When you're a celebrity, a lot is asked of you. People want to know your stance on politics, your favorite hobbies, your relationship status, and how you might choose to label your sexuality and gender identity. These are all very private things, and many of us would never even consider casually mentioning them to strangers. So when a celebrity uses their platform to share a personal narrative like their coming out, it's an incredibly brave thing to do. Not all announcements are easy or simple: Some are on the covers of magazines, plot lines in television shows, or even the butt of a joke on Saturday Night Live. Regardless of the means, it's a very raw and emotional thing to do—but these celebrities are committed to being role models to younger members of the LGBTQ+ community who may be struggling with their own identities.
Ahead, celebrity coming out stories featuring stars from Tessa Thompson to Kristen Stewart. Some are heartfelt declarations of love and identity, and others remind us of how far we have to come as a country to ensure equality for our LGBTQ+ friends. If you're wondering where you can start, you can check our list on Black-led LGBTQ + organizations you can donate to now and forever.
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Hairspray star Nikki Blonsky came out for Pride 2020 in a video that saw her lip-syncing to Diana Ross' hit "I'm Coming Out" (iconic). "Hi, it's Nikki Blonsky from the movie I'm Gay," she said in a TikTok video, a reference to how she starts her Cameo videos ("Hi, it's Nikki Blonsky from the movie Hairspray").
Blonsky is currently loved-up with her partner Dani, who is non-binary and uses they-them pronouns. "I am the happiest I've ever been in my current relationship...[I] am excited for the future, both personally and professionally," Blonsky said in 2019 to E!.
In an conversation with Porter magazine from 2018, Thompson spoke about her gender identity. "I can take things for granted because of my family—it's so free, and you can be anything that you want to be," the Westworld actress said. "I'm attracted to men and also to women. If I bring a woman home, [or] a man, we don't even have to have the discussion."
At the time of the announcement, romance rumors of her and actress Janelle Monae were circling. While Thompson never commented on their relationship, she did explain how they felt about opening up about their sexuality and how they came to that decision. "That was something I was conscientious of in terms of this declaration around Janelle and myself. I want everyone else to have that freedom and support that I have from my loved ones," she said to Porter magazine. "But so many people don't."
The Carnival Row actress and model has been freely speaking about her sexuality since 2015 when she told The New York Times that her "sexuality is not a phase."In an interview with Glamour, she said on being open about her identity, "Once I spoke about my sexual fluidity, people were like, "So you're gay." And I'm like, "No, I'm not gay.'"
"I always will remain, I think, pansexual," she said in an interview with Variety on her identity in 2020. "However, one defines themselves, whether it's 'they' or 'he' or 'she,' I fall in love with the person—and that's that. I'm attracted to the person."
The soon-to-be Princess Diana addressed her sexuality in her opening monologue while hosting Saturday Night Live in 2017. In the segment, Stewart recalled tweets President Trump wrote in 2012 that urged her then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson dump her. She responded to the criticism that since he didn’t like her then, he probably won’t now: “Because I’m, like, so gay, dude.”
"Honestly, I think it was just funny," she said to E! News about the comment. "Not to diminish the point, because I think that saying things so bluntly is absolutely important, but at the same time, the only reason I haven't ever done that is because there is an ambiguity to that and I wanted things to be really real for me."
Lil Nas X
On the last day of Pride month in 2019, the Old Town Road rapper came out. He asked his fans on Twitter to look closer at his work by pointing to the lyrics of “C7osure” from his 7 EP.
The lyrics reading: “True say, I want, and I need to let go, use my time to be free.” He continues saying, “Ain’t no more actin’, man that forecast say I should just let me grow/No more red light for me baby, only green, I gotta go/Pack my past up in the back, oh, let my future take ahold/This is what I gotta do, can’t be regrettin’ when I’m old.”
Lil Nas X
At first, he worried that coming out as gay would affect with the success of 'Old Town Road.' "I know the people who listen to this the most, and they're not accepting of homosexuality," Lil Nas X said in an interview with Time. He later explained why he decided to make the announcement. "I never would have done that if I wasn't in a way pushed by the universe," he said. "In June, I'm seeing Pride flags everywhere and seeing couples holding hands–little stuff like that."
In a 2015 interview with ELLE UK, Cyrus opened up about where she found herself on her sexuality spectrum. "I'm very open about it — I'm pansexual," she said to the magazine. "But I'm not in a relationship. I'm 22, I'm going on dates, but I change my style every two weeks, let alone who I'm with."
Just four years later, in another conversation with ELLE, she discussed how her sexuality is still considered valid in her marriage with now ex-husband Liam Hemsworth. "I'm in a hetero relationship, but I still am very sexually attracted to women," she explained. "People become vegetarian for health reasons, but bacon is still fucking good, and I know that." Iconic!
The American Horror Story actress told NOTOFU magazine that she accidentally came out in 2005 when she kissed then partner Cherry Jones before Jones left to accept her Tony Award.
"She won a Tony Award, I kissed her, and all of a sudden I was outed. I didn't really think about it in that way at the time—I was just doing what one would do when a person they love has just won a big fat acting prize," she said. "What am I gonna do, pat her on the back and say 'good job, dude?' It didn't occur to me to do anything but what I did."
