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Cynthia Erivo Speaks Out On

Cynthia Erivo Speaks Out On “Claiming My Queerness in Public”

“I wanted to live, and not just exist,” the Wicked actress said during her powerful speech, accepting the Rand Schrader Award at L.A.’s LGBT Center Gala…

Cynthia Erivo – who came out as bisexual back in 2022 – delivered a poignant speech over the weekend on her queer identity at a benefit event, telling the 900-person audience that her queerness “is a beautiful part of who I am” and by “claiming my queerness in public” she can now put her best foot forward in her work.

The Wicked star openly spoke about her identity during her speech the Los Angeles LGBT Center Gala on Saturday, May 18, while accepting the Rand Schrader Award, an award for achievements in entertainment and advocacy that was presented to her by actress Jada Pinkett-Smith. Erivo’s partner, the out producer Lena Waithe, was also at the gala in support.

Erivo said: “It is a privilege to be on this stage tonight because for so long, I lived in deep admiration of anyone who could fully embody their true authentic self, wear their queerness like a feather boa, and proudly state this is a beautiful part of who I am.”

“I used to say that it felt like I was looking at my own community from inside a glass box. There you all were, vibrant and beautiful, and falling in love, and I had my nose pressed up against the glass, looking out at all of you, separate and apart. It took time for me to outgrow my box,” she continued. “But time is a gift that gives us space to see ourselves clearly enough to know that denying a part of oneself is a disservice to the whole. But now the glass is shattered. And there is no box in sight, and I have walked out into the wide open spaces into the arms of people and it feels like home.”

“Claiming my queerness in public, and particularly in the public eye, has meant taking a risk in order to claim my freedom,” said Erivo.

She went on to explain that “although I have had the greatest privilege of playing some of the most indomitable women,” including Harriet Tubman (in the 2019 biopic Harriet) and Aretha Franklin (in National Geographic’s Genius anthology series), “I’ve found that hiding just a little part of myself meant I wasn’t leaving enough room for these women to thrive easily.”

“You see, when we pour all of ourselves into something or someone, it’s like serving the most nutritious meal,” Erivo said. “You cultivate an atmosphere that allows one to live, not just to exist. I wanted to live, and not just exist.”

Erivo’s next project will see her in Wicked as co-lead Elphaba, opposite Ariana Grande’s Glinda. The upcoming two-part Jon M. Chu musical film is based on the Broadway show of the same name.

“As I stand here in front of you: Black, bald-headed, pierced, and queer, I can say I know a thing or two about being the other,” she said. “Elphaba’s story is…about how a colourful, powerful, magical woman — despite being disparaged, demonized, and discriminated against — becomes a hero. Wicked is a reclamation and a reimagining of the labels used against her. It is the proclamation of her right to exist in all her power. If that sounds familiar to you colourful, magical people in this room — it should.”

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