Jillian Michaels Dreams of Being “Normal” Instead of Gay; Needs Hug and a Pusheen Motivational Poster

jillian-health-2014-smallEvery time I read a new interview with Jillian Michaels, I want to give her a hug and a scholarship to A-Camp. Last week, for example, Health magazine published a profile with the personal trainer/reality star. In between talk of diet, exercise and the effects of ironing your ass with a laser, Michaels confessed it’s her “dream to be normal,” to have “some strapping football player husband.” Instead, she’s got a couple of adorable kids with Heidi Rhoades, her female partner whom she introduces as that girl she’s seen around in spin class a couple of times or whatever.

“The gay thing has always been hard for me. When Heidi and I are out and somebody older asks, ‘Are you sisters?’ I say, ‘We’re friends.’ I guess it comes from thinking that they will be shocked or disturbed.”

Obviously, the LGBTQ community bristled at the implication that being gay isn’t normal, so Jillian explained to a different magazine what she meant when she was talking to Health magazine.

“I attempted to shed light on how hard and scary it can be to be out,” she said. “I was saying if along the way in my life that had been a choice I would have made it, but it’s not who I am. Gay is not a choice. If I was ashamed of who I am, I would be in the closet. Considering my family was on the cover of People magazine, I think I’m pretty far from that.”

Ah, yes. The People cover thing. Back in 2012, Michaels and Rhoades were on the cover of People with their adopted daughter and the son Rhoades had just given birth to, but even that photo shoot/announcement came about in the most bizarre way. Seven months before the People story, presumably while Rhoades was pregnant with their son, Michaels told Redbook she was in the process of adopting a daughter she planned to raise by herself.

I’m adopting as a single parent. I am seeing someone, [but] I keep their life private, because the email has been hacked, the Facebook has been hacked.

And that squirrelly-ness came just a couple of years after Michaels, who had been posting swooning message about Heidi Rhoades on Facebook for ages, kind of came out in Ladies Home Journal by declaring herself interested in both men and women, as long as they are grown locally and organically.

Let’s just say I believe in healthy love. If I fall in love with a woman, that’s awesome. If I fall in love with a man, that’s awesome. As long as you fall in love, it’s like organic food. I only eat healthy food, and I only want healthy love!

It’s hard to wrap my mind grapes around the fact that the woman who once snarled “Was your body screaming like this when you were shoveling donuts into it?!” at a The Biggest Loser contestant and has made a fortune teaching people how to Maximize Their Lives is such a sensitive, insecure flower about her gayness. Back before Michaels first came out, I always wondered if she was afraid being open about sexuality would hurt her career, but other HBIC lesbian personalities — like Tabatha Coffey, Suze Orman, Cat CoraJackie Warner and Anne Burrell, just to name a few — have created thriving TV empires while being unapologetically out and about and proud about it.

And that’s why I want to hug Jillian Michaels so hard and offer her a week in the woods making crafts and singing songs and getting loved on by a group of women who are deeply empowered by their own queerness. We could hold a workshop on how to give an interview to a major mainstream publication without engaging in cryptic doublespeak and self-loathing. We could even hang self-acceptance motivational-type posters on her cabin wall, maybe her own quotes coupled with Pusheen’s face, because the hardest advice to take is always your own.

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I don’t know about you, but I feel more awesome already.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 835 articles for us.

41 Comments

  1. I don’t think the fact she has the capacity to be really abusive to people makes her a HBIC, I think it makes her a bully with a platform. It’s too bad she’s all hung up about the gay thing, but there are way nicer folks that get my sympathy and pictures of cats holding balloons.

  2. I love Jillian but she has a tendency to get in trouble due to not being clear when she’s trying to get a point across. I get it, I have the same issue sometimes, but I’m not in the spotlight. She’s not the most eloquent person and I think she just needs to pay more attention on her wording during interviews.

  3. Oh Heather, I love the *ahem* freedom that Autostraddle gives your writer’s voice. I think this is going to be a wonderful partnership.

    It’s really hard for me to ever find empathy for Jillian Michaels. I have always found “The Biggest Loser” to be abusive, rather than motivational or helpful or even remotely healthy. Even when you just used that quote that Michael hurled on the show, “Was your body screaming like this when you were shoveling donuts into it?!” I winced terribly.

