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We Asked Queer 90s Kids About Their Pop Culture Crushes

Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus, Nala from The Lion King: who were the real lesbian icons of our youth?

by Laura Bell
Feb 27 2018, 7:16pm

Xena Warrior Princeses and The Lion King | Images via wikipedia Commons 

Do I love her or do I want to be her? An age old question which, if you listen closely enough, is the sound of baby gays growing their rainbow wings. This pondering pretty much sums up what it’s like to grow up queer. Especially from the 00s, 90s and earlier when gay representation was pretty minimal and the best you could do was project your own budding queerness onto anyone or anything in mainstream media.

Since the noughties and nineties though there has been an increase in pop culture featuring queer female characters (finally) with shows like The 100, Orange is the New Black, Sense 8 and Orphan Black proving popular amongst queer teens. None of these have fully documented what it’s like to come out though. And until Netflix’s recent release of queer-centred show Everything Sucks, this was fairly unchartered territory.

Everything Sucks is a show dedicated to showing the awkward and stressful experience of coming out as a young teenager. It tells the story of Kate who is coming to terms with her sexuality, falling in love and navigating her way through high school all in the heteronormative 90s—she’s one brave lady.

Kate’s struggle to find representation and her infatuation with queer figures in her life feels like a serious #tbt for anyone who grew up queer in that time period and for anyone who looked to TV and film to find their homo inspo (and no, Marissa’s brief lezbo phase on the OC doesn't count). If only we had characters like Kate back then; it would have made the strange lesbian compilation corner of YouTube almost redundant, and would have meant our experiences, and the experiences of our queer contemporaries, were out there to openly see, talk about and normalize.

In light of Everything Sucks I wanted to throw back to our ultimate queer crushes of the 00s and 90s to celebrate the not-so-gay-but-we-wanted-them-to-be-gay icons of our youth. I asked around to find out the most popular crushes from back in the day—those who inspired the silent coming outs of a generation. So let’s reminisce about the stifling heteronormative world we grew up in and hopefully bid it farewell one last time.

And to answer that eternally baby queer question—“Do I love her? Or do I want to be her?” The answer was probably neither, you just wanted to fuck her.

Julia Styles in 10 Things I Hate About You

She was just the coolest. I knew I definitely wanted to be like her when I was younger, but it wasn't until rewatching it recently that I noticed she truly sent my fanny a flutter. — Rose

Meg from Hercules

I know she's just a drawing of a woman but Meg from Hercules was a real turning point for me. — Lauren

Claire Danes in Romeo and Juliet

I'm bisexual so the Romeo and Juliet with her and Leo was very overwhelming for me and possibly what started my puberty. — Indra

Ashley Spinelli from Recess

She was just so cool and rebellious. Her outfit, she was tough, she was really fucking funny. She was my perfect lady. — Ruth

Hallie from Parent Trap (aka the cool twin)

My perfect woman; she was American, she was older than me, she was a sexy redhead, she painted her nails, she was a preteen body piercer and (be still my little gay vagina) she GAMBLED in an all-girls poker league she appeared to have started herself...fucking lesbian icon don’t @ me. — Lily

Nala from The Lion King

Don’t judge me I know she’s a cartoon animal but she was so feisty and strong and always wooped Simba’s ass even though he was king of the pride lands. “Pinned ya! Pinned ya again!” I remember watching The Lion King and thinking I fancied Simba and wanted to be Nala and now I look back and I’m like nope just fancied both of them. — Marcella

Xena Warrior Princess

Not just Xena—all of the women in Xena. They were all super strong and looked like they were actually fighting which was cool/sexy. And I liked their tiny boob-cup leather armour haha. Awkward because the woman who played her main enemy is now my yoga teacher. — Jessica

Wednesday from The Addams Family

Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams with pure DNGAF attitude. What more could a confused girl ask for? I remember telling my mother (who I no longer speak to) that I wanted to marry Christina Ricci and was told that being gay was wrong and that I’d never get a wedding if I was gay! — Chloe

The spider from James and The Giant Peach

She was sexyyyyyy! — Kim

Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus

I dressed as a witch, rode a hoover round my kitchen and wore red lipstick for over a year and at the time I think I thought I was just really into that aesthetic. I was in fact fully smitten. For me Hocus Pocus wasn’t just a 90s classic, it was an astute guideline for a wonderful lesbian life; three single women/witches living in the forest where they party, plot world domination and turn local boys into cats. Where can I sign up? — Iggy

Rita from Sister Act 2.

