Maria Bello is Queer: Actress Reveals She’s Got A Girlfriend In Best “Modern Love” Column Ever

(L-R) Actress/activist Maria Bello, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, philanthopist Kevin Wall, Dr. Susan Smalley and social impact investor Clare Munn attend the screening for "The Square" at the home of Maria Bello on October 11, 2013 in Santa Monica, California. (October 10, 2013 - Source: Christopher Polk/Getty Images North America)

(L-R) Actress/activist Maria Bello, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, philanthopist Kevin Wall, Dr. Susan Smalley and social impact investor Clare Munn  (October 10, 2013 – Source: Christopher Polk/Getty Images North America)

Actress Maria Bello was this week’s New York Times “Modern Love” columnist, and what she had to share about her family came as a relative surprise to most of the universe — the renowned actress and activist is in a long-term relationship with her best friend, social activist Clare Munn.

In the Modern Love piece, entitled “Coming Out as a Modern Family,” Bello recalls a transformative experience looking through her old journals, reading “passages rife with pain and angst” about her past relationships — one of which was with another woman. Bello realized that “it seemed when I was physically attracted to someone, I would put them in the box of being my “soul mate” and then be crushed when things didn’t turn out as I had hoped.” She recalled disastrous relationships with men she’d met on film sets and contrasted these fallouts with the happiness and comfort exuded in a picture she came across of her and Clare from a recent New Year’s Eve. Suddenly, things began falling into place:

We had an immediate connection but didn’t think of it as romantic or sexual. She was one of the most beautiful, charming, brilliant and funny people I had ever met, but it didn’t occur to me, until that soul-searching moment in my garden, that we could perhaps choose to love each other romantically.

What had I been waiting for all of these years? She is the person I like being with the most, the one with whom I am most myself.

The next time I saw her, in New York, I shared my confusing feelings, and we began the long, painful, wonderful process of trying to figure out what our relationship was supposed to be.

Bello details coming out to her son (it went well) and to her “large, Italian-Polish, “traditional” Philadelphia family (they approved) and the difficulty of defining the roles any of the people she considers “family” play in her life — like her son’s father, TV Executive Dan McDermott, who “will always be my partner because we share Jack,” and her ex Bryan, who she says “remains my partner because we share our activism.” She recalls that this past summer, while very ill, “the people who were at my bedside every day at the hospital were many of my life partners: my mother, Jackson, Dan, my brother Chris and Clare.” It’s a really touching and well-written piece that reflects a more fluid and evolving family structure than we usually have a chance to see in the media.


Nothing about this isn’t perfect

46-year-old Maria Bello was born in Pennsylvania to a Polish-American mother and Italian-American father, and was a Political Science major at Villanova planning on becoming a lawyer when she took an acting class and got hooked. Bello started out in off-Broadway plays, and gradually worked her way onto television shows like Misery Loves Company and Due South, eventually snagging a spot on the cast of E.R. as Dr. Anna Del Amico. She has since done commercial movies like Coyote Ugly and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Empire, but has received the most acclaim (and Golden Globe nods) for her work in indie-ish films like The Cooler and A History of Violence. She recently played the lead role in the TV series Prime Suspect and Grace Dover in the film Prisoners.

Bello is also a dedicated activist, founding WE ADVANCE in 2010 in the aftermath of the Haiti Earthquake, a “women’s rights-based, grassroots movement.” WE ADVANCE focuses on “capacity building for women throughout the country” by providing a health clinic, education and empowerment programs, and advocating for women in local, national and international levels.


Today, on her blog, Bello posted a photograph of the published article, with the following message:

After a love packed three days on the east coast with my beloved; modern family, extended family and dearest friends, I am now returning home filled to the brim. As I fly out of JFK I am reading the article I wrote in today’s New York Times section, Modern Love, and I am so happy I wrote this and so grateful to all the people worldwide who have sent in 100s and 100s of beautiful tweets or posts about it. Thank you. May we all learn to live and love our truth. Fully and graciously.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. OMG ALL MY DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE! I crushed on Maria Bello pretty damn hard in ‘Thank You For Smoking.’ *hyperventilates* I wasn’t dreaming!

