To kick off Pride Month, acclaimed actress Aunjanue Ellis confirmed she is bisexual.
During the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, the Academy Award-nominated actress confirmed her sexual orientation with a subtle but bold statement. Ellis wore a red Dolce and Gabanna suit with the word “Queer” embroidered in Swarovski crystals.
Following the event, the 53-year-old actress wondered why no one asked her about the visual statement she revealed in a Zoom interview with Variety. She also noted a family member who already knew she was bisexual noticed her “queer” emblazoned on her jacket and did not appreciate the route she went to make the announcement.
“I was thinking, ‘Why didn’t more people pay attention to that?’ And I was like, they probably thought it said ‘Queen,'” she tells Variety over Zoom, bursting into a hearty laugh. “It wasn’t that I was expecting any sort of major reaction or anything like that. One of my family members noticed, but nobody else did.”
That family member already knew that Ellis is bisexual — the 53-year-old has been open about her sexuality to her friends and family in Mississippi and the people she has worked with for decades. However, they told Ellis that they were “hurt” by her choice to express her sexuality so proudly and in such a public setting.
“I am a work in progress, and my family and my community are works in progress,” Ellis says. “I really believe that that is important to say because I’m not alone. We see people on the other side of it, where everybody’s good and fine: ‘Love is love.'”
Aunjanue Ellis revealed she has been very open about being bisexual throughout most of her career, telling the entertainment publication:
“I’m very clear about being bisexual.”
The King Richard star also noted how being a southern woman born in Mississippi and queer shaped her early life.
“The solitude of that is so lonely. It’s violent,” Ellis explained. “It’s violent because you literally have to tuck and place so many parts of you to be acceptable, so people won’t run from you.”
Ellis also spoke about her being very outspoken during Sunday school when she was just 8-years-old raising questions about misogyny in the bible.
“Why does a woman have to be submissive to a man?” she recalls. “And then there was this other thing about me that I also didn’t understand.” One summer when Ellis was a teenager, she remembers trying to train herself to be attracted to boys, trying “to talk my body into correct behavior.”
It wasn’t until her 30s when Ellis, who is currently in an 11-year relationship with a man she met during church, fully accepted her bisexuality. It all became clear while taking a stroll around the grounds of the Sundance Lab with another female attendee.
“We were just spending time talking and hanging out,” she recalls. “We walked by this stream — those streams in Utah where it snows once, and then it becomes a beautiful, clear, clear stream — and there was a moment when the sun was hitting the water, and I was looking down in the water, and it was so clear, and I can only hear this woman’s voice behind me. I said, ‘This is how I’m supposed to feel. This is what I’ve been waiting to feel my entire life.'”
Aunjanue Ellis’ star has gotten even brighter thanks to her performances in Lovecraft Country, AMC’s 61 Street, and brilliant performance as Venus and Serena William’s mother, Oracene Price.
“Yeah. I think that the filmmakers wanted to be honest about who she was. And to honestly tell the story of the Williams family, they had to tell the truth of who Miss Oracene was. And I think that the, our producers, our director, Will, and then, of course, myself and her family, that was important to them. And they insisted on that happening.”
Continue to live in your truth, Ms. Ellis.
Photo: Rodin Eckenroth / Getty