Wanda Sykes Tells Ellen DeGeneres About The First LGBTQ Person She Saw On TV
Wanda Sykes spoke about the power of queer visibility on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Thursday ― but, true to form, she couldn’t resist a laugh as well. DeGeneres had asked the comedian to name the first LGBTQ person she ever saw on TV.
“It had to be Liberace,” Sykes replied. “I remember watching Ed Sullivan ... and my grandmother and my parents were like, ‘That man can play that piano.’ They were cool with it.”
DeGeneres then chimed in, pointing out that Liberace ― who died in 1987 of an AIDS-related illness ― never spoke publicly about his sexuality, although he had well-documented relationships with men. The 2013 biopic “Behind the Candelabra,” starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, was loosely based on a memoir by Scott Thorson, who was Liberace’s lover from the late 1970s through the early ’80s.
“You don’t have to say it,” Sykes quipped. “He’s got beads and feathers. ... You see him, you’re like, ‘Oh, that guy appreciates another man. That Liberace, he appreciates a gentleman caller.’”
Sykes is currently promoting a new docuseries, “Visible: Out on Television,” which follows the rise of LGBTQ representation on TV and the impact it’s had on popular culture at large. The five-episode series debuts on Apple+ next month and features testimonials from Anderson Cooper, Neil Patrick Harris, Billy Porter and DeGeneres herself.
“It shows not just our history, but it just shows how important being seen on television [is]. ... [It] does actually effect change,” said Sykes, who is one of the executive producers. “I just hope that people who get to make decisions see this and realize that it’s important for us to let marginalized people tell their stories.”
“The story doesn’t have to be about, ‘I’m gay,’” she continued. “There’s more to us than that.”