Tales of Celebrity Progenies
You’re young—a sitcom mini-starlet. You’re growing up as the sitcom progeny of an ultra-conservative, ultra-strict, ultra-exacting and uber multitalented entertainer who plays your grandad on TV (Bill Cosby, “The Cosby Show,” “A Different World”). Oh! By the way—then when you’re not on TV, he’s still fathering you in the exact same way. Sometimes there are cameras on y’all then, too.
No pressure, though. Have fun with that!
Life’s challenging enough for child stars all the way through to adulthood, but these were the early beginnings for a young Raven Symoné (“The Cosby Show,” “That’s So Raven,” “College Road Trip”) making her television acting debut as little Olivia Huxtable Kendall, the bright-eyed and intelligent stepdaughter of Denise (Lisa Bonet). She’s transitioned into grownup roles and projects with virtually no scandals or trouble. She is to be commended for that.
Raven’s career steps have always been measured, squeaky clean and safe, moving from the safety of a network sitcom to the apple-pie familiarity of her own show on The Disney Channel (“That’s So Raven”).
Coming of Age And Making Your Own Choices
Ironically, Symoné’s choices contraposed those of her TV step-mom Lisa Bonet who instead chose to play risky, sensual roles (“Angel Heart”) while still on “Cosby,” making adult life decisions while she was still a teenager, and finding her own footing, in her own way. Bonet’s character on the show was so popular, the Cosby production team even created a spinoff show for her (“A Different World”), and as an audience favorite, Bonet was apparently to be “kept in line.”
Instead, Lisa Bonet got pregnant before marriage, then she married a man Cosby didn’t particularly get along with. All told, Bonet’s personal choices forced her premature Cosby Show departure.
Because one of “Cosby’s own” went on to do other things, the unspoken pressure to conform for Symoné and the rest of the cast must have been immense. In fairness, Bill Cosby always advocates that people of color present in public spaces with pride, intelligence, elegance and demonstrable educational achievement. He considered the kids on the show to be his responsibility.
Cosby himself wound up caving in to his own self-created pressure, ultimately revealing foibles of his own (of a sex-scandal nature). Everybody’s got to unfold their own lessons, and the paradoxes in the real-life story lines here are more than relevant.
Why Coming Out Is Squeaky Clean, Too
By default, “heterosexual anything” is considered to be normal, squeaky clean and non-threatening, so long as the sacredness of the marital institution is preserved. The naughty things any two consenting adults do (while “straight and married or coupled”) is pardoned.
Any sexual or gender expression outside of the norm still connotes questionable behavior with it a whiff of taboo or wrongness, i.e. “dirtiness,” to it. Culturally, this is a myth that we all need to transition away from. Doing so frees not only queer folks from pressure, but it frees straight people to alleviate free-floating pressure, as well (see: the “50 Shades of Gray” best-selling fantasy book phenom).
When you walk around “feeling wrong as a being,” you start having to justify doing “bad or wrong things” as a being, whatever those things mean to you (often people reach for addictions, whatever their familial taboos are perceived to be, or so-called “out of character behavior,” in an effort to feed the feeling of “feeling bad or wrong.”) In essence, this is chasing displeasure to fuel more of it. Even when doing things that feel good to you, you might perhaps do them to excess, or never let yourself fully enjoy them.
Heterosexual people find themselves to be casualties of such pressure on a daily basis. Human sexuality is fluid—any scientist or psychologist can tell you this. When people in the healing profession refute this idea, they usually cite religious reasons why this should not be, which validates the fact that such fluidity is indeed the norm, or they cite anti-queer statistics funded by faith-based projects or organizations.
It is only a matter of time before our thoughts and our actions stray from such pressure, and because each person’s path is their own to experience, claiming your own truth as what’s truly normal is going to make your life experience—including coming out—easier and feel less “aberrant.” We act “out of pocket” and erratically when we feel wrong or “made-wrong” (see: Cosby scandals, above.)
Because television kindles such a felt sense of intimacy, Symoné’s viewers and fans believed their grown-up Olivia was straight-laced, likely straight, and free of new decisions, choices or surprises. Because she took her time during her coming out process and picked an opportune time to share her news, the story was nearly anti-climatic.
Raven Symoné’s short and sweet “Coming Out Tweet” made a debut of its own, to soft applause. In her own words, Raven tweeted her support for LGBTQ culture, all the while proudly incorporating herself into it, by tweeting this:
Raven-Symonè | @MissRavenSymone I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you.
Her fan base voiced pleasant “out of left field” surprise, ultimately lavishing her with support for her social share. She then received loving feedback from friends, celebs and other well-wishers thereafter.
Since sharing her big news, she has since been spotted happily attending gay pride events (http://hellobeautiful.com/2523947/raven-symone-gay-pride-event-lesbian-raven-symone-az-marie-livingston) and simply enjoying her life.
Her latest reflections on sexuality in the press continue to be private yet positive, and over a year ago, she’d left glittery little breadcrumb clues for those who were at all curious, due to outing pressure from American tabloid “The National Enquirer:”
In May of last year the actress posted sub-tweets to no one in particular, tweeting:
“I’m living my PERSONAL life the way I’m happiest. I’m not one, in my 25 year career to disclose who I’m dating. and I shall not start now.
My sexual orientation is mine, and the person I’m dating to know. I’m not one for a public display of my life.
However that is my right as a HUMAN Being whether straight or gay. To tell or not to tell. As long as I’m not harming anyone.
I am a light being made from love. And my career is the only thing I would like to put on display, not my personal life. Kisses!”
Letting your hair down on Twitter’s absolutely liberating. When do we get to see your frolicking, footloose and fancy free tweets?