Actress Jameela Jamil has come out as queer.
The “Good Place” alum and “Misery Index” host made the revelation Wednesday in a statement titled “Twitter is brutal” after the announcement that she would serve as the emcee and a judge on HBO Max’s upcoming voguing competition series, “Legendary,” sparked swift outrage on social media.
“This is why I never officially came out as queer,” said Jamil in her statement posted on Twitter. “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 also explained that she was “not the MC” and “not the main host.”
“I’m just a lead judge due to my 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 discover it now, and being a long time ally of the LGBTQ community,” Jamil said.
Her clarification contradicted HBO Max’s original announcement that “Legendary” had tapped Jamil to “MC and judge” the upcoming nine-episode series “highlighting modern day ball culture.” Since then, the streamer has walked back its announcement.
“Yesterday, HBO Max was excited to announce Dashaun [Wesley] and Jameela’s involvement in the series ‘Legendary,’” it said in a statement. “For clarity, Dashaun is the series’ MC/Commentator, and Jameela heads up the panel of judges alongside Leiomy [Maldonado], Law [Roach], and Megan [Thee Stallion].”
Ballroom is an underground LGBTQ subculture that traces its roots back to 1920s New York. Balls were a place for predominantly black and Latino members of the LGBTQ community to participate in drag competitions in various categories, playing up the performative nature of gender. They were important safe spaces for queer and trans people, particularly in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and violence against trans women of color.
Because of ball culture’s essential role in LGBTQ history, many on social media took issue with the series appointing Jamil as emcee and judge. Only one of the announced judges, Leiomy Maldonado, has ties to ballroom.
“I know that my being queer doesn’t qualify me as ballroom,” Jamil said in her statement. “But I have privilege and power and a large following to bring to this show, (as does the absolutely iconic Megan Thee Stallion,) and it’s 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.”
She added: “This is absolutely not how I wanted it to come out.”