    On top of that that, I have recently been having a lot of feelings/thoughts about “out” celebrities who don’t seem to be empowered, or worse appear to be apologetic or shameful, about their queerness. I know that representation matters, but does that type of representation really help anybody? For the unnamed baby gay who is still struggling with acceptance or lives somewhere where acceptance is not a current possibility, would reading these types of interviews do more harm or good? I’m still sorting through what I think about this, so if anyone wants to jump in and share their opinions, please feel free.

    But the cat posters are the cutest!!!!! I want them all above my desk.

    • I didn’t actually know who she is until now so I can’t comment on her as a person but in terms of this quote – when I first read it I winced a little like ‘oh why did she say that’. But then I got really mad at myself because that was literally me when I was 20 and first coming out. And definitely me before I came out. All I wanted was to be straight and be able to say I have a boyfriend and not have strangers and family members judging me. And part of me felt a little ashamed of this too, because I didn’t fit the ‘gay pride, coming out, be proud of yourself’ type narratives and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being gay. I just wished I wasn’t. So I think its maybe good that people can see and relate to someone who does struggle with their sexuality a bit. Coming out isn’t always easy and we live in a society that values being straight. So I think this is a really realistic experience a lot of gay/queer people have about coming out and being with your partner in public. So now that I’ve spent more time thinking about it, I’d rather someone be honest about the struggles they’re facing then just put a good spin on things if its not true.

      But in terms of queer representation, I don’t think its any single gay/bi/trans persons job to be a picture-perfect representative for their community. Were human beings, and obviously she has a bigger platform for her voice and therefore holds some more responsibility for what she says, but at the end of the day I don’t think it’s Jillian Michaels job help people understand or accept their sexuality.

    • I mean I think we have to allow people to admit that they have complicated human emotions about scary things in their lives, you know? Like, I’m really glad that there are also representations of completely unapologetically queer people, but accepting yourself is a process and I’m not sure it’s very compassionate to tell people that they are not allowed to talk about their feelings in public until they have reached Queer Nirvana and never have a single doubt or fear at all. Because who among us has never at any point in our lives had those feelings about our queerness? Yes, some part of me cringes to read such things, but as a queer adult who lives in a famously queer-friendly place, I feel like I am no longer allowed to be afraid, like I’m the only person past college who is still ever afraid of coming out, and it’s nice to see I’m not, even if I wish for both our sakes that we weren’t afraid (and even though I am much happier to be queer than Jillian Michaels sounds like she is). Like, fuck that, there is not an age limit on fear and self-doubt. Adults are allowed to get scared too.

    • I agree with Beth, Hollis and CP. Sometimes I feel that open unapologetic members of the LGBTQ are hard to relate to. They seem to forget the struggle. Jillian’s words demonstrates that there isn’t a choice and you can grieve that. And you can still go on to have a happy life despite your grief.

    • I have thoughts, so I am going to use a numbering organizational scheme to present them.

      1. I 100% agree with Beth when she says that no queer person is obligated to be an ambassador of representation for the community, regardless of their celebrity status. Christ, imagine that kind of pressure! I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

      2. Some anecdotal evidence, if that’s alright. I know that I definitely wished to be “normal”, or at least have one less thing to worry about when I was growing up. Being queer is the least interesting thing about me, but I always felt like a bad lesbian for thinking about how much easier it would be to date men. I think that if a baby dyke can read about someone they admire having similar doubts/misgivings/desires, then that might normalize it for them.

      We need diverse experiences and ideas for an accurate representation of our community. Not just the picture perfect ones that paint the queer community as a land of unending love and rainbows. It can be, but people are still people and still have issues.

  4. I’m glad you put a positive spin on this Heather, bc it was the same reaction I had. Not “oh how dare she!” etc, but “awww, someone pls help her be happy she needs some support.”