Since 2015 Paulson has been with actress Holland Taylor (Hollywood).
In a New York Times interview, she made their relationship public. "My choices in romantic partners have not been conventional, and therefore the idea that it's 'other' makes it compelling," Paulson said. "If my life choices had to be predicted based on what was expected from me from a community on either side, that's going to make me feel really straightjacketed, and I don't want to feel that…what I can say absolutely is that I am in love, and that person happens to be Holland Taylor."
Jamil came out after receiving backlash for her role as a lead judge on the upcoming ballroom competition show HBO Max show, Legendary.
She explained in a lengthy Twitter post that coming out didn't automatically give her to a place on the show, writing: "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…sometimes it takes those with more power to help a show get off the ground so we can elevate marginalised stars that deserve the limelight and give them a chance."
“I didn’t tell anyone about it until a couple of years ago, so I just kept it quiet ‘cause I come from a South Asian background," said the Good Place actress, who's background is of Indian and Pakistani descent, to Variety. "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."
The Lady Bird star hinted at her sexuality when she talked about her girlfriend, British producer Bonnie Chance Roberts, in an interview with Teen Vogue. Explaining to the publication that the craziest part of it all was that she fell in love, not that it was with a woman. "Not to sound flippant, but I was in love with her and all of her, and she's a woman," Feldstein said. "That's not scaring me or deterring me. And it wasn't just women in general; it was her specifically."
In a conversation with PEOPLE, she talked about the importance of Booksmart's only romance scene.
"The only love scene in the film is a queer love scene, and that’s so radical,” Feldstein emphasized. “By doing that, you’re asking that to be the norm. By showing queer sexuality, and making heterosexual people relate to it is actually really deeply meaningful.” She continued saying, "For me in my life, it is a part of who I am but it is not at all my defining feature. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my girlfriend, it’s just part of who I am."
The singer and actress opened about her sexuality to Rolling Stone in 2018. She said to the magazine, "Being a queer black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women–I consider myself to be a free-ass motherf**ker.”
She told the publication she initially identified as bisexual, “but then later I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
In a cover story for them, Monáe said she was "terrified," and worried people would think her coming out was a publicity stunt. "I had anxiety. And a lot of it was just untrue," Hidden Figures actress explained. "I'm thankful that I didn't allow that fear to get in the way of my freedom."
Smith announced on the Jameela Jamil's Instagram-based show I Weigh Interviews that they identify as genderqueer. "You are a mixture of all different things. You are your own special creation," Smith said. "I am not male or female. I float somewhere in between."
In September 2019, Smith shared that they go by they/them pronouns on Instagram. They captioned the post, "After a lifetime of being at war with my gender, I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out."
Smith continued: "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision, but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think, but f**k it!"
The actress who starred in The Hate U Give to the Hunger Gamescame out as bisexual in a Snapchat video in 2016. "It's a really, really hard thing to be silenced and it's deeply bruising to fight against your identity and to mold yourselves into shapes that you just shouldn't be in," she said in the video. "As someone who identifies as a black bisexual woman, I've been through it and it hurts and it's awkward and it's uncomfortable."
"I always knew that when I hooked up with girls, it was the happiest I’d been in any sexual dynamic," she told Seventeen in 2018 on her self-discovery. "I love that we have this umbrella term of queer, and so many things can exist underneath it, but I realized that part of my journey was hiding underneath that umbrella, because I was scared—on a personal and a public level—to confront what I was. It was easier for me to say 'I’m bi' or 'I’m pan' as I was figuring it out. But I came to a place where I felt really proud of my sexuality, and I decided I wanted to share that pride.”
At a Las Vegas conference held by the Human Rights Campaign to support LGBTQ+ youth, the Juno actress gave an emotional speech.
"I'm here today because I am gay," she said to the audience. "I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered," she continued in the speech. "And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain. I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise."
“I remember being in my early 20s and really believing it was impossible for me to come out,” the Umbrella Academy actress said to Porter magazine in 2019. "But, over time, with more representation, hearts and minds have been changed. It doesn’t happen quickly enough and it hasn’t happened enough, particularly for the most marginalized in the community. But things have got better.”
Despite the positivity that radiates from him, the Pose star had a troubling childhood. Of coming out in 1985, he said in an interview with Gay Times:"I was trying to get out of my circumstances and remove myself from the trauma and the toxic energy that was my childhood and my early teenage development. It was very traumatic and it was homophobic–it was violently homophobic and I knew then that if I was going to survive, I was going to have to extract myself from that. I found the arts and I found the theatre, a community that embraced me for who I am, and as I went deeper and deeper into that community, I discovered we were in the middle of a plague and had to fight."
Porter also discussed in the interview with Gay Times what he would have said to his 16-year-old self. "Extract yourself from the people who don't know how to love you," he told the publication. "Extract yourself from anything that's toxic."
