Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever. (September 19, 2008)

Last week, we reported the widespread rumors that Ellen DeGeneres might be the next celebrity to represent CoverGirl cosmetics.

Then, faster than you say “Powder me!” DeGeneres announced on her show that the rumors were true.

You know how I always like to share what’s going on in my life with you all, and I was going to give you some news, and unfortunately rumors started circulating all over the internet …I am here to set the record straight right now. I am not pregnant. It just turned out to be a bump. I went and had it checked out. … That’s not the news. I am the new face of CoverGirl.

She added, “I am very, very excited about it… It’s a very cool thing…I’m honored and the photo shoot was ‘easy, breezy, beautiful…CoverGirl.'”

DeGeneres is making history as an out lesbian  celebrity representing a major cosmetic line. And in addition to being not straight, she is also not girly, which makes the selection of DeGeneres for the role a fascinating cultural statement—regardless of whether or not that was ever CoverGirl’s intention.

Sure, DeGeneres is popular. In fact, according to Ad Age, “Ms. DeGeneres ranked as the most popular celebrity in the U.S. in a poll by Harris Interactive earlier this year. She edged out talk rival Oprah Winfrey, who generally enjoys higher ratings but saw her popularity dinged after her strong endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential bid.”

But in addition to being popular, she also challenges conventional notions of femininity (and, arguably, feminine beauty) every time she dons a vest, adjusts her tie or marries Portia de Rossi.

The response to the news has been pretty tame. In AOL’s WalletPop blog post, “Are cosmetics companies the new anti-glam?” the writer observes:

Ellen, of course, wears a ton of makeup in her daily job as a talk show host, but she is not the first person you’d think of when you think about glamor. She’s also not exactly a runway model. She looks like a real person and dresses in a true anti-glam fashion — a pant suit is still a pant suit even if you wear it to host the Oscars.

While Rihanna appeals to teens who want to look their best, Ellen will appeal to older women who still want to look their best, but maybe realize that they are who they are and they don’t need to cover up anything or change anything about themselves. That’s, at least, the message I’d be getting as somebody in the target audience. It strikes me as something akin to Dove’s “real women” campaign, which picks regular-looking women to advertise beauty products. And it’s a refreshing trend from the rail-thin models who had become so prevalent on magazine covers.

Pop-culture analysts may say what they will about pant suits, but there’s been no substantial amount of public snark aimed at CoverGirl for selecting an out, soft butch lesbian as a spokesmodel. If anything, the only hint of a backlash has been against DeGeneres for aligning herself with a company known for animal testing.

And lesbians weighing in on the subject don’t even seem surprised by the progressive nature of CoverGirl’s casting.

On our own forum, reader Sista says, “She’s natural, she’s dynamic, she’s 50, she’s the new face of CoverGirl. And, she’s a lesbian! How cool is that???” And Dorothy Snarker mused, “If we can explode the myths about lesbian femininity and redefine traditional beauty norms, can the total eradication of the mullet be far behind?”

Snarker also wrote on her blog, “You’ve come a long way, lesbo,” and it’s true. Back in the early days of lesbian feminism, lesbians were considered “fierce” when we made the personal political, established collectives to record women’s music, and wrote blistering manifestoes about dismantling (or dismembering) patriarchy.

In today’s Tyra-fied world, the ability to “smile with your eyes” might be the only requirement.

by Karman Kregloe