Dancing With The Stars 2019: Courtney Act Is Already A Winner
Ahead of Monday's grand finale, Courtney Act's impact on the show has been massive for many Aussies.
This season of Dancing with the Stars has had it all. With an incredible cast, some huge surprises, heartbreaks and so many cha chas, even ahead of the grand finale on Monday, Courtney Act is already a winner in our eyes.
We're not talking about the quality of her dances -- which have put her at the top of the leaderboard most weeks -- but the way she has used the show to speak about her experiences as a queer Australian.
Courtney -- or Shane Jeneck -- first made history on Aussie TV in 2003 by appearing on Australian Idol. Initially, the show turned down Shane's audition, so the next day Courtney showed up and passed through, becoming the first opening queer and gender diverse contestant on a reality talent show.
Since then, Courtney has appeared on other shows like RuPaul's Drag Race and Celebrity Big Brother UK. During her stint on CBBUK, the other celebrity cast would often discuss Courtney's sexuality, gender identity and career as a drag performer. There were also several discussions between Courtney and India Willoughby, the first trans woman newsreader.
During a conversation between the pair, Courtney said, "We know that a lot of people just see us the same, and we both know that that’s completely incorrect."
She went on to explain her theory that gender exists on a spectrum, "You know if one is female and six is male... I’m probably a four or a three-and-a-half, I’m close to the middle, but I’m on the male side of the middle."
It was a frank discussion but the massive audience at home saw Courtney calmly speak about being gender queer in a way that isn't often seen on mainstream TV. She went on to win the series.
Cut to Dancing with the Stars, and Courtney and her professional dance partner Joshua Keefe made history by being the first same-sex partnership to dance together.
And again, Courtney used her time on a mainstream reality series to speak about her own experiences.
Dancing the tango early in the series, Courtney performed a striking ode to her own coming to terms with gender. She explained that her most memorable year was 2014, because that was the year she came to a resolution of sorts on her own "internal battles with masculinity, femininity and gender identity".
"Masculinity was so ingrained in me and I was taught that men had to be men and women had to be women," she said, "it always felt like a battle because I wanted to be Barbie and I wanted to be Ken all at the same time."
A few weeks later she performed another incredible, deeply personal dance dedicated to the difficulties of dating when you are gender fluid.
Recounting a time when Courtney -- in drag -- met a guy, felt a connection and later realised he may not have clicked that Courtney is also Shane, she said: "It wasn't my intention to deceive this guy... it's just a part of my life."
Then, in the semi-final, Courtney took a backseat and for the first time, Shane took the dancefloor to perform alongside Josh. It was yet another historic moment -- the first time on Aussie TV that a same-sex couple performed together on DWTS.
Courtney is also competing for the charity Black Rainbow, Australia's first and only suicide prevention organisation for LGBTQ+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The organisation also assists those in situations like domestic abuse and homelessness.
"In 2019 I feel like the way forward is to not just think about ourselves but about people who are different from us and think about how we can all amplify each other's voices," Courtney told 10 daily in an earlier interview.
Courtney's visibility on the show has not only shone a light on her own experiences, but has normalised conversations around gender fluidity and sexual identity. It's also seen two men dancing on the series and being judged not for their gender, but because they didn't have enough hip movement.
While making history on TV is nothing new to Courtney, having her voice and story on TV is something new for us. Representation matters, and to have someone like Courtney performing week after week with a vulnerability to tell her story shows young LGBTQ+ Australians that it's okay to be who you are.
The impact this has goes beyond the incredible performances Courtney and Josh have delivered week after week, and to see those conversations played out on primetime TV can't be understated.
We're glad Courtney has made it to the finals, but at the end of the day, her time on Dancing with the Stars has been a perfect 10 already.
Dancing With The Stars Grand Finale Airs Monday, April 22 at 7:30, only on 10 and WIN Network.
Featured image: Network 10.