Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The Good Place star, activist and Twitter fave Jameela Jamil is the latest Hollywood star to come out as LGBTQ.

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.

People were especially angry about Jamil being the MC rather than one of the show's other stars like ballroom legends Dashaun Wesley, Leiomy Maldonado or DJ Mike Q.

Jamil called this a mistake on the part of Hollywood news outlet Deadline... 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.

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.

But many others were not having it.

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.


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