Raven-Symoné Felt Pressure To Stay Closeted: “It’s Not Gonna Sell. It Doesn’t Go With The Brand”

"I had 15 people dictating what I should and should not look like," says the "View" co-host.

Raven-Symone says she was aware of her sexuality by the time she was 12, but being in the public spotlight made her feel like she had to hide who she was.

“My likeness… however you see it at that time, had 15 people dictating what I should and should not look like,” says the 30-year-old View co-host.

“If I did whatever I want, [I thought] ’It’s not gonna sell. It doesn’t go with the brand’… I never thought I would come out because my personal life didn’t matter. It was only what was supposed to be sold as the ’Raven-Symone’ brand.”

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The former Disney star may not be well-versed in American politics, but she’s frequently used her celebrity to raise awareness of LGBT issues: She’s just one of the celebrities appearing in the new third season of It Got Better, the web series following up on the It Gets Better campaign.

“I didn’t wanna tell my parents—I had the Number One show on Disney. I had multiple albums, I’d been on tour with ’N Sync… I didn’t wanna deal with that.”

In the segment, streaming now on L/Studio, Lexus’ digital content channel, Raven-Symoné admits she “pushed” herself to look for boys. “I look back now like, ’Whoa, you like girls.'”

Eventually, she says, hiding who you are “eats at your soul.” When she took a break from acting to go to college, she finally felt comfortable being out.

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“I didn’t have to have a ’beard.’ I didn’t have to have a man standing by me,” she recalls. “I felt lighter, I felt like I could go out and not have to put on 17 different hats to be myself.”

The third season of It Got Better is streaming now on L/Studio and features testimonials from Ian McKellen, Candis Cayne, Adam Lambert, EJ Johnson, and Wanda Sykes.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 30:  Author Dan Savage attends Word For Word Author 2013 Event at The Bryant Park  on May 30, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

“Each season, I feel like I learn so much about people I’ve admired for a long time, like Ian McKellen,” said It Gets Better Project co-founder Dan Savage, who is producing the series with Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky.

“But [we] learn about people we hardly knew anything about, which is a credit to the diversity of subjects we’ve been fortunate to be able to deliver year after year.”

Below, Raven-Symoné welcomes Martin Luther King III at the 2015 Logo Trailblazer Honors

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h/t: Entertainment Tonight

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.