Illustrated by Kris Boris (He/Him)
Only two weeks ago on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, actor, comedian, writer, singer, and dazzling social media presence Leslie Jordan died in a car accident. We at OutWrite are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of such an influential figure in the queer community.
Jordan was probably best known for his role in “Will and Grace” where he played Beverly Leslie, a character that is a “frenemy” of Karen. Beverly is effeminate and suspected by other characters to be a closeted gay man who is only in his heterosexual marriage for his wife’s money while frequently seen with Benji, his young “business associate.” His character’s catchphrase is “Well, well, well,” said as he enters a scene after a character says something possibly implicating him, like, “There is no such thing as a gay penguin,” or “I want something fruity, with ladyfingers.” The role of Beverly is a perfect fit for Jordan, who delivered the wit and vivaciousness of the character spectacularly. Jordan earned an Emmy Award for this role in 2006.
Jordan made appearances in many other shows — namely “American Horror Story” and “Star Trek: Voyager.” Beyond Hollywood, he appeared in theatrical works like “Sordid Lives” and “Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel,” and wrote two autobiographical plays, “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet” and “Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far;” the former follows Jordan’s upbringing in a Southern Baptist family in Tennessee while the latter recounts the culture shock of Hollywood on a young actor from the Southern United States.
What really captured people’s hearts and got me following Leslie Jordan on Instagram — where he has six million followers along with 2.8 million on TikTok — was his social media content. He would frequently start videos, in his signature Southern drawl, with “Well hello, fellow hunker-downers,” or “What are y’all doing?” and share playful anecdotes and jokes referencing his experiences as a gay man. He began posting multiple times a day during quarantine in 2020, brightening people’s days with stories and silliness, and would talk frequently about his life growing up as an effeminate gay boy in the Southern United States. One of his most popular videos was a story about his father’s confused reaction when he started baton twirling as a young boy. About his father, Jordan said: “He loved me, he just didn’t know what to make of me.”
Besides his life experiences making good stories, the fact that Jordan spoke so openly about his experiences as a gay man provided a much-needed figure for a current queer youth whose older generation was decimated by the AIDS epidemic. By seeing an older gay man making content on the internet in such a lighthearted way, his younger queer audience was able to envision a happy, healthy future for themselves. The ripples of Leslie Jordan’s influence through his work and social media presence will continue to impact the queer community and beyond, and we will all miss him dearly.
Author: Emma Blakely (They/She/He)
Artist: Kris Boris (He/Him)
Copy Editors: Min Kim (They/Them), Bella (She/They)