9 90s TV Lady Crushes Who Changed My Life for the Gayer

The 90s were a beautiful time, heady with JNCO-clad Gwen Stefani, pretending to hate Britney Spears and The Spice Girls franchise. I also have many moist memories of the TV lady-crushes who ultimately catalyzed my queer identity. Let’s take a Skip-It down memory lane and explore my 9 most influential telecrushes (yes I just made that word up) from the 90s.

Lisa Turtle, Saved By The Bell (1989-1992)

While everyone was pining over basic, boring Kelly Kapowski, Lisa Turtle was gettin’ slept on. Why? Maybe because the writers gave her the last name TURTLE! COME ON! It may as well have been Gartersnake or Gecko. Lisa was wealthy and trendy and had every reason to be a Mean Girl but instead skewed sweet and wise and why the hell wasn’t Zack in love with her instead of Kelly? What the fuck, Zack? Why choose style over substance when Lisa proved you can have both? I dedicated my Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper to Ms. Turtle.

Brenda Walsh, 90210 (1990-2000)

First I was like, why does Andrea look like a teacher who owns a home and three cats? Then I thought, that Dylan guy is super cool; I might have a crush on him. But it turns out all I really wanted was to wear a leather jacket and ride a motorcycle and “go steady with” a snarky brunette named Brenda who would always pick fights with me right before a makeout session against said parked motorcycle. And since they wouldn’t sell kids Harleys back then (probably not now, either), I opted for a skateboard that I carried around with me for a month before losing it.

Nelle Porter, Ally McBeal (1997-2002)

Did I watch all five seasons? No. Did I spend 100% of the episodes I did watch wishing that Nelle Porter would deposition me? Yes, because I didn’t know what that word meant but it sounded intense and sexy. Portia De Rossi’s character was a Manolo Blahnik-wearing, one-liner wielding ice queen with a heart of gold; a proverbial ball-buster whose only flaw was being romantically interested in mouse of a man John Cage. He felt she was out of his league and he was so fucking right. My high school mock trial wins and later infatuation with L&O SVU’s Alex Cabot wouldn’t have been made possible without Cage, Fish & Associates.

Topanga Lawrence, Boy Meets World (1993-2000)

Topanga Lawrence was quirky, funny, sincere, and extremely ride-or-die for dorky ass Cory whose name really should be spelled with an “e” if we’re being completely honest. She was a hippie who spent the summer between junior high and high school becoming conventionally hot but still maintained her lovably granola personality. Topanga would have attended Lilith Fair, which I was definitely too young for and missed out on because parental control and wtf even is an allowance??? If the Lilith Fair reboot ever happens I’m there with organic free range bells on.

Alex Mack, The Secret World Of Alex Mack (1994-1998)

Larisa Oleynik was Alex Mack. The premise of the show was simple enough: En route to the first day of school, ordinary tomboy Alex is splashed with a chemical that gives her superpowers. Said powers let her move stuff with her mind, zap shit with fingertip lightening bolts, and transform into a sentient puddle of silver-ish goop. Because evil goons are trying to identify and dissect her, NO ONE CAN KNOW HER SECRET, NOT EVEN HER PARENTS.

I envied Alex’s gender-neutral nickname and endless supply of hats and flannel shirts. Plus, the show was pretty progressive; the CEO of the evil chemical plant was a woman, and Alex’s sister Annie was a total STEMhead who constantly proved herself more capable than her professional scientist dad. In the end, Alex finally “comes out” to her parents about her secret superpowers and they’re chill and supportive about it. She was the archetype of every sporty straight girl I’ve ever crushed on who went on to marry a guy and have two kids and a dog named David.

Rayanne Graff, My So-Called Life (1994-1995)

My So-Called Life, with a single season, remains without a doubt one of the top 10 teen dramas ever. Lead character Angela’s on-again/off-again best friend Rayanne Graff was nothing but trouble and the most irresistibly real human I’d ever encountered on the small screen. She was the stylistic gayby of Stevie Nicks and 80s-era Madonna who owned her sexuality, fearlessly stood up for everyone and everything she believed in, and never gave a single flying fuck. Of course I’d go on to have a crush on a girl in 11th grade who claimed to have done all of her own piercings with a safety pin; yes, even THAT one.

Xena, Xena The Warrior Princess (1995-2001)

Xena and Gabrielle have the best ambiguously gay relationship of all time and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t literally dream that I got to be the third wheel in those hot tub scenes. Without Xena there’d be no Buffy; she was a strong, unapologetic, literal warrior who still found time for witty banter while slaying baddies and saving the world. Best. Role model. Ever. But also, all that chocolate leather.

