Kristen Stewart is opening up about queer representation in Hollywood and how her journey has evolved in the spotlight.
In her new movie Happiest Season, Stewart plays a gay character named Abby who goes home with her girlfriend for Christmas. But Abby’s girlfriend has yet to come out to her family. Although Stewart has played queer characters before, she was drawn to this script because of her own personal experiences.
“I’ve been on both sides of that dynamic where someone is having a hard time acknowledging who they are and the other person is more self-accepting,” Stewart tells Happiest Season director Clea DuVall in InStyle. “I [personally] came into the more complex aspects of myself a little bit later. I never felt an immense shame, but I also don't feel far away from that story, so I must have it in a latent sense.”
Stewart added, “I don't want to aggrandize my own pain, because I know that others’ pain has been so great. Living in this world, being a queer person, there are things that hurt constantly.”
Although Stewart has been acting since she was a child, it was 2008’s Twilight that launched her to superstardom. The actress’s off-screen romance with Robert Pattinson only heightened public interest in her personal life, which spilled over after their breakup.
“The first time I ever dated a girl, I was immediately being asked if I was a lesbian. And it's like, ‘God, I'm 21 years old,’” Stewart reflected. It made her want to keep her private life private, which had its own consequences.
“I felt like maybe there were things that have hurt people I’ve been with. Not because I felt ashamed of being openly gay but because I didn’t like giving myself to the public, in a way. It felt like such thievery. This was a period of time when I was sort of cagey,” she shared.
“Even in my previous relationships, which were straight, we did everything we could to not be photographed doing things — things that would become not ours,” Stewart continued. “So I think the added pressure of representing a group of people, of representing queerness, wasn’t something I understood then. Only now can I see it. Retrospectively, I can tell you I have experience with this story. But back then I would have been like, ‘No, I'm fine. My parents are fine with it. Everything's fine.’ That's bull****. It's been hard. It's been weird. It's that way for everyone.”
“Being a queer person, playing a gay character, do you feel like there's almost an expectation for you to be a spokesperson for the community?” DuVall asked.
“I did more when I was younger, when I was being hounded about labeling myself,” Stewart replied. “I had no reticence about displaying who I was. I was going out every day knowing I'd be photographed while I was being affectionate with my girlfriend, but I didn’t want to talk about it.”
While she “did feel an enormous pressure,” Stewart clarified the pressure wasn’t put on her by the LGBTQ+ community.
“People were seeing those pictures and reading these articles and going, ‘Oh, well, I need to be shown.’ I was a kid, and I felt personally affronted,” Stewart explained. “Now I relish it. I love the idea that anything I do with ease rubs off on somebody who is struggling. That s***’s dope! When I see a little kid clearly feeling themselves in a way that they wouldn't have when I grew up, it makes me skip.”
Stewart said she has made some changes in her personal life, but it doesn’t have to do with who she may or may not be dating. The actress, who turned 30 in April, said she woke up thinking, “You need to get your a** in gear” on the big day.
“I was drinking too much in the beginning [of the pandemic], so I stopped drinking and smoking. I’m embarrassed because it sounds really cliché, but, whatever, it's true,” she shared.
Now, a typical day includes walking her dogs, walking with people and donating.
“I feel horrible about the state of the world, so I'm donating money — but I'm not marching, and I'm feeling weird about it,” she noted. “I’m a frustrated optimist. I'm always thinking, ‘It can’t be as bad as this.’”
When asked how politically active she is, Stewart simply said, “People need to vote.”
“I read the news every day, but I don’t fixate on it,” she explained. “I have some friends who won't stop, and it's all they talk about. I’m not saying I don't want to confront these things. But in terms of how involved I am, I’ve never been the face of anything. I don't even have a public Instagram. I really do like to support people who are already doing it and have been for years.”
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