The U.K. production of The Color Purple has been steeped in controversy after old homophobic tweets from the lead actress Oluwaseyi “Semi” Omooba resurfaced. She once wrote on Facebook, “I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right.” When she refused to apologize for her statements, she was let go from the production of The Color Purple and her agency. She proceeded to sue her former agency, Michael Garrett Associates, for religious discrimination. The ironic point of the whole situation is the character Omooba was meant to play, Celie, is known to be a queer character.
Now, the author of the book in which the play is based, Alice Walker, is speaking out about Omooba’s firing. According to Shadow and Act, Walker defended Omooba’s dismissal from the U.K. production of her classic 1982 novel of the same name.
“It is safe to say, after a frightful life serving and obeying abusive men, who raped in place of ‘making love,’ my grandmother, like Celie, was not attracted to men,” Walker said. “She was, in fact, very drawn to my grandfather’s lover, a beautiful woman who was kind to her, the only grown person who ever seemed to notice how remarkable and creative she was. In giving Celie the love of this woman, in every way love can be expressed, I was clear in my intention to demonstrate that she too, like all of us, deserved to be seen, appreciated, and deeply loved by someone who saw her as whole and worthy.”
When addressing Omooba’s past remarks, Walker said:
“Playing the role of Celie while not believing in her right to be loved, or to express her love in any way she chooses, would be a betrayal of women’s right to be free. As an elder, I urge all of us to think carefully about what I am saying, even as you, Oluwaseyi Omooba, sue the theatre company for voiding your contract.”
The legend has spoken. Time will tell if Omooba will get the message.