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Leading lady is a term often applied to the leading actress in the performance if her character is the protagonist. It is also an informal term for the actress who plays a secondary lead, usually a love interest, to the leading actor in a film or play.
A leading lady can also be an actress of renown. For example, Lynn Fontanne and Helen Hayes were both referred to as the "leading lady of the theatre" in their time. Similarly, Mary Pickford was called the "leading lady" of the cinema.
The term has been applied to an actress who is often associated with one particular actor. For example, Olivia de Havilland was Errol Flynn's leading lady in several films, Katharine Hepburn had a similar association with Spencer Tracy, Lauren Bacall with Humphrey Bogart, and Maureen O'Hara with John Wayne. A leading lady is also an actress who is typecast in romantic supporting roles.
The term can also be used collectively; for example, the phrase "Hollywood's leading ladies" can be used to refer to a group of notable, famous, or popular actresses.
Many modern day leading ladies include: Amy Adams, Jennifer Aniston, Annette Bening, Halle Berry, Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Sandra Bullock, Jessica Chastain, Glenn Close, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Viola Davis, Judi Dench, Jodie Foster, Gal Gadot, Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson, Dakota Johnson, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Keira Knightley, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Blake Lively, Jennifer Lopez, Rooney Mara, Melissa McCarthy, Frances McDormand, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong'o, Rosamund Pike, Natalie Portman, Margot Robbie, Julia Roberts, Saoirse Ronan, Susan Sarandon, Kristen Stewart, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Emma Thompson, Alicia Vikander, Emma Watson, Naomi Watts, Michelle Williams, Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon and Renée Zellweger.
Minnie Mouse, an anthropomorphic animated character, has been the most notable and most successful cartoon leading lady for The Walt Disney Company for over 90 years, who mostly portrays the secondary lead roles to her lifelong boyfriend and the company's mascot Mickey Mouse.