After receiving backlash about her casting on HBO Max’s upcoming voguing competition show, Legendary, actor and activist Jameela Jamil just came out as queer. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, February 5th, Jamil explained that she “never officially came out as queer” until now because she was afraid of “being accused of performative bandwagon jumping” on social media.
Yesterday, the Good Place actor was roundly criticized for taking a role as MC on Legendary—a show that centers on ballroom culture, which was created by LGBTQ people of color in the 1960s “to provide community, safety, and guidance”—when she didn’t seem to have any ties to either the queer or ballroom communities.
In her tweet, Jamil said that “this is absolutely not how I wanted to come out.”
She added that she kept her sexuality quiet because “it’s scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you’re already a brown female in your thirties.” However, she stated, “Twitter is brutal,” seeming to address the backlash over her Legendary casting as the decision for her coming out publicly for the first time. Jamil went on to speak to the concerns over her qualifications to take part in a voguing competition show.
She also reiterated what seemed to be in confusion Tuesday: that she’s not an MC, but “a lead judge.” In the hours after HBO Max made its casting announcement, Jamil claimed that the press release misrepresented her as the MC. She clarified that she’ll be heading up a judging panel alongside Megan Thee Stallion, Law Roach, and Leoimy Maldonado. Ballroom member and “King of Vogue” Dashaun Wesley will be taking on the role of MC.
Reading an inaccurate press release about our new show yesterday was upsetting, and it triggered a lot of incorrect news articles about it. To be very clear, it’s @DashaunWesley who has worked on this show for 2 years is (and always has been) the MC of #Legendary. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/agcQhZbgS4— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) February 5, 2020
In her post, she attributes her casting as a judge 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 longtime ally of the lgbtq community.”
In response to HBO’s announcement on February 4th, ballroom members, LGBTQ people, people of color, and many others took to Twitter to express their anger and disappointment in the casting decision. Many believed that the role should have gone to someone with actual experience in the ballroom scene.
Jamil’s latest tweet is receiving its fair share of backlash, too.
Trace Lysette, an actor and ballroom fixture who auditioned for Legendary, confirmed Jamil’s statement that being queer doesn’t qualify someone to judge a voguing competition. “The only thing that makes you ballroom is if you are actually from it,” she wrote.
Being queer does not make you ballroom. Being any number of marginalized identities does not make you ballroom. The only thing that makes you ballroom is if you are actually from it. And most of us who are from it, sought it out when we had no one else.— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) February 5, 2020
People have also accused Jamil of weaponizing her queerness to circumvent criticism from Black trans people. Writer and podcaster Ira Madison III also criticized Jamil’s “insistence that ‘Twitter is brutal,’” which diminishes the legitimate concerns that queer people of color had about her casting. More people are chiming in on the conversation, too.
Jameela once said she turned down a role as a deaf character because she is not deaf. Announced this publicly to let us know she would never take up space. It is not illogical that many queer people of color yesterday then wanted to know why she, who had not come out as queer— Ira Madison III (@ira) February 5, 2020
By this reasoning, any time a straight person is cast in a queer role or a non trans actor is cast in a trans role, no one should ever voice concerns because.... what if they ARE they just haven’t told us. It’s bullshit and of course her fans are eating it up.— Ira Madison III (@ira) February 5, 2020
congrats to you for sharing your truth, and welcome to community! you are still not at all right for this show, and you should step down.— the green hunter beetleborg. (@lifethruglasses) February 5, 2020
And her not being queer (then) wasn’t even the biggest critique!!!!! It was her not being ballroom or hell even ballroom adjacent. Who is advising her?!— JOHNNY SIBILLY (@JohnnySibilly) February 5, 2020
In the meantime, the show is most definitely going on. Jamil said that shooting begins tomorrow, February 7th. “I hope you don’t let a few castings designed to help the show get off the ground stop you from supporting the talent from Ballroom on this show,” she concluded her post. “They really are fucking amazing and I’m really honored to work with them.”