Photo: BEImages/Jim Smeal.
To quote the tabloids' favorite headline, celebrities are "just like us" — in the sense that coming out is still a moment of huge personal significance. Too often, the contents of celebrities' personal lives are made public knowledge with neither consent nor warning. So, lately, a lot of stars are opting for a different approach. The medium of choice? Open letters.
It's something in between a tearful talk-show appearance and a telephoto lens. Maria Bello and Tom Daley both tried it out today; she in an honest and incredibly insightful piece for The New York Times; he with a direct and adorable video. They're not the first to take this route (Anderson Cooper, anyone?), but these are two particularly poignant examples of public figures bypassing the media and its filters to control their stories as they see fit. While each individual experience is important in its own way, one lesson we can learn from the way people like Bello and Daley choose to address this — not because they have to, but because they want to — is that coming out should be an expression of agency and a personal moment.
We are lucky enough to be at a point when coming out, for celebrities, does not have to be a scandal. It is news, of course, as almost anything can be. But, it's not something that has to be hidden for fear of losing work, or worse. Like most things Hollywood, there's not much parallel with how regular people experience the coming-out process, in which bigotry and bullying still run rampant. Still, seeing famous figures proudly embrace their sexuality is undoubtedly something that inspires and empowers the people watching these stories unfold.
Some have made the argument that celebrities have a responsibility to come out of the closet, because of the impact it can have on their fans who are, for lack of a better phrase, trapped. We don't know if that's true, because it feels counterintuitive to say that any one person has to approach their sexuality in a certain way for the benefit of others, even if that benefit is considerable. We will say that this particularly honest, open, and unmitigated way of addressing the issue lends a particular brand of gravitas to the discussion while still avoiding the dehumanizing sensationalism of articles like this one on Kanye West's supposed relationship with Riccardo Tisci. Because everybody, gay, straight, or Kanye, deserves to dictate their own story as they see fit.