Mollee Gray, the multi-talented star recognized for her role in Disney's Teen Beach and Teen Beach 2 and becoming a finalist on season six of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, was in the final stages of planning her September 2017 wedding when she remembered one small but critical detail: she needed to come out. Before officially tying the knot with her "hersband," dancer and choreographer Jeka Jane, Gray felt like she had to go public. Even though she and Jane had been together for four years, only Gray's family and close friends knew.
"I kept it hidden," Gray acknowledges now. "I was so scared what it would do to my career... A few years ago, it wasn't as easy to just come out, and I was just so scared. And it's not that anybody was rude to me about it -- it was just my own feelings and I wouldn't tell anybody. I was so scared: If somebody knows, I won't book a job, and there's no way I could ever play straight again on camera. It just like, messed with my head."
The dancer and actress says her Mormon family had always been surprisingly accepting, though she had to come to terms with her sexuality pretty much on her own, growing up in small-town Utah.
Before she and Jane got together, Gray had previously dated guys but then went out with another girl "for a while and my family knew, a few friends knew. I was never really taught to love a gender. I grew up Mormon, too, which is pretty interesting, but I grew up in a dance community, so my family's always been around gay people and that was never taught to me. But I also never really understood it. I was like, attracted to girls but not all girls, so I was battling what that meant."
Gray says it was her publicist who finally convinced her that it might be time to come out, just for the sake of her own health and happiness, telling her to "have courage, because you're going to get a lot of love and support from it."
The advice turned out to be true, though Gray says the inevitable haters and trolls were hurtful as well. "I got so much hate. 'How could you do this? You were my role model now I can't even look at you!' type situation. But I feel so much better. I would rather deal with all the negativity from people sitting behind a computer or phone, rather than feeling like I'm hiding the best part of my life."
The couple doesn't seem to be fazed. The gorgeous photos from their South Lake Tahoe, Calif. wedding ended up going viral and were featured in People magazine and Teen Vogue. (Seriously, Google them, you'll cry.) Gray and Jane have since amassed quite the queer girl following on social media and were recently named two of the "10 Queer International 'It' Girls to Live Vicariously Through This Pride Season" by GO Magazine.
Now 27, Gray has moved away from dancing and is enjoying a blossoming acting career -- a welcome change for the lifelong dancer. Though she says, "I'll always have dance in my life," and she continues to teach and perform, Gray admits it's a bit of relief to no longer have to rely on the physically and emotionally demanding artform as her main source of work.
Though some of her first big, non-dancing acting gigs depicted her as a squeaky-clean girl next door, Gray says she is enjoying the darker, meatier roles she's starting to get -- like Sophie, a lovesick 19-year-old struggling to care for her siblings in a chaotic and lawless world in the independent film, The Reliant. You can also see Gray in The Favorite -- not to be confused with the film of the same-with-British-spelling-name, The Favourite, which is getting Oscar buzz for the portrayal of a queen and her lesbian consorts. Gray's film is a true story about a man who experiences a miraculous recovery after a life-altering, debilitating accident.
"I'm actually pretty happy that it's naturally transitioned," she says of her career change from dancer to actress. Gray says acting has freed her from the difficult demands of dancing as a job, and can just enjoy it again on her own terms. "Now instead of, 'Oh, I have to dance today,' it's like, 'Oh, I get to dance today!'"