At the beginning of October an idea took hold of me. Who were the first five celebrities I ever crushed on? As I cultivated my list I realized I have a “type” that’s translated into the realm of my real-life relationships. On a whim I took to Twitter with my question: Who are your “foundational five,” the first five crushes you ever had? To say the response was overwhelming is an understatement. As it stands, my tweet has been quoted and answered by over 1500 people, including the likes of Mr. Neil Gaiman.
In culling everyone’s answers a few key points popped out. It was very easy to deduce people’s ages based on their responses, from those who confessed a love for Dukes of Hazzard star Catherine Bach to the numerous ‘90s kids who cited a love for one of the New Kids on the Block. At one point the hashtag #doyoufeelold were being shared.
Numerous participants seemed ashamed of their childhood or teenage tastes. Acknowledgements of a pre-pubescent love for Kirk Cameron or Scott Baio were followed up with “if I knew then what I know now” statements. With the rise of social media it’s become easier to follow the exploits of a particular star and, even more depressingly, the realization that they often suffer from personal foibles or political opinions at odds with their fanbase.
Many thought there was something weird with their first crushes being cartoon characters; Jessica Rabbit, Disney’s Robin Hood and Aladdin all racked up an insane amount of votes. This, too, isn’t necessarily strange. With many children growing up in the age of Disney and television, oftentimes the first feelings they had came from an anthropomorphic character.
The most heartening element was the humor that accompanied everyone’s responses. The sheer joy of returning to a simpler time, where the worst decision was a love for Kirk Cameron. In several instances people confessed to picking crushes of the opposite gender to look cool to their friends, afraid to admit the early stirrings of a sexuality they weren’t totally sure about. This was the most unique element of what the #foundationalfive question raised.
Growing up heterosexual, I never thought how others crushes affected them. What was it like to have to fake a love for someone of the opposite gender of your own preference? Several people mentioned a tacit awareness that they were lying about their crushes, but weren’t sure why and were now happier to acknowledge that they still appreciated their first celeb loves, even if it wasn’t sexual.
I sorted through over 2,000 different crushes, both known and unknown. (Let’s just say I learned a lot about Canadian television actors.) It is disheartening that nearly 75% of responses were for white performers, a sad reminder that so much of the media of the past was white-centric. The majority of responses skewed male, mainly because so many women answered my question so, in the interest of fairness, I’ve listed both the five top male winners and the five female winners.
FOUNDATIONAL FIVE FEMALE WINNERS
Honorable Mentions: Cameron Diaz, Diane Youdale aka Jet from the UK television series Gladiators (I’d never heard of this series but so happy to learn about it), Gillian Anderson, Danielle Fishel, Melissa Joan Hart
5. Debbie Harry
Interestingly, the responses for women tended to skew towards older females starting with Blondie lead singer, Debbie Harry. This was a surprise, especially considering Madonna received far less votes in spite of how many ‘90s-era people answered. Harry remains a magnetic figure who dominated the airwaves with her uncompromising songs and fierce style. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised she bested Madonna; she inspired her, after all.
4. Carrie Fisher (I also counted Princess Leia responses)
I was so happy to see the love for Princess Leia here, especially so soon after Fisher’s untimely passing. For many Carrie Fisher was the first woman to break out of the princess mold, creating a character who was resourceful and commanding. In the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, she’s literally transformed from royalty into a general. On her own merits Fisher was an outspoken advocate for talking about mental illness, inspiring countless people.
3. Lynda Carter
Yes, the original Wonder Woman herself got a top three slot, beating many fellow ‘70s actresses like the aforementioned Bach and both Tina Louise and Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island. Regardless of the skimpy costume Carter’s Wonder Woman exemplified strength and power, a fact she’s translated into her later work, even playing Madame President on the CW Supergirl series.
2. Tiffani Amber Thiessen
One of two members of Saved By the Bell to be brought up repeatedly – sadly Zach Morris himself, Mark-Paul Gosselaar didn’t crack the top 20 – Tiffani Amber Thiessen was the all-American girl with looks and charm.
1. Amy Jo Johnson (also counted Pink Power Ranger responses)
This warmed my heart because the first girl crush I ever had was on Amy Jo Johnson, best known to ‘90s kids as Kimberly Hart, the Pink Power Ranger on The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Johnson was spunky; the beautiful girl next door. As the Pink Power Ranger she did tend to be the damsel….a lot, but she was athletic with a love of gymnastics that inspired many young women to take up the sport. After her tenure on the Power Rangers ended she kept that giggly personality thriving in roles on Felicity and as the bubbly ghost on a mission in the TV movie Susie Q.
FOUNDATIONAL FIVE MALE WINNERS
Honorable Mentions: River Phoenix, Johnny Depp (so many “I’m sorry” tweets with him), Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter, Michael J. Fox (I also counted Marty McFly responses here), and Devon Sawa.
5. Keanu Reeves
Reeves was just one of many ‘90s-era choices who dominated the top 20 and it’s not surprising. His work in Point Break, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Speed allowed him to cast a wide net, attracting nearly any young moviegoer growing up in the age of the blockbuster.
5. Orlando Bloom
I’ll say that as a young girl of 13 I lost my head for Orlando Bloom so it wasn’t surprising to see him here; I am surprised he made the top four. After bursting onto the scene in the Lord of the Rings films he segued into romantic leading man territory with the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. He isn’t quite the A-list performer we all envisioned he’d be back in 2003 but he’s still working (and looking just as good as he did when he started out!).
3. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
I was so sick of counting votes for “JTT” by the end of this poll, and his ubiquitousness – both in the ‘90s and now – is something I’ll never understand. Taylor Thomas started out on people’s TV screen as the picture-perfect son of ABC’s Home Improvement. His rascally charm and wonderful ‘90s hair captured Disney’s interest, who put him as the lead voice of young Simba in The Lion King and the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn film Tom and Huck. Nearly 25 years later, I still don’t get what it was about JTT that made girls crazy. Hanson I understood….JTT, that remains a mystery.
2. Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones votes were also included here)
Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones was the first response I received to my question. Ford’s devil-may-care attitude and roguish grin was shared in countless answers from women (and men) across numerous age ranges, and it’s not surprising. Whether he’s playing the aforementioned Jones or the equally adventurous Han Solo, Ford cultivated an air of cool and daring that connects him to some of the most indelible actors in film history.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
Nearly every response had DiCaprio’s name in it, with many begrudgingly using him to fill their final slots. In the end, he amassed over 150 votes alone. Where other actors tied, DiCaprio ran straight ahead and never let up. In a way, he’s the ultimate example of the foundational five. He played up to young women in works like Romeo + Juliet and Titanic. His appearance in the last film, the then-biggest film of all time, means he stuck in people’s minds whether they wanted him or not. Since then he’s remained a shining example of the Hollywood actor, never really going away. He was easily my first crush as a girl, and apparently I wasn’t as unique and rebellious in that opinion as I thought.