Cute, cuddly and a little bit militant, child stars eventually grow up and get political opinions of their own. These former child stars have worked to create positive change for LGBT people in the public arena.
A decade before playing the lead role in Juno, a 10-year-old Ellen Page played Maggie MacLean in the Canadian TV series Pit Pony. The out actress made headlines this year when she publicly confronted Texas senator (and failed presidential candidate) Ted Cruz about his stance against employment protections for LGBT individuals in her Vice series Gaycation. She has also spoken out about double standards for gay actors in Hollywood.
For eight seasons, Danny Pintauro played the part of Jonathan on Who’s the Boss? He hasn’t done much acting as an adult but has become a high-profile activist for AIDS awareness. Pintauro came out as gay in 1997 to beat tabloids to the news, then revealed last year that he has been HIV-positive for more than a decade. He has since discussed the impact of the disease and his addiction to meth, and he has been heavily involved in organizations such as AIDSWatch.
Raven-Simoné first entered America’s households as Olivia on The Cosby Show and became a Disney Channel star on That’s So Raven. After years of tabloid rumors, she came out in 2013 after the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling and elaborated on her sexuality the next year during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, saying she had a girlfriend but rejected labels. While she has balked at certain celebrities jumping into the activist world too quickly, the actress this year spoke out after the Orlando attack, supporting LGBT community and for gun control from her current pulpit on The View. She also recently sat down for a spot in the It Got Better video series.
Lance Bass was 16 years old when he got tapped to provide bass vocals for ’N Sync, and he came out in People in 2006. Today, the Human Rights Campaign counts Bass among its prominent celebrity supporters hoping to wave "Bye Bye Bye" to bigotry, and the singer has lobbied against so-called religious liberty laws in his home state of Mississippi.
Once best known as America’s youngest actor who played a doctor on TV, the former Doogie Howser star has helped raise millions for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and other causes benefiting LGBT people.
Anna Paquin was just 11 years old when she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Piano. She would draw heaping praise again when she came out as bisexual in a video for the Give a Damn campaign, with the spot drawing so much interest that the We Give a Damn website, a project of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund, needed to add additional servers.
The Puerto Rican pop singer first tasted international stardom at age 13 when he joined the boy band Menudo, then found huge success as a solo artist and again with English-language crossovers in the late 1990s. He deflected questions about his sexuality for a decade before coming out as gay in 2010. A year later, he placed an equality symbol on his chest for a music video, and in 2011 he opened up about becoming a gay activist in an interview with Parade.
America fell in love with Drew Barrymore when she taught E.T. how to talk. LGBT people have plenty more reasons to celebrate the Firestarter star. GLAAD awarded the bisexual actress with a Vanguard Award in 2010 for raising awareness of LGBT individuals in films like He’s Just Not That Into You and Everybody’s Fine, and she hosted the GLAAD awards in 2013.
The pansexual star once enjoyed the best of both worlds as the lead of Hannah Montana and as a teen pop singer. She has become a vocal supporter of all things LGBT, blasting antigay politician Rick Santorum and the corporations that support him and giving LGBT youth and drag queens the stage at MTV's Video Music Awards, all the while earning herself a ban from the Dominican Republic.
While she shot to fame at 16 as the star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Shailene Woodley as an adult has been open about her own sex life and political identity. The bisexual actress lists LGBT equality among the most important issues for young voters.
Roles in Our House, St. Elsewhere, and My Two Dads turned Chad Allen into a 1980s heartthrob before he could vote. But female Tiger Beat readers learned a future with their dream guy was as imaginary as the hospital in his snow globe when the actor was outed by tabloids in 1996. Allen responded to the turn of events by becoming an outspoken gay activist and has since been involved in producing several works of art critical of so-called ex-gay therapy.
Writer-actress Mara Wilson remains best known for her roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire. After the Pulse shooting this year, she came out as bisexual and spoke out on the need for gay clubs as a safe place to explore one’s identity.
LGBT rights have long been a priority for Princess Diaries star Anne Hathaway, who left the Roman Catholic Church in protest of its intolerance after her brother Thomas came out as gay. In addition to starring in such critically acclaimed LGBT films as Brokeback Mountain, she has donated money to campaigns including Freedom to Marry.
Sunny With a Chance eventually turned “Cool for the Summer,” but former Barney pal Demi Lovato’s support of LGBT rights seems more certain than the weather. A celebrity supporter of the Human Rights Campaign, Lovato this year canceled a show in North Carolina over the infamous House Bill 2 and made a huge stand for trans rights at this year’s Billboard Music Awards.
Harry Potter’s latest spell? Expelling hate. Daniel Radcliffe, lead actor in the mammoth movie franchise based on J.K. Rowling’s best-selling books, today works his magic as a hero for the Trevor Project, aiming to reduce suicides among LGBT youth.
While the Hunger Games star told Out in 2013 that he was “mostly straight,” he has worked overtime to ensure that a person’s sexual identity does not fuel hatred in campaigns such as Straight But Not Narrow. The star, whose childhood screen credits include The Polar Express, Zathura, and Bridge to Terabithia, continues to be vocal on LGBT rights.
A Tennessee child with a blue-collar, deeply religious upbringing, Dolly Parton got a radio gig at 10, a record contract at 13, and a gay following that continues into the diva’s golden years. The country legend has flown a flag of many colors for decades, and in 2014 she released the pro-LGBT dance anthem “Just a Wee Bit Gay.”
The former Star Search contestant and Mickey Mouse Club star this summer released the single “Change” to benefit families affected by the Pulse shooting in Orlando. Her 2002 ballad “Beautiful” also won wide acclaim for its implied support of equality.
Christina Applegate was only 16 when she started playing Kelly Bundy, the promiscuous teenage daughter in Married … With Children. She also got politically active before much of the country was ready, and she has been involved with pro-LGBT rights groups like Freedom to Marry. When she attended the Spirit Awards in 2009, she was spotted wearing a White Knot for Equality to express her pro-marriage equality views.
Between the ages of 17 and 20, Kelly Osbourne shared some of her formative years with vulgarity-laced humor and sincerity of MTV reality show The Osbournes. Now a fashion commentator (and always rock royalty as the spawn of Ozzy), she also campaigns around the world for LGBT rights. Notably, she and the late Joan Rivers joined the A Wider Bridge campaign in Israel during a fight to establish a legal right for same-sex couples to have children through surrogacy.
The face of power pop in the late 2000s, the JoBros won over the Disney Channel generation and their parents with personal promises of purity. Eventually, adulthood struck and Joe and Nick Jonas decided to SOS (strike out solo). In another sign of modern maturity, both have taken public stances in favor of LGBT rights. Nick notably has played numerous sets at gay bars and spoken in favor of equality. He also recently canceled shows in North Carolina, and told Ellen DeGeneres he did so in protest of the anti-LGBT House Bill 2. Older brother Joe has also spoken out in support of LGBT people and promised not to stay silent on equality.
Multiplatinum country artist LeAnn Rimes enjoyed one of the most successful debut releases in music history when she was just 13 years old. She hit it big bringing back old-fashioned Patsy Cline-esque sounds, but her political views seemed markedly progressive when she posed for the No H8 Campaign in 2011.
It took President Obama until 2012 to evolve on same-sex marriage, but Queen Amidala got there first a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. In 2011, Natalie Portman was among the notable celebrities to sign on to Freedom to Marry’s “I Do” campaign. We should have known when she first wore the Star Wars robes at age 17 that she could not watch people suffer and die while this issue languished in committee.