Best known for her roles in Wedding Crashers and Showtime's hit series Shameless, actress Diora Baird has also made a name for herself as a Hollywood bombshell, gracing dozens of men's magazines including Esquire, Playboy, and FHM. But meeting comedian Mav Viola through the dating app Bumble changed her life. (That date was filmed for The Real L Word star Nikki Weiss's in-the-works documentary based on Lisa Diamond's book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire.) Proud mom to 4-year-old son Otis, Baird talks about stumbling into her new life.
How long did it take you to figure out who you were?
I believe that we are all on the quest for self-discovery. I feel like I was born with bewilderment and tried on so many different masks before I realized that I actually don't even need [one]. I have spent so many years trying to be what others expected me to be and as a result, I had no idea who I was and what I even wanted out of life. Plus my biggest dream for as long as I can remember was to be a mother and have a family of my own. I had this foolish idea that I would only be able to fulfill my dreams with a man as my partner.
I actually attempted to date a woman when I was 22, but ... it fizzled pretty fast. Shortly after, I found myself on the cover of the biggest men's magazine in the world. I went on to spend the next decade performing for men in every aspect of my life. I had succumbed to the notion that this was just the way it was.
After years in therapy trying to get to the root of my intimacy issues and my negative sex drive, I figured I must just be asexual. The fact that I no longer drank alcohol made the proclivity of dating men virtually impossible. Instead, I spent my nights binge-watching The L Word and every lesbian film I could find, before ultimately braving the lesbian scene and going out to a gay bar. I'm sure I knew deep down inside that I was going to love women, and that terrified me. The first question I was asked was "Are you gay? Straight? Bi?"
How did you answer?
I didn't have an answer. I was not prepared to give myself a label. I was asked about my sexual orientation constantly and began to resent this whole need for a label. "Is it me that requires a label to know myself or is it you that needs a label as a way of putting me in a box?"
I [had expected] to feel this massive epiphany where all of a sudden I knew exactly who I was. Instead, I just felt like me. Being with women felt as normal as going to Starbucks. I felt comfortable. I was relieved to discover that I was not asexual, but rather having sex with the wrong gender. Great sex makes life worth living. The more time that passed, I knew I could never be with a man again. I now identify as a lesbian.
Your first date with Mav was filmed. That sounds stressful!
First dates are the worst! Luckily, when it came to my first date with Mav, I felt a little less on the verge of puking only because we had spent hours on end talking on the phone. From our first conversation, it felt like we'd been friends our entire lives. Being filmed made me super self-aware. I kept thinking, How do the Kardashians do it? Thankfully, as soon as she walked up to me and smiled, I felt like I could breathe again. I laughed my way through that entire date. I did manage to dip my entire sleeve into ketchup during our dinner, but luckily for me, Mav found that endearing. I am so thrilled to have this magical moment caught on camera.
When did you know Mav was the one?
From the very moment I saw her beautiful face pop up on my late-night scrolling-through-Bumble session, I just knew. I immediately stopped and stared at Mav's photo and thought, Oh, there you are! She was familiar to me in a way that felt like home. I followed her on Instagram right away -- I'm such a millennial -- and proceeded to fall in love. Mind you, she didn't even know I existed at that point. After a couple weeks ... she finally found her way back to the Bumble app, which she had "forgotten about," so she says, and I was the first face that popped up. She swiped right, as one does, and I responded with the wittiest message I could come up with a good 90 seconds later. I played it super cool, clearly. She responded and made me laugh and I haven't stopped. This is literally the cheesiest sentence to say, but Mav is my soulmate.
What did you tell Otis about Mav?
I tell my son pretty much everything. I have never felt that I am doing something wrong by dating a woman, so I talked to my son about mama wanting to have a girlfriend from the beginning. He was only 3 at the time, but he ... helped me get ready for the date. After a few weeks, I introduced Otis to Mav and then it all clicked. This was my family. Mav was the missing piece. Seeing them together is what life is all about and we are so lucky to have her.
How do you define "family"?
Family is a sense of belonging. Family is a place or person to call home. Family is my biggest conquest. A family can consist of only two people or a pack of dogs. A family is love.
Did you have any concerns about coming out?
I have had a primarily male-infused fan base, so there is always the possibility of losing some [fans]. I'd like to think that I have more to offer. Just because I want to marry a woman, instead of a man, doesn't mean I can't act like a heterosexual. I've been acting straight my entire life, so I think I could pull it off.
What's next for your career?
A thriller film called They Watch that I am producing along with Aaron Cox and acting in as well. Peter Dukes wrote it and will be directing it too. I am so excited about working behind the scenes. I am also developing my own show [with] Mav. Unlike me, Mav actually went to college and got her master's [degree] in film, TV, and theater and concentrated on dramatic writing. I took improv classes at the Groundlings, so we balance each other quite nicely. The show is very much an autobiographical comedy and there's never been anything like it on TV, so I am eager to see it come to fruition. Plus being able to work with my love is the ultimate dream -- that and to have as many babies as possible! (@diorabaird)