In a statement yesterday on Twitter, Jamil identified herself as queer.
But unlike most celebrity coming out stories, Jamil's wasn't inspired by a new relationship or a moment of self-actualization. Rather, it comes on the heels of a fiery online backlash over her role in a new project.
Earlier this week, streaming platform HBO Max announced that Jamil will be the MC and one of the judges of its forthcoming series Legendary, a reality competition show that will center on the competitive vogueing found in LGBTQ drag ball culture. An immediate backlash ensued over Jamil, an outsider to ball culture, being an inappropriate choice for the show.
It was this backlash that prompted Jamil to come out, in a post on Twitter.
✌🏽 https://t.co/YcB6H7YCT0— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@Jameela Jamil 🌈)1580937154.0
In the post, Jamil addressed both the backlash and why she never came out previously:
"This is why I never officially came out as queer..."
"...I kept it low because because I was scared of the pain of being accused of performative bandwagon jumping, over something that caused me a lot of confusion, fear and turmoil when I was a kid."
So why the backlash?
For the uninitiated, Ball culture, which has recently enjoyed pride of place in the mainstream consciousness due to the FX series Pose, centers on groups of LGBTQ people, especially people of color and transgender individuals, who arrange themselves into associations called "houses" and compete—at vogueing, fashion shows and other exploits—before a panel of judges at events called "balls."
Ball culture also arose as a safe haven for queer people in a time when society was even more openly violent and hostile toward the LGBTQ community than it is today. As such, ball culture is deeply important to and fiercely guarded by its members.
Which is where the backlash comes in.
Many LGBTQ people felt Jamil was an inappropriate choice for Legendary, especially since prominent LGBTQ people from the ball scene itself, like Transparent actress Trace Lysette, a trans woman, were passed over in favor of Jamil, a total outsider to the ball scene.
Lol.. I interviewed for this gig. As the mother of a house for nearly a decade it’s kind of kind blowing when ppl w… https://t.co/DvnKDcOHYI— Trace Lysette (@Trace Lysette)1580855619.0
And many felt Jamil was appropriating a culture that was not hers.
A part of being an “ally” is knowing your lane and not swerving. https://t.co/35L7EuwbCp— Brooke Obie (@Brooke Obie)1580851833.0
I think Jameela is great, but this show raises eyebrows because this could very well lean into the appropriation of… https://t.co/hUBdLhIp0J— Dino-Ray Ramos (@Dino-Ray Ramos)1580863584.0
Deleted a less diplomatic tweet but without dunking on anyone, this is an odd choice. You'd want a judge to be fami… https://t.co/hODWizPt7M— muna mire (@muna mire)1580855964.0
Jamil called this a mistake on the part of Hollywood news outlet Deadline...
Hello! @DEADLINE says I am the MC of this show! I am NOT. I am just one of the judges. The brilliant @DashaunWesley… https://t.co/WYZTjbelll— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@Jameela Jamil 🌈)1580873866.0
...as well as the HBO press department.
Reading an inaccurate press release about our new show yesterday was upsetting, and it triggered a lot of incorrect… https://t.co/KTjSdno8ay— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@Jameela Jamil 🌈)1580910413.0
Jamil clarified that she is only a judge, along with rapper Megan Thee Stallion and America's Next Top Model judge Luxury Law.
I’m a judge, alongside @leiomy @theestallion and @LUXURYLAW with music from icon @TheOnlyMikeQ I know some of us ar… https://t.co/CpsK5nmqZW— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@Jameela Jamil 🌈)1580910419.0
Jamil further underlined her reason for joining the show in her coming out post.
"I know that my being queer doesn't qualify me as ballroom. But I have privilege and power and a large following to bring to this show..."
"Sometimes it takes those with more power to help a show get off the ground so we can elevate marginalized stars that deserve the limelight and give them a chance."
It was a sentiment that her costars shared.
I’ve been in Ballroom for 16 years! My entire life since 2003 has been BALLROOM driven. My entire Musical career ha… https://t.co/6m6g42KT7g— MikeQ (@MikeQ)1580871603.0
As an ICON who started in BALLROOM who has made a career that has flourished based on BALLROOM. The scene has tried… https://t.co/rUiOFYa5QQ— Leiomy Maldonado (@Leiomy Maldonado)1580871783.0
Anything monumental created will always be combated by the naysayers. There’s no way people who has no idea of th… https://t.co/3JalxbSpiJ— Dashaun Wesley (@Dashaun Wesley)1580876073.0
Pose star Indya Moore, after speaking with Jamil directly, also echoed the sentiment.
This program Is a community centered program & again it is being led, consulted & starred by ballroom Monarchs of w… https://t.co/pyGpKlv0NW— Hot (@Hot)1580876080.0
But, naturally, the wider internet's responses to Jamil's announcement varied quite a bit.
Some gave heartfelt support.
@jameelajamil Hey Babygirl! You do use power for others. We at Women of Color Unite @TheJTCList stand with you. Yo… https://t.co/SocVg64kB6— Cheryl (@Cheryl)1580940396.0
@jameelajamil I personally absolutely hate when lgbt people try to gate-keep queer culture. It’s one of the huge re… https://t.co/qsQgtuxm5n— Case (@Case)1580938773.0
@jameelajamil And this is why I'm ALWAYS so weary of people hating on presumed "straight" people going on LGBT show… https://t.co/uD5wmwo6ro— Celine 🍊 (@Celine 🍊)1580938482.0
@jameelajamil I’m so sorry you felt forced to do this. For whatever it’s worth, many of us think you’re pretty damn amazing. <3— Matthew Mercer (@Matthew Mercer)1580952209.0
@jameelajamil I just discovered you on “The Good Place” and I think you’re brilliant. Welcome to the family, officially.— Kassandra Seven (@Kassandra Seven)1580947714.0
But many others were not having it.
@jameelajamil congrats to you for sharing your truth, and welcome to community! you are still not at all right for… https://t.co/mvMu9LBrDj— the green hunter beetleborg. (@the green hunter beetleborg.)1580938514.0
@jameelajamil 1). Congrats on coming out and I'm sorry it had to be like this. But 2). "it wouldn't sell with mor… https://t.co/p819nAqO0K— Theo Hendrie (he/they) (@Theo Hendrie (he/they))1580948530.0
@jameelajamil I’m sorry you had to come out like this. I’m glad that you’re a part of the community and we welcome… https://t.co/WGvpVCQyFZ— 🌺 Vaneet misses NYC! #20ThemTy 🌺 (@🌺 Vaneet misses NYC! #20ThemTy 🌺)1580944913.0
@jameelajamil Girl bye! You never walked any balls, never did anything for the ballroom community so therefore you… https://t.co/dFo36sXMAh— Bobby James (@Bobby James)1580945381.0
In any case, Jameela is who she is, and the show goes on—filming starts today according to Jamil's post. Soon the media landscape will have a bit more LGBTQ representation, which can only be a good thing.