LGBTQ+ Influencers

LGBTQ+ influencers making strides in the media – Rosie Wilby (EP.16)

Welcome to a series on Proudly dedicated to sharing the stories from a variety of influential LGBTQ+ content creators who come from all different backgrounds within the media. 

This series will enable us to showcase their achievements and experiences within the industry and give advice to inspire future content creators from the LGBTQ+ community. 

Proudly wants to shine a light on the people who have made strides in a very competitive industry. Hopefully, this series is the start of something special for Proudly where we have been lucky enough to interview inspiring people such as Jo CurrieJon Holmes, Amazin LêThiBenjamin CohenKaylee GoldingJon Lee-Olsen and Michael Gunning who have shared their incredible stories with us already. 

Today’s article is dedicated to our latest LGBTQ+ influencer. Rosie Wilby is an award-winning comedian who has appeared on a range of BBC Radio 4 programmes that include Woman’s Hour, Loose Ends, Midweek and Four Thought.

Alongside being a gifted comedian Rosie is a singer-songwriter and author. Rosie’s first book Is Monogamy Dead?’ was shortlisted for the Diva Literary Awards 2017, longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize 2018 and followed her TEDx talk.

What followed was a trilogy of solo shows investigating love and relationships began with The Science of Sex, which has been performed all over the world including the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Germany, and ended with The Conscious Uncoupling, which toured to venues including London’s Southbank Centre and was shortlisted for Funny Women Best Show.

In December 2018 Rosie began her own Podcast chat show titled ‘The Breakup Monologues’ where She and a rotating cast of her acclaimed performer pals look back at their best and worst romantic breakup stories.

Rosie Wilby
Rosie Wilby

Introducing Rosie Wilby

“Hi. I’m Rosie Wilby, a comedian, author, podcaster and speaker. I’ve been touring comedy shows around the world for the last decade or so that investigate the psychology of love and relationships.

My identity as a lesbian is always at the forefront of these shows. I’ve performed at a host of Pride festivals and charity events for Stonewall, Switchboard, Diversity Role Models and more.

I’ve also presented and produced a queer magazine show called Out in South London on anarchic and artsy radio station Resonance FM for many years, where we give a platform to queer artists, filmmakers, musicians, writers and more.”

– Rosie Wilby introducing herself for the Proudly readers
Rosie Wilby
Rosie Wilby on stage performing

LGBTQ+ Representation within the media

When asked this question, Rosie believes that there’s certainly been an improvement in some ways since the days when she first began her career.

‘There are more out gay comedians. Although there’s a difference in the texture of how LGBTQ+ people are perceived and presented. There’s a trend now to promote the idea of sameness and that queer people are just the same as straight people.’

– Rosie Wilby on how she perceives LGBTQ+ representation in comedy

Rosie then went on to discuss that in many fundamental ways, we are. We are human. We feel happy, sad, angry, excited and all the same emotions. We fall in and out of love in all the same ways. But Rosie also believes that queer countercultural lives in previous decades had a very different texture too. And these legacies are in danger of being erased.

LGBTQ+ people pioneered new ways of thinking about family, friendship, monogamy, commitment and more. Alongside that, there was a thriving queer arts scene. Being outsiders freed us up to experiment. If we all just blend into a heteronormative society, I feel like something exciting about queerness is lost.

“In my utopia, we would preserve that whilst also keeping the progressive changes that have allowed us to feel safer out in public and to have equal access to structures like marriage.

When the queer counterculture disappears, there’s no more outsider art or outsider comedy. There are only gay comedians who play by the rules of straight society. That’s a very different vibe.” 

– Rosie Wilby discussing her utopia for LGBTQ+ representation
Rosie Wilby on stage
Rosie Wilby on stage

How did Rosie begin her career?

In my twenties, I was a singer-songwriter. Music was what I loved. I released an album on my own label… it must be twenty years ago now!

I was gigging all over and getting lovely press. However, my life was in a state of flux around the time that I turned thirty.

Rosie singing on stage
Rosie singing on stage

“I lost my mum to cancer days before my twenty-ninth birthday. A few months later, the flat I shared with my first serious girlfriend burned down in a terrible fire. We lost all our stuff.

And then broke up in the toilets at a curry house while we were all stained with soot, having been going through our burned belongings to see if we could salvage anything. It sounds like a really heavy time. It was.”

– Rosie discussing tragic moments in her passed which lead to her career change

Although many years later, I did find inspiration to write about the strange, febrile creativity that came in the wake of all this loss. One of my storytelling shows covered this, as did my first book (briefly). That creativity eventually lead me unexpectedly to comedy.

I’d always been quite self-deprecating in between my songs and made audiences laugh. So I read about a comedy competition and decided to enter. Then I entered another and another. I found myself getting through to semi-finals and finals and doing proper gigs at places like The Comedy Store.

So I toured comedy clubs for many years. Then when I started doing Edinburgh, I realised that I needed to have a theme, an angle. I began writing my trilogy about love – The Science of Sex, Is Monogamy Dead? and The Conscious Uncoupling.

These shows were underpinned by a lot of real research, more than I could really utilise in a comedy show. So it seemed inevitable that I’d eventually seek a way to get at least one book out into the world.

The middle part of the trilogy became my first book, which was longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. This May, my second book will be published. It’s called The Breakup Monologues and is based on my podcast of the same name

Rosie Wilby - The Breakup Monologue
Rosie Wilby – The Breakup Monologue

Career highlights

“I think maybe having my first book in my hands was a good moment. Comedy shows always feel quite transient.

Even if you film them, it isn’t the same as being there in the room at the time. The magic of it is gone.

Whereas a book is something that people can discover in years to come. My authentic voice is there on the page and it can’t be edited or misconstrued.” 

– Rosie Wilby on her career highlight
Rosie Wilby book signing
Rosie Wilby book signing

Did you face any discrimination or setbacks because of your gender or sexuality throughout your career?

“I think at the time that I started comedy, there was a tendency to put someone like me into a ‘lesbian comedian’ box rather than just a ‘comedian who happens to be a lesbian’ box.”

– Rosie Wilby discussing how people defined her sexuality when starting out.

Despite being put into a specific field due to her sexuality Rosie didn’t really mind. Due to her sexuality, it gave Rosie incredible opportunities to perform at a ton of wonderful LGBTQ+ festivals and events and loved having the loyal support of a lesbian audience.

Rosie Wilby on stage performing
Rosie Wilby on stage performing

But Rosie thinks that the days where you can survive as a queer artist playing to queer audiences are over.

“Perhaps now there’s a trend towards not caring so much about people’s sexuality, which as I explained above can be paradoxically both progressive and regressive.”

– Rosie Wilby discussing the evolution of LGBTQ+ representation in comedy

Rosie’s advice for aspiring LGBTQ+ writers and comedians

“Be authentic. Talk about what interests you and what you find funny!” 

– Rosie Wilby’s advice for aspiring LGBTQ+ writers and comedians

Get Involved

As mentioned previously, will be taking an insight into various LGBTQ+ creators to help inspire the young and upcoming journalists of today. If you have a story you would like to share or think you know someone who would like to share their story. Get in touch and get involved.

A huge thank you to Rosie for sharing her story and advice to our readers.

Rosie Wilby
Rosie Wilby

Rosie Wilby

Rosie Wilby social pages

Our readers can stay up to date with everything Rosie Wilby by viewing their social media pages below.

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