Until now. It used to be that actors and entertainers were so afraid of being labelled gay that just playing a gay character was frown upon. Will Smith famously revealed that when he took on the gay role in Six Degrees of Separation, legendary actor Sydney Poitier advised him not to kiss a man on scree or his career will be over — he didn't and they had to cheat the kiss with camera angles on the film.
Twenty years into democracy, and though we have had gay kisses and characters on South African shows, not many gay entertainers have openly talked about their sexuality. They don't have to but it sure could paint a positive picture if they did.
Gay to most South Africans is still loud, feminine, over-the-top, female celebrities' friend, etc. No out soccer player, news anchor, hip-hop star, regular joe yet. [For the sake of topic lets use those annoying labels] Yes no openly "straight acting" gay man in the celebrity circles yet.
|Lee Daniels and Jussie Smollet (Both openly gay)|
Hollywood is dancing a different tune though. The biggest prime time show in the US and the pretty much the world, Empire, was created by a gay man, features black gay characters and stars openly gay lead actor.
In August 2015 Forbes revealed that Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons was currently the highest paid TV actor in the world with estimated earnings of $20million. He is likely to top that in August this year again.
The actor, who plays Sheldon on the CBS sitcom, came out in 2012, when he was described as gay by The New York Times ahead of appearing in AIDS drama The Normal Heart.
Speaking on Inside the Actors Studio, Parsons – who had thanked his boyfriend Todd Spiewak in awards speeches before coming out – said it was a “gift” that the process was so smooth.
“I never had a coming out piece, I just didn’t mention it.
“I took Todd with me to events… and then finally one day while working on Harvey I did a piece with Patrick Healy for The New York Times and he just point-blank asked, ‘Was working on The Normal Heart meaningful to you as a gay man?’
“And I was like, ‘Well, yeah. Yeah.’ And what a wonderful… I can’t tell you what a wonderful thing that was, what a gift he gave me with one question.
“It was suddenly out there and official.”
Why does it matter? It matters because having openly gay people at the top says; you can't pretend they don't exist.
It matters because it says to every talented young gay person out there who may not fit into the stereotypical mould of gay but still wants to live an openly truthful life; you are not alone. It matters because it says; it is ok to be yourself.
No longer shall being openly gay be a career poison. Well, let's not kid ourselves, a gay rapper won't be getting much love yet but that is just one pane in a shattered glass ceiling now.