After receiving backlash for her leading role in Legendary, an upcoming HBO Max series featuring ballroom competitions, Jameela Jamil came out as queer.
“Twitter is brutal. This is why I never officially came out as queer,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “I added a rainbow to my name when I felt ready a few years ago, as it’s not easy with 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.”
The actor’s tweet about her sexuality is a response to criticism that came Tuesday, when HBO Max announced in a press release that she would be a judge and emcee on a new series in which contestants compete in fashion and dance challenges, including voguing. Ballroom competitions have for decades showcased the style and talents of LGBTQ people — and people questioned why Jamil, who has no ties to the ballroom community, would be at the show’s helm.
After touting Jamil as the emcee and judge, Tuesday’s press release also noted that Megan Thee Stallion, Law Roach, and Leiomy Maldonado will be judges, Pose’s Dashaun Wesley will provide commentary, and DJ MikeQ will be “at the turntable.”
According to Jamil, the press release was wrong and Wesley is actually set to emcee the show.
“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,” she tweeted on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, HBO Max clarified its original news release in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
“Yesterday, HBO Max was excited to announce Dashaun and Jameela’s involvement in the series Legendary. For clarity, Dashaun is the series’ MC/Commentator, and Jameela heads up the panel of judges alongside Leiomy, Law, and Megan,” HBO Max said.
Wesley responded to the actor on Tuesday, writing, “Anything monumental created will always be combated by the naysayers. There’s no way people who has no idea of this process can shift our amazing outcome. @jameelajamil 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹welcome to the team. They will understand when it all airs.”
Trace Lysette, an actor who’s appeared in projects like Hustlers, Pose, and Transparent, also tweeted about Jamil’s involvement in Legendary on Tuesday. Lysette said she interviewed for the show and questioned the decision-makers who opted for someone with no ballroom background.
“As the mother of a house for nearly a decade it’s kind of [mind-]blowing when people with no connection to our culture gets the gig,” Lysette tweeted. “This is not shade towards Jameela, I love all that she stands for.”
On Wednesday, Lysette added that the issue around Jamil’s role in the show was not about her queer identity.
“The only thing that makes you ballroom is if you are actually from it,” she said.
In Jamil’s statement, she said she hoped she could use her privilege and TV experience to boost the show.
“I know that my being queer doesn’t qualify me as ballroom. But I have privilege and power and a large following to bring to this show, (as does the absolutely iconic Megan Thee Stallion,) and its beautiful contestants and ballroom hosts,” Jamil said.
She added in her tweet this is “absolutely” not how she wanted to come out and that it’s scary to be open about sexuality as an actor, “especially when you’re a brown female in your thirties.”
The show starts filming Thursday, Jamil said, adding that she’s excited to work with the rest of her cast members. She also clarified again that she’s not the main host or an emcee but a lead judge, she wrote, “due to my 11 years of hosting experience, being fully impartial, a newcomer to ballroom … and therefore a window in for people who are just discovering it now, and being a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community.”
“It’s fucking hard to be asked to continue to be patient after so long of waiting for what you want. I know that. South Asian stories are almost never told without white stars,” she wrote.
“But I hope you don’t let a few castings designed to help the show get off the ground, stop you from supporting Ballroom on this show.”