By Chris Rudolph and Sam Manzella
Today (June 30) marks the 16th anniversary of Logo, ViacomCBS's groundbreaking LGBTQ+ cable network. It was America's first advertiser-supported commercial television channel explicitly targeting queer viewers. In 2005, investing in LGBTQ+ storytelling was a bold venture: Logo launched "in the face of a governmental and regulatory environment which is anti-gay," and it sparked outrage from some homophobic public figures, including fellow media professionals.
So much has changed in the 16 years since Logo's inception, but one important thing has not: its commitment to highlighting authentic stories by LGBTQ+ creatives, for LGBTQ+ audiences. We're obviously biased, but we think that's pretty remarkable.
In honor of Logo's Sweet 16, read up on 16 times when the network's television programming or digital content made LGBTQ+ media history.
The series premiere of RuPaul's Drag Race
There are certain days that will go down in TV herstory, and February 2, 2009, is one of them. That was the date that Logo premiered RuPaul's Drag Race, a competition show that started off as a campy parody of America’s Next Top Model but went on to become a global phenomenon. Dozens of Emmys, 13 seasons, and multiple international iterations later, Drag Race has been called one of the greatest TV shows of all time, introducing new generations to drag and queer culture, and always leading with love.
Noah's Arc breaking barriers
Noah's Arc was the first TV show to focus exclusively on the lives of queer people of color and paved the way for everyone from Titus Andromedon to Eric Effiong. The series ran on Logo from 2005 to 2006 and wrapped up with a 2008 feature film, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom. Years later, it still has a fervent fanbase. In 2020, the cast reunited for a special episode written and directed by series creator Patrik-Ian Polk. The reunion won a GLAAD Media Awards Special Recognition award and raised more than $14,000 for nonprofit organizations supporting Black LGBTQ+ people. (Pro tip: You can still watch all episodes of Noah's Arc on Logo's website.)
Lady Gaga's first televised performance
The Academy Awards, the Grammys, the MTV VMAs...Lady Gaga has graced the stages of all these shows, but did you know that her TV debut was actually at the 2008 NewNowNext Awards? At the time, she was just another up-and-coming pop singer, but after Gaga’s first televised performance of “Just Dance,” we knew Mother Monster was someone to watch.
The emotional 2016 Trailblazer Honors
The 2016 Trailblazer Honors was an unforgettable night. With the horrific Pulse Nightclub massacre happening just weeks before, there was an extra air of importance to the ceremony. RuPaul made a surprise appearance, telling homophobes, "Don’t fuck with my family," and leading the audience in a moment of silence for the Pulse victims. Another memorable moment was when Ginger Minj and her Drag Race All Stars Season 2 sisters performed an evocative rendition of the classic gay anthem “I Am What I Am” from the musical La Cage Aux Folles for honoree Harvey Fierstein.
Documentaries that tell LGBTQ+ stories (and snatch trophies)
Logo is more than just drag queens and sitcoms. It is also a home to documentaries highlighting extraordinary stories from the LGBTQ+ community. Television Academy voters have embraced these docs, too. Logo has won Emmys for three documentary features: Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, Out of Iraq, and Kevyn Aucoin: Beauty & the Beast In Me.
RuPaul's first Emmy win
RuPaul’s shelves may be lined with Emmys now, but it wasn’t so long ago that he snatched his first Television Academy trophy. Ru won the Emmy for Outstanding Host of a Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program for RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8, the last season to air on Logo. “Thank you Logo TV, World of Wonder, and the cast and crew of RuPaul’s Drag Race for the best job a guy — or a girl — could ask for,” he told NewNowNext at the time. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the people that have loved and supported me over the years, and to them I am forever grateful.” He has won the Emmy for Outstanding Host every year since.
The music-video debuts of LGBTQ+ artists
Earlier this year, groundbreaking queer singer and dance artist Ari Gold died at the age of 47 after a highly public battle with leukemia. Gold made history with the video for his 2004 song “Wave Of You,” which was the first music video by an openly LGBTQ+ artist to premiere on Logo.
