'King Richard' Oscar Nominee Aunjanue Ellis Says She Is 'Very Clear About Being Bisexual': 'Who I Am'

“The way that I live my life, around the people that I live my life around, I am public about it. I’m very clear about being bisexual,” Aunjanue Ellis said

Photo: Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic

Aunjanue Ellis is opening up about being bisexual.

The King Richard star, 53, told Varietyin a story published Wednesday that she hadn't publicly discussed her sexuality because "nobody asked."

"How do you work that into the conversation, in the middle of me talking about this movie?" she shared. "I'm not that chick. My job was to talk about King Richard, the Williams family, these wonderful young women I worked with, Will Smith's incredible work in that movie. I wasn't going to be like, 'And by the way, in case you ain't heard yet…' Because that's artificial."

"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 added. "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."

In March, Ellis stepped out in a red Dolce & Gabbana suit jacket with the word "Queer" written in rhinestones on the sleeve at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards. However, it went mostly unnoticed on the red carpet.

"I was thinking, 'Why didn't more people pay attention to that?' And I was like, they probably thought it said 'Queen,'" she revealed. "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."

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The Mississippi native told Variety that the family member was "hurt" by the public display even though the person had previously known about her sexuality.

"I am a work in progress, and my family and my community are works in progress," she shared. "I really believe that that is important to say because I'm not alone. We see people on the other side of it, where everybody's good and fine: 'Love is love.'"

"If they come to New York and they are around all my gay friends, they're like, 'Oh we're cool.' But don't bring it to the house. Don't be open with it," she added.

Ellis said she had not hidden her sexuality from those closest to her.

"The way that I live my life, around the people that I live my life around, I am public about it," she told Variety. "I'm very clear about being bisexual. I have a sweatshirt that says 'Girl Bi' that I wear everywhere."

However, Ellis also recalled the difficulties she faced navigating her sexuality when she was younger.

"The solitude of that is so lonely, it's violent," she explained. "It's violent because you literally have to tuck and place so many parts of you to be acceptable, so people won't run from you and don't want to be around you. It was exhausting. That's what childhood was like. That's what adolescence was like."

She continued, "I knew [my sexuality], but there was no template for it; there was no example of it; there was no place for it, and certainly no forgiveness for it."

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Ellis also discussed the lack of representation in the entertainment industry.

"There aren't a lot of novels about Black queer women," she said. "There are characters, but the full experience of a Black woman being gay or bisexual, it doesn't exist, so we've got to write it into existence."

"It is imperative that we see more of that, because it is the truth of who we are," she added. "It is not a blemish on who we are. It is the wonderful scope of our humanity as Black folks in this country. It is something that I am insisting on, in what I bring into the world creatively."

Ellis landed nominations at the SAG Awards, BAFTAs, Golden Globes and the Academy Awards for her performance in King Richard.

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