Entertainment :: Culture

Former ’Teletubbies’ Star Says Characters Weren’t Gay

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Monday Jun 4, 2012
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The actress who played the yellow creature on the popular ’90s children show the "Teletubbies" recently dispelled old rumors that the four characters were gay, the British newspaper the Telegraph reported.

Nikky Smedley,49, played the yellow Teletubby Laa-Laa on the hit show and says that the creatures were not "sexual beings."

"I think it’s embarrassing for the people who said it," she said. "What kind of person can take the obvious innocence and turn it into something else? We were hardly sexual beings."

"Teletubbies" aired from 1997 until 2002 and was highly successful. Although the series was aimed towards pre-schoolers it was praised for its high production values and gained a cult following with adults.

Since the show ended Smedley has been working as a professional storyteller but also appeared as Laa-Laa one last time for the show’s 10th anniversary in March 2007.

Rumors about Tinky Winky’s sexual orientation made world headlines in 1999 after evangelical fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell said that the purple humanoid was "a gay role model". He based his conclusions off the Teletubby’s appearance -- because it had an upside down triangular antenna and because it is purple, which are both symbols of the gay pride movement, the article notes. Tinky Winky was also criticized by some for carrying a bag, which looks like a woman’s purse.

The BBC, which co-produced the program, made an official statement to Falwell’s remarks, which echo Smedley’s stance.

"Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag."

Ken Viselman of Itsy-Bitsy Entertainment, which distributed the show in the U.S., also made a statement, "He’s not gay. He’s not straight. He’s just a character in a children’s series."

In 2007 the rumors resurfaced after Poland’s watchdog for children’s rights said that she wanted psychologists look into Tinky Winky’s sexual orientation, the Associated Press reported.

Ewa Sowinska, ombudsman for children’s rights, made the remarks in a Polish magazine after a journalist asked her what she thought about the controversial creature.

"I noticed that he has a purse, but I didn’t realize he’s a boy. At first I thought that must be a bother for him," Sowinska told the magazine in an interview. "Later I learned that there could be some hidden homosexual undertones."

Sowinska soon retracted her statement and said she won’t ask any professionals to investigate the issue.

The former "Teletubbeis" star says she’s proud of the show and her role in the program.

"It is fantastic that somewhere in the world a child will be looking at Laa-Laa and laughing," Smedley said. "I’m very proud of what I’ve done, but I don’t like to be distant from children - you can’t hear them laugh from a TV."

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