The former Disney star on coming out and the need for LGBTQ representation in the House of Mouse.
After appearing in a string of big-hitting Disney Channel franchises like Teen Beach Movie and High School Musical, Mollee Gray found herself at a crossroads: Should she keep her sexuality a secret to further her career, or be true to herself and come out as gay?
“I was so scared that I was gonna be judged and that I wasn’t gonna be able to work as an actor anymore. In my brain, what I thought was, ‘Who would hire a lesbian to play straight in a film? Like, who’s gonna believe me now?’,” she tells us.
But fortunately for Mollee, the world fell in love with her and her longtime partner Jeka when they wed in a picturesque ceremony late last year, and her sexuality was very much a non-issue. Now, she’s got roles lined up in a number of movies, and she believes coming out to the world was the “best choice” she’s ever made.
We spoke to the actress about her coming out journey, her fairytale wedding, and why Disney needs to do better with LGBTQ representation...
You’re an openly gay actress, which is something to be proud of. Do you feel a responsibility to be a positive role model to the community?
I feel a great amount of responsibility to be a role model. Even though we’re in 2018, I still get nervous to introduce myself in that way and to see what the response is going to be on the other end. But in those moments, I know if I feel that way even with the publicity and success I have, there has to be other people who feel that way too. So I like to kind of relate to people like me by saying it’s going to get better. It’s the same for everyone, no one has a hierarchy just because of their status, there’s still that experience of coming out and feeling different. It’s a special community to be a part of, so absolutely I hope to be a role model.
Your marriage to Jeka was a really nice opportunity for the world to see a same-sex couple in a positive way. Is this on your mind when you think of your relationship?
Oh absolutely. But at the same time, I don’t think, ‘Oh wow, my relationship is a successful lesbian relationship’, I just think, ‘Wow, I get to spend the rest of my life with the person who I’m completely in love with’, do you know what I mean? Obviously Jeka is female, but I don’t go to bed thinking, ‘I’m laying in bed with a female’, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I’m laying in bed with my soulmate’. And I think that’s what’s so special about it. I don’t label it even in my own head as a same-sex marriage, I’m just blessed with love in my life and this is how awesome it is. Obviously I’m very proud to be a part of the community, but I don’t try to differentiate from heterosexual couples on that spectrum of love. I just think, if you find it, you take it.
Was there ever a moment where you felt like you should stay in the closet?
Actually, when I had my bridal shower before my wedding, my publicist was like, ‘You need to come out, you should be posting about your bridal shower, and posting that you’re getting married, it’s the happiest day of your life’, and I was so scared that I was gonna be judged and that I wasn’t gonna be able to work as an actor anymore. In my brain, what I thought was, ‘Who would hire a lesbian to play straight in a film? Like, who’s gonna believe me now?’ But once I got over that fear and I trusted my publicist and my manager, and especially my family and friends, the amount of support I’ve gotten is just incredible. And you know what? There probably have been opportunities that I haven’t got because of my sexuality, or I get judged for it, but I just think, ‘Those aren’t the people I need to surround myself with’. I made that choice, and it’s been the best one I could’ve made.
You’ve starred in a number of Disney movies in your career, but the company has faced a lot of criticism for its lack of LGBTQ representation. Do you think they need to improve?
I would definitely love to see some improvement, of course. I know there have been some projects where there has been a character who’s gay and they haven’t been picked up, like a pilot or something. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but yeah, I definitely think there needs to be more diversity. There are so many children struling with being LGBTQ, and when you watch somebody on TV who’s just like you, especially at that young age, you’re able to make sense of it, and get a better understanding of who you are. Like, ‘Oh, I’m not crazy, I’m not different, I’m the same as this person and they’re on TV’. I definitely would love to see a bit more diversity in the Disney world.
A lot of people have been calling for Elsa from Frozen to get a girlfriend. Do you think it’s time we had a gay Disney princess?
Oh my gosh, yeah! I was just talking about this to [my wife] Jeka, and I think it would be the coolest thing. I definitely think that Elsa is gay and that Let It Go is our gay anthem. I think that would be so cool if she got a girlfriend. And what’s so great about that film is that Elsa is a queen, but she doesn’t need a king, and so it left that door open.
Having gone through it yourself, what would your message be for aspiring actors who are in the closet and worried about coming out?
I would tell anybody who’s going through that – whatever industry you’re in – to take it at your own pace. If you’re feeling pressured to come out, don’t do it. If you’re feeling scared, don’t do it. When it’s your time, you’ll be ready, and I feel like the more confident you are in telling somebody, the more confident somebody is going to take it. If you apologise for being yourself, you’re opening the door for people to say it’s wrong or to question you. Just know that you’re not alone, there’s so many people like us out there, and you may be the role model for the person sitting next to you, you have no idea. Your story is just as important as the person you look up to.