Jane Lane, Daria (1997-2001)

The only thing more confusing than my feelings for Jane Lane, animated resident misanthrope and platonic life partner of the title character, was the fact that I kinda wanted to be her brother Trent too. Daria and Jane made it cool for high school me to be uncool and I’ll never not be grateful for that.

Willow Rosenberg, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

I prayed for serial-dead-guy-dater Buffy Summers to have a come-to-Shesus moment and realize that Willow was what she’d been waiting for all along. Thus began my foray into slashfic. When Faith entered the picture they became the holy trinity of teenage me’s perfect woman: Brawn meets Brains meets Scathing Wit.

BTVS was the first teen show with a lesbian couple who weren’t just there to boost the ratings for sweeps week. Sure, Tara died in the shittiest and most traumatic way possible, but their relationship was still a major milestone and held my hand from “Hey, this is life-affirming but scary” to “Hey, just don’t date any actual witches.”

The takeaway from this is that I evolved from a brooding, moody teen into a sardonic, emotionally unavailable adult who spends a lot of time scribbling in notebooks, doing pushups, and staking trolls and that’s pretty much 101% spot on. All in all, I have my 90s TV crushes to thank for it.

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Kai Choyce is a writer, comedian, and cat whisperer.

Kai has written 13 articles for us.


  1. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssss. I wonder if I can still buy a Xena poster for my bedroom?

    I always thought Jane should have been queer, and young teenage me was pretty disappointed by the queer scene they gave her in the ‘Is It Fall Yet?’ film when she meets a stereotypically predatory bisexual who plows her with alcohol at ART CAMP. whomp whomp.


    • I still have and use the limited edition Xena shoulder bag I got from that official website that used to sell the DVDs and merchandise. I mentally face palm whenever someone sees the Xena logo on the back and asks what is it. These youngsters missed out on one of the best TV series in television history!

  2. Thank you for this public appreciation of Alex Mac, of which there is not nearly enough in the world!

  3. This was great!

    I totally get the Jane Lane thing. The sad thing is it’s only recently that I’ve realized I’ve more or less turned myself into adult Daria. La la laaaa la la….

  4. I recently worked with Larisa and she is such a total sweetheart! I also got bonus relationship points for introducing my girlfriend to her major childhood crush. She got back in the car and just said Alex Mac just hugged me a few times in a row- when she saw her again and Larisa remembered her name I think I won girlfriend of the year.

  5. Great article, Faith! (And may I say, great name). This is a superb slice of 90s queer crushworthy happy goodness.

  6. Oh crud my secret babyqueer feels are coming back.
    What have you done?!

    Love this list, agree on all the ones I’ve seen in action (sadly only like half of the list…)
    Does Ally McBeal hold up still (because I only remember watching it on tapes but I had a dream the other night and now I have an urge to watch some of it, just for nostalgia)?

  7. Hailing from different parts of the world I haven’t seen most of those shows. But I wanna say a huge YES to Nelle Porter. She was also my role model for “blondes can be incredibly smart”.

  8. Sooooo many feels and memories from this list! Looking back I realized how much just WHY i loved some of those characters so much.

    Nelle Porter was great and she just got even better after Porcia came out. And kiss between Ally and Ling made my little gay heart sing.

    I also had a huge crush on Daria’s sister Quinn. I always thought there was more to Quinn then what we saw and that I could bring it out in her. Wow that’s a little messed now that I’ve said it out loud >.<

    Then there Xena, omg Xena and Gabby! I loved them both but Gabby was always my favorite. She was always just so cute and sweet and I wanted to snuggle her and shower her with kisses everytime I saw her!

  9. I have to say that Xena was (and still is) my ultimate 90’s crush of all times!
    I’m not American, so almost all of those shows were unavailable for me here in Brazil but some of them I got to watch later on.
    I was so in love for Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams) from Dawson’s Creek that I barelly had time to look around and see the other potential crushes out there! And I must confess that my real crush, the one that lasted for decades and I still have some feelings for was Sharon Stone, that after watching Basic Instincts (without my parents knowledge off course), became my favourite actress while growing up. Then Sandra Bullock took this post from her in the late 90’s along with Nicolle Kidmann because of Practical Magic (I knew all the lines) and that scene totally incestuous of Nicolle liking Sandra’s face. That thing made me feel ashamed for being excited for quite some time, I muss confess!

  10. Now I feel like a GIANT NERD because I was looking for:

    – Susan Ivanova (Babylon 5, 1993 – 1998)
    – Dana Scully (X-Files, 1993 – ???)
    – Jadzia Dax (Star Trek DS9, 1993 – 1999)

    Ah, the awesome sci-fi ladies who kickstarted my puberty….