  2. Wow, I was really not expecting her piece to be nearly that good, but it’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing this.


    I knew there was a reason I watched Coyote Ugly about 30 times.

  4. I read the article this morning without noticing the byline and didn’t think I could love it any more–turns out I was wrong!

    • I did the exact same thing, I wish I could remember how I ended up finding it. Her article is so full of love and hope. The emphasis on building your own family/surrounding yourself with people who support you immediately made me think A-Camp and the whole autostraddle community, so having it posted here brings my day perfectly full circle.

  5. This is great! I actually haven’t seen much of her work, but just yesterday I watched the documentary “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” which she was interviewed in, and I liked what she had to say. After that and reading her column I definitely want to watch more of her movies! Anyone have favorites?

    • It’s a bit uncanny that she should publish this the same weekend that Evan Rachel Wood Bisexual took the MPAA to task on Twitter, prompting mention of _This Film Is Not Yet Rated_ in Mey’s article about the latter.

      While _This Film_ made it clear that the MPAA is particularly committed to censoring sex between two women, these new bits of information suggest that the MPAA is also particularly committed to censoring sex scenes featuring queer actresses, even when their scene partners are men. I’m not quite certain how to explain this. My first instinct would be to suggest that, because queer actresses have more satisfying sex lives than their straight counterparts, they’re able to simulate sexual satisfaction with a degree of verisimilitude that frightens the MPAAtriarchs™ and dredges up all their repressed feelings of insecurity.

  6. I KNEW IT!!!!

    Even though she’s actually very fluid in her orientation, she always have me a GIGANTIC lezzy vibe.

  7. I was waiting for the Autostraddle article about this. She wrote so beautifully about the fluidity of family and the support that comes from so many different types of people who are integral to your life — it gave me hope. What a good, honest life that woman is living.

  8. I really like what she said about the various people that are important in your life. I often feel like we put too much emphasis on a single sexual relationship being the most important so its nice to hear another viewpoint.

    So yay for her :)

    • Yes, this. I think our cultural expectation that we should find The One who becomes our be all and end all puts a lot of pressure on people and sets people up for a lot of disappointment and failure. It’s just not possible for one person to do and be everything. I’m always happy to see things like this that acknowledge the vital roles our non-romantic partners play in our lives.

      Also, I’m just happy for Maria Bello that her identity and relationship have been so lovingly accepted by her family. Yay! More of this for everyone!

  9. This was a beautiful essay of hers.

    (Just want to point out that Maria’s ex is Bryn, not Bryan)

  10. Yes, yes, yes! She’s an actress that I’ve always loved for her acting, and more recently for her activism. Her essay is just so wonderful and lovely. I love how she emphasizes the importance of all of the partners from her life. I also love how her son and traditional family responded. Just lovely!!

  11. There are so many things that I read on here simply because of the byline…this is a compliment. Congrats on the redesign, it’s working and looking fantastic.

  12. I honestly didn’t see this one coming. I really didn’t. Good on her though. What a pleasant surprise and she wrote such a good essay too. Tom Daley also came out today. Hopefully, these things happen in threes.

  13. The first time Maria was interviewed on The Talk, she was seated next to Sara G. and, I don’t know if Sara’s gay gal glow somehow highlights the gayness of those in her presence but my mind, during the whole interview was like “Bello is gay. At least she’s bi. She’s queer. See how she paused ‘tween those two thoughts? She censored herself a bit because she’s a hot gay women. Ha! Even Sara can tell.” That was my mind maybe 2 years ago…So unlike my phone, the celebrity gaydar houses in my inner mind has a constant 100% charge and excellent reception! Hey-yo.

  14. <3 <3 <3
    I was really into Coyote Ugly for a time (yeah, I know…), and this makes me feel much better about that minor obsession.

  15. Seriously though, when she hooks up with the dude from House in The Jane Austen Book Club, I was so sad bc I had totally pegged the character (and her, obvi) as part of the fam. So happy for her and Claire!

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