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The Body Language and Speech of Closeted Celebrities

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Written by: Andrea Ariza

It is no secret that being in the closet can be hard and stressful, it involves a great deal of lying and, sometimes, even becoming a whole different person for the sake of appearances. As a society, we think we are passed believing only those who fit in certain stereotypes can belong to the LGBTQ+ community, but whether this is true—it isn’t—you may agree we are definitely not passed assuming the opposite, that a random person on the street who breaks gender norms or presents gay or lesbian mannerisms can be, for all we know, straight.
Thus, as horrible as it may be, it makes sense that closeted celebrities—by choice or not—are given all sorts of media training to avoid every small gesture that may suggest they are anything other than straight: in short, to change their body language, appearance, verbal and none-verbal communication in front of the camera. From clothing choices to physical affection, eye contact or a more guarded attitude, it can go as far as they want it to.
One example a Twitter user highlighted is how the German actor Jannik Schümann acted in interviews before he came out in 2020. While nowadays, he is, in fact, writing a thesis on queer coding in Disney films, so it’s safe to say he is outspoken about his sexuality, a few years ago his body language was completely different. He would be crossing his legs, and suddenly, he put them straight and the space between them grew as he bent forwards. It is safe to say this is a very exaggerated “straight” way of sitting we’ve seen in other male celebrities surrounded by years-long speculation.
When it comes to sapphics, a study in sociolinguistics written by Kayla Cardoso, Van Hofmaister, Jamie Jiang, Clarissa Sie, and Rainey Williams explored how, for years, nowadays openly sapphic celebrities answered questions about their private life. For starters, “the mother of lesbians,” Jodie Foster, created the “gay silence” meme at just age seventeen, when in a 1979 interview she was asked all sorts of invasive questions and ended up staring at the interviewer off camera with a strained expression and a knowing smile.
The study took into account the relationship between the interviewer and the celebrity and whether they answered all personal questions with the same level of uncomfortableness. For this, they compared the answers of Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart, two huge icons for the community, with two straight, female celebrities contemporaries of Jodie and Kristen respectively: Brooke Shields and Amanda Seyfried. 

Brooke Shields, like Jodie, had to deal with interviewers asking about sexual intercourse, her ability to make a man feel “comfortable” with her and how hard it was not to get a crush on her much older, male co-stars at age sixteen. She exhibited plenty of discomfort around the fact that she was a teenager and these gross, old men dared to ask such disgusting questions. Yet she was able to laugh them off, she did not hesitate to use male pronouns, and she was seen smiling back at the interviewer, nodding or shaking her head, it did not take her long to answer, despite how disgusted and uncomfortable she surely was.
Unlike Brooke, Jodie used “the gay silence” multiple times while answering the same type of questions, she paused repeatedly, and she only ever spoke with gender-neutral language, referring to her ideal partner by “somebody” or “someone” and not by “he.” Her silences were generally 0.49 seconds long, with the longest one being 1.3 seconds.
Moving on to Amanda Seyfried, Kristen Stewart’s “straight counterpart” was interviewed by Ellen and asked about how long she had been dating her boyfriend Justin. While she took a moment to gather her thoughts, she answered truthfully that although it hadn’t been that long, it felt “like a lifetime” and they did “everything together.”
Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart was so uncomfortable while facing questions about Robert Pattinson during the Twilight saga promo seasons that she stuttered, paused constantly, used filler words and even made speech errors. And at the same time this was happening, she was promoting The Runaways, where she played a sapphic romance with female co-star Dakota Fanning. Despite her shy and reserved nature, when the interviewers mentioned The Runaways, she no longer avoided the question, she smiled and joked about it, and sometimes, they asked her who “the best kisser” was, referring to the Twilight boys, and Kristen’s reply was, of course, Dakota.
You’ll be interested to know once she came out, Kristen Stewart began using positive language to refer to her partners, her posture became relaxed and confident, and she stopped stuttering.
Now, if I left you a moment to gather your thoughts on celebrities’ body language and speech, you’d surely come up with at least one or two names that may match the behaviour patterns of these sapphic women and which could be easily applied to queer people in general all on your own. You are free to do so, for me, naming anyone who was not coding on their own would be outing that person, which is why I can only in good conscience refer to someone who is not hiding their queerness and hasn’t been for a long time, Harry Styles, to the extensive stuttering and “horse noises” when he was asked if Sweet Creature was about Louis Tomlinson in 2017 and the astonishingly high number of times he’s answered your good old dating questions with neutral language since he stepped in front of a camera at age sixteen.


THE GAY PONDER: Closeted Sapphic Celebrities Deciding How To Talk About Their Private Lives – Languaged Life. (s. f.). Recuperado 18 de abril de 2024, de https://languagedlife.humspace.ucla.edu/sociolinguistics/the-gay-ponder-closeted-sapphic-celebrities-deciding-how-to-talk-about-their-private-lives/
Juliaa 🩵💚 – Louis said I’ve got style [@sunshinemoon28]. (2024, abril 11). The German actor «Jannik Schümann» (publicly out since December 2020) is writing a thesis on queer coding in Disney films. When looking at old interviews, a pattern emerges. Whether he was in the closet at the time, I cannot say, but it’s still interesting. Btw he’s 🤌 https://t.co/ycV7iaOqCb [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/sunshinemoon28/status/1778373152889844160

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