    • I didn’t appreciate Scully/Gillian Anderson until I was no longer a teen because I was a dumb baby who thought the show was scary back then. Rewatching it is a lot of fun because 1) The FX are soooo cheesy; wtf was a scared of?? 2) Seeing so many big name actors get their start 3) I want the reboot of X-Files to never end. Season 11 is on the way!

    • Giant nerd appreciation here. I see you with Ivanova and raise you with Torres from Star Trek Voyager.

    • I didn’t appreciate Scully/Gillian Anderson until I was no longer a teen because I was a dumb baby who thought the show was scary back then. Re-watching it is a lot of fun because 1) The FX are soooo cheesy in hindsight 2) Seeing so many big name actors get their start 3) I want the reboot of X-Files to never end. Season 11 is on the way!

    • Me too!

      Ivanova, Scully and though Jadzia was cool and all I couldn’t shake my Kira Nerys (!!!) crush.

      B’Elanna Torres from Voyager was a total dreamboat.

      Also Farscape started in ’99 and Chiana rocked my world.

      Also I was super young round abouts ’95 and lemme lay it down for my first TV crush, Sam Kepler from Wishbone.

  11. Larisaaaaaaa, my heart. She tv-dated Joseph Gordon-Levitt twice. First in 3rd Rock from the Sun and then in 10 Things I Hate About You. She also played Shawn’s girlfriend in Boy Meets World. Also I never noticed the resemblance between her & Jennifer Morrison!

    • Also one summer I decided I was going to watch every movie Winona Ryder had ever been in and I still called myself straight.

      • That look in Stella Gibson’s eye while waiting for that elevator… teenage-first-time-seeing-women-kissing-all-over-body-tingles feelings. So many of them.

        • “I’m from Croydon.”


          And then that knock on the door, and that look on Stella’s face and the anticipatory *THUNK* in my chest, and it’s just that stupid whiny beardy fuckface WHYYYY

  12. Lisa? Nuh-uh! Jessie all the way! I was so annoyed that she dated Slater. Why would she date Slater?!?

  13. I didn’t have crushes on any of these in the 90s. I was born in -92 and it took me some time to discover Buffy and My so-called life (the only ones here I’ve watched more than sporadically). BUT. These are excellent choices anyway. Rayanne is the best character on that show, for sure.

  14. Also: The old ‘bad/ass best friend’ article you linked in Rayanne’s description made me think of the friend who would most fit this type. She was indeed pretty exciting to be around first year of high school, but not so fun when we had a big fight the first summer and she acted like a total asshole. I think I prefer the friends I made who did break rules but also did give a shit. And I’d prefer Raynanne, because she feels a little more genuine, if fickle. Plus, the style!

  15. These are correct. And for those of us who weren’t allowed to watch TV and sourced their heroines directly from the Scholastic book order:

    Catherine Called Birdy

    Lizzy Bennett

    Dawn Schafer

    Ramona Quimby

    Kit from the Witch of Blackbird Pond

    Harriet the Spy

    That girl in that one book about fifth grade who just wanted to play softball and didn’t want to wear a bubblegum pink bra like her friends

    A gender-swapped Maniac McGee

    Annnnd a preschool tv bonus: Lady Aberlin, from Mister Rogers.

    • Omg i had such a crush on lizzy bennett! She is basically presented as the perfect woman (although in hindsight contrasted with her sisters as not like other girls, i suppose).

      I found P&P at school and read it sitting under my desk in my psychology lessons. Whilst everyone messed about, I spent lesson after lesson trying to understand olde worlde english to find out if Darcy would meet her standards.

    • Kit from Blackbird Pond was the best.

      I also loved Kate Bjorkman, from The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman. I always wanted her to either date Fleur, or date both Richard and Fleur.

      Also Meg Powers from The President’s Daughter trilogy and Rebecca from The Road Home–I think Ellen Emerson White basically writes the same character into different situations in all of her novels, but that’s just more characters to love.

  16. Honestly, most of the girls I have crushes on now STILL resemble Alex Mac so…

    I also realize more every day how much I’ve modeled my adult aesthetic on Jane Lane.

  17. I did love this list.

    I graduated high school in 1995, plus I didn’t own my queer identity until much later in life, and also we never had cable growing up, so there are some (like Nickelodeon) gaps in my education/crushes that I always enjoy hearing about.

    Totally agree with everyone on here about adding Scully. Also Dr. Crusher from ST:TNG. Guess I had a thing for red heads?

    I guess a lot of my crushes are from the 80s. Except I remember having more regard for well put-together ladies like Kate on Silver Spoons, Maria on Sesame Street, Lady Aberlin from Mr. Rogers (thanks, @queergirl!), or Jodie from Today’s Special (who was the coolest) than the kids that were my age on the shows. Huh. I’ll have to ponder that.