He continued: "We need respect for our humanity. We demand respect for our humanity and we will give respect for everyone else so that we can all move forward. Everybody’s humanity is valid, even if we don’t understand it or like it. That’s what I would tell my younger self and anybody today that you must do. You must break free. It’s the only way you will survive."
The Sex and the City actress came out about her relationship with activist Christine Marinoni after firing the publicist who encouraged her not to. The next publicist she hired felt differently. Nixon recalls the situation to The Advocate in 2010, “I was like, ‘Really, we can just confirm?' So that’s just what we did. It was so fantastic.”
“In terms of sexual orientation I don’t really feel I’ve changed,” she said to The Telegraph in 2008. “I don’t feel there was a hidden part of my sexuality that I wasn’t aware of. I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.”
Ocean posted a screenshot to Tumblr addressing his sexual fluidity in July 2012 before the release of his debut album, Channel Orange.
In the post, Ocean shared his experience of falling in love with a man, writing: "In the last year or 3 I've screamed at my creator, screamed at the clouds in the sky, for some explanation. Mercy maybe. For peace of mind to rain like manna somehow. 4 summer ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost… Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping."
The rapper told GQ that same year of the experience, "The night I posted it, I cried like a f**king baby. It was like all the frequency just clicked to a change in my head. All the receptors were now receiving a different signal, and I was happy. I hadn't been happy in so long. I've been sad again since, but it's a totally different take on sad. There's just some magic in truth and honesty and openness."
The talk show host told her mom, Betty, about her sexuality back in 1978, when she was 20. "We were walking along the beach—with our pants rolled up and barefoot—and the water was coming in," said DeGeneres during an interview on 20/20. "I said, 'I'm in love.' And she says: 'That's great.' And I said: 'It's with a woman.'"
Her mother recalled, "And [Ellen] said: 'I'm gay' and started to cry. Maybe I cried with her."
It wasn't until 1997 the comedian graced the cover of TIME with the headline, "Yep, I'm gay"— making her one of the first female celebrities to come out publicly. Two weeks later, she came out to the world on her sitcom The Ellen Show. It's estimated that 42 million viewers tuned in to watch the hour-long episode.
On Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, the host asked Dan when he came out to Eugene Levy, his father and co-star on Schitt's Creek. The actor revealed on the talk show that it happened when he was 18.
"I believe it was mom who just actually said, 'OK, are you gay?'" recalled Dan. "She did. My mom asked me over for lunch one day, and I said, 'Yes,'" recalled Dan. "She almost knew. My mom and I have a very close relationship in that sense, and it almost felt like she knew that I was ready."
Eugene confessed he and his wife, Deborah Divine, knew Dan was gay before he came out. "We knew for the longest time," said Eugene. "We were waiting, and then mom couldn't wait any longer."
“I legitimately thought that I would have to live with this secret—my being gay—for the rest of my life because I didn’t have the security of seeing a lot of people like myself being celebrated in popular culture,” he said while accepting the Davidson/Valentini Award at the GLAAD Gala in San Francisco in 2019.
“Had I not had the love to give me a sense of security, I don’t know if I would have found my way out of the closet, let alone create the opportunity for myself to tell stories on television that have effected some kind of positive change in the world,” Levy said. “Support, encouragement and love: three relatively simple acts of kindness that can change the course of a person’s life.”
"I have kind of two coming outs. So, I always knew I liked boys, so I came out as gay first," the Orange Is The New Black actress said to Refinery29. "I’m from Mobile, Alabama, but I went to Alabama School of Fine Arts. The funny thing about coming out in art school was that everybody was like, 'Yeah, of course you are.'"
The second time the activist came out was when she came out as transgender.
"I came out to my mom first as gay my sophomore year, and she freaked out. And then, when I came out to my mother as trans a few years later, it was after I started my medical transition, she took that easier," Cox said to Refinery29. "This time I was living in NY, I was supporting myself, and so she never said, ‘I don’t want you in my life.' It was just that she didn’t understand and she had issues with the pronoun thing and the name change; it was just like, ‘Girl, you gotta get this together.'"
The Latino pop star wrote a post on his website in 2010, writing that he was "a fortunate homosexual man."
He continued saying, "This is just what I need, especially now that I am the father of two beautiful boys that are so full of light and who with their outlook teach me new things every day," He continued, "These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn't even know existed."
"I was a closeted gay man who was making my partners hide," he said to Attitude magazine, per Entertainment Tonight, of his past.
"I didn't open doors to new relationships, and I'm not talking about romantic relationships. I'm talking about any relationship because I didn't want people to know me too much," he explained. "I wouldn't even sit down and have a cool relationship with amazing producers or great film directors because I was afraid that if they spent more than two hours sitting with me, they would know my nature. I wasted so much energy trying to manipulate my sexuality."
The Riverdale actress came out as bisexual in early June of this year on Instagram per Harper's Bazaar. She shared the news by noting that she'd be attending a Black Lives Matter protest as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Posting the flyer for the protest in West Hollywood, Reinhart wrote along with the image, "Although I've never announced it publicly before, I am a proud bisexual woman. And I will be joining this protest today. Come join."
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Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. She likes lounging about with a good book and thinks a closet without platform sneakers is a travesty.
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