Jameela Jamil has some regrets about the way she came out as queer.
In an interview with Variety Live on Saturday, the 34-year-old Good Place actress admitted that she could have picked a better time to spill the news — explaining that she felt compelled to open up about identifying as queer after receiving backlash for her new judging and executive producing role on HBO Max’s ballroom scene show, Legendary.
“It was just an outburst,” Jamil said. “That was not well handled. I’m just human and I snapped!”
“If I could go back I would have done it at a different time,” she added. “I don’t know when it’s ever really appropriate, but that was not the best time.”
The British actor, who is of Indian and Pakistani descent, went on to explain that she had known she was queer since she was a child, but didn’t tell anyone “until a couple of years ago.”
“I just kept it quiet,” Jamil said. “I come from a South Asian background, so you just don’t really have a lot of queer idols. There isn’t a lot of conversation around it. There isn’t a lot of acceptance for it within my culture, traditionally. It was just something that I wrestled with the shame of for a long time.”
Being in the public eye since she was 21 didn’t help, either.
“I have never felt like my private life is mine alone, so I’ve been trying to grapple with how to handle that for so long because I don’t like having my love life scrutinized,” she continued. “So I kept it quiet for a while to give myself some privacy and then it just burst out of me.”
“Not my favorite moment of the year,” she added. “We live and we learn … it’s nice to have it off my chest.”
The actress continued on to say that there was at least one silver lining from her announcement. “Lots of people who I know have come out privately as queer as bi or pansexual to me now because of it,” Jamil said.
Jamil ended up taking a break from Twitter after coming out, as controversy built over her role in Legendary.
The show pays homage to the iconic ballroom scene pioneered by black and Latinx queer people, and Jamil’s role led many members of the LGBTQ community and active members of the ballroom scene to feel excluded.
But it’s not the first time Jamil has had to defend herself from critics.
“Sometimes, I do f— up, but I always apologize when I’ve gotten it wrong,” she told Variety. “I learn, and other people learn with me.”
“I’m never going to gloss over my mistakes or my humanity,” she said. “I’m comfortable when I show all of the bad bits as well as the good.”
Jamil added that she isn’t someone who is going to back down from a battle when she thinks she’s right or being disrespected.
“When you’re an outspoken woman, people will go way out of there way to discredit you,” she said. “I’m not someone who rises above, who turns the other cheek. I’ll get down in the gutter and fight you.”
Back in February, Jamil opened up about her role in Legendary while chatting with PEOPLE.
“I really want to utilize my platform to share with other communities that need to be highlighted,” she said. “I think that this community deserves more attention and more love. And it shouldn’t only exist on the outskirts.”
Featuring 10 real voguing houses, the unscripted, 10-episode show will follow divas of each house as they compete in choreographed dances and fashion contests. Rapper Megan Thee Stallion, stylist Law Roach and voguing legend Leiomy Maldonado — whom Jamil called “the greatest ballroom dancer of all time” — will also be judges on the show.
The competition will be MC’d by vogue king Dashaun Wesley and DJ MikeQ.
For Jamil, being featured on the show allows her to introduce ball culture to her fans.
“I’m not the star of this show,” she said. “I’m just one person in it who will bring my fanbase to watch it. Leiomy is the star and the dancers are the stars.”
“There’s a lot of black queer and black trans people in this community, and they aren’t understood by a lot of people in this world,” Jamil added. “And the stuff that we read about in the news about them is always in a negative way, and they’re sensational in so many positive ways, and to be able to show that it’s so important to me.”
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