Soap Star Joanna Johnson Comes Out Alongside Her "Bold and the Beautiful" Character

Joanna Johnson, who plays fan favorite Karen Spencer on The Bold and the Beautiful, has decided to publicly come out as a lesbian alongside her character. In a new TV Guide Magazine interview she reveals that she came out to her parents when she was 23 and married the mother of her children, Michelle Agnew, in 2008 during the short time same-sex marriage was legal in California. Johnson was inspired to tell her story after learning that her character Karen would be part of the first LGBT storyline in The Bold and the Beautiful’s 25 year history.

“I used to hang out with Ellen Degeneres, k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge back in the day and thought it was so beautiful they were out, even though I didn't have the nerve,” Johnson says. “When I realized I was gay in my early twenties we didn't have role models like Ellen. I'm not anywhere near as famous as those ladies, but I guess it's my turn to do my little part. It's time to live a fully authentic life.”

Crystal Chapell, who previously portrayed lesbian characters in a groundbreaking storyline on Guiding Light as Olivia Spencer and Gina Brogno in webseries Venice, will join The Bold and the Beautiful cast starting May 16 as the partner of Johnson’s Karen Spencer character and one of the moms of their daughter Caroline.

When asked what she would tell her younger self, Johnson said, “Have the courage to embrace who you are. Don't project your own fears and low self-esteem onto others. Let your light shine!”

The Bold and the Beautiful airs weekdays on CBS.