7 LGBTQIA+ Black Icons

7 LGBTQIA+ Black Icons

“As long as there have been Black people, there have been Black LGBTQ and same-gender-loving people,” David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, “Racism combined with the forces of stigma, phobia, discrimination and bias associated with gender and sexuality have too often erased the contributions of members of our community." 

Pride Month began after the Stonewall riots in 1969, a series of gay liberation protests that spread throughout the United States. Pride month is a celebration of life for the members of the community and is seen as an inclusive space for people to be their true selves. With pride month coming to an end, Dosso Beauty shares 7 black LGBTQIA+ icons that were truly movers and shakers in their time. These powerful LGBTQIA+ figures have left their mark not only on their communities, but history as a whole. Since the foundation of Dosso Beauty, we have aimed to be inclusive and create a safe space for free expression. Dosso Beauty wants to remind you that it is important to recognize that although we have come very far, there is still a huge lack of education on LGBTQIA+ figures and we must not let their stories be overlooked. 


Alvin Ailey (he/him pronouns)

New York Times

“. . . as choreographers, [we] start with a space and a body or two and we say 'Carve this space. " I love creating something, where there was nothing before.” - Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey was a groundbreaking dancer, director, and choreographer who fought racial inequality through dance. Ailey was born during the height of Jim Crow and faced racial adversities daily for being a black gay man. At 10 years old he moved to Los Angeles where he fell in love with the theater, however, noticed there weren’t any performers on stage that looked like him, that was until he saw a poster of Kathrine Dunham, and from there his passion was ignited. Ailey began taking courses at the Lester Horton Dance Theater, one of the first multiracial dance studios of its time and earned himself the role of one of the main choreographers on staff. At the age of 27, Ailey founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater where his goal was to honor the black experience through creative expression. Despite the lack of support from the community, Ailey and his company still proceeded to put on captivating performances in protest of the lack of bookings they were seeing. Still to this day, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company is one of the most impactful studios in the downtown LA area where they provide programs for people from all walks of life.


Andrea Jenkins (she/her pronouns)


“My whole life I've been fighting, trying to improve conditions for black people that’s what I will continue to do, even if they never stand up for me.” - Andrea Jenkins 

Andrea Jenkins wrote her first poem when she was 14 years old, little did she know that this one poem she wrote would spark her career in politics. In 2017 Jenkins became the very first openly Black transgender woman to be elected to public office in the United States. Jenkins started her career in politics working as a vocational counselor in Heppenipin County where she worked in getting young Minnesotans employment. Later, Jenkins began working as a policy aide to the Minneapolis City Council before being elected into public office in 2017. As of now, Jenkins has been working on her passion project. She has been traveling all across the country interviewing transgender people in a documentary entitled The Tretter Transgender Oral History Project. Jenkins has paved the way for many and continues to influence a generation of passionate and prolific leaders. 


Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (she/her pronouns)

New York Historical Society

“We are going to get there. It is going to be hard but we are going to get there.” - Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a revolutionary icon who has been a leader in the fight for transgender rights. Miss Major was born on the South Side of Chicago and is no stranger to adversity. She was a prevalent activist during the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City. She has dedicated the majority of her life to fighting for equality and basic human rights for transgender women of color and gender non-conforming people. As a survivor of the Attica State Prison, Miss Major used her unjust and violent experiences with police to fuel her fight and become a mentor to previously incarcerated transgender people. Miss Major also served as the Executive Director of the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGI Justice Project) where she worked to end the abuse against transgender women of color and gender non-conforming people. She is referred to as “Mama” by many of those who know her closely because of her warm and nurturing spirit to those around her. 


Marsha P. Johnson (she/her pronouns)

National Women’s History Museum

“How many years has it taken people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take people to see that? We’re all in this rat race together!” - Marsha P. Johnson 

Marsha P. Johnson is a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+, to say the least. She was a prominent figure in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s during the gay liberation movement. Marsha “Pay it no mind” Johnson was a part of a drag group called Hot Peaches where she took to the stage wearing high heels and colorful clothing. Law enforcement often raided the venues where they would perform, and there were instances where Marsha was placed under arrest for simply wearing makeup. She was a key activist during the gay rights movements in New York and fought alongside Miss Major Griffin-Gracy during the Stonewall Riots. Her legacy lives on today with the Marsha P. Johnson Institute which advocates for the rights of black transgender people.


Willi Leake (he/him pronouns)

Getty Images

"Don't be afraid to take risks and push the boundaries. That's where true creativity and growth happen." - Willi Ninja 

Willi Leake, better known as Willi Ninja is recognized as the “Grandfather of Vogue”. Members of the drag ball community use “voguing” as a form of dance battling. Anytime you had beef with someone you would vogue it out rather than fighting. Willi Ninja’s goal was to take this style of dance all across the world and become known worldwide for this artistry. Ninja is accredited for redefining voguing and adding sharp movements and creative contorting of the body to slay his competition. In 1982 Ninja founded the House of Ninja where he would care for and mentor adopted gay and transgender children in New York City. After accomplishing his goal of traveling the world and spreading his craft, he returned home to the drag ball scene where he became an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention in the 80s. He helped relieve some of the anxieties that come with such a nerve-racking topic and opened up dialogue within his community. To this day the House of Ninja continues to perform at drag balls to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. 


RuPaul Andre Charles (he/him or she/her pronouns)


“We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.” -RuPaul

RuPaul Charles is a world-renowned American drag queen, who has shaped the drag community today in many ways. He has his own drag competition on television called RuPaul’s Drag Race where he produces, hosts, and judges. RuPaul first hit the scene in New York City where he became an admired LGBTQIA+ fixture in many nightclubs. International fame was only around the corner for RuPaul when he debuted his album Supermodel of the World in 1993. This album quickly gathered an audience for RuPaul and landed him many makeup campaign deals, making him the first drag queen to represent MAC Cosmetics. When working with MAC Cosmetics RuPaul raised money for the MAC AIDS Fund Cosmetics, and always placed advocacy for the community at the forefront of his agenda. Today RuPaul has been an advocate for voter registration, stressing the importance of getting active in politics to truly make a change. 


Janelle Monáe (they/them or she/her pronouns)


“I always think about the next generation and creating a different blueprint for them. That's my goal: to let them know there's another way.” - Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is an American singer, rapper, author, and actress. Monáe was born in Kansas City and began singing in their hometown church at a young age. Their love and passion for music only grew over the years, and by the age of twelve, she was performing in musicals at the Coterie Theater’s Young Playwrights’ Round Table. Throughout their career, she has earned eight Grammy Award nominations and made appearances in movies such as Moonlight, Hidden Figures, and Harriet. Outside of their successful career, Monáe is an advocate for suicide prevention in the LGBTQIA+ community. She was the Trevor Project 2022 Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year, where she was recognized for her unwavering commitment to the mental health awareness of LGBTQIA+ teens. When accepting the award Monáe said, “Growing up queer and Black in a religious household, I faced a lot of challenges trying to understand my identity and where I fit in as someone who always felt beyond the binary. We, as LGBTQ folks, and as people of color, are a powerful and unstoppable community. I want every young queer person out there to know that I see you, you are beautiful in all of your forms, and you are never, ever alone in this world.”

The LGBTQIA+ community’s influence on the beauty industry is everlasting and impactful. This Pride Month Dosso Beauty reminds you to stay attentive to the ones that came before us and paved the way for many. We aim to create a space that is diverse and will further conversations on LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. Be kind to others and Happy Pride!

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