on television but nothing on the silver screen.
14 Portia De Rossi
Although the famous out talk show host Ellen doesn’t appear on this list, she is making another cameo. Portia De Rossi and Ellen recently celebrated their 8th wedding anniversary but De Rossi’s career hasn’t been quite as successful. Before dating Ellen, Portia (born Amanda Lee Rogers in Australia) was married to a man from 1996-99 in a plan to get a green card but later said that it was because she was scared to be revealed as a lesbian as such a young actress. While starring in her breakout role as Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal De Rossi was seeing Francesca Gregorini, she once stated that not even her co-stars on Ally McBeal knew that she was a lesbian. Aside from her role in Ally McBeal, De Rossi has also played very well known characters on Arrested Development and Scandal.
The talented actress was in the closet until she was outed by tabloids in photos of her and then girlfriend Gregorini. Although she still continues to work steadily every couple of years, De Rossi’s career plateaued when she publicly came out of the closet. We will say that when we do see De Rossi as Lindsay Bluth or “Ice Queen” Nelle Porter we can’t help but love every minute of it.
13 Amber Heard
With an upcoming spot in the newest Justice League film Heard’s career could still have a fighting chance, but what she has dealt with since coming out as bisexual has made it harder for her to climb up the ladder. Heard came out in 2010 as bisexual by attending the 25th Anniversary Gala for Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in hopes of being a voice for others to feel comfortable coming out. She was well received by the LGBTQ community until her marriage to Johnny Depp in 2015. After her public relationship with photographer Tasya Van Ree from 2008-12 the community was surprised when Heard moved in with Depp in 2012 and every interview that she did was littered with questions about her sexuality and whether or not she still liked women. Being asked no questions about the project that they’re promoting obviously hinders an actress's ability to market the film and has made Heard’s rise to the A-List even harder.
12 Clay Aiken
Despite losing the classic TV show American Idol to Ruben Studdard in 2003, Aiken was looking at having a more promising career than the champ himself. People loved Aiken so much that his fans gained the moniker “Claymates.” The singer with a voice of gold signed with RCA and put out at least 5 albums before the media urged him to declare his sexuality. Aiken confirmed that he was gay in an interview with People magazine. After that interview his celebrity as an advocate for gay rights and anti-bullying grew exponentially. The singer was honored by the Family Equality Council in 2009 at their annual benefit dinner in 2009 and also went to Capitol Hill to speak on anti-gay bullying for the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network in 2010. As far as his singing career was concerned though, coming out didn’t help much. Aiken switched labels from RCA to Decca Records and put out two more albums as an openly gay man but didn’t find much success.
11 Lance Bass
At the height of the boy band craze N*SYNC was right at the top of the pack with the Backstreet Boys, and Lance Bass was along for the ride. After some serious bullying from celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, Bass came out to People magazine. He spoke out about staying in the closet while in N*SYNC and knew that if he had come out in their heyday he would have alienated young fans and possibly killed their career. It was also surprisingly difficult because Bass hadn’t come out to his Mississippi family yet. Being forced into this step by media outlets threatening to tell the world that he was gay was very hard on Bass and his family, but he has persevered and is now happily married. His career hasn’t persevered though and despite some spots in movies and TV shows Bass is no longer involved in the music business. Being gay hasn’t hurt his career as much as the death of boy bands, but it hasn’t helped at all either.
10 Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon is best known for her role as Miranda on popular HBO show and movie series Sex and the City. A year before the show ended its 6 year run, Nixon left her husband and eventually began dating now-wife Christine Marinoni. This is a harder case to judge because Nixon is so closely identified with her character Miranda, which could hold equal weight in stalling her career as coming out did. Since her run on S&TC Nixon has had some very moving roles in independent films with 2015 as her busiest year with 3 films in theaters. Her best role since S&TC is coming up this year when she plays Emily Dickinson in A Quiet Passion. We aren’t worried about the future of this bisexual actress and breast cancer survivor, she can probably handle any speed bumps coming her way.
9 Wentworth Miller
Golden Globe-winning actor and breakout star of 2005 series Prison Break is also an openly gay man who is very honest with the press about his struggles. In a 2007 interview with InStyle magazine Miller denied that he could be gay until the opportunity to tell the world organically presented itself in 2013. That year Miller declined an invitation to the Saint Petersburg International Film Festival publicly on the GLAAD website in which he states that he "Cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly."
Since this revelation Miller has been in the media multiple times for his struggle with suicidal depression and rapid weight gain. He responded to a meme poking fun at his weight gain with an emotional response citing suicidal thoughts leading him to eat and reaching out for sensitivity from the public. Despite some roles on television in the last years Miller still struggles but is it from coming out or having to stay in the closet for all of those years.
8 Jason Collins
Perhaps this one is a smidge too literal but Jason Collins happily retired from his 13-year NBA career one season after coming out publicly in 2013. Collins came out through a personal letter posted on Sports Illustrated website and later posted as a cover story in their issue that month. Collins didn’t know what to expect and he did find himself as a free agent for a season after the story hit publication. Jason Kidd eventually called Collins on to join the Nets for their 2013 season and he got in the best shape of his life to show that an out athlete is just like any other. His 98 jersey, which he wore for the year that Matthew Shepard was beaten to death and dragged from a moving car for being gay, was a top seller that year in the NBA store. Collins is now in a happy relationship with boyfriend Brunson Green and retired from the NBA.