The introductions of all-star queer comedians
Kate McKinnon is now a bonafide movie star and Emmy-winning Saturday Night Live cast member, but she got her start on Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show. And she’s far from the only comedian to cut her teeth on the network. Search Party’s Jeffery Self and Cole Escola starred in their own series, Jeffery & Cole Casserole, which ran for two seasons, and Will & Grace’s Brian Jordan Alvarez also got his start on Gay Skit Happens.
America's first televised presidential forum on LGBTQ+ issues
Years before marriage equality became law of the land, Logo got political when it aired "Visible ‘08: A Presidential Forum," the first-ever live forum with presidential candidates discussing LGBTQ+ issues. Six of the eight top Democratic presidential candidates — including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — attended the forum. (Logo also invited the Republican candidates, all of whom either declined or did not respond to the invitation.)
The premiere of Finding Prince Charming, TV's first gay dating competition show
Logo made history in 2016 when the network aired Finding Prince Charming, the first gay Bachelor dating show. Yes, Bravo had Boy Meets Boy years before, but this was the first dating competition show comprised entirely of gay and queer men looking for love. The series’ Prince Charming, Robert Sepulveda Jr., made headlines even before the series premiered, and ultimately chose Eric Leonardos, the bachelor who had revealed his HIV-positive status earlier in the season. Even though Season 2 never blossomed into a reality, Finding Prince Charming still made LGBTQ+ TV history.
Series that kept it real (and queer)
Today, most cisgender, heterosexual Americans are familiar with LGBTQ+ people and culture (or at the very least, gay culture). But that wasn’t always the case. Throughout its history, Logo has gone above and beyond to highlight underrepresented subsets of our community, including transgender women in historically cis spaces (Made to Model) and New York City’s QTPOC-led house and ballroom community (Logo’s coverage of the 2019 Latex Ball). The network has also held space for frank conversations about queer life, dating, and sex with popular series like 1 Girl 5 Gays.
On-the-ground coverage of the massacre at Orlando's Pulse Nightclub
The horrific 2016 mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub sent shockwaves through America’s LGBTQ+ community, and rightfully so: The massacre claimed the lives of 49 people, many of whom were LGBTQ+ people of color. It is still the deadliest hate-motivated attack on LGBTQ+ people in U.S. history. Logo was on the scene soon after the massacre, tapping Raymond Braun as a correspondent for on-the-ground digital video coverage. It’s been five years since the shooting at Pulse, but we will never forget the lives lost.
The Eurovision Song Contest's U.S. airing
The Eurovision Song Contest has long been required gay viewing across the pond, but it became a household name in the United States with the help of a little network called Logo. In 2016, 2017, and 2018, Logo exclusively aired the camp-tastic international singing competition for American viewers. For Eurovision commentators, Logo enlisted RuPaul’s Drag Race squirrel friends Michelle Visage, Ross Mathews, and Shangela. It might be on Peacock now, but American viewers can thank Logo for being the first place to — legally — watch the competition in the U.S.
NewNowNext Pop Lab
This exciting video series took viewers behind the scenes with their favorite LGBTQ+ and allied pop singers. Just take a look at these vintage clips of interviews with Gaga, Kylie Minogue, and Beyoncé (yes, you read that right: The Beyoncé sat down with Logo in 2009. Needless to say, pop culture was never the same.)
The launch of Logo's Pluto channel...
In 2019, Logo launched a channel on PlutoTV, a free cable substitute with 24/7 programming. (PlutoTV was acquired by ViacomCBS that same year.) The update brought some of Logo's most popular queer shows and movies to the cable-less masses.
...and many more years of LGBTQ+ digital content to come
The history-making moments aren't done, folks! In recent months, Logo has ramped up its digital video content and social media presence. From the LGBTQ State of the Union with Billy Porter to the annual Logo30 showcase, and Seasons 1 and 2 of Logo Live on Instagram, the brand is staying true to its ethos of highlighting queer stories through the lenses of justice and joy.