Why Not a Queer Oscar Host?

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Monday January 17, 2022
Originally published on January 12, 2022

Why Not a Queer Oscar Host?
  (Source:AP/EDGE composite )

It's been three years since the Oscars had a host, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced yesterday that the 94th-annual event, scheduled for March, will bring back the long-standing tradition.

What prompted the host-less Oscars came in 2019 when superstar Kevin Hart was tapped to handle the duties, but canceled after homophobic tweets of his went public. Former Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres came to Hart's defense and the Academy, according to Vulture, was "open to Hart resuming his role as emcee if he signals that he wants the job." But he denied the offer, which led to the host-free event. Whether or not Hart is being considered again is just speculation.

While many consider the hosting gig a "thankless" task, one superstar — Tom Holland — has already expressed interest, according to an interview with the actor in the Hollywood Reporter.

"Ratings for the awards show reached a new low last year, so maybe going back to their old ways will play an essential role in an Academy revival," reports Vulture. "The Oscars will also return to the Dolby Theatre, a venue that has previously hosted 20 shows since 2002, after taking place at Los Angeles's Union Station last year. Nominations for the awards will be announced February 8 and the ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 27, airing on ABC."

After the Kevin Hart debacle, perhaps the Academy should make the gayest best foot forward and give the gig to an out celebrity. But not Ellen DeGeneres, who previously hosted the Oscars and famously shamed Liza Minnelli by calling her a drag queen. Such disrespect should not be rewarded with a return visit.

Here are some choices:

Bowen Yang

(Source: Associated Press)

The 31-year-old "Saturday Night Live" regular has seen his star rise precipitously this past year. Whether he was impersonating a (very gay) Iceberg in a "Weekend Update" skit, singing a medley of "Happy Days Are Here Again" and "Get Happy" (a la Barbra and Judy) with Cicely Strong, or making an impassioned appeal against Asian-American violence, Yang has made his presence felt on the show. Is it now time for him to make that presence in Hollywood?

Kate McKinnon

(Source: Associated Press)

Kate McKinnon has been the biggest break-out star on "Saturday Night Live" in the past decade (apologies Pete Davidson). Since joining the cast (first as a featured player in 2012, then as a regular cast member the following year), her sometimes over-the-top style and sharp celebrity impersonations made her a star. For her work, she has been nominated for nine Emmy Awards, winning two. Perhaps she could add another to her credits if she scores as an Oscar host?

Neil Patrick Harris

In 2015 NPH made history as the first openly gay celeb to host the Oscars. He has also hosted the Emmy Awards and the Tony Awards (four-times), which makes him a natural to take over the duties this year.

Laverne Cox

(Source: Associated Press)

Laverne Cox also made history in 2014 when she was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, becoming the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in any acting category. She received the honor for playing  Sophia Burset on he Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black." She has gone to become Hollywood's highest profiled transgender personality (Sorry, Caitlyn Jenner), and has successfully used her celebrity to promote trans rights. Wouldn't she be the right choice for the moment and, to give the show some weight, point out the rising numbers of trans murders in the country, a statistic shamefully ignored by the mainstream press.

Luke Evans

(Source: Associated Press)

How about a leading Hollywood hunk to host? And an out one at that. Welch actor Luke Evans has shown that an actor can be a high-profile star and thirst traps pics of himself and his dates on IG. In an industry noted for its homophobia, Evans shows a star can be out and very public about his personal life — a role model for other actors that could be enhanced by being the show's host.

RuPaul

(Source: Associated Press)

From its life-affirming mantras to its often moving personal stories, no television show has done more to promote LGBTQ culture than "RuPaul's Drag Race." Certainly no celebrity would push the fashion envelope more than RuPaul. She may even ratchet things up a notch with the Red Carpet as celebs embrace their drag personas. And given that RuPaul is a major television presence worldwide, with franchises in England, Australia, Spain, Italy, Holland and Canada, her hosting may be a boon to the show's flagging ratings.

Elliot Page

(Source: Associated Press)

At the age of 20, Elliot Page was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for "Juno." At the time the late Roger Ebert wrote, "Has there been a better performance this year than [Page's] creation of Juno? I do not think so." Since then he has appeared on Netflix's "The Umbrella Academy" and joined the Marvel Universe in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." He also came out as trans, choosing the name Eliot, in 2020, stepping forward with the personal news in part to the Covid pandemic and growing violence against the trans community. Since then his credits were changed in such television projects as "The Umbrella Academy," "Tales of the City," and the films "Flatliners" and "Tallulah."

Billy Porter

(Source: Associated Press)

Billy Porter had a very busy 2021. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for this touching portrayal of the last days of his character Pray Tell on "Pose" as the groundbreaking show ended its three-year run. He also revealed he is HIV-positive in conjunction with the publication of his autobiography, "Unprotected." He has been instrumental in upping trans representation on the Red Carpet with his often over-the-top ensembles. Imagine what he would wear as host?

Wanda Sykes

Ten-time Emmy nominated Wanda Sykes is a natural to host the Oscars, The warm, if acerbic out comedian, who did win an Emmy for her writing in 1999, could bring back the snarky style that both Bob Hope and Johnny Carson brought to the ceremony during when they each hosted over the years.

Billy Eichner

(Source: Associated Press)

Billy Eichner is making Hollywood history by writing, directing, and starring in "Bros," the first all-gay major studio project. In the film, which finished shooting in November, Eichner plays a commitment-resistant gay man in a relationship with Luke Macfarlane, who will play his romantic partner. Other cast members include groundbreaking lesbian actress Amanda Bearse, Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein, Bowen Yang, the Ts Madison, Drag Race season 13 winner and Out100 cover start Symone, Miss Lawrence, Guillermo Diaz, and Guy Branam. The film is scheduled for release in August. Why not boost its profile by having Eichner host the Oscars?

Sarah Paulson

(Source: Associated Press)

Few out actors have had as successful a decade as Sarah Paulson. After her break-out role on "American Horror Story: Murder House," she has gone on to appear on the Ryan Murphy-produced franchise eight more times, as well as two seasons of "American Crime Story." For her role as Marcia Clarke in "The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story," she won a Prime Time Emmy. She has also received five other nominations. In addition, she has appeared in such films as "12 Years a Slave," Mud," "Carol," and "Bird Box." Of her sexuality, she called it a "fluid situation." "If my life choices had to be predicated based on what was expected of me from a community on either side, that's going to make me feel really straitjacketed, and I don't want to feel that," she said. In the past, she dated actress Cherry Jones and is presently in a relationship with actress Holland Taylor.

And Please NO!

Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen

(Source: Associated Press)

Following their highly controversial New Year's Eve CNN broadcast, there is movement on social media for Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen to host the Oscars. If they choose to repeat their alcohol-fueled format, imagine the moment at the end of the evening with Cohen repeating his antics and throwing shade at a nominee? On the positive side, perhaps Cohen's "Real Housewives" following would boost ratings; but, then again, likely no.

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].