Love her or annoyed by her, you have to admire Rosie O'Donnell for always standing up for what she believes in. And since coming out in 2002, O'Donnell has been a very visible proponent for various gay causes and other charities and was recently ranked #10 in The Advocate's 40th anniversary list of "Gay Heroes" (more on that later).
O'Donnell first came to audience's attention as a stand-up comic on Star Search, which led to TV gigs on Gimme a Break and VH-1. She made her film debut in A League of Their Own and suddenly seemed to be everywhere: Sleepless in Seattle, Another Stakeout, The Flintstones, Exit to Eden, Now and Then. Around this time, she also began her public love affair with Broadway, starring in a revival of Grease and hosting the Tony Awards three times (she would later star in Seussical and Fiddler on the Roof as well).
In 1996, O'Donnell returned to her first love, television, with her own eponymous talk show. The extremely popular series, which would go on to win 24 Emmy Awards (including 11 for O'Donnell herself) in six seasons, brought the Koosh Ball-tossing "Queen of Nice" to the masses. Acting-wise, she continued to make guest appearances on such programs as All My Children, Murphy Brown, Ally McBeal and Will and Grace and appeared in the movies Beautiful Girls, Harriet the Spy, Wide Awake and Disney's Tarzan.
Soon after two huge events in her life (the end of her series, coming out), O'Donnell suffered some public set backs, including a nasty battle over McCall's magazine and the Broadway flop Taboo (which she produced). Last fall, she made her triumphant return to TV talk on The View. Ratings soared, but the on-air controversies began piling up, and she eventually left the program earlier this year.
Meanwhile, while still acting occasionally (the TV movie Riding the Bus With My Sister, guest spots on Queer as Folk and Nip/Tuck), O'Donnell and her wife Kelli Carpenter founded R Family Vacations, which offers luxury cruises for gay families (profiled in the documentary All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise) and is an avid blogger. Her memoir, Find Me,was a national best-seller, as will likely be her next book, Celebrity Detox: (the fame game)(on sale October 2), which reportedly will detail her tumultuous time on The View.
In recognition of O'Donnell and the eleven other film-related Advocate "Gay Heroes" (listed here), this week's MD Poll asks the question: "Of these 12 "Gay Heroes" as named by The Advocate, which one is most deserving of such a title?" The poll will run for one week, and can be found under my profile in the sidebar to your right.
UPDATE: The poll is now closed, click here for the results, and click here to vote in the latest MD Poll.
Links via Imdb.com, TheAdvocate.com, BroadwayMouth.blogspot.com, RFamilyVacations.com and Rosie.com.