“I want to make it easier for people like me,” she says about being a public advocate for equality and ending faith-based bigotry.
We caught up with her at her home in New York City to talk about her first Pride and how she’s handling her fresh freedom.
We hear you’re engaged! Congratulations! How are you juggling touring, promoting the book, your activism AND planning a wedding?
Chely: It’s labor intensive! I’ve always been a busy person but now I have several jobs to do. I used to write songs five days a week and now I find myself doing advocacy five days a week! Right now, I’m still trying to learn to manage my new life while planning a wedding. I still have a big learning curve.
Tell us about your first Pride experience.
Chely: The first one I did was Lansing Pride and a couple days later I did Capital Pride [Washington D.C]. Lansing was a small pride but it was a good way to start. The crowd was really excited that I was there. I went to Capital Pride and it was a big celebration and it was very emotional. I remember I was performing on stage and I looked behind me and I saw the Capitol building. I was standing proudly in front of thousands of LGBT folks. I felt as if I were finally fulfilling my duty as an American. I finally felt that I was standing up for freedom and equality.
You’re the subject of a new documentary film, Wish Me Away, that examines your coming out. What has the reaction been from audiences?
Chely: The world premiere happens in L.A. but there was a sneak peek screening at the Nashville Film Festival. It’s being well received. It is a very emotional film but I think it is less of a country singer comes out story and more of an universal story of anyone coming to terms with being themselves. Finding the courage to say who I am is what the story is about.
What was going through your mind when Ellen said she was proud of you while on her talk show?
Chely: I watched when Ellen came out on TV and it caused a cyclone of emotion in me that confused me in all the greatest ways