By Jeffrey Masters, Guest Contributor GLAAD.org | May 25, 2021
“I was like, I never want to imagine a future without this being…. I don’t want that.”
She didn’t know what the reaction would be and she didn’t really care. Someone suggested it might jeopardize her career, ruin everything she’d worked so hard for, but there was no hesitation on her part. Niecy Nash, the acclaimed actress from shows like Claws, When They See Us, and Reno 911!, was thoroughly in love — butterflies, fireworks, every delightful cliche. And she didn’t want that relationship to be forced to exist behind closed doors.
Neicy and the singer, Jessica Betts, were close friends for many years before they fell in love. Jessica assumed that Niecy was 100% straight, just as Niecy had assumed herself, until one day, newly single, Niecy began to see Jessica anew. They eventually married and two days later shared the news with the world.
Niecy: “I could not wait to just—”
Jessica: “Love you.”
Niecy: “Love you out loud. And you know that. I couldn’t wait.”
Jessica: “I remember.”
Niecy: “And you know, that was the thing that I was excited about the most, right?”
Niecy: “I cried about it. I prayed about it. I’m like, ‘I just want to love you.’ And then once we posted that picture…I felt so free.”
Jessica: “We jumped.”
Niecy: “We jumped. We jumped off the cliff and I felt so free.”
Amidst a global pandemic, at the end of a summer that included wildfires of biblical proportion, foreign insects nicknamed “murder hornets,” and a protest movement where “Black Lives Matter” became a rallying cry chanted across the globe, the news of their holy matrimony landed on the internet with the force of an earthquake. This celebration of Black queer love rippled through our screens and arrived just when we needed it most. Stuck inside and living our lives entirely online, their love story provided a rare glimmer of hope during a year of endless terrors.
Niecy didn’t know what was going to happen when the world found out that she’d fallen in love with a woman, but that’s not the same thing as being nervous. “It wasn’t like I was living a lie. I loved the people who I loved when I was with them. Do you understand me? I wasn’t living a lie,” she says. “And I didn’t want that to be anything that was kept in the shadows or in dark corners even. So, it wasn’t as much about me coming out as much as it was about me coming into myself, owning that I allowed myself to not only feel what I felt, but then to do something about what I felt. And then to love her enough and myself enough to be able to share our truth with the world.” The expanse of Nash’s sexuality was a part of her, always, even if she didn’t know it was there until Betts came along.
The number of LGBTQ+ people on TV and in music in recent years has exploded and though people like Janelle Monáe, Robin Roberts, and Wanda Sykes give us examples to celebrate, the number of Black queer women in the media has been far outpaced by other groups. Further, the number of Black queer women in relationships that the public can name and point to is an even smaller list.
Maybe that’s the other part that’s amazing about Nash’s story. She doesn’t yet realize the impact she’s having. Niecy and Jessica, their love and willingness to share that love, is a beacon. The total acceptance that they feel about themselves and their relationship is the only example that many will have of people who look and love exactly like they do — whether that person is a teenager with their first crush or in the middle of their life wondering if it’s too late to come out.
When friends asked how they should respond to people who might ask questions about their relationship, Niecy always replies, “Tell them I’m happy.”
Listen to the full interview with Niecy Nash and Jessica Betts on LGBTQ&A here.
LGBTQ&A is a weekly LGBTQ+ interview podcast hosted by Jeffrey Masters. Past guests include Pete Buttigieg, Laverne Cox, Roxane Gay, and Trixie Mattel.
New episodes come out every Tuesday.