  18. Honestly I’m still a little disturbed that my first proper woman crush aged 9 was not on Xena, nor Gabrielle, but on Callisto, the evil psychopath. What was even wrong with me.

  19. Now that I think about it I had a lot more cartoon crushes in the 90s the celebrity ones.

    Scully was great though and the only reason I put myself through the trauma of watching X-Files as 2nd grader. I was WAY to Young to be watching that show >.<

    Oh god so many cartoon crushes! Jean, Storm, Rogue, Jubilee, Mystique, and Emma Frost from X-Men.

    Mary-Jane and Felicia Harding from Spider-Man.

    Harley, Poison Ivy, Cat Woman, Talia, and Batgirl from Batman.

    Jessie from The New Adventures of Johnny Quest.

    Wow there's a lot of redheads in that list, guess even as a babyqueer I had a thing for them lol.

  20. The only one of those I’m familiar with is Xena because I’m a bit of a young ‘un, and also because Xena was the only one that aired a.) at an appropriate time for young me (thanks Canadian TV for airing Xena during Saturday afternoons! US TV aired it late as fuck and way past my bedtime) b.) on a channel we were able to get because my parents Did Not Believe In Cable–until the big shift thing happened in analog to digital and therefore we no longer got any Canadian channels so my dad could no longer watch as much hockey as he wanted.

    And Xena wasn’t so much a crush as who I wanted to be, crossed with a like genderswapped Red Green.

    But as an adult rewatching some 90s TV, I can’t believe you left out Jadzia Dax and Kira Nerys (I would LOVE a DS9 reboot in the distant future so that it could be the totally queer show everyone but the studio (and possibly censors?) wanted it to be).

    • Ah, Kira Nerys. For some reason Jadzia Dax wasn’t as much on my radar, but I did love Kira.

  21. Alex Mack is Emma Swan???!!!! WHAT? People age? Actors, specifically, age? And then play female superheroes in multiple shows? What is life?

    Also Sam from Wishbone, is a solid 90s character who I was a big fan of without being able to fully articulate why at the time.

  22. I can’t be the only one who kind of had a crush on Melissa Joan Hart in her Clarissa Explains it all days.

    If we include shows that ended in the 90’s Darleen(played by the super gay Sara Gilbert) form Roseanne(1987-1997) was very cool. Wasn’t sure if I wanted to be her friend, be like her, or make out with her.

    Side note I never really watch Blossom, was too young when it was on, but I do have mild crush on Mayim Bialik did grow up to become a fairly cool actress who is also a scientist in real life.

  23. I was obsessed with Xena as a kid and it took me so long to realise it was because Lucy Lawless was goddamn BANGIN in that armour

  24. Looking back, it’s hard to believe I held on to the label “mostly straight” for so long. Because my #1 crush of the decade was Gillian Anderson/Scully. Followed by Gabrielle and Aphrodite from Xena. And I realize now that while I liked Willow, I was totally hot for vampire!Willow.

    Did anyone else watch Sisters? I was too young for it, probably, but I always loved Sela Ward. Ditto Rita on Silk Stalkings, which I was definitely too young for. Oh, and Lois on General Hospital; she was the cutest and I crushed soooooo hard.

    (I’m not actually as old as these shows make me seem, I just somehow missed most tween/teen television shows and launched straight into adult ones!)

    • Yes to Sela Ward, Rita, and Lois! I had to sneak-watch Silk Stalkings, because HOLY SHIT what was that show.

      (also yes to Scully and Vamp!Willow of course)

      • Clearly we had the same 90s upbringing!! Silk was such a bizarre, only-in-the-90s show. And yet I still love Rita and Chris. I think I imprinted on them.

        Ned is back on GH and it makes me so sad that Lois isn’t. The show needs her sense of fun! And also her gorgeous eyes.

  25. i can’t believe none of you nerds have mentioned Counselor Deanna Troi yet! warm, smart, emotionally intelligent, beautiful hair, amazing rack. honestly, what more could you want in a woman? as a kid most of my favorite characters were scrappy rough-and-tumble one-of-the-guys kinda gals but i was uncharacteristically attached to gentle, beautiful Deanna for reasons that were unclear to me at the time but are very clear now. (the reason is boobs, mostly. sorry.)
    also she appears in the 90s only briefly but TASHA YAR TASHA YAR TASHA YAR. that gay-ass haircut!

  26. Lisa was awesome, but my heart belonged to Kelly. Any Canadians watch Road to Avonlea? I had a huge crush on Felicity King.

  27. Such a great list. Addition nominations:

    Allysa Milano on Who’s the Boss

    Dana Delaney on China Beach

    Sherilyn Flynn on Twin Peaks

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