Makeup Artist Jacob Stella: ‘How the Relationship With My Family Changed After Coming Out’

Jacob Stella
Instagram @andthatsjacob

For the fifth year in a row, POPSUGAR is dedicating the month of June to recognising LGBTQIA+ voices, having honest conversations about sexuality and gender, and honouring individuality, through personal essays and allyship guidance. A roster of contributors along with the POPSUGAR team are sharing these stories throughout the month, so be sure to find all our pieces here.

When you grow up as a quirky and different kid and, down the track, finally discover who you are, it is the most exciting yet TERRIFYING thing you’ll ever experience. On one hand, you feel like you have finally found your people and your place in the world, and have found others that you can relate to because you have all been through the same struggle together.

But then, you snap back and realise — after analysing your social conditioning (family, friends and work expectations) — that those around you may not be as excited as you are.

Growing up in a relatively conservative Catholic/Italian household, it’s interesting now looking back to see how aware I was that I was different from such a young age. A lot of gay people (not all) that I’ve spoken to about this have all said that they, too, knew from quite a young age that they were different. Not gay, not bi, not transgender, not non-binary, just different.

It’s fascinating how throughout the years of growing up, I’ve been able to very quickly establish and recognise who is for me, and not for me. Even now I can still recall comments made about gay people from my dad’s friends or even some of my extended family from when I was probably around six years old.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this article that I really asked myself: “What does pride actually mean to me?.” Pride is something that I’ve celebrated, but quietly.

Growing up in a household where gay people weren’t really celebrated or even spoken about (because in traditional European religious households they were still seen as a ‘sin’), I’ve noticed that my parents’ lack of education about the community and the people in it definitely led to some of their misunderstanding and bias/judgment being projected onto me.

Pride is something that I’ve only really celebrated over the last few years and it comes in all different shapes and sizes. When I placed in the Top 6 of the FACE Awards (presented by NYX Cosmetics), my Nonna (grandmother) was the one helping me design and create my final costume. My final look was in full DRAG. I never thought that was possible or would’ve ever happened.

My mother and I have even had conversations where she’s admitted that she was a little biased with her own thoughts and opinions (before I came out) just because of her own upbringing, conditioning from her parents and the media at the time — she didn’t know enough about the culture to understand.

However, after I came out to her, she realised that all of those thoughts of “what will people think?”, “what will people say?”, “are people going to accept him?”, “what does this mean for him?”, were her own insecurities.

After putting these (and her ego) aside, she understood that nothing changes. I’m still the same Jacob she’s always known. She knew that she needed to be there for me, otherwise she potentially could have lost me. Just like many parents of LGBTQIA+ children tend to if they’re not willing to check themselves.

After donating to LGBTQIA+ charities under my brand BOCAJ Beauty, supporting my local queens at bars and clubs, and even attending Mardi Gras for the first time last year, I’ve grown to understand that Pride isn’t just of the month of June, but a celebration of each other and our incredibly diverse and accepting community all year round.

I truly believe we have our blood-related family, and then — as gay people especially — we have our chosen family. The people we choose to surround ourselves with, who uplift us and inspire us and make us feel like we’re not the crazy ones, but everyone else around us is.

You can follow Jacob Stella on Instagram.

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