Lauryn Hill as Rita is such a captivating character—she has an unapologetically fierce, playful vibe and holds her own, yet there’s this vulnerability that comes out when she sings. And holy shit, her voice! It gave me goosebumps the first time I watched it and it still does to this day. — Zoe

Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

She looked a lot like a friend I had a crush on IRL at the time—AND she kicked ass and did a job that nobody else could, and usually the asses she was kicking were men’s. — Annika

Sugar from Sugar Rush

Sugar was cool, and charming and took risks and I don’t think looking back I was sure whether I wanted to be her/be with her I used to stay up to watch In secret; under the covers with a torch as it felt like it needed to be a secret cos it was about lesbians! Definitely found the programme hot! But also just relatable, and it gave me a love for Brighton and taught me about sex shops and experimenting etc and I genuinely think it was an important sort of right of passage thing. — Katy

Peyton from One Tree Hill

I just loved her general tomboy vibes, her creativity, and her “fuck you” attitude. I think I thought I wanted to be her but really I wanted to be with her. — Lee

Sarah from Cheaper by the Dozen

She was a tomboy, she was good at sport, she was ballsy and I knew in my gay heart of hearts she was a budding gay just like me. The day would have come when she realised that she liked beanies, skateboards and boy stuff, not because she hates girly things but because she in fact loves girl(y thing)s, baby me is just sad I wasn’t around to see it. — Sonja

Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Still not over her. — Alice

The Pink Power Ranger

Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson). So gorgeous, but so damn badass. I was obsessed with her from the age of three and it's been a life-long crush. I dressed up as her for many a Halloween. I wish I still had that outfit. — Erin

Sabrina from Sabrina the Teenage Witch

She was super femme which I'm into and also she was really confident, was a good friend and cared about everyone around her. And she had a talking cat, so, it’s a yes from me. —Nicole

Arwen from Lord of the Rings

Arwen had me from about age 8. I’m still in love. — Aisling

Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted

What a combo—be still my little gay heart. — Tara

Justine from The Story of Tracy Beaker

Justine was the bad gyal from Tracy Beaker and was my ultimate crush. She was bitchy, she was cold, she was damaged; she was the OG 90s UK TV rebel and I was wild for it. Oh boy. Adult Justine if you're out there, look me up. — Crystal

Carmen from Spy Kids

I cried daily because I “wasn’t her” and I “needed to become her.” I know now it’s because I “needed to become her (girlfriend).” — Ellie

Missy from Bring It On

The scene where Eliza Dushku licks her finger and puts her middle finger up whilst rubbing the tattoo off her arm?! Oh boy. Was she the reason I started wearing chains and drawing upper arm tattoos? Absolutely. Is she the reason I now look for upper arm tattoos in the women I date? Also correct. — Tej

Drew Barrymore in Charlie’s Angels

Tbh, it was all of them. — Grace

Sebastian/Viola from She’s the Man

Amanda Bynes was the ultimate gender bending football playing queer and I really digged it. She looked like a little baby butch which was wildly exciting for me. After I watched She's the Man I started playing football so I could “be a bit like Viola" and we all know how that normally turns out. — Em

Pamela Anderson in Baywatch

I think it was the red swimsuit and big lips that did it for me. — Kimmy

Debbie from The Wild Thornberrys

She's the cool older sister; super deadpan, very intimidating with sick af style—what more does a girl want?! — Tamsin

Drippy from Wild Child

I pretended I watched this film every night for a week because I just really really wanted to go to an all girls boarding school and have sleepovers with my friends, it’s no big deal! Now I can admit that Juno Temple is a straight up hottie and I didn't want to be her “friend”—unless friends can fuck their friends? — Vanessa

Kelly from Saved by the Bell

Ummm, she was head cheerleader and captain of the volleyball, swim, and softball teams. She played for ALL teams, I wished every day she would one day play for mine. — Hellie

Tai from Clueless

Brittany Murphy in anything actually—my numero uno. — Iona

Jess from Bend it Like Beckham

I think she straddled the line between being my idol and being the love of my life and I don't think there’s a feeling more common in all the world when you grow up queer. — Nadine