Aunjaune Ellis just publicly came out as bisexual and wants everyone to know: “I am Black, I am queer. This is who I am.”
In an exclusive interview with Variety published this week, the King Richard star opened up about her sexuality and revealed that it wasn’t a coming out so much as an outward sigh of finally being seen. For Ellis, it’s strange to think that this is her first media interview about her sexuality when she’s been confidently dropping hints about her sexuality since she was 8 years-old. Ellis told the publication she’s been rocking a sweatshirt that reads “Bi-girl” everywhere for years, and still “nobody asked.”
One anecdote Ellis shared that was particularly striking: Earlier this year, she wore a suit jacket emblazoned with the word “queer” on it in rhinestones at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards.
“I was thinking, ‘Why didn’t more people pay attention to that?’ And I was like, they probably thought it said ‘Queen,’” she recalled. “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.”
Ellis credits much of the assumptions around her heterosexuality to her being an over 40-year-old Black woman from Mississippi:
“There is an assumption made of me — a presumption made of me. Is it because I’m a Black woman from Mississippi? Is it because I’m older?I don’t know what the mechanics are that goes into them not processing, or them not just being able to believe that in the same way I am Black, I am queer. This is who I am.”
The actress also explained the pain brought on by having to hide who she really is and how “violent” it feels:
“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 and don’t want to be around you. It was exhausting. That’s what childhood was like. That’s what adolescence was like. I knew [my sexuality], but there was no template for it; there was no example of it; there was no place for it, and certainly no forgiveness for it.”
Ellis also called out some of the queer-phobic comments she’s had to confront from her colleagues in the entertainment industry. She spoke of one instance where a colleague “lamented to her about having to kiss another woman in a scene.” After repeated remarks made to her, Ellis said she decided to address everything head on and text her friends:
“I was like, ‘Look, I love y’all. I appreciate my relationships and friendships, working and otherwise with all of you, but you need to know that I am bisexual,’” she explained. “So when you say things, when you have felt your most intimate with me, that are queer-phobic, you are talking about me. And it hurts.’”
Thankfully, despite all of this, Ellis also recalled having magical queer moments in the past—both romantically and platonically. Now, she’s focused on bringing light to Black, queer narratives through her creative projects and dispelling myths that queer sexuality is new for Black people. She’s writing us into existence one interview, one rhinestone suit jacket at a time—just in time for Pride Month.