Jameela Jamil has come out as queer after receiving criticism for being cast in a new television show about voguing.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Jamil had been cast as a judge and MC in an upcoming HBO voguing competition called Legendary, as outlined in a distributed press release.
Jamil later clarified that she was only a judge on the show, while the selected MC was “King of Vogue” Dashaun Wesley.
The Good Place actor’s involvement in the program sparked some backlash online, with several people stating their belief that those cast in the show should have connections to the ballroom scene within the LGBT+ community, from which voguing originates.
Following the criticism she received, Jamil released a statement on Twitter outlining that she identifies as queer.
“This is why I never officially came out as queer,” she said.
“I added a rainbow to my name [on Twitter] when I felt ready a few years ago, as it’s not easy within the south Asian community to be accepted, and I always answered honestly if ever straight-up asked about it on Twitter.
“But I kept it low 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.”
LGBT+ charity Stonewall says queer “is a term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity”.
“Although some LGBT people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 80s by the queer community who have embraced it.”
Jamil stated that no members of her family are “openly out”, adding that as an actor, it can be scary “to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you’re already a brown female in your thirties”.
The I Weigh movement founder said that she would be taking some time off from Twitter for a while, so as to avoid any “mean comments” from social media users.
“This is absolutely not how I wanted it to come out,” she wrote.
She acknowledged that while identifying as queer does not “qualify” her as “ballroom”, she has “privilege, power and a large following” that can benefit the show, as does fellow judge rapper Megan Thee Stallion.
The other judges announced to appear on the show are stylist Law Roach and dancer Leiomy Maldonado.
“Sometimes it takes those with more power to help a show get off the ground so we can elevate marginalised stars that deserve the limelight and give them a chance," Jamil said.
The 33-year-old outlined that she had been chosen as a lead judge due to her “11 years of hosting experience, being fully impartial, a newcomer to ballroom (like much of the audience will be) and therefore a window in for people who are just discovering it now, and being a long-time ally of the LGBTQ community”.
Several people, including those involved in Legendary, expressed their support for Jamil.
“Anything monumental created will always be combated by the naysayers,” tweeted the show’s MC Wesley.
“There’s no way people who [have] no idea of this process can shift our amazing outcome.
“@jameelajamil welcome to the team. They will understand when it all airs. You’re gonna be a AMAZING.”
“As an ICON who started in BALLROOM who has made a career that has flourished based on BALLROOM. The scene has tried to tear me down for simply being GREAT!” tweeted fellow judge Maldonado.
“@jameelajamil THANK YOU FOR STANDING WITH US! Can’t wait to make to make the world gag!”
Voguing is a form of dance that can trace its roots back to the 1960s ballroom scene within the LGBT+ community in Harlem, New York City.
Ryan Murphy’s television show Pose, which premiered in 2018, depicts New York City’s ballroom scene in the Eighties and Nineties.
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