Young LGBTQI+ Artists Who Epitomize Black Excellence

By Brett Malec Jun 02, 2023 10:00 AMTags
Watch: LGBTQ+ Movies & TV Shows to Watch During Pride: Fire Island & More!

There's no shortage of Black excellence among 2023's most influential young artists and creators. And many of those stars currently taking the entertainment industry by storm just happen to identify as LGBTQI+.

During the whole month of June, E! News is celebrating Pride Month by paying tribute to LGBTQI+ musicians, actors, fashion icons, business founders and more for their invaluable contributions to society, and we're giving a special shout-out to the Black icons of the queer community who are changing the world with their art.

Musicians like Lil Nas X and Willow Smith, actors like Amandla Stenberg and Indya Moore and drag performers made famous on RuPaul's Drag Race not only inspire us with their talent, they speak out against hate and bigotry, spread visibility and promote equality for all mankind.

In honor of Pride Month, keep reading to celebrate some of 2023's LGBTQI+ artists who have epitomized Black excellence—from winning Grammys, to smashing world records and breaking barriers—all by the age of 30.

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Lil Nas X, 23

Arguably one of the biggest names in Hollywood today, the gay Grammy winner has redefined what it means to be a Black man in music. From his fabulously flamboyant performances to his unapologetic singles about same-sex love like "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," Lil Nas X never shies away from putting his sexuality front and center in his art—and the masses can't get enough.

Having started as a SoundCloud artist, his 2018 breakthrough rap-county hit "Old Town Road" spent 19 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the longest-running number-one song since the chart debuted in 1958.

In July 2019, Time named the record-breaking rapper as one of the 25 most influential people on the Internet for his "global impact on social media." And having just celebrated his 23rd birthday last month, he's already amassed two Grammy Awards, five Billboard Music Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, two BET Hip Hop Awards, two iHeartRadio Music Awards and two American Music Awards.

The Queens of RuPaul's Drag Race

There's no shortage of Black Excellence on RuPaul's Drag Race. For over a decade, the reality TV competition series has birthed some of the LGBTQI+ community's most beloved performers, like season 13 winner Symone, 28, U.K. finalist Tayce, 28, season 11 winner Evie Oddly, 29, and fan-favorite Heidi N Closet, just to name a handful.

There's no doubt the show will continue to introduce the world to unmatched young talent and barrier-breaking queens for years to come.

Amandla Stenberg, 24

Stenberg became a household name at the age of 13 playing Rue in 2012's The Hunger Games. The actress has gone on to receive critical acclaim for roles in films like The Hate U Give, Everything, Everything, Dear Evan Hansen and Bodies Bodies Bodies.

Having come out as a lesbian in 2018, she's received a NAACP Image Award and a Teen Choice Award, but perhaps her biggest honor to date was co-starring in Beyoncé's "Lemonade" music video alongside fellow icons Zendaya, Chloe X Halle and Serena Williams.

Steve Lacy, 24

Since making his debut in 2012, the Compton-born singer and guitarist, who identifies as bisexual, has co-written songs for Solange Knowles, Chloe x Halle and Kendrick Lamar, in addition to releasing hits like "911 / Mr. Lonely" with Frank Ocean, "Sunflower" with Vampire Weekend and his first song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list "Bad Habit."

At just 24, he's already a Grammy winner after taking home the Best Progressive R&B Album trophy in 2023 for Gemini Rights.

MNEK, 28

Born Uzoechi Osisioma "Uzo" Emenike, the British singer-songwriter has penned jams for mega-stars like Beyoncé, Madonna, Selena Gomez, H.E.R., Kylie Minogue, Years & Years, Julia Michaels, Dua Lipa and Christina Aguilera, just to name a few.

If that wasn't impressive enough, the gay hit-maker has shown off his own impressive vocal chops and belting abilities on songs like "Tongue," "Head & Heart" and "Colour" featuring Hailee Steinfeld.

Willow Smith, 22

Remember when Jada Pinkett and Will Smith's youngest had a hit single when she was just 10 years old? Since starting her music career in 2010 with the platinum-certified single "Whip My Hair," the singer, who identifies as bisexual, has released five studio albums—Ardipithecus (2015), The 1st (2017), Willow (2019), Lately I Feel Everything (2021) and Coping Mechanism (2022)—all before the age of 22 and has won a NAACP Award and a BET Award, among others.

In addition to acting in multiple film and TV projects, she's hosted the Emmy-nominated talk show Red Table Talk with her mom and grandmother Adrienne.

Indya Moore, 28

The transgender and non-binary actor made history when the groundbreaking series Pose debuted in 2018. The show featured the largest cast of trans actors ever for a scripted network TV series. Moore was also the first trans actor signed as a model to IMG Models and William Morris Endeavor.

While their career is just getting started, Time named Moore one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019.

Kehlani, 27

Kehlani, who goes by she/they pronouns, released their debut studio album SweetSexySavage in 2017, which peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard chart. The R&B star's followup 2020 album It Was Good Until It Wasn't reached No. 2.

After coming out as lesbian in 2021, they have been outspoken about gender, sexuality, spirituality and identifying as non-binary.

Their soulful hits have nabbed them nominations for the Grammys, BET Awards, Billboard Awards, GLAAD Media Awards, American Music Awards and more.

Jeremy Pope, 30

After making his Broadway debut in 2018, the actor made history a year later when he became the sixth person in Tony Award history to be nominated in two categories for separate performances during the same year (he won the Outstanding Debut Performance Tony for Choir Boy in 2019 but was also up for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for his role as Eddie Kendricks for Ain't Too Proud).

Having starred in films like One Night in Miami and TV shows including Pose and Hollywood, Pope, who is gay, was nominated for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama at the 2023 Golden Globes for The Inspection.

(Originally published Feb 18, 2023 at 3 a.m. PT)