- First year of university. A girl, once bright eyed and full of hope for her future, sat alone in her room.
3:15pm. The curtains are closed and the world is shut out.
Lectures don’t exist anymore. People don’t exist anymore. She’s not even sure if she exists anymore. Her anxiety and depression has been so severe that she has felt completely dissociated from reality for an immeasurable amount of time.
She turns on her laptop, hoping that maybe – just maybe – a comedy video will make her laugh.
Its been a while since she laughed.
Kristen Wiig is her favourite. Movie blooper reels and clips from Saturday Night Live fill the void temporarily. New recommended videos keep popping up on the screen, and she clicks each one mindlessly.
Another clip from Saturday Night Live begins, but this time it is not Kristen Wiig at the centre of the skit. A quirky blonde woman catches the girl’s eye, so different to the rest of the cast on screen. The girl doesn’t know why this woman is different, but she feels it. Reading the name in the credits, she rushes to Wikipedia to find out who this woman is.
When my life was at its very lowest, Kate McKinnon was the light that directed me back to shore. I didn’t quite understand why I took such a shine to her the first time I saw her on screen, but I must have a pretty strong gaydar. Kate McKinnon is the first openly lesbian cast member on Saturday Night Live, and before that she had actually starred in The Big Gay Sketch Show. YEP. She embraced who she was and she made a living from it.
I did not know many gay people in my life. My previous university was based in a very secluded area of the UK, and even the musical theatre society was made up of mostly heterosexuals. In addition to this, I was having my own identity crisis – I knew I was gay, but the time had come to actually… you know… tell someone about it. High school wasn’t an issue because I was far too ugly and generally undesirable to attract anyone, but in university I was starting to get attention. And as you’ve probably guessed, the attention was from men.
To cut what is a very long and depressing story short, I came out to my parents first. But to get to that point, I had to do a bit of research. HOW did Kate become so successful without hiding who she is from an entertainment industry that is famously known for being homophobic?
I did some Louis Theroux style investigating. The internalised homophobia was REAL. Of course your sexuality doesn’t define your success rate in the world, but the only famous Hollywood lesbian I had heard of at that time was Ellen DeGeneres. Younger me needed proof that there was more of us out there, doing what they love and being at the top of their game.
Kate McKinnon is a shining example of self-acceptance and success. As well as being a great comedian, she can sing, act, dance, do impressions, play musical instruments, and just seems like a really nice person in general. Weird as hell too, but I related to that the most. Some of her most iconic skits on SNL have been when she played Shud: part mermaid part blobfish, an elderly lesbian cougar who owns a cat shelter, Ms Rafferty the serial alien abductee, and Lez Dykawitz the 80’s style cop who makes the ladies swoon in her uniform.
Her most well known role, however, is her impeccable impression of Hillary Clinton. When Hillary lost the election to Trump, Kate dressed up as Hillary and played a version of Hallelujah on the piano. It was so poignant and removed from the normal absurdity and hilarity of Saturday Night Live, but I remember it as a defining moment for me as a creative person. When she finished, she turned to the camera and said:
“I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”
It was a line with so many meanings, but one that reassured me. I have been through so much, that it only made sense for me to carry on.
Kate became my role model pretty much overnight. I have such an incredible respect for how she handles herself. She is one of the most successful cast members on the show, and yet doesn’t shy away from her sexuality. She writes many of her own sketches, and a lot of her characters are explicitly gay. And she is thriving in the entertainment industry! Since joining SNL, she has starred in many movies such as the 2016 Ghostbusters remake and she is about to star alongside Mila Kunis in The Spy Who Dumped Me. No one judges her on her sexuality. She is known as a talented performer who also just so happens to be gay.
Kate taught me that my sexuality does not have to define me. Sure, it’s a big part of my life and a pretty cool one, but I always wanted to be known for my work and Kate had that perfect balance.
“Sometimes I see someone who is so mystical and strange, and I say thank you.”
This post is a thank you to Kate, for giving me the strength to be who I am when I was a shell of my former self. Sometimes you are drawn to people, whether that be in real life or through media, and they are so mystical and strange that they change your life forever. When I was at rock bottom, so deep down that I was questioning reality itself… she gave me the answers I needed. For me, Kate McKinnon is the definition of gay pride.
Life is always real. Life is sometimes beautiful. And sometimes, just sometimes, life comes in the form of a lesbian pretending to be Hillary Clinton playing Hallelujah on the piano one minute, and a giant blobfish woman the next.
Kate McKinnon makes me proud to be me.