Fortune Feimster has a heart-to-heart with Roxy Bourdillon about the special women in her life
BY ROXY BOURDILLON
Fortune Feimster is one of the world’s most successful lesbian comedians, having starred in megahits like The Mindy Project, Chelsea Lately and a hilariously relatable Netflix special (sample line: “My friend gave me a Fitbit… and I don’t have the energy to put it on”). She’s also, as I quickly discover when we chat ahead of her London show, adorable, genuine and overflowing with irresistible Southern charm.
DIVA: I’m so excited to see your stand-up live. Is this your first time performing in the UK?
FORTUNE FEIMSTER: Yeah, so I’m beyond excited and, I’m not gonna lie, a little nervous. I’m from the South in the United States and I’m a gay lady – I’m already nervous in my own country! I’m hoping British people enjoy a sweet, Southern lesbian coming to do comedy.
Are you kidding? There’s nothing we enjoy more! So what was it like growing up gay in the South?
I didn’t come out until I was 25. Y’know, I honestly did not know I was gay and it seems really naive now. Currently it’s much more visible, but when I was growing up it wasn’t. I knew something was different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it… literally!
How did you finally figure it out?
It took me moving to Los Angeles. I started to see a lot of out people who didn’t even think twice about it. I was like, “Oh, these people are just living their lives and they seem happy and normal.” It sort of gave me permission to explore who I was and not be afraid to be myself.
Looking back on your younger days, were there signs all along?
Oh, 100%! It was so blatant, so clear, even going back to the age of five when I was chasing girls around the playground and not wanting to wear dresses. In one of my first stand-up jokes, I talked about how I would get really upset when my friend went out on a date with a guy and it would confuse my mom. She was like, “I don’t understand why you get so upset when Michelle goes out with a guy.” And I was like, “Because she’s my BEST. FRIEND!” So yeah, there were lots of signs.
When you eventually did come out, how did your family react?
My mom’s very liberal in her beliefs, but you’re nervous no matter what because it’s a hard conversation. She listened and let me talk. She just didn’t want my life to be harder because I was gay. And my dad was very accepting too. He was like, “You’re my daughter. I love you.” So I’m very lucky. And now my mom is the president of the PFLAG group (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). She’s very active in fighting for gay rights.
Oh wow. Whenever I see a mother walking with PFLAG at Pride, I always get emotional.
Yeah, that’s her! She’s one of us! You know, at a lot of the Pride parades there’s that little section where people protest and they have horrible signs like, “You’re going to hell”. Well, the year before last my mom and her group brought all these really cute signs saying, “We’re moms and we love you” and “We love you for who you are”. They stood in front of those protesters with their signs up, blocking them so that the people in the Pride parade wouldn’t have to see the hateful messages. She’s a good lady. I’m real proud of her.
You should be. She sounds fantastic. I’ve heard you talk about how close you were to your grandmother as well. Did she have a great sense of humour like you?
She was funny to me, because she was a very proper Southern lady. She was very small and really watched her Ps and Qs. As she got older and began to loosen up, every now and then she would say a cuss word and I would giggle so hard. She almost was a challenge for me. I was like, “How can I make my grandmother giggle?” That really helped me in stand-up, because an audience is the same. You’re like, “I’ve gotta convince a group of you to put down the stresses of your day and whatever preconceptions you have about me and just laugh.” I was very close with her. She gave me such a sense of self and we had a very special bond. Losing her at 18 was very significant. I lost her way before I was ready to. But y’know, you don’t have any control over that so you just take that loss and turn it into motivation to work hard and make her proud.
I’m sure she’d be so proud of you. It seems like you’ve been close to some really incredible women. I love seeing your Instagram photos with your fiancée, Jacquelyn. How did you two meet?
We actually met at Pride in Chicago. Those gay events really do help! We not only get to celebrate being gay, but you can try to meet a girlfriend in the process! We just started chatting and had some mutual friends. As lesbians do, we’ve basically been together ever since.
How did you propose?
We went up to Big Sur in California. It’s got mountains and cliffs that overlook the ocean. I had this long list of all these wonderful things I wanted to say, because you see people propose in the movies and it looks so grand and moving. I’m like, “I’m good at acting – I can do this!” But when it came to the real moment, I got so nervous and overcome , I couldn’t remember anything I had wanted to say. I was just like, “I love you. Will you marry me?” It did not look anything like the movies, but the sentiment was the same.
She said yes so you must have done well!
She looked at the ring for a little while. She loves jewellery and she was very enamoured with the ring. It took her a minute to say yes, but thankfully she did!
Do you talk about her much in your stand-up?
I actually haven’t talked a lot about her, because a lot of the craziest things happened to me before I met her. She’s brought ease and stability into my life. I need her to do something crazy so I can talk about it onstage, but so far she just keeps acting all nice and normal!
This interview originally featured in the March 2019 issue of DIVA – grab your digital copy right here!