When it comes to celebrating Pride, stand-up star Rosie Jones takes the same approach as she does with her comedy – and does things her own way.
In the past few years, Rosie’s star has continued to rise thanks to appearances on shows like The Last Leg, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Question Time, which saw her making headlines after a powerful speech urging the government to “stop ignoring disabled people”.
As well as her comedy career, Rosie has also written for shows like Netflix’s Sex Education, and hosts her own podcast, Daddy Look At Me, with fellow comic Helen Bauer.
What is your favourite Pride memory?
I, as a 31-year-old gay woman, have never been to Pride. And that is for several reasons. Number one, I didn’t come out until I was 27 and before that, I felt like I’d be a fraud if I went. I knew I was gay, but I was so terrified that if I went, everyone else would know it, too. And then, after I came out, I had several years of going “oh I should, I should go to Pride”, but being physically disabled, I hate crowds, especially when people are arseholes.
And so my favourite Pride moment was in 2019. It was 50 years of Stonewall., and I woke up and thought to myself, “I need to go to Pride, I need to go to Soho, I need to be in the crowds, come on, what’s your problem?”. But I just felt so anxious. And then I was like, “wait a minute, Pride is for celebrating and campaigning about LGBT rights and celebrating being proud to be gay… but, I’m proud to be gay every single day. I don’t need to wear a rainbow bikini and get off with 10 women in Soho to prove how gay I am”.
So, instead, I went to Shoreditch and I found a tattoo shop and a brilliant trans tattoo artist. And it’s so small, but now I’ve got the rainbow colours tattoos in dots on my arm, and I fucking love it. And now every time I look at my arm, I’m proud of who I am, and proud to be gay. I’m so glad I got it on Pride, but actually it’s more than a day for me, it’s a tattoo, it’s for life.
So I’m sorry I don’t have a memory of attending Pride, but for me, as a physically disabled person, I feel like I need to highlight the fact that sometimes the Pride parades are not built for all queer people.
Who is your LGBTQ hero?
I’m a comedian but I would say first and foremost that I’m a writer. I love writing so much, and I really feel like my hero is Russell T Davies, because everything he fucking does is absolutely amazing.
When you think back to Queer As Folk, nothing had ever been on telly like that, it was just unapologetically showing the queer community, and it’s brilliant.
And even now, even in 2021, when you think “oh nothing’s off the table, everything’s been done”, It’s A Sin came along. I didn’t realise how privileged I was in that I was a child during the AIDS crisis, I missed Section 28, but watching It’s A Sin really opened my eyes, and it was a story that needed to be told.
What is your go-to Pride anthem?
Well, this is one of my favourite songs. For ages I was a bit of a moron and I didn’t even make the Pride connection, but my favourite anthem is True Colors by Cyndi Lauper.
I always knew it was about getting to know the real person, but definitely relistening to it as an out lesbian, it really speaks to me, in that you just need to embrace yourself and if you are true to yourself, somebody will love you. And also, it’s more than that, it’s about self-love. And it’s just a beautiful song. I love it.
What is your favourite LGBTQ film?
It’s got to be Pride. Like It’s A Sin, it just highlighted what it was like to be gay in the 80s, and I always think of that beautiful scene with Bill Nighy just buttering bread and coming out as an older man, an older man from a tiny Welsh town.
And actually we need to recognise how lucky we are being able to come out, because for some people, it’s terrifying.
What was an LGBTQ TV show or TV moment that made you feel represented?
This TV moment is probably the moment that I decided to come out. And it’s from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Buffy passed me by [at the time] but people always said, “oh my god, watch it, you’ll love it”.
There’s a character in it called Willow, and she comes out as gay, but how they do it is so natural and so beautiful. She had a boyfriend for many series, and then she meets a girl. And she doesn’t really understand her feelings, but she knows they like hanging out together, and finally they get together – this is a spoiler alert – but something devastating happens, and a main character dies. And while they’re grieving, Willow has a kiss with Tara, her girlfriend. And it’s such a caring, loving kiss, between two people grieving.
And actually the context of all that, is that it was one of the first lesbian kisses on American TV ever, so it was a massive, massive moment. But, it wasn’t sexualised, it wasn’t “oooh, two pretty girls are getting off”, it was two people grieving, giving each other love and comfort. And just knowing how big that moment was in TV history, and then knowing how underplayed it was, it’s beautiful. And it made me go, “why am I still ashamed of coming out?”. And I did!
Who would be your ultimate queer icon?
I think because I’m a comedian, I need to go for Sandi Toksvig. First and foremost, she’s hilarious and brilliant, and so, so clever. And I met her recently and she’s just so giving and I think she’s always been proud to be gay and highlighted gay issues, and I love how political she is.
But also, away from her sexuality, she’s just a brilliant comedian and presenter, and I just look at her and I think, “one day I want to be you”. She’s a total queer icon.
What is your message for young LGBTQ people this Pride month?
Stay safe. And just be you. Don’t feel like you’ve got to do something just because it’s “Pride”. You can celebrate Pride however you want. And wherever you want.
I spent many years in the closet, because I didn’t feel gay enough. And that is bullshit. Even, the notion of being “gay enough”… because I’m gay! I am me, and I am unapologetic, so just be yourself, and fuck everyone else.