Is ’Out’ Out in Hollywood?
In an interview with Ricky Martin in 2000, Barbara Walters pressed the singer to address rumors swirling around his sexuality. Martin politely dodged the question and his star power dwindled over the years. Earlier this year Walters said that it was the only question during her entire career she regretted asking. Then last month the singer, a proud father of two twin boys, released a statement on his website revealing, "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man."
Martin is only one of a number of gay celebrities to come out publicly in recent years including Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert, and Neil Patrick Harris, which has immediately catapulted them into the eye of a media storm. While Hollywood continues to break down barriers with television shows like Modern Family and movies like Milk-why does it continue to be so difficult for celebrities to come out of the closet? Furthermore, what effect does being openly gay have in today’s entertainment industry?
It’s been almost 15 years since Ellen DeGeneres came out on her hit sitcom Ellen making her the first gay lead character of a network show. She has since become one of the most recognizable faces on television with her popular talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show and as a judge on international sensation American Idol. While stepping out of the closet only seemed to bolster DeGeneres’s career and ratings, other celebrities have lamented that their career suffered irrevocable repercussions. Rupert Everett, co-star in My Best Friend’s Wedding, said that coming out early ruined his career as a Hollywood actor and advised other young actors to stay in the closet if they want to succeed in the business.
"It’s not that advisable to be honest," Everett said last year in an interview with U.K.’s Guardian last December. "It’s not very easy. And, honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out. The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business."
Neil Patrick Harris, star of hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother, disagrees. Harris shot to fame at age 16 for playing a teen-prodigy on Doogie Howser M.D. and spent his twenties starring in musicals and appearing in films. When rumors started circulating that the star was a closeted gay man, Harris quelled the reports in an interview with People magazine saying that he is an openly "content gay man." Addressing the rumors seems to have had no impact on the actor’s career, and in a recent interview with the hosts of The View he questioned Everett’s statements on coming out.
"With all due respect to Rupert, you can blame a lack of advancement in your career on all kinds of things, for a myriad of reasons, so I don’t think he can specifically pinpoint one reason why something might be stalling for him," Harris said. "But I was proud to know that he was who he was."