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Here’s why Jean Smart is honored to be a gay icon

From the very beginning of her career, Jean Smart has been a legend to the gays. Now, she’s chimed in on what it means to be a gay icon, and why she’s more than happy to claim the title.

On a new episode of Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?, the CNN reporter asked Smart about her legacy. When Wallace said that Smart is “seen as kind of a gay icon,” she chuckled and explained what the honor means to her.

“I take it as a supreme compliment when I look at other women who have had that moniker,” Smart said.

“Such as?” asked Wallace.

“Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Liza!” Smart rattled off. “I know that gay men kind of appreciate women who are sometimes larger than life, you know, entertainers and things. So I think some of the characters I’ve played appeal to them.”

Those characters include her lead role on Designing Women and her current star turn on Hacks, which has thrust Smart back into the spotlight with two Emmy wins for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Even before Designing Women, though, Smart said she owed her career to the gays. Her first role in an off-Broadway play was in the lesbian drama Last Summer at Bluefish Cove.

“My career started by playing a lesbian in New York City in a play,” Smart said. “And that got me my first Broadway show, my first agent, and everything, so … that community’s been very good to me.”

The gays, meanwhile, are as big of fans of Smart as ever. To them, Wallace saying she’s only “kind of” a gay icon is borderline offensive.

In March, Smart was awarded the National Equality Award at the Human Rights Campaign Dinner in honor of her allyship. During her acceptance speech, Smart further discussed what it means to be a gay icon.

“If I’m in the company of Judy and Liza and Betty and Joan and Bette and Cher, then I’m thrilled, absolutely,” Smart said. “But what was it about those women, what is it? I think it’s because they told you exactly what they thought and didn’t give a crap, but always looked fabulous doing it.”

Season 3 of Hacks (which sees Smart at peak gay iconicity) is now airing on Max.

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