On one hand, being a celebrity means living a glamorous life and being surrounded by glamorous people, but on the other hand, it also means that their private life isn’t as private as they would like it to be. Sometimes, they try to hide some details about themselves because they are afraid they would have a negative impact on their career and, unfortunately, that happens pretty often. While their career should depend on their hard work and talent, other things can come in the way of that, such as their looks, their past, and even their sexuality. There have been cases of famous people basically killing their careers by coming out of the closet, mostly due to years and years-worth of stereotypes, and a dark cloud surrounding the LGBTQ community.
However, there have also been some cases of people’s careers getting improved after they’d publicly admitted who they really are. And while things such as one’s religion, race, sexual orientation, etc., shouldn’t really matter when it comes to their work, there are people who are a living proof that it, unfortunately, does matter. Here are 10 celebs who killed their career by coming out (and 5 who were helped by it):
15 Killed His Career: Lance Bass
What is one thing that all popular boy bands have in common? Well, a whole bunch of young, female fans, of course. When you are aware that most of your fans consist of girls that have a huge crush on you, you are also aware that being gay isn’t the best way to keep those fans hot for you. Lance Bass was a part of N’Sync and he had to pretend he was straight because the band’s marketing was mostly focused on teenagers who idolized those guys on the stage. All young girls wanted them and all boys wanted to be them. But we know that the truth is a little bit like water – it has its own ways of leaking. Bass came out and both he and the rest of the band knew that it could mean the end of their career.
14 Helped Her Career: Ellen Degeneres
It has been two decades since Ellen Degeneres publicly came out during an Oprah interview, and that moment changed not only Ellen’s life, but it has had a major impact on pop culture and the LGBTQ community in general. Her character, Ellen Morgan, became the first ever gay lead character on television, which was a huge step forward on the path of general acceptance. However, it wasn’t all flowers and unicorns at that point. Ellen faced some serious bashing, hate mail, and even threats. But look where she is today! She’s become one of the most popular talk-show hosts ever and millions of people love her regardless of her sexual orientation. She is not afraid to be herself and she has been a major inspiration to gay people all around the globe.
13 Killed His Career: Adam Lambert
Adam Lambert is an American singer who rose to fame thanks to the show American Idol, where he showed his great talent and lovely singing voice to everybody out there. However, once he came out as gay, there was some speculation about whether that could actually mean the end of his career. Gene Simmons stated that Lambert had killed his career after speaking openly about his sexuality because people’s focus was no longer on his talent, but on his sexual orientation instead. He also said that Lambert needed to understand that some of his fans came from more conservative parts of the US, and while it is not a big deal if you are a gay man in LA, the same rules didn’t apply in Nebraska or Wisconsin, for example.
12 Killed Her Career: Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon was married to a man and she became wildly popular thanks to her role in HBO series Sex and the City. People from all around the world have watched it regularly and they’ve gotten used to seeing Cynthia in the role of a straight woman searching for the right man in the sea of men in New York City. When she left her husband and started dating a woman, Christine Marinoni, people were sincerely shocked, which they probably wouldn’t have been to that extent if it weren’t for her whole S&TC background. It would be similar to finding out that Neil Patrick Harris, best known for his role of the womanizer Barney Stinson, is gay. Oh, wait a second, he is. Unfortunately, Cynthia’s career went downhill from the moment she came out.
11 Killed Her Career: Amber Heard
Amber Heard’s sexual orientation has been discussed by people from all over the world since she seems to like men and women equally. In 2010, she came out as bisexual by attending a GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) event. At the time, she had been in a relationship with Tasya Van Ree for over two years. However, the same year she broke up with Tasya, she moved in with Johnny Depp which left the LGBTQ community quite surprised. Another surprising thing was how her career magically took off the moment she got romantically involved with a man (and not just any man). From the moment she came out, until the moment she got back into the closet, it seemed as if someone had pressed the pause button on her career.
10 Helped His Career: Neil Patrick Harris
Everyone who has ever seen even one episode of How I Met Your Mother was at least a little bit surprised when they found out that the actor who portrayed the biggest womanizer ever, Barney Stinson, was actually gay. Neil Patrick Harris came out in an interview for People magazine in 2006. Once the truth was out, he decided to publish a memoir Choose Your Own Autobiography, where he describes his journey of accepting who he was. Today, not only is his career getting better and better, he is also living a very happy family life with his husband and two children. He is one of the great examples of people who are gay, happy, and well-accepted by the general public thanks to the great work he does.
9 Killed His Career: Ricky Martin
Ricky Martin is the man who made Latin music more popular than ever after releasing his huge hit Livin’ La Vida Loca. This amazing singer and dancing machine made women around the world go nuts, and almost every young girl had a crush on him. He had released 10 wildly successful albums before he came out as gay, but from that point on his career seriously shifted. He hasn’t had a successful album since 2010, when he came out to the public. This Puerto Rican macho-man suddenly wasn’t nearly as attractive to women all over the planet after they found out he was playing for the other team. However, he has been involved in supporting gay rights and he’s been a huge inspiration for LGBTQ community members since the moment he came out.
