Jameela Jamil Comes Out As Queer After Her New Job As Judge On Voguing Competition Show Is Meet With Backlash
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.
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.
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 Is Excessively Black (@Brooke Obie Is Excessively Black) 1580851833
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
Jamil called this a mistake on the part of Hollywood news outlet Deadline...
...as well as the HBO press department.
Jamil clarified that she is only a judge, along with rapper Megan Thee Stallion and America's Next Top Model judge Luxury Law.
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— The Legend MikeQ (@The Legend MikeQ) 1580871603
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 (@Leiomy) 1580871783
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
Pose star Indya Moore, after speaking with Jamil directly, also echoed the sentiment.
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
But many others were not having it.
@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— Theodore (@Theodore) 1580948530
@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 Mehta (@Vaneet Mehta) 1580944913
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.