Joanna Johnson is a Lesbian: “Bold & The Beautiful” Star Comes Out

TV Guide today released an exclusive interview with “Bold and the Beautiful” star Joanna Johnson in which the 50-year-old actress revealed that she is a lesbian! Yup. Johnson has been dating L.A. club promoter Michelle Agnew for nine years (they married in 2008, during that brief period of time when it was legal) and they have two adopted children together, Julian (5) and Harlow (2).

Johnson started on “The Bold and the Beautiful” in 1987 as “doomed heroine” Caroline Spencer, who died in 1990, and Johnson returned to the show in 1992 as Spencer’s twin sister, Karen. Aside from a brief five-episode run as Karen in 2009, Johnson was absent from the show from 1993 ’til 2011, when Karen returned as a total lez. Karen is now married to “Dani,” played by Crystal Chappell. (You may recognize Chappell from Guiding Light, in which the actress played Olivia Spencer, whose same-sex relationship with Natalia Rivera was very well-received — “Otalia” went on to be the focal point of Emmy-winning webseries “Venice.”)

Johnson stepped away from acting for a while after her first stint on The Bold & The Beautiful, focusing instead on her work as a writer and producer —  she created, produced and wrote the Kelly Ripa sitcom Hope & Faith and also wrote and produced Make it Or Break It.

Apparently, Johnson has been hanging out with Ellen and The Eth for eons, but she never felt pressured  to come out: “I was so worried I wouldn’t be employable as an actress if people knew I was a lesbian. Or that I wouldn’t be believable in romance stories. I had to deal with a lot of self-loathing.”

johnson in the 80s with her BB co-star

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She thinks it might be her character Karen’s sexuality that encouraged her to finally come out: “I guess that’s why I’m ready to open up. It feels weird and wrong to play this revelation about Karen’s life and not talk about my own.”

“When I realized I was gay in my early 20s we didn’t have role models like Ellen,” she told TV Guide. “I’m not anywhere near as famous as those ladies, but I guess it’s my turn to do my little part. It’s time to live a fully authentic life.”

TV Guide’s interview is pretty good — Johnson talks about coming out to her family at 23 (her Mother eventually died before ever accepting Johnson’s orientation) and how much easier it was to be “out” behind-the-scenes in Hollywood than it was in front of the camera. TV Guide also asks her “Caroline had an epic love affair with Ridge. Karen had romances with Thorne and Connor. Ever have trouble playing the boy-girl stuff?,” which made my eyeballs scream, but there’s also interesting bits like this:

TV Guide Magazine: Did the rest of the cast eventually learn the truth about you?
Johnson: Gradually, but only after I came back to the show as Karen. I was the most nervous to tell Katherine Kelly Lang [Brooke]. She and I started out as the two ingénues of the show and we looked so much alike that people got us confused. In magazine photos they were always ID-ing her as me and vice versa, so much so that we started calling each other “Twin.” Maybe it was hard for me to tell her because I felt she was what I was supposed to be — the beautiful girl with the great body, married to a guy, a mom. I don’t know. I really struggled with that one, but it was all in my head. Katherine had no issues with me being gay whatsoever. She’s a good dame, but I didn’t know enough to trust that. When your own parents reject you, as mine did, you think the rest of the world will do the same.

Real talk: I’ve actually never heard of Joanna Johnson and I’m guessing you haven’t either — but I have heard of her wife, Michelle Agnew, the co-founder of FUSEevents (along with Linda Fusco), because FUSE is a super-big deal and I’ve been to several of their events including a memorable evening of Lesbian Oil Wrestling in 2008 hosted by Elizabeth Keener and Michelle Wolff during which my best friend tried to cajole me into talking to Ilene Chaiken. (I resisted with the fury of a thousand suns.) FUSE does Truckstop, GirlBar Dinah Shore, and lots of L Word and Real L Word parties. So perhaps we’ll be seeing Joanna’s face out & about more often in the future, although I suppose somebody has to stay home with the children. Well, I’m sure they’ll work it out.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," 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. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2750 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. I’m really happy for this woman and glad you good folks covered the interview.

    Looks like I might have a reason to pick up a TV Guide again. (I’m surprised they still make those…)

  2. This is all kinds of amazing. Legit.
    I might say that because my mom has been watching B&B for years and so I know more of it than I’d like to admit, it’s kind of a childhood thing for me…
    Also the fact that one of the characters in her soap opera is a lesbian is gonna blow her mind.
    Yep. Love.

    • Yes, I agree with you. My wife watches B & B all the time and this is a gutsy lady. I’m going to make a point of watching anything she writes of produces.

    • yeah, that’s what i thought too, but in joanna’s interview she talks extensively about how crystal is straight and how that’s an interesting dynamic or whatever — so I didn’t really know where to go with that, maybe she changed how she identifies? it seems like the lesbian who works with her every day would have the latest scoop, but who knows

  3. “…during which my best friend tried to cajole me into talking to Ilene Chaiken. (I resisted with the fury of a thousand suns.)”

    HAHAH! Dont worry you didnt miss much LOL! In fact, its probs a blessing

  4. I love when people speak their truth. It inspires others too as well! good for her.. very sad her mother didn’t accept her before she passed but at least she has her father..

  5. Maybe she’s seeing her as straight sense Crystal is married? Hmm. Not sure. Because she was very open about it on Twitter after it was printed. But then again she said she didn’t really like labels…. so…. In the end it doesn’t really matter to me Haha. I just like Crystal smooching on the ladies. Which is great because she now has three gay lady characters she’s portraying, four if you count Guiding Light.

  6. I had to watch “Bold & The Beautiful” every Sunday morning with my Mom when I was 11-13 yeras old. So congrats to you, Mrs Johnson-Agnew!

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