This interview was originally conducted for the LGBTQ&A podcast.
Coming out has changed. It means something different to younger generations. Whereas revealing one's sexuality to friends, family, and even the world used to be one of the most fraught and defining experiences of a person's life, the opposite is also now possible. For those fortunate — we still have a long way to go before we've reached full LGBTQ+ acceptance — coming out is remarkably unremarkable.
Lili Reinhart, star of CW's Riverdale and author of a new book of poetry, Swimming Lessons, came on through a short post on her Instagram Story earlier this summer. "I tried to do it as nonchalantly as possible," she tells the LGBTQ&A podcast. "I guess, coming out is not a nonchalant thing. It just didn't seem like a big deal to me. And it also, the way I look at the world right now, I'm like, 'Isn’t everyone bisexual?'"
Reinhart also speaks on the podcast about why she was afraid people would think she was coming out as bisexual for attention, expounded on her love of crystals, and tells us the meaning behind her rose tattoo: "I am a warrior for love. I know it's cheesy, but because I always choose love every time."
Read highlights from the interview below and click here to listen to the full interview.
Jeffrey Masters: In June you posted, "Although I've never announced it publicly before, I'm a proud bisexual woman." Why was that the right time to share that?
Lili Reinhart: I've wanted people to know that I am bisexual, but I've never felt that there was a right time to do it. I was afraid of coming out. I didn't want people to tell me that I was lying to get attention or something. And so I just kept my mouth shut. I also I've told people in the past and they've told me, "Oh, it's a phase." And I'm like, "Okay, great, thanks." So that's discouraging, obviously.
JM: After you hit send, what did that moment feel like before the reactions started coming in?
LR: I tried to do it as nonchalantly as possible. I guess, coming out is not a nonchalant thing. It just didn't seem like a big deal to me. And it also, the way I look at the world right now, I'm like, “Isn’t everyone bisexual?” So I didn't really feel like this was any breaking news by any means. And so to get the attention that I got was surprising to me. I wasn't expecting it.
JM: It sounds like this is something that you did not recently discover about yourself.
LR: Yeah. I remember being in fifth grade and thinking to myself, “I'm thinking about girls a lot.” I didn't tell anybody. It was very a private thing. I was only 10. That's quite young in my opinion. So that was an interesting revelation for me.
It didn't really come up again until I moved to L.A. when I was 18 and started to have feelings for this girl when I was here and being sexually attracted to her. And I really identified as straight. I didn't really think about it other than that, until I was put in a position where I found myself really attracted to this one girl that I was hanging out with…I’ve realized that it's just part of me and I didn't really stop to even think about it until a couple of years ago.
JM: You’ve been on magazine covers. I think it sends a message to young people that coming out doesn’t require a magazine cover-size announcement anymore. It shows it isn’t as big of a deal.
LR: Yeah. And it shouldn't be. I did not want that for me. Like, oh, do I need to make it a magazine cover for me to tell people I am bisexual? No. Who cares? It's not that big of a deal to me.
It's not like our sexuality defines who we are, but I think a lot of times people want it to. They want our sexuality to be the defining ... "Oh, that gay guy or that lesbian." That's what people love to do and love to say. And it's like, I would hope that being out and owning your sexuality, isn't something that needs to have press around it.
JM: Even though your queerness is not that big of a deal to you, we still live in a world where it is a big deal. Were you afraid that you were going to be outed before you were ready?
LR: Not necessarily. I think my biggest fear, to be honest, was people telling me that I was coming out for attention. That was my biggest fear. And I'm not necessarily sure why, but I think to me in my eyes, it became a fad for people. Coming out rubbed me the wrong way.
Believe it or not — and I know I get myself in a lot of hot water sometimes by speaking up and being vocal about things — but I do not like to be the center of attention. And it's ironic because I am a pretty open book. So I'm constantly balancing that. But I also don't think that sexuality is something that needs to be super private.
It's not a secret. It's not something that I was ever ashamed of. And I felt like in that moment, I wanted to show my full support for this community. And the fact that I belong to it, it was very freeing in that sense. It felt very much like, “Yeah, I'm here. I've been here the whole time. I am part of this.”
JM: You were thrown into the spotlight very young and almost overnight with Riverdale. Did any of the producers or orders actors give you advice for dealing with that?
LR: I remember during season one, Mädchen Amick, who plays my mom on the show. She and I are very close. She's my second mom. I love her so dearly. We were in the cast area, me and Camila [Mendes]. And she started talking to us.
She was like, "Throughout this, you guys are going to be pinned against each other. People are going to compare your careers, people are going to compare your social media followings. Sometimes one of you is going to be ahead and sometimes one of you is going to be behind, but it's always going to be in flux and you can't hold that against each other. You can't become in competition with one another when people are going to naturally try to compare the two of you." And it's true. I think we're lucky. No one really sits there and compares. It's not like a Betty and Veronica feud.