    I have tons of feelings about this because I think it is actually an important issue and a dialogue that is oft swept under the floor. Why that is, is that I’ve certainly known, mostly more femme leaning, female identified folks that either (in their words) “stop being gay” “find the right MAN” etc because of things like this. When I’m invisibly raising an eyebrow at their actions, I just want everyone to be happy and it IS a really tough thing to talk about. The whole conformity thing I guess. Like, ok we want to be humans that can get on with our daily lives without having to stop and have a conversation we’ve had a million times and are tired of ie, the story of why you’re wearing a cast, is that a birthmark on your face or a burn (who cares?), or “oh you’re gay???? but you’re soooo prettty, you just haven’t met the right man, i’ll fix that for you, you’re just confused, god is going to murder your children” etc etc.

    So I understand but I don’t like it. (not her! this issue).

    I guess looking at her specifically, and her life. I know she had (in her words) a pretty dark childhood. Never knew her father, suffered abuse, was short and overweight, etc. Issues many of of face, and issues that if lay unresolved (just in my opinion) can REALLY make people latch on to this whole conformity thing. Again, I’m just riffing here and trying to make sense of it, I can’t really put a finger on anything specific other than I’ve known women that have or continue to struggle with this. (and men or otherwise identified too!).

    Also, since reinventing herself or however she’d say it (or I guess just inventing). She’s been in a pretty testosterone fueled environment. Lots of egos, flexing of muscles, showing off in all ways, WHO CAN LIFT THE MOST, etc. SO i’m sure that she’s been thrown tons of shade from people of all genders and identities in that environment. I’m also sure she’s suffered the “oh no thanks, I’m gay anyway” —> “Oh I can fix that, can I watch? Oh that’s hot, let me still try and hit on you anyway” blahblah.

    idk idk. I’m losing my point here and rambling, I need to ponder this more, it is super important to me. I’m not trying to just be defensive of her, maybe of myself since I’ve faced similar issues. And real talk, make of it what you want, but have “lost” a friend or two to this kind of conformity madness. Having myself grown up in the south, and veering from queer related topics a little, I’ve certainly seen this type of thing happen once many people start a family or get married and I don’t understand why at all, bc I know plenty of other people who have done that and still remain their cool calm collected selves, and make awesome parents bc they are genuine to themselves and their family. I guess a lot of it is fear, and fearing maybe it will trickle down (hate from others) onto people’s kids. I feel like this kind of confused slightly negative energy she’s putting out there though is MUCH more likely to have a negative effect than that.

  5. I think people have a generally warped view of Jillian, based on what the producers of The Biggest Loser wanted to portray to their audience. She was the “bad cop” and Bob (and later Dolvet) was the “good cop”. I mean, hello, it’s reality TV. { http://www.people.com/article/jillian-michaels-biggest-loser-why-she-left }

    A lot of the interviews I’ve read from former TBL contestants talk about how their relationship with Jillian and transformed them in an extremely positive way. They talk about her passion and dedication to helping people reach their highest potential.

    And regarding her relationship with her own gayness, she’s human just like the rest of us. I cannot IMAGINE what kind of nut case I’d have been if I’d had to deal with coming out in a very public way. I know celebrities are “role models” and a lot of people hold them to higher standards, which I guess is fine, but I think we need to be careful with how harshly we criticize them when they fail to meet those standards.

  6. Jillian definitely gets an overly negative wrap from the way Biggest Loser edits that show. After listening to a lot of her podcasts, though she certainly has an edge, she comes across as an open, funny, passionate and really inspiring person.

    In terms of Jillian’s comments, her thoughts are similar to ones I have had at one point or another (sometimes not so long ago)–that somehow not being gay would be easier. But it doesn’t matter that I sometimes feel this way because I am not a public figure. To me, holding Jillian responsible as making things worse for gay people everywhere forever, just for speaking her truth, seems unfair.

    Blaming Jillian for speaking her truth hardly addresses the actual issue–that being queer in society is still ‘other’ and marginalized, and sometimes really hard. Jillian saying something more affirming isn’t going to singularly fix the bigger picture. Honestly, it’s important for people to hear that being queer isn’t always so easy. So, I am all about giving Jillian a hug! Thanks, Heather!

