Clea DuVall: Promoting ‘But I’m a Cheerleader’ Was ‘Dangerous’ While in the Closet

"We started the press cycle for it, I remember feeling like, 'Oh shit, I need to hide, I need to stop.'"
But I'm a Cheerleader, Clea DuVall and Natasha Lyonne
"But I'm a Cheerleader"

Clea DuVall is looking back on the legacy of the 1999 cult classic film “But I’m a Cheerleader.”

The gay conversion camp rom-com co-starring Natasha Lyonne proved to be a pivotal turn in DuVall’s career, but also a “scary time” for the actress, who was still publicly closeted.

“So many opportunities came to me because of [‘But I’m a Cheerleader’] that I didn’t take because I was afraid,” DuVall told The Independent while discussing the new ’90s-set Freevee via Amazon Prime Video series “High School,” which she co-wrote and co-directed based on artists Tegan and Sara’s novel.

“I was very closeted and very afraid of people finding out I was gay,” DuVall said. “It was the Nineties, there was no conversation about sexuality – you were just not going to talk about it.”

While DuVall was out to her friends and family, she was not ready to publicly discuss her personal life and sexuality as a celebrity. “It was dangerous for me,” DuVall said of promoting the film. “It was such a scary time. Once it came out and we started the press cycle for it, I remember feeling like, ‘Oh shit, I need to hide, I need to stop.'”

The “Veep” and “Happiest Season” star came out publicly in 2016. “I could either try to convince people that I was not who I am, or embrace who I was and come out,” DuVall said. “So much pain comes from not accepting yourself for who you are. I’ve seen so many people bending over backwards and tying themselves in knots. I’ve had friends die because they were trying so hard to be something that they weren’t. Eventually you buckle under the weight of that.”

She added, “The time that it took to [come out] helped shape the person that I’ve become. I feel settled. I feel more at peace with myself.”

Looking back on her “But I’m a Cheerleader” character, DuVall said that she could definitely relate to the role.

“I put so much of myself into her, to make her a lesbian character more like the girls that we all know and not just this ‘idea’ of what a lesbian is like,” DuVall continued, adding that she attended a screening for the film earlier this year, marking almost 15 years since last watching it. “It was so cool to see it again and see what it’s become for people. But also watching it, like…I was so cute! Why was I so uncomfortable all the time? What I wouldn’t give to still look like that person.”

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