And I think also Luke [Perry] was one to bestow a lot of wisdom upon us. I think when we were filming the pilot actually, we all were sitting down having a drink and I was 19. So I was like, "Oh my God, I'm having drinks with these cool people." It's sad that I really don't even remember exactly what he said, but I think it was something like, "Hey, you guys are young, you’re on this show, enjoy every second of it. Take it in. But also be kind." And he always really promoted being so kind to everyone that you worked with, being kind to the crew, being kind to people behind the scenes.
Everyone loved Luke for a reason...Luke was an anomaly, I think.
JM: In your book of poetry, I feel like you put on a book like this and have to accept that people are going to read it and assume that every line is about your ex-boyfriend, right?
LR: Correct. And that's something that is horrifying to an extent, but I also am just like, I can't control everything. I genuinely just really wanted to share my poetry with the world and, believe it or not, a lot of the poems are not about my ex-boyfriend. It's about just the human experience.
I like to look at them as little stories, little scenes that I've created in order to express a certain emotion. That's what I would like people to go into this and not being like, "Oh, let me try and read between the lines and put the pieces together and be like, “Oh, this is what happened in her world." Because you're not going to find out anything like that. That's just not the case.
JM: Your ex-boyfriend, Cole Sprouse, is your Riverdale co-star. You have the one job in the world where you might have to make out with your ex-boyfriend for your job. Do you have a sense of humor about that or is it still too fresh?
LR: I can have a sense of humor about it. I think it's really like .0000001 percent of human beings ever have to do that. I'm not going to lie to you. It’s not an easy thing to do. It's not something that you want to do when you're trying to, I don't know, move on, but I think I have a good outlook on it. I know it's my job and I'm doing my job. I'm just doing my job.
JM: Most of your poetry is about love. It's incredibly romantic. Do you consider yourself a romantic person?
LR: Oh my God. I'm the most romantic person. I have a tattoo of a rose on my arm that I got to basically represent to myself and to remind myself that I am— this is how I like to phrase it — I am a warrior for love. I know it's cheesy, but because I always choose love every time. Love. I have the power of unconditional love. I am able to love people unconditionally, and I'm very proud of that.
And I'm proud that I wear my heart on my sleeve, not just on my sleeve, but my heart is outside my body most of the time. I'm a very vulnerable, very giving, loving, human being. And that's something that over the last, however many years, I've slowly learned to really embrace and be proud of. So yeah, I am very much a romantic, very, very much, probably too much.
JM: With bisexuality, while you are a part of the queer community, you are not always going to be dating people in the queer community. Has that created issues for you in the past?
LR: I think that's why I didn't come out as bisexual until I was not in a relationship anymore. Because it's easy for people to question, “Oh, but you're with a man that's straight.” It's like, well, Anna Paquin is married to a man, but she is bisexual.
I didn't want to put my ex in a position. It seems like it would have been a little strange to come out when I was in a hetero relationship. It just seemed, I don't know, maybe a little bit like I was looking for something else while I was in the relationship. So, I didn't really think about coming out until after I was not in a relationship anymore. It just felt more organic that way.
JM: When you came out publicly, did you have any ladies sliding into your DMs?
LR: I did have a couple of ladies sliding into my DMs which I thought was funny, but also flattering. Yeah. It was interesting to see the difference in my DMs after I came out, which was a nice little surprise. It was just nice. Yeah. I guess it was nice.
JM: Are you saying a difference in genders or in approaches?
LR: Difference in genders, for sure. And also just like, I hate to say it, more quality human beings. People who genuinely are coming because they're saying, "Oh, thank you for doing that." Or “I really appreciate you doing that," rather than some random person saying like, "Hey, wanna fuck?" It just was more, I hate to say it, but just more quality messages, people genuinely who cared.
JM: You’ve been very open about mental health. How often does it affect your job when you're on set?
LR: It definitely does. I can definitely be in my own little world like, “Oh, I'm dealing with this,” and then I have to go play Betty Cooper. It's not an easy transition a lot of the time. And how could it be?
I think the past couple of months, I've tried to really practice meditation and I am 100 percent a crystal-loving bitch. I have crystals everywhere. I very much believe in the power of crystals. I'm also training to be a reiki healer at the moment. That's something that I've wanted to do for a couple of years now. So I'm starting to take lessons to become a reiki master.
JM: When watching the show, can ever you see your anxiety affecting your performance onscreen?
LR: No, I don't let it affect my performances. Sometimes it can be really hard to shut off my world and fully dive into someone else's world, but my work and acting is so important to me that I snap out of it. I'm just like, I have a job to do and I get it done.
Acting is really such a soul-fulfilling thing for me. It just really is. It's the only job that doesn't give me anxiety. And so I think that with my anxiety towards fame, it's a little bit more like, I can step back and be like, “These are champagne problems that I'm having right now.” Like having a lot of emails, that's a champagne problem. I'm fine. I'm going to be all right. I need to stop bitching about it.
Click here to listen to the full interview.
Swimming Lessons by Lili Reinhart is available on September 29, 2020.
LGBTQ&A is produced by The Advocate, in partnership with GLAAD.