With coronavirus making large-scale festivals a public health hazard and widespread protests forcing the nation into a reckoning on racial inequality, this Pride season is one unlike any other. And yet, the spirit of a movement itself born out of a protest lives on. As the month of June comes to a close, E! News has asked some of Hollywood's newest generation of LGBTQ stars to share what Pride means to them in 2020.
Welcome to The New Faces of Pride.
For the last four years, Maisie Richardson-Sellers has won CW fans over with a pair of roles on DC's Legends of Tomorrow, first playing Amaya Jiwe (a version of the DC Comics character Vixen original to the series) for two seasons, followed by another two as shape-shifter Charlie. But the conclusion of the show's fifth and final season brought about the queer English actress' departure from the series so that she might, as co-showrunner Phil Klemmer told TVLine, "make her mark as a filmmaker on her own."
While we await news of her filmmaking, Richardson-Sellers joins E! News' week-long New Faces of Pride celebration, offering her take on the state of things in this most unusual year.
As we find ourselves in a Pride season unlike any other, with the country battling a pandemic while rising up to tackle the systemic oppression that's plagued Black Americans for decades, how has your personal definition of Pride changed or shifted this year?
Growing up, Pride was such an exciting and affirming time for me. But the more I've traveled, the less prideful I've begun to feel. When filming in South Africa and learning that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes such as corrective rape, violent attacks and the murder of POC LGBTQAI+ individuals are a frequent occurrence with shockingly low rates of conviction, and then filming in Vancouver, where there are police created 'safe space' rainbow stickers in every other shop window, the disparity between the global experiences of LGBTQAI+ individuals haunts me. What I am most proud of this Pride is the unbelievable strength, resilience and compassion of my LGBTQAI+ siblings. But Pride also stands as a powerful a reminder to me of just how far we still have to go, not just in terms of legalization, but in changing the hearts and minds of societies. I find it hard to celebrate until safety and equal access to resources and healthcare is a reality for our global community.
With Pride being born out of protest sparked by Black trans women, what encouragement would you like to give fans and family alike to get involved this Pride month?
Pop culture has absorbed so much from the Black trans and queer community, and has given barely anything back. Pride celebrations are sadly no different. We have seen the exclusion of the Black trans community from mainstream Pride events again and again worldwide. With Black trans women experiencing a horrifically disproportionate amount of violence and discrimination, this Pride, I implore you to question what you can do to support the most at risk members of our communities. Self educate, then educate your family members. Find out what your local community is doing to support our trans siblings, and challenge them to do better. Support those who are already on the ground doing the work by researching grassroots organizations and if you have the means, donate. Please also consider supporting an organization outside of the US, where a little can go a very long way. I love the Triangle Project in Cape Town, who do incredible legal advocacy, health care and community engagement work for the LGBTQAI+ community, and have dedicated support systems for POC trans individuals.
What queer media, be it books, music or film/TV, have you found yourself turning to this year to buoy you through the uncertainty? Why?
I loved Netflix's The Half of It, it was such a feel-good, beautifully told story written and directed by Alice Wu. Book-wise, just read a fantastic novel, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, which is a delicious exploration of the experiences of 12 people of color from different backgrounds, ethnicities and time periods in Britain as they navigate their way through their unique realities, triumphs and tragedies in a deeply intimate way. There is even a queer Guyanese actress in there, which is the first time I've ever seen my identity represented!
I have to admit, the music I listen to (on repeat) is that of my partner, CLAY. Her voice is otherworldly—check her out.
You are given the keys to your industry. What's the first thing you do to make it a more inclusive environment for everyone?
I would diversify the industry from the top down. Only once the studio heads, network executives, programmers, financiers, casting and show runners are diverse will we begin to see diverse content organically created from experience, rather than imagination. One thing the current gatekeepers are failing to realize is that simply adding more POC and LGBTQAI+ characters as subplots and quirky side kicks to bolster the storylines of white protagonists isn't enough. When those who are creating and writing and directing the stories are not diverse, we end up time and time again with watered down, two dimensional and often stereotypical representation that misses out on so much of the nuance and magic of diverse experiences.
What is your message to future generations of queer people, coming of age right now? How do you want to instill hope in them?
I am so deeply inspired and humbled by the collective openness, curiosity and the determination of your generation. Your individual story, your fire, your dreams are what make you an absolutely crucial part of the fabric of this next chapter. Don't forget that allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a sign of great strength, and that nurturing your mental and emotional health only makes you better equipped to support others. Refuse to settle. Refuse to sit down. Your time is now.