7 Kwame Harris
Harris himself has attributed the pressures of staying in the closet to his decline in the NFL from the best prospect to the forgotten. When he started out after playing for Stanford, Harris was the No. 2 ranked offensive tackle in the 2003 NFL draft. He had an issue with blocking penalties that led him down to the bottom of the barrel and was eventually let go from the Oakland Raiders in 2008. The tackle officially retired from the game after being cut from the United Football League team from Florida. After retiring he went back to school to achieve his undergraduate degree and better his life, but trouble with the law was soon a regular part of his life. In 2013 Harris was convicted on misdemeanor counts of assault, battery and domestic violence against his boyfriend Dimitri Geier. Harris served 5 days in jail and 3 years probation after an argument about soy sauce on rice which came to blows. Let’s hope he can pull it together soon and stay out of jail.
6 Daniel Franzese
Some may argue that being gay is what put Franzese on the map with his supporting role as a flamboyant man Damien in Tina Fey’s hit film Mean Girls. But Franzese is now being typecast as a gay supporting role in everything he auditions for. The actor is positive that he can play a more manly, bro type character or leading male but is never given the chance because he is a gay male. The actor came out in a letter to his famed character Damien from Mean Girls and from then forward was typecast as a gay male which was a problem until the 2015 break on the HBO show Looking and the movie reprisal of the show. In July 2014 Franzese proposed to Joseph Bradley Phillips in the Starbucks where they met. We are currently waiting to see him in a role for TVs newest legal drama series Conviction.
5 Greta Garbo
This entry in the list never actually came out while Garbo was alive, but instead she was just secretly labelled a lesbian by Hollywood and then never cast in films again. The Swedish-born American actress starred in 28 films films in her career and successfully transferred from silent to moving sound pictures. In May 1938 Harry Brandt submitted an article on behalf of the Independent Theater Owners of America to the Independent Film Journal listing actresses and actors that didn’t deserve to work in the industry, on this list was Greta Garbo. After this letter was published Garbo starred in one more film before retiring from acting at the age of 35. The second name on the list was Marlene Dietrich who we now know to be Garbo’s lover. This is no longer viewed as a coincidence and many historians mark this letter as a hate crime against two women who happened to prefer each other’s company to a man’s.
4 Ricky Martin
This dancing machine has been loved by the public since he was only 12 years old and the youngest member of hit band Menudo. Since then he has come out with successful albums from Mexico to America and even starred in the American TV soap opera General Hospital in 1990 as a Puerto Rican singer. Many would argue that in 1999 Martin single-handedly brought the Latin music scene to North America with his release of Livin’ La Vida Loca. The best-selling single of all time has sold over 8 million copies. He only released 2 English solo albums but has released 8 Albums in Spanish and even became a partial celebrity on Mexican television. The singer came out in 2010 and has since been involved in publicly supporting gay rights. Martin is currently in a relationship with Jwan Yosef a Syrian Swedish painter and has not had a successful album release since his coming out statement.
3 Rupert Everett
As one of the stars of My Best Friend’s Wedding Everett could be considered a movie star, but he claims that being openly gay throughout his career has made it harder for him to be a big movie star. He has written screenplays, starred on television and the big screen and even gotten involved with local politics but he still believes that being a gay actor ruined his Hollywood career. Despite his own claims Everett has had some great roles like that of Prince Charming in the popular Shrek films. And although he does play a lot of supporting roles the ones that he does get cast in are quite memorable. Despite these successes Everett is still quite vocal about how he could have been bigger if he had kept his sexuality a secretly. He does, however, assess that he is a lot happier than actors that have to stay in the closet, even if they are more rich.
2 Rosie O’Donnell
There was a time when O’Donnell was a usual face in feature films and television but she is rarely seen nowadays. She has always been at the helm of donating mass cash to charities and even earned the nickname “Queen of Nice” because of it. In 2002 well into her comedy and acting careers O’Donnell came out as a lesbian a couple of months before wrapping her talk show. Four years later O’Donnell had the chance to join The View and use her talk show chops but only lasted a year due to issues with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck and for stirring regular controversies on national television. She has had a couple of spots on television but has not gotten a major role since coming out. It is possible that she doesn’t lose roles just because she is gay but maybe because she is quite passionate about political issues and not neutral enough for talk shows any longer.
1 Michael Sam
This young football hero was drafted in just the 7th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams but was cut at the end of training camp. The reason that this was such a big deal is because Sam was the very first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team. He did spend some time at Dallas Cowboys training camp but also didn’t fit in there and was let go. Sam fully believes that he would be drafted to an NFL team if he hadn’t come out as openly gay, saying "I think if I never would have came out, never would have said those words out to the public, I would still be currently in the NFL. But because of me saying those words, I think it could have played a huge part in my current situation.”
Although his NFL career has remained stagnant, Michael Sam has been inspiring for young LGBTQ community members and has stayed involved in speaking out on behalf of gay rights and building a positive view of the gay community.
In 2015 he spent some time making history in Canada as the first openly gay player in the Canadian Football League on the Montreal Alouettes.