  7. I must say I’m all on board with sending the Pusheen posters, and maybe some vegan organic healthy cupcakes. I also want to be notified by e-mail if Jillian Michaels makes it to A-Camp, k? I have an emergency piggy bank in case this ever happens.

    I never saw Jillian as a bully even when her portrayal on TBL made her look like one. (Disclaimer : I’m strongly biased because in the summer 2013 Jillian Michaels helped me get in very good physical shape and supah healthy, via the simplest of her sports routine – available on DVD. And funnily enough, I always enjoyed how supportive and fun she sounded on her DVDs. Nothing to do with her TBL persona.)

    Some comments above have already highlighted that the terrible portrayal TBL gave her actually made her quit.

    Jillian is a normal human that is surrounded by cameras.

    I’m just a normal human too, and when I fuck up or say stupid things, no large media outlets report it. Phew.

    Pusheen motivational posters help a lot when you’ve made a mistake. More than ressentment or hatred or getting discredited. But that’s just me. I guess I think this way because I’ve said some things I feel deeply not-proud-of, in the past. Sometimes, after fucking up, people are just going to make excuses, or become defensive. But when Pusheen posters are getting thrown at you, it’s so much easier to open up, and to say you didn’t realise the impact your words could have on others.

    Now let’s all hold hands and have ice cream in Unicorn Dreamland.

  8. Look, I get that not everybody is comfortable being who they are. I really do. Trust me nobody understands that better than me for a variety of reasons. It still really rubbed me the wrong way to see Jillian Michaels telling a national publication that she wished she had a “strapping football player for a husband” knowing that she’s got a wife and two kids at home. Ouch. Maybe she’s just bad with words I don’t know but it came off like she was ashamed of her family with those statements. I know she tried to clarify her statements later but you have to be careful what you say. That goes for all celebrities. They may not want to be role models or have everything they say analysed to death but that is the nature of celebrity. Unfair as it may be and you have to be mindful of how you present yourself.

    • I totally agree with you. Her comments made me cringe because of the family she just threw under the bus for not being “normal” enough for her. Like, holy shit, I would not stand for that kind of crap from my spouse/mother. She could have expressed the same sentiment like “It’s been hard to deal with my sexuality. There was a time when I wanted a strapping football husband, but I am grateful for having Heidi and our beautiful kids in my life.”

  9. I think the LGBTQ community puts way too much pressure & expectation on out celebrities to be a shining beacon of perfection. I appreciate Jillian’s honesty and it made me think, shit (some) famous people still deal with the same hang-ups about being gay that I do. We’re all at different places in our lives and her comments reflect that. We don’t need to walk around being fake lest someone judge us. Stuffing these thoughts inside is the opposite of what we should do. Mental wellness!

  10. Her comments remind me so much of my ex-girlfriend, so perhaps I’m not coming from the most impartial place, but as a person who was with someone who felt the same way as Jillian, it was extremely painful and made for a terribly dysfunctional relationship. My ex was out too and I loved her very much and she loved me, but that didn’t stop it being painful to know I would never be her preferred choice if she had one. She would give me up in a heartbeat if it meant being “normal” in the eyes of society.

    Jillian’s partner has a choice to be with her, but her children don’t. I’m all for people admitting that it’s really fucking hard to be gay in our society, but that’s not what she did. She didn’t say she wanted society to change- she said she wishes SHE could change. I understand that personal acceptance is hard for queer people (myself included). That said, not to be harsh, but she needs to sort that shit out immediately. Get therapy or whatever needs to be done. It’s not healthy or right to raise children to feel like their family is lesser than other families. It’s not right to raise children to feel like their family is the consolation prize because she can’t have the real, normal (and obviously better) family she wants.

    • I don’t think this is your intention here, but I just want to point out that therapy can be a difficult and painful process, and not everyone is in the right place for it. It’s not just sitting in a room and telling a stranger your problems once a week – it’s fundamentally changing your relationship with your mind and has to be practiced constantly.

