In a recent episode of The Masked Singer, viewers were in for a delightful surprise as The Royal Hen, performing the classic hit “Philadelphia Freedom” in a tribute to Elton John, was unveiled as none other than tennis champion and LGBTQ+ activist Billie Jean King. While her journey on the show came to an end with her elimination, fans couldn’t contain their excitement when her true identity was revealed.
Billie Jean King and Elton John share a long and cherished friendship that dates back to the 1970s. Elton John wrote the iconic song “Philadelphia Freedom” specifically for King during her tenure as the captain of the Philadelphia Freedoms in World Team Tennis. Their mutual admiration for each other’s work was evident even before they met in person in 1973, with Elton John often attending King’s World Team Tennis matches clad in her team’s uniform.
The genesis of “Philadelphia Freedom” can be traced back to 1974 when Elton John played an in-progress recording of the song for Billie Jean King and her Philadelphia Freedoms teammates. King’s immediate affection for the song led to its official release in 1975, becoming a chart-topping hit and the third-best-selling single of the year. Beyond its musical success, the song also transcended its status as a bicentennial-era patriotic anthem to become a perennial gay anthem, resonating deeply within the LGBTQ+ community.
Billie Jean King’s legacy extends far beyond her tennis prowess; she is celebrated for her unwavering advocacy for women in sports and her tireless support of LGBTQ+ rights. Similarly, Elton John is renowned for his activism and philanthropic efforts, making this tribute on The Masked Singer a heartwarming moment of recognition for two LGBTQ+ icons.
The revelation of Billie Jean King as The Royal Hen was expertly deduced by judge Ken Jeong, who recognized the connection between the song “Philadelphia Freedom” and its intended recipient. Throughout the season, hints pointed to the singer being a feminist icon, leading to various guesses, including Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, Rita Moreno, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Judge Robin Thicke even humorously mentioned his father’s connection to Gloria Steinem.