While The Good Place star starts a new gig this week hosting Legendary, an upcoming ballroom voguing competition show on HBO Max, she has also announced she is going on a Twitter hiatus over the backlash that came from her involvement with the series.
It all started Tuesday when HBO Max released a press release announcing Jamil would emcee Legendary and also judge the series alongside rapper Megan Thee Stallion, stylist Law Roach, and voguing legend Leiomy Maldonado. Dashaun Wesley and MikeQ, staples of the New York ball scene, were listed as commentator and DJ respectively.
Immediately there was criticism of Jamil’s involvement led by prominent LGBTQ figures in media who took issue with her being chosen to host and emcee the competition over a celebrity with previous experience in the ballroom scene. The issue is particularly sensitive given how much the ballroom scene, famously depicted in the documentary Paris Is Burning and FX series Pose, has been cultivated by New York’s black and Latinx, queer and trans communities, of which Jamil is not a part — or so almost everyone thought.
Trans actresses Trace Lysette (Transparent, Hustlers) and Amiyah Scott (Star) also spoke out about being passed over for the hosting job, even though both were prominent members of the ballroom community.
In addition to claiming that the HBO Max press release was mistaken and that it is actually Wesley who is the emcee on Legendary, Jamil responded to Lysette’s claim she interviewed for her position with a claim that Lysette was actually in the running to be a contestant.
Media personality Ashlee Marie Preston and Pose star Indya Moore, who both identify as black and trans (with Moore also being a ballroom vet), actually came out in support of Jamil, trying to shift the focus to the involvement of actual ballroom celebrities like Maldonado.
Jamil attempted to put a pin in the issue by also trying to center the conversation surrounding the show on the ballroom contestants and experts.
Still, The Misery Index host faced criticism from the trans women of color foundational to the ballroom scene.
Eventually, Jamil released a lengthy statement via Twitter that first clarified why she had not previously drawn attention to identifying as queer, and announced she would be taking a break from the social media platform.
“I know me being queer doesn’t qualify as ballroom,” she noted, “But I have a large following to bring to this show.” Jamil goes on to explain how hosts/judges like her and Megan Thee Stallion can be cast for their star power alone, and in turn give a greater platform to marginalized communities. The actress compares her hosting appointment to how white stars are often involved in telling South Asian stories before saying, “But I hope you don’t let a few castings designed to help the show get off the ground, stop you from supporting the talent from Ballroom on this show.”
HBO Max has also addressed the Jamil controversy in a statement to EW that says, “Yesterday, HBO Max was excited to announce Dashaun and Jameela’s involvement in the series Legendary. For clarity, Dashaun is the series’ MC/Commentator, and Jameela heads up the panel of judges alongside Leiomy, Law, and Megan.”
Legendary begins shooting Thursday and will premiere after the launch of HBO Max in May.
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