Jo Ellen Pellman won’t have to worry about working multiple jobs again after her star-defining performance in The Prom, in which she plays Emma, a high schooler who is banned from attending her prom with her girlfriend.
The musical’s storyline really struck a chord with the young actress. “I’m queer and my mom is gay. It was like this musical was made for people like us. Then it was July of 2019 that I got the audition, I saw Meryl Streep’s name in the email and I immediately screenshot it and send it to my mom!”
The Prom’s messages of self and public acceptance profoundly spoke to Jo Ellen. “When I came out to myself, to my mom and my friends in high school, I was 17, so I was actually the same age that Emma is in the film.
“I am so freaking lucky that I got to grow up in a queer-affirming household, but also a queer household. My mom is openly gay in Cincinnati, Ohio. She knew she wanted to have a kid, she has been a single parent and she’s raised me. I think she did such a great job. I have so much respect for her and the fact that I was able to grow up and see, ‘Wait, being gay is not a choice of lifestyle, it’s not something weird, it’s the norm.’ I think everything about where I am today is from my upbringing and how that was just celebrated and normalized, and it’s because of my mom.”