Garland, as well as Mamie Van Doren, Connie Francis, Lana Turner and Susan Hayward, epitomized the idea that "suffering was the price of glamor...[and] the women stars of the [1950s] reflected the condition of many gay men: they suffered, beautifully".
Poet and satirical writer Dorothy Parker reportedly had a large gay following.
In Lee Tannen's book I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball, the author describes his experience when he witnessed Lucille Ball being labeled a gay icon for the first time by a mutual friend.
During the late 1970s, many female comedians appeared, joining the ranks of what had stereotypically been a male profession, including Joan Rivers, who began appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Rivers gained a strong gay following after performing in Greenwich Village, an LGBT friendly area of New York, from the early days of her career.
Rivers' frank and sharp use of wit and insults (largely turned toward herself) made her an instant gay icon.
The definition of what it means to be a "gay icon" has come under criticism in recent years for a lack of substance.