5 Ways Tina Turner Proved She Was a Gay Icon

· Updated on May 15, 2024

On Wednesday Tina Turner passed away leaving behind an unmatched musical career and lifetime of LGBTQ+ advocacy.

Tina, deemed the Queen of Rock and Roll, passed away “peacefully” in her home in Zurich, Switzerland at the age of 83. The music icon was quietly battling long standing complications from an illness. Tina is best remembered for her storied career in the music industry.

She stepped onto the scene as a duo act with then husband Ike Turner in 1960 when they formed the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The couple married, created a family, and spawned several hits, including “Nutbush City Limits” and “Proud Mary”, with the latter earning them a Grammy Award. The relationship, however, proved to be tumultuous due to Ike’s abuse.

Tina and Ike formally divorced in 1976, with Tina left in financial ruin. However, a career resurgence in 1984 with the release of her fifth solo studio album Private Dancer turned Tina into a solo star. Tina experienced decades of professional success soon after, ultimately earning 12 Grammy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a biopic titled What’s Love Got to Do with It starring Angela Bassett, and influence that continues to resonate within the music industry. 

While Turner has churned out hits and has been the blueprint for numerous artists, including Beyoncé, Janelle Monáe, and The Color Purple’s Fantasia Barrino, she also has been a vital ally to the LGBTQ+ community. From performing at queer events to using her platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, Tina’s allyship is felt far and wide. Not to mention, many drag artists have covered “Proud Mary” during a lip sync. 

While the number of instances are countless, here are 5 ways that proved that Tina Turner was a true gay icon.

Unmatched Stage Persona

Born Anna Mae Bullock, Tina Turner was the electrifying stage person that she created. From performances of “Private Dancer” to “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, Tina commanded the stage and exuded a confidence that imbued masculine and feminine energy. That same type of presence was admired by straight and LGBTQ+ fans alike, influencing The Rolling Stones’ lead singer Mick Jagger and many queer fans to embrace their confidence. 

Influence on Style

Tina’s dazzling personality and electric performances were paired with her unique sense of fashion, an industry inspired by queer culture. From her iconic leg-baring outfits to her tousled blonde tresses, her sense of style was unmatched. One of her most well-known looks was her flame dress, created by designer and longtime collaborator Bob Mackie. The look went on to be worn by Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter, Cher, RuPaul, and Beyoncé.

Performing at the 1982 Gay Games

In 1982, Tina led the opening ceremony at the Gay Games, first ever ceremony of its kind, hosted in San Francisco. There were other artists who declined the opportunity to perform, but Tina embraced it, just as she did the LGBTQ+ community. The Gay Games were an important component of the legacy that LGBTQ+ athletes have had on the world of sports and Tina was a part of that history. 

Collaborating with Queer Artists and Queer Icons

Tina was known to collaborate with queer artists and other gay icons. From duets with queer artists like Elton John and David Bowie to performing live with fellow gay icons Cher and Beyoncé, Tina continued to dazzle queer fans with stellar collaborations and performances in her decades-long career.

Influence on Drag Artists

Tina’s influence on drag artists is quite evident. Rousing performances of “Proud Mary” have surfaced in various gay bars to lip-syncs on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Many drag artists, like Tina Burner, Vinegar Strokes, Peppermint, and even RuPaul herself have gone on record to discuss her influence on their artistry. 

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