“Happiness is a habit. It’s a choice. It’s something that you have to work for.”
Leslie Jordan was a cherished Emmy-winning actor, comedian, and a prominent advocate for LGBTQ rights. Adored for his mischievous wit, petite stature, and distinctive Southern accent, he left an indelible mark on commercials, television, film, and the theater.
Hailing from Tennessee, Jordan's upbringing was marked by adversity. At the age of 11, his father tragically perished in a plane crash. Navigating the challenges of adolescence as a small gay individual in the conservative South, he was even sent to a camp designed to toughen young boys. In an unexpected turn, Jordan not only emerged from this experience with the title of best all-around camper, but he also discovered that humor was his greatest armor.
In 1982, Jordan made his way to Los Angeles, his mother's careful sewing of money into his jacket serving as his initial foundation. Swiftly, he found himself in television commercials. Standing at just 4 feet, 11 inches tall, he transformed what had once been a source of bullying into an asset. With newfound freedom and financial stability, he grappled with substance abuse and faced multiple DUI arrests. Despite these struggles, Jordan landed his inaugural television role in the 1986 series "The Fall Guy," launching his career. He achieved sobriety in the late '90s.
In 2005, Jordan earned an Emmy for his portrayal of the snarky Beverley Leslie on the popular series "Will & Grace." He featured in three seasons of the acclaimed anthology "American Horror Story" and became a recurring guest on the sitcom "Hearts Afire," among an array of other television appearances. Jordan also left his mark in over a dozen films, including the 2011 production "The Help."
Beyond acting, Jordan showcased his singing and writing talents in various stage productions. His initial autobiographical play, a musical titled "Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far," transformed his childhood tribulations into poignant comedy, premiering off Broadway in 1993. He received critical acclaim for his portrayal of "Brother Boy" in Del Shores's darkly comedic 1996 play, "Sordid Lives," and reprised the role in the film adaptation and subsequent TV-series spinoff.
Jordan brought brightness into countless lives. During the height of the AIDS epidemic, he selflessly volunteered with AIDS Project Los Angeles, offering sustenance and companionship to homebound patients. Amidst the grim early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, his infectiously funny videos spread rapidly, amassing over 5.8 million followers on Instagram.
In 2021, Jordan penned his autobiography, "How Y'All Doing? Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived," and received the GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics' Timeless Star Award. Tragically, he passed away the following year, succumbing to a heart attack while in his car, resulting in a collision with a building.