Zendaya caught the attention of Queer Twitter yesterday with a brief but impactful moment from her Proust Questionnaire video for Vanity Fair. The questionnaire was started as a parlour game by the French writer, Marcel Proust, and now it's how Vanity Fair works to “reveal the nature of Zendaya’s true personality”, or so they say. As one of the stars covering this year’s Hollywood Issue, VF sits her down for this test, answering 35 questions like, what’s your greatest fear? And on what occasion do you lie? But the question in question is #12…
Interviewer: “What is the quality you most like in a man?”
Zendaya: “Uhm… I most like in a person. How about that?”
First, I thought why are we still asking women about what they want in a man when we don’t ask the same of men. To be fair, this is a personality test and the next question did flip the script: “What is the quality you most like in a woman?” I wonder if that question was ad-libbed, given her previous answer. Regardless, with a smile, Zendaya responds, “Well, I guess that's the same answer,” which was the sort of “undefinable goodness” that some people have where you immediately feel safe and happy around them. However, one of the men she’s shares the Hollywood Issue cover with, Michael B. Jordan, was asked 29 questions and “What is the quality you like most in a woman?” made the cut while the same question about men was not included.
Was Vanity Fair queer-baiting? There’s certainly a section of the internet that would love for Zendaya to become a figurehead for bisexuality, a bICON, if you will. As far as I can tell she’s never outright spoken about her sexuality, but that hasn’t stopped other people from speculating about it and the magazine may know that. I’m sure they’re also aware of the growing cultural influence and consumer power the gay community has. So, were they trying to bait the community? If so, it worked. That moment from the video has already been picked up by People magazine, among others.
Let’s just stop assuming people are straight. I think most of us agree it’s unfair that gay people have to go through the stressful, and often traumatic process of coming out of the closet, but that process happens, in part, because everyone’s assumed to be straight by default. I’m not here to list numbers and statistics, but it’s not just a liberal media narrative that young people are increasingly into the idea that sexuality is fluid and people fall all over the spectrum. When people ask me about who I’m dating and they mention a gender that doesn’t align with the gender of the person I’m with, am I supposed to correct them? Am I obligated to come out to you right now in this moment even though you’re a stranger? Am I lying or being dishonest if I don’t? And what if the person I’m with is non-binary? Let’s just ask people about their “partners” or “significant others” and leave it at that.