Judy Garland never got an Advocate cover.
The iconic actress and singer — who passed away only two years after this magazine launched — was and remains one of our biggest icons. Her name has even become a nickname or identifier for many queer people: Judy or friend of Dorothy.
Due to this, and so much more, we can say confidently that if she had not passed away she would have eventually been on the cover of this magazine alongside other greats like Madonna or Lady Gaga.
So, today, Renée Zellweger helps us accomplish that — with some help with our friend, past cover star, and fellow Judy disciple, Rufus Wainwright.
Ahead of today's release of Judy, the new biopic that takes place during the final months of Garland's life, Zellweger spoke with Wainwright about the icon's enduring impact in an exclusive conversation. And we celebrate this historic conversation between two greats with a special digital cover of Zellweger as Judy. It's our way of showing what could have and should have been.
Zellweger says Garland's vulnerability was her superpower.
"It makes you root for her more, because you're not sure. Okay, this is a big old, big old note, and Oh, it didn't quite hit that one, but then the next one, and oh my God! She's soaring. And you soar with her. It's just even more human, you know?"
Zellweger on Garland being a hero, not a victim:
"I felt like in reading more and more about this chapter in her life and coming to understand a little bit more about what she was struggling with toward the end of her life, I felt this profound empathy and almost anger because I felt that the representation of this final chapter in her life, being blanketed with this notion of tragedy, felt unjust to me.
You need to contextualize those circumstances in order to properly understand the struggle that she was grappling with for such a long time, in order to recognize that she's not a victim at all, that she's a hero."
Zellweger on Garland's appeal to those who don't fit in.
"I've had a lot of conversations with my friends in the community, about why the connection, if you grow up feeling that you're different, to Judy Garland, you know?
I share that experience in a different respect, but I suppose not feeling that you belong is universal for some kids, across however you're subdivided in your identity, but being from a small town, and my parents were European and so I was aware that in our house, we were culturally different. I was aware of the different world outside of what I knew as my American upbringing.
Being in that small town, and being curious about the things that existed in faraway places, and feeling socially awkward, and feeling like an introvert, living an extrovert's life, wanting so badly to find...I don't know, my tribe of misfits.
And then arriving in this extraordinary place, with this beautiful young woman, who sings like nobody you've ever heard, to share that journey together, which is a journey back to recognizing that you have all you need within yourself already.
That's so profound in the imagination of a child. It's indelible, isn't it?"
Zellweger talks about conjuring the spirit of Garland.
"You know, I don't dare define it in one direction or another. Never. And I'm not dumb enough to discount anything that we can't understand. I'm open to it. And I'll tell you what, she was invited.
My hope was to conjure her essence in a way that would properly represent her spirit. You immerse yourself in the contents of her legacy and of what she shared and left for us of herself. I wanted that around all the time. All the time."
Wainwright on Sharon Stone's response to the movie.
"I was sitting with Sharon Stone who was weeping at times during the performance...I mean, on one hand, she loved the movie, but she was also so happy for you. She kept saying to me, 'This is such an amazing thing for Renée.'
She obviously knows how Hollywood works and how challenging it is, especially for women, you know, to really survive through the ages. I could really sense this sense of triumph that she was partaking in and how you've been able to encompass this role."
The full conversation between Renée Zellweger and Rufus Wainwright can be heard on The Advocate's interview podcast, LGBTQ&A. New episodes come out every Tuesday.
Judy is in theatres now.
Photograph by David Hindley
Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions