Leslie Jordan was the definition of a queer icon

The beloved “Will & Grace” actor and comedian died Monday at age 67

In queer circles, we love to throw around the concept of “queer icon” loosely. Everyone’s a queer icon—from Bette Davis to Rachel Weisz, from Barbra Streisand to Joel Kim Booster—if you squint close enough and throw some rainbow glitter on them. But there are some figures who, over the years, endure in the queer pop cultureverse as true icons. They pop up consistently in TV, film and media, and shower their gifts upon generations new and old, in high culture and low. They’re a throughline for queers, a reference point for so many of us in a tumultuous landscape of comings and goings.

By that definition, Leslie Jordan, who died suddenly in a car crash on Monday at the age of 67, is firmly deserving of queer icon status.

The actor and comedian, notable for his Southern drawl and short-king stature (clocking in at a cool 4’11”), is likely best known for playing Beverley Leslie, the frenemy of Megan Mullally’s Karen on Will & Grace. But his credits list spans decades, from guest roles in Academy Award-winning films like The Help to theatre productions like Sordid Lives, Sharknado sequels and multiple guest appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Seriously, the man’s IMDb page is stacked. 

The actor found a new, younger fanbase on TikTok and Instagram in recent years with gut-busting videos that have already become entrenched in internet meme culture. Jordan was recently depicted with reverence and wit on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7’s Snatch Game by Trinity the Tuck, not long after his own appearance directing the main franchise’s Rusical. 

Poetically, Jordan’s last post, an Instagram video singing a hymn alongside songwriter Danny Myrick, has become the site of many remembrances from fans and friends, from Lance Bass to Nicole Scherzinger.

As we remember Leslie Jordan, here are five key roles to look back on and celebrate his genius.

Beverley Leslie, Will & Grace

Jordan likely became best known to a wide range of viewers as Beverley Leslie, the effeminate and conniving frenemy of Karen on Will & Grace. Jordan won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2006. 

Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram, Sordid Lives

 

Jordan originated the role of “Brother Boy,” a Tammy Wynette-obsessed, crossdressing son in the story’s central family, in the 1996 stage production of Sordid Lives. He played the same role in the 2000 cult film adaptation alongside Olivia Newton-John, as well as the TV spin-off. 

Various roles, American Horror Story

Jordan was a part of American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy’s regular roster, and appeared in American Horror Story: Coven, American Horror Story: Roanoke and American Horror Story: 1984. His recurring roles spoke to Jordan’s adaptability and versatility, playing everything from a sassy member of the witches’ council in Coven to a personal assistant (and later ghost) in 1984

Himself, RuPaul’s Drag Race

Jordan appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race several times throughout the franchise, first as a guest judge during Season 5, and later as the guest director of the “Moulin Ru!” Rusical in Season 13 (where he also appeared on stage). Trinity the Tuck lovingly played him in the show’s Snatch Game during All Stars 7.

Himself, Tiktok and Instagram

https://www.tiktok.com/@lesliejordan/video/7118211067360136490?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1&lang=en
@lesliejordan

I hate attention but look at my new outfit.

♬ Rhinestone Cowboy – Glen Campbell

In recent years, Jordan garnered a new generation of fans through his posts on social media, particularly videos on TikTok (where he had more than 2 million followers) and Instagram (5.8 million followers). Following news of his death Monday, many fans took to social media calling on all of us to “twirl for daddy” in Jordan’s memory. 

Well shit … the world lost a queer icon in Jordan. What are some of your favourite Leslie Jordan moments? Let us know in the comments below.

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

Read More About:
TV & Film, Culture, News, Comedy

Keep Reading

Queer films to watch out for this spring and summer

From a theatre troupe in a maximum-security prison to hot bisexuals sweating it out on the tennis court, spring and summer have plenty of queer cinematic fare to offer

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 15 power ranking: Losing is the new winning for one queen

Who is the champion of this season’s LaLaPaRuZa tournament?

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 15 recap: LaLaRuUnion

Our eliminated queens are back to battle it out in a lip sync tournament

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 14 power ranking: The final three

For the first time since Season 12— and the first time intentionally since Season 8—we have just three queens in the finale