8 Helped Her Career: Ellen Page
Ellen Page announced that she was gay back in 2014, during a conference benefiting the LGBTQ youth in Las Vegas. During her speech there, she stated that hiding her sexuality was bad for her mental health, for her spirit, and, collaterally, for her career as well. She was a successful actress before coming out, and she has been equally successful ever since she spoke openly about her sexuality. The main difference is that she finally feels free now because she is not afraid anymore of what would happen if somebody found out her secret. She can now fully enjoy both her private life and her great career, as well as all opportunities that may come in the future. She also stated she felt obligated to tell the truth because might help other men and women out there come out of the closet after years of hiding.
7 Killed His Career: Rupert Everett
Rupert Everett came out as gay over 20 years ago and, since then, he stated on numerous occasions that it ruined his Hollywood career. From the moment he told everybody the truth about his sexuality, he was offered no leading parts in movies and he actually advised other gay actors not to come out at all if they want to have successful careers. He did, however, get some quite memorable supporting parts, such as the one in the hit movie My Best Friend’s Wedding, where he portrayed a gay man. He was also the voice of Prince Charming in all Shrek movies, and one could argue that he does have a good Hollywood career despite the fact that he’s openly gay. However, he doesn’t feel that way which is obvious from numerous comments he's made in the past.
6 Helped His Career: Wentworth Miller
Wentworth Miller is a Golden Globe-winning actor who rose to fame thanks to the super-popular TV series Prison Break. However, he kept his sexuality a secret for a long time and he waited for the right opportunity to come out. He finally did so in 2013, when he declined an invitation to a film festival in Saint Petersburg with the explanation that he couldn’t attend an event hosted by a country that denies basic human rights to people like himself. After he came out, he spoke openly about the depression that he was struggling with during the time he spent “in closet”. According to him, keeping this secret cost him many opportunities that he would have taken advantage of if it weren’t for the suicidal depression he’d struggled with before he came out.
5 Killed Her Career: Anne Heche
During the ‘90s, Anne Heche’s career was looking really good. She appeared in numerous movies side by side with some of the Hollywood’s most popular actors at the time and everything seemed to be going great for her. That is until the moment she appeared in public hand in hand with Ellen Degeneres, who came out in 1997. The couple was seriously bashed by people who felt that it was inappropriate to have a gay relationship and not keep it a secret. From that point on, Heche’s career has been going downhill. According to her, she hasn’t been getting any good parts because she is gay, and not because of the lack of talent. She tried to get things back on track by stating that all of her previous relationships were with men, but it didn’t do much good.
4 Killed His Career: Michael Sam
Michael Sam was a standout player and one of the best linebackers on the University of Missouri football team. He was drafted by an NFL team when he decided to come out to the public. He had the support of his family and his teammates, but the general public wasn’t so thrilled about the fact he was gay, not to mention the first-ever openly gay man to be drafted by an NFL team. Way to go, Michael! However, being drafted doesn’t always mean a player will actually sign a contract with the team and, unfortunately, Michael Sam never got to the contract part. He stated that if he hadn’t come out as gay, he would still be in the NFL. On the more positive note, he has been very inspiring to LGBTQ community members ever since he stopped hiding the truth about his sexuality.
3 Helped His Career: Nathan Lane
Many people suspected Nathan Lane was gay as he never really kept it a secret. However, he officially came out in 1999 in the February issue of The Advocate. While his career was going pretty well before he came out, it really took off after ’99 because people felt more comfortable hiring him to play gay roles. Not many straight men are eager to accept the roles of gay men, but Nathan Lane believes that if a person is a good actor, their sexual orientation doesn’t really matter. He himself plays both gay and straight men, and he believes sexual orientation is one of the least important things when it comes to acting. He believes gay actors shouldn’t have a monopoly on gay roles, and that straight actors shouldn’t have a monopoly on the straight roles, either.
2 Killed His Career: Jason Collins
When talking about professional athletes, people tend to have a stereotypical point of view and they see the athletes as the manliest, strongest, fastest macho-men out there. If it is hard for an actor or a singer to come out, just imagine how it feels like when you are a professional basketball player. Jason Colling kept his secret during almost his entire career, partly because he knew it could hurt his career, partly because he was scared because he didn’t know how the public would react. Just remember Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death after coming out. However, in 2013, Collins revealed the secret about his sexuality and he played only one more season in the NBA after that. Today, he is happily retired and in a relationship with his boyfriend, Brunson Green.
1 Killed Her Career: Greta Garbo
If coming out is a hard thing to do today, just imagine what it must have been like almost a hundred years ago. Greta Garbo never officially came out as gay, but rumors about her having a female lover were enough to kill her career completely. She was one of the most popular actresses of the time, but she was forced to retire when Hollywood secretly labeled her a lesbian and she suddenly became “persona non grata” in Hollywood circles. The same thing happened to Marlene Dietrich, who was supposedly in a romantic relationship with Garbo. Both women were called “Box Office Poison” and there were no more roles for them in upcoming movies. This caused Greta Garbo to retire from her acting career at the age of 35.