      Sorry, you unwittingly stepped on one of my trigger points 😉

  11. This whole thing reminded me of that scene from The Family Stone where Sarah Jessica Parker’s character stick her foot in her mouth so far she can’t explain herself around it. (Here for those unfamiliar: http://youtu.be/_82PrxpAQZo)

    Part of the problem is that the LGBTQ community is at this crux where some of the community is welcomed by most of society wholeheartedly, but still vehemently opposed by others. Should we be accepted completely and wholeheartedly by all of our straight, cis peers? Fuck yes. Are we? Hell no, and that causes a lot of internalized homophobia (and other phobias) in individuals in our community. It doesn’t help that as a celebrity, she’s probably been pushed and pulled by various circles or individuals about her identity. Publicists telling her to keep it covered up or it’ll ruin her career. The side of our community who demands that LGBTQ celebrities should be not only out, but placed on shining pedestals of perfection and be educators and poster children for the community.

    None of these people realize that Jillian Michaels and her LGBTQ peers in the media are human beings like the rest of us and are thusly flawed like the rest of us.

  12. I’m torn about this, and I’m trying to stop myself for going all Tevye, “on the other hand, on the other hand, tradition…” I feel ya, JM. I’m always saying the wrong thing and putting my foot in my mouth, and thankfully, no one’s going to write about how I’m a horrible person all over the interwebs. Being in the public eye is hard, yo.

    I’m just going to leave it at that. L’chaim!

  13. I saw the backlash (via Tumblr) before I even saw what she said. Now I don’t know much about her other than that a she’s like a famous trainer or something. I didn’t know about her sexuality until a few days ago either. With the way people were reacting, I thought it was some straight women shit talking gay folks.

    I will say that I am not comfortable with the way a lot of people are handling this situation. I’ve only recently become more comfortable with m sexuality, within the last 2ish years. But even now, I have days were I don’t want the shit that comes along with being out. Staying completely closeted is an option but who wants to hide a part of them like that. Its stressful and I’d rather not have a secret like that to keep. There are just days when I’m like “I’m already black, I don’t need anymore struggle!” and I just want to curl up under the covers and be what society deems as “normal”. I have less of those days now but years ago, it was almost every day. A lot of times I feel bad about the fact that I’m not consistently unapologetic about my not straightness. It is nice to hear the fact that other people can relate to that. Even public figures. So I can’t find it in me to be upset about this, I just wanna give her a hug or something (assuming she’s not too horrible of a person in other areas).

  14. It’s funny, just the other day I was reading this: http://effingdykes.blogspot.com/search?q=jillian+michaels

    But anyway…
    “Michaels confessed it’s her “dream to be normal,” to have “some strapping football player husband.”

    This is so relatable.

    As a kid growing up in my sheltered, churchy peer circle, I listened as the other preteen girls got so giggly and excited about their crushes on boys. They would talk about their future weddings and what their babies would look like and how so-and-so was so hot. Puberty seemed to make them go from the “EW BOYS, COOTIES!” stage to “MMM, BOYS!”

    Except, I never got past the “EW BOYS, COOTIES!” stage.

    I felt so left out. I literally felt nothing. I WANTED TO WANT the “strapping football player” that all the other girls were fawning over.

    (Also, gay people didn’t exist except in taboo gossip.)

    Celebrities aren’t perfect. Jillian isn’t perfect. But for someone who grew up in a not-so-queer-friendly environment, what she said is very understandable.

    • If Jillian were a single woman saying these things I don’t think she would have gotten near the amount of backlash that she has gotten because I’m sure we’ve all felt like that at some point during our coming out processes. But she’s not single. She’s married with two kids. I know that’s what personally made me cringe about her statements. I just couldn’t help feeling bad for the family that she already has.

  15. my housemate, 1:1. lives with a gf, craves the ‘fulfillment'(read: bonuses and recognition) of a het family.

    it is an awful place to be. for her and especially the gf. awful, pointless and unfair.

  16. Of course I wish she were prouder of her identity, for her sake and for ours. But in my experience, shaming people for being insufficiently proud of themselves isn’t actually effective at making them prouder.

  17. It’s hard to wrap my mind grapes around the fact that the woman who once snarled “Was your body screaming like this when you were shoveling donuts into it?!” at a The Biggest Loser contestant and has made a fortune teaching people how to Maximize Their Lives is such a sensitive, insecure flower about her gayness.

    omg dead lol 4ever

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