Jameela Jamil comes out as queer amid criticism of her role on HBO voguing show

The "Good Place" actress opened up about her sexuality after critics said her hosting the HBO Max competition erased the dance style's black LGBTQ roots.
62nd Annual Grammy Awards - Arrivals
Jameela Jamil attends the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on Jan. 26, 2020 in Los Angeles.David Crotty / Patrick McMullan via Getty Image
By Doha Madani

Actress Jameela Jamil came out as queer Wednesday in response to critics who attacked her role in a new HBO Max competition series, claiming her judging a voguing show wouldn't be representative of the black LGBTQ community in which voguing originated.

Jamil, who was born to a Pakistani mother and Indian father, posted a statement Wednesday in which she said the struggled for many years to "officially" come out due to fear that she wouldn't be accepted in the South Asian community. "The Good Place" actress said she added a rainbow emoji to her Twitter name years ago but "kept it low."

"It's also scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you're already a brown female in your thirties," Jamil wrote. "This is absolutely not how I wanted it to come out."

HBO Max announced in September that it was adding a new unscripted series to its streaming line-up titled "Legendary," according to Variety. The series was a structured dance competition in which contestants would be placed in 10 "houses" for a voguing competition to win a cash prize.

Jamil announced Tuesday on her social media that she would be one of the judges for the show, which includes other judges and hosts such as instructor Dashaun Wesley and rapper Megan Thee Stallion.

The actress said that she wanted to "help this show get made to celebrate this beautiful community."

Many felt that despite Jamil's comments, her place as a judge was inappropriate as voguing has its roots in the LGBTQ community. The dance style was part of drag competitions popularized by queer people of color and became ingrained in the community's culture.

Some critics felt that the actress taking the role was a direct contradiction to the brand of activism she has created for herself. Jamil has become increasingly popular as she has called out other celebrities and companies for perpetuating toxic body expectations and cultural insensitivity.

HBO Max attempted to clarify Jamil's involvement in the series in a statement released Wednesday night following the backlash.

"Yesterday, @hbomax was excited to announce Dashaun and Jameela’s involvement in the series LEGENDARY," the statement said. "For clarity, Dashaun is the series’ MC/Commentator, and Jameela heads up the panel of judges alongside Leiomy, Law, and Megan."

Jamil addressed the backlash and criticism in her statement Wednesday, acknowledging that being queer doesn't make her an expert in the dance, but that she hoped her privilege and platform would help uplift the show.

"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 said.

She added that she was selected as a "lead judge" because of her 11 years of hosting experience and would hopefully serve as a "window in" for audiences unfamiliar with the dance style.

The actress said that the show begins shooting Thursday, but that she planned on taking a break from Twitter for a while to avoid another round of "mean comments."

Janelle Griffith contributed.