bi-conic

Aunjanue Ellis is here, queer, and she wants everyone to know

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This profile is part of Queerty’s 2022 Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out and make a difference in the past year, in celebration of National Coming Out Day on October 11.

Name: Aunjanue Ellis, 53

Bio: Some folks just don’t have the range. That sentence has never been said near Aunjanue Ellis. The Mississippi-raised actress has been blessing stages, tv screens, and the silver screen since the ’90s. Ellis will give you comedy, she’ll give you horror, and she’ll certainly give you drama. After getting her start in roles in Girls Town and New York Undercover, Ellis has consistently brought top-tier acting chops into every role she has taken.

Known for her parts in Ray, Quantico, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Lovecraft Country, her career took a turn for the best when she played Oracene “Brandy” Price in King Richard, opposite Will Smith. Her performance in the film was highly praised, and earned her Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA award nominations. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise for an accomplished actress like Ellis.

 

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Coming Out: During this year’s film awards season, Ellis was on every red carpet promoting her work in King Richard. It just so happened that, on the gold carpet for the 15th annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards—where she was being honored—Ellis wore the word “queer” in rhinestones down the left arm of her red Dolce & Gabbana jacket. This served as an announcement of her queer identity to many who had no idea.

But reporters seemed to not catch it at the time.

“I was thinking, ‘Why didn’t more people pay attention to that?’ And I was like, they probably thought it said ‘Queen,’” Ellis told Variety. “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.”

Well, she is queer and she is most definitely a queen.

A Long Journey: For Variety, Ellis shared the story of embracing her bisexual identity. Since she was 8 years old, Ellis knew that she was queer. However, coming to accept her queerness was a longer journey than anticipated. It wasn’t until she attended the Sundance Lab in her 30s where she came to accept her identity.

 

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“We were just spending time talking and hanging out,” Ellis recalled for Variety. “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.’”

So far, that feeling has stuck. Ellis is a proud card-carrying member of the LGBTQ community.

“The way that I live my life, around the people that I live my life around, I am public about it,” Ellis stated. “I’m very clear about being bisexual. I have a sweatshirt that says ‘Girl Bi’ that I wear everywhere.”

And while others may overlook her queer identity, Ellis knows who she is.

“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?” she muses. “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.”

 

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