The NBC actress has responded to pushback on her casting as an “MC and judge” on HBO Max’s new show Legendary with an announcement: She’s queer, and fear of being invalidated as a member of the LGBTQ community has kept her in the closet for years.
Less than 24 hours after word of Jamil’s latest gig on the ballroom competition series sparked controversy among longtime members of the house and ballroom community, the 33-year-old British actress tweeted a statement out to her followers.
“Twitter is brutal,” Jamil began. “This is why I never officially came out as queer.”
The Good Place star went on to explain how she’d added a rainbow emoji to her display name on Twitter as a nod to her queerness “a few years ago,” but decided against issuing an official statement.
I kept it [on the down-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 as a kid. I didn’t come from a family with anyone openly out. It’s also scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you’re already a brown female in your thirties.
Jamil is no stranger to online controversies, so her fears weren’t exactly unwarranted. The actress added that she’ll be taking a Twitter break because she “doesn’t want to read mean comments” dismissing her coming-out announcement. (She’s been in a relationship with singer-songwriter James Blake since 2015, a fact some angry Twitter users have already tried to use to invalidate her queerness.)
She also clarified a key point about her involvement with Legendary: Apparently, she’s not the main MC, nor is she the show’s host. She’s actually a lead judge on Legendary’s judges’ panel, a casting decision Jamil chalked up to her “11 years of hosting experience” on TV in the U.K., and “being a newcomer to ballroom.”
“I know that being queer doesn’t qualify me as ballroom,” Jamil said. “But I have privilege and power and a large following to bring to this show… and it’s [sic] beautiful contestants and ballroom hosts. … I hope you don’t let a few castings designed to help get a show off the ground, stop you from supporting the talent from [the ballroom community] on this show. They are really fucking amazing, and I’m honored to work with them.”
That, at least, is a sentiment we can all get behind.