Jameela Jamil Comes Out After Backlash to Her Gig as a Judge on New Voguing Competition Show

Jameela Jamil
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Jameela Jamil attends the Jameela Jamil and Zumba "SELFish" Event at Casita Hollywood on Feb. 4, 2020 in Los Angeles.

"I know that my being queer doesn’t qualify me as ballroom, but I have privilege and power and a large following to bring this show," she tweets.

Actress Jameela Jamil took to Twitter on Wednesday (Feb. 5) to tell her fans that she is queer and would be taking a break from the social media service following backlash from some in the LGBTQ community over her role as a judge on HBO Max's upcoming unscripted vogue competition series Legendary.   

In a note titled "Twitter is Brutal," the Good Place star laid out that she has long identified privately as queer and didn't feel ready to talk extensively about her sexuality online. "This is why I never officially came out as queer,” she wrote. “I added a rainbow to my name 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.”  

She continued, saying that she feared talking about her sexuality as an actress "especially when you’re already a brown female in your thirties." She said that she would be leaving Twitter to get away from the negativity. "This is absolutely not how I wanted it to come out. I'm jumping off of this hell app for a while because I don't want to read mean comments dismissing this. You can keep your thoughts."

The post came amid a storm of social-media backlash for Jamil when HBO Max announced Tuesday that the actress would serve as the "MC and judge" of Legendary, an upcoming unscripted voguing competition series following a series of ballroom houses as they compete in various themed balls every episode. They also announced fellow judges Megan Thee Stallion, Law Roach and ballroom icon Leiomy Maldonado, along with ballroom stars Dashaun Wesley and DJ MikeQ as commentators. Many Twitter users expressed distaste at the fact that Jamil was being put in the position of MC and judge for the series instead of ballroom legends.

Jamil quickly tweeted Tuesday to correct the press release, saying she would only be judging the competition, while Wesley would serve as host. "Reading an inaccurate press release about our new show yesterday was upsetting, and it triggered a lot of incorrect news articles about it," she wrote. "To be very clear, it’s [Dashaun Wesley] who has worked on this show for 2 years is (and always has been) the MC of #Legendary."

Actress Trace Lysette, who served as a house mother in the ballroom community for more than a decade, tweeted that she had interviewed for a role on Legendary but didn't make the cut. "It’s kind of [mind] blowing when ppl with no connection to our culture gets the gig," she wrote in a tweet. "This is not shade towards Jameela, I love all that she stands for. If anything I question the decision makers." When Jamil replied that she believed Lysette actually auditioned to be a house mother on the show, and reiterated that she was not serving as MC, Lysette replied, saying, "I don’t have [to] audition to be a house mother... I am one. I remember the convo well. It was a convo in regards to be a host/producer. At least that’s what my manager at the time worked out. I never heard back. I send you love too. But I will always speak my truth."

In her note, Jamil expressed that she understood the outrage for her being cast on the show but said she wanted to bring more eyes to the screen to watch the show. "I know that my being queer doesn’t qualify me as ballroom,” she wrote. “But I have privilege and power and a large following to bring this show (as does the absolutely iconic Megan Thee Stallion), and its beautiful contestants and ballroom hosts. 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.”

Jamil closed out her note by expressing her excitement at getting to go begin shooting the show on Thursday and asked that audiences give the show a chance. "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 said. "They really are f---ing amazing and I'm really honoured to work with them."

Read Jamil's full statement below: