By Nathan James
When a celebrity publicly comes out of the closet, as Raven-Symone did last month, there’s always a media frenzy, complete with plaudits about howe “courageous” or “signifivant” their announcement was. Of course, it’s important for stars to come out, as it gives the LGBT community more visibility and promotes acceptance, but little is said of the long-term effects of such a decision on an entertainer’s career. For Symone, who rose to fame on Disney’s That’s So Raven, and The Cosby Show, her choice to share her sexual orientation with the world has been a mixed bag of results.
When Symone, 28, Tweeted that she could “Finally get married! Yay Government”, a reference to the Supreme Court’s rulings on marriage equality last June, it was widely acknowledged as her coming-out statement. The actress and Cheetah Girl star followed up by telling E! News, “I was excited to hear today that more states legalized gay marriage. I am not currently getting married, but it’s nice to know I can now, should I wish to.” In the weeks since her Aug. 2 statements, however, Symone has had to contend with a backlash of anti-gay hatred directed towards her. Using the Twitter hashtag, #childhoodruined, angry fans took to social media to decry Symone’s announcements.
“I am deeply disappointed at this display of hate,” the actress said, “But I am still living my life as I am.” Industry observers say that when a celebrity comes out, considerations such as future earnings, bookings, and their fan base are all taken into account. ”It’s a harsh truth that sexual orientation still affects a star’s career,” said promoter Kevin Hendricks. ”This extends to endorsements, and even current gigs, look at what happened to [Hot 97 DJ] Mister Cee.” Cee, a longtime broadcaster at the New York City hip-hop radio station, recently resigned after his secret trysts with men and transgenders became public.
For Symone, the homophobic Tweets and comments have been offset by widespread LGBT support. More pop-culture figures are coming out every year, and raising awareness of the LGBT community as they do so. For Symone and her girlfriend, AzMarie Livingston, living life as an out couple in the spotlight, is just one more step in a bold new direction.