Closet door breakdowns

Evicted from the closet: 8 times queer celebrities were outed by their own allies

Earlier this month, Ricky Martin opened up about the time Barbara Walters tried outing him in an interview.

Speaking to People, the 49-year-old singer said he felt “violated” by the iconic journalist’s line of questioning when they sat down together in 2000.

During the awkward chat, Walters told Martin he could he could “stop these rumors” about his sexuality by, oh, you know, coming out to her right then and there. He politely declined, telling her, “Barbara, for some reason, I just don’t feel like it.”

Speaking to the Toronto Star in 2010, Walters said she regretted the way she interrogated him.

“I pushed Ricky Martin very hard to admit if he was gay or not, and the way he refused to do it made everyone decide that he was,” she said. “A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now, I feel it was an inappropriate question.”

“When she dropped the question, I felt violated because I was just not ready to come out, he told People. “I was very afraid.”

“You can’t force someone to come out.”

But Martin isn’t the only LGBTQ celebrity to be outed by their alleged allies in the media. Scroll down for seven other times beloved public figures were forced out of the closet…

Lance Bass

The *NSYNC crooner was forced to make a public statement about his sexuality in 2006 after gay gossip blogger Perez Hilton nicknamed him “Princess Frosty Locks” and wouldn’t stop posting nasty and degrading articles about him. In 2007, Bass told Attitude, “Two years before I came out I was really bullied on the internet by bloggers. That’s when Perez Hilton just started and was just really malicious against me.” The singer finally came out in an exclusive interview with People “because of the bloggers like him hounding me.”

Neil Patrick Harris

Last June, the actor/singer/comedian opened up about when he, too, fell victim to a vicious outing campaign by Perez Hilton in 2006. “[He] started posting about me and asking people to come forward with truths or stories,” Harris recalled. “Then it became apparent that I needed to make some sort of decisive respectable move.” The actor added that his biggest concern was coming out in a way that was respectful to his husband. “It wasn’t simple for me,” he said, “but I tried to represent myself well.”

Nathan Lane

The iconic comedic actor appeared on Oprah‘s show in 1996 to promote The Birdcage. Prior to the taping, he said he didn’t want to talk about his sexuality. But when the cameras were rolling, Oprah asked him about it anyway. Lane froze. Thankfully, his co-star, Robin Williams, quickly intervened. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about it last year, Lane called the whole experience “terrifying.” See the uncomfortable moment at around the 15:56 in the video above.

Jonathan Knight

The New Kids On The Block band member was accidentally outed by his ex-girlfriend, ’80s pop star and frequent Pride performer Tiffany, when she told Andy Cohen during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live that he “became gay” after they dated. The next day, Knight issued a statement saying he’s never hidden the fact that he’s queer and Tiffany apologized for the slip up. Knight accepted her apology and said there were no hard feelings. The two remain on good terms today.

Denise Richards

Reports that the Wild Things actress was bisexual swirled last year when her Real Housewives of Beverly Hills co-stars, particularly Teddi Mellencamp and Lisa Rinna, wouldn’t quit badgering her about rumors that she cheated on her husband with Brandi Glanville. Rinna, who claimed to be Richards’ BFF, went so far as to share private text messages she had written in an attempt to expose her on camera. Understandably, Richards, who has never publicly stated how she identifies, didn’t appreciate this. Many viewers, too, took issue with the show perpetuating negative stereotypes about bisexuals being liars and cheaters. After the season wrapped, Richards announced she would not be returning to the show. Meanwhile, Mellencamp was fired, and Rinna expressed regret over how she handled everything, saying she “learned” from the situation. We’re glad she learned but, in the year 2020, she should’ve known better.

Lee Pace

The Broadway star was pushed out of the closet in a 2018 interview with W Magazine. When queer reporter Brian Moylan asked him about gay actors playing gay roles, Pace replied, “I’ve dated men. I’ve dated women. I don’t know why anyone would care. I’m an actor and I play roles. To be honest, I don’t know what to say. I find your question intrusive.” Days later, he issued a statement saying he “happily owns” being part of the LGBTQ community. Looking back on the experience later,  he said it ended up being a blessing in disguise as it allotted him an “opportunity to participate” in the LGBTQ community in a way he hadn’t before.

Clay Aiken

Now for what is perhaps the saddest outing of them all… The American Idol alum filled in for Regis Philbin on Live With Regis and Kelly back in 2006 and let’s just say he and Kelly Ripa did not get along. Their chemistry was horrible. At one point, Aiken, who was not officially out but was widely believed to be gay, put his hand over Ripa’s mouth. She responded by saying, “I don’t know where that hand’s been, honey!” The comment seemed to be alluding to internet rumors circulating at the time about Aiken being into fisting. Things were only made worse a few days later when Rosie O’Donnell accused Ripa of being homophobic on The View, saying Ripa never would’ve made the remark “if that was a straight man.” In 2019, Aiken told author Ramin Setoodeh: “The truth is [Rosie] outed me in a way, because I had not been out yet. When she said the words, ‘If that was a straight man,’ she was confirming that she knew that I wasn’t. That was the worst day of my life.”