Juan Pablo Di Pace first opened up about his sexuality publicly earlier this year, but compared with many celebrities, his words are having an inadvertently delayed impact.
Best known for his role on Netflix’s “Fuller House,” the Argentinean actor announced he was gay during a TEDx Talk in March. His speech, titled “The Story of Your Life,” was delivered before students at United World College in the Netherlands.
Di Pace’s appearance began making global headlines only after video footage of the talk was uploaded to YouTube June 29, possibly to coincide with Pride Month. In it, the actor recalls how bullies tormented him with anti-LGBTQ slurs during his childhood, an experience that he says forever shaped his identity and career path.
“In order to please others, what do you do, really? You change,” he said in the speech, embedded above. “I figured if I changed my ‘faggot’ self, I could be ‘in.’ I hated that word so much that I spent years perfecting myself to become a very convincing little actor. I was desperate to fit in. I wanted to know what it was like to be part of life, or if there were other people out there like me.”
The 39-year-old ― who competed on “Dancing With the Stars” last year ― went on to describe how he found solace in the performing arts. But his real path to self-acceptance began in 2015 when he landed “the role of a lifetime,” playing Jesus Christ in the NBC miniseries “A.D. The Bible Continues.”
“So there I am, hanging on the cross in Morocco,” said Di Pace, who was raised Catholic. “I look up at the sky, and I think, ‘You could still strike me down with lightning. Are you sure you want me to play your son?’”
Instead, he felt “an overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance and freedom that I could never even put into words. A message from God? Maybe.”
In an interview with People magazine published Wednesday, Di Pace said he’d told his family and friends that he was gay more than 20 years before the TEDx Talk. His concerns over the impact his sexuality might have on his Hollywood career, however, prompted him to keep mum about his private life in the media.
“It is something that I was keeping, you know, quiet for a reason thinking that perhaps this in my industry was something to guard, because there’s always the paranoia with artists as well.”
“It is something that I was keeping, you know, quiet for a reason thinking that perhaps this in my industry was something to guard, because there’s always the paranoia with artists as well,” Di Pace said. He now sees the TEDx Talk, and the subsequent video, “as an opportunity to also heal myself.”
The actor’s fans, meanwhile, applauded him on social media. “Every young person in the world should hear your words, because everyone feels ‘less than’ at some point in their lives,” one person wrote on Instagram. Another praised his speech as “so honest and liberating.”
And though his family members struggled to accept his sexuality at first, Di Pace said, it’s now “a completely different thing.”
“My father can’t wait for me to get married, have my own kids,” he told People. “We have these conversations now, and it’s quite stunning, and my parents are everything to me and to see the growth in them it’s a beautiful, beautiful development.”