Matilda star Mara Wilson opened up about her career and life as a bisexual woman in an interview on this week’s LGBTQ&A podcast.
A former child actress, she published her memoir Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame in 2016.
She came out as bisexual in the same year following the Orlando Pulse shooting. She did so to express solidarity with the LGBTI community.
Mara Wilson on why Matilda resonates with LGBTI people
‘Matilda means a lot to me and a lot to other people,’ she said on her biggest role to date.
‘For a long time, I didn’t want to talk about it. I felt as if I was living in her shadow.’
The voice actress and writer revealed the 1996 movie inspired by Roald Dahl’s book still resonates with LGBTI people on a deep level.
‘I had a guy tell me once: “Your movie was how my mum knew I was gay.” And I have had so many LGBTI women tell me how much they loved Matilda because it was about feeling different but finding your place and finding your own family.’
She furthermore added: ‘Also, they all had a crush on Miss Honey,’ referring to the character portrayed by Embeth Davidtz.
‘People always asked me if I had a crush on Miss Honey, but I couldn’t, she was like a sister to me!’
A lot of times I would hear: “Bisexual girls are crazy and they just want attention”
Wilson came out when she was 29.
‘I didn’t feel growing up that being gay or bisexual was the worst thing ever, but I did feel the stigma in a different way. A lot of times I would hear: “Bisexual girls are crazy and they just want attention” and people already told me I was crazy and I wanted attention,’ she said.
Wilson was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder at the age of 12. She has struggled with anxiety and depression and has always been vocal about mental health issues.
This is the dream that made Wilson realize she is bi
The actress also explained how a dream made her question her sexual orientation.
‘When I was about 22 or 23, I had a dream about a guy that I had a crush on. In that dream, somebody I had a crush on as a teenager came to me and it was a girl. I looked from one to the other and I realized I felt the same way about them.’
However, she tried to hide her sexuality from herself.
‘I had so many other things going on. I was neurotic, anxious, and had the loss of my mother… and I was like, “oh, I can’t be queer, too”. [It was] almost like it’d be too much for one person. I went on gaslighting myself for a really long time.’
It wasn’t until a few years later that Wilson fully realized the truth about her sexual orientation while talking to her therapist.
‘I told her I [had] got really annoyed [the previous] night over something. This guy at a bar was being really annoying hitting on a girlfriend of mine. She let me through this, asking me why. I said “I guess it’s because I like her” and she asked me what it meant. I started sobbing and told her “maybe I’m bisexual, maybe I’m not straight”.’
Wilson also explained how her friends tried to out her before she was ready and weren’t surprised at the news when she finally admitted it.
‘I told my best friend from college and she said “yeah, I’ve seen you make out with three different women”,’ she recalled laughing.
The bisexual impostor syndrome
— Mara “Get Rid of the Nazis” Wilson (@MaraWilson) May 18, 2018
The actress explained she has struggled with impostor syndrome her whole life.
‘I always say that if you look up “impostor syndrome” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of me. But please don’t look at the picture ’cause it makes me look like such a phony,’ she jokes.
Impostor syndrome is the psychological pattern in which people feel they do not deserve what they have and minimize their accomplishments.
‘You just don’t feel comfortable accepting who you are. I feet it was almost like that with my [sexual] orientation as well.’
She also had to deal with discrimination within queer spaces while growing up.
‘I remember being with bisexual friends, I said “I think I might be bisexual” and a friend of mine, who’s not a friend anymore, said, “no, you’re not”. She was a gaykeeper,’ she said.
‘Once I got away from that, I think that I was able to be happy […] and to relax a little bit more. I was not holding my breath so much. I could finally breathe fully.’
On Hollywood beauty standards
Wilson said she used to think she wasn’t pretty enough and that is one of the reasons why she went on a 12-year hiatus from acting.
She recently made a brief return to television by appearing as a waitress on an episode of TV show Broad City.
‘I’m okay with the way that I look now,’ she said.
‘I’ve attracted men and I’ve attracted a lot of women. I get hit on a lot, especially in queer female spaces, it’s pretty great.’
Wilson has also noticed something curious about the auditions she has done in the past.
‘Interestingly, I’ve looked at all the girls I went up against for auditions: Kristen Stewart, Evan Rachel Wood, Alia Shawkat. We’re all very different type, but we all have one thing in common and that’s that we’re queer.’
She explained casting directors were looking for the ‘tomboy type,’ even if wasn’t clear what they meant.
‘[They] know their shit! It kind of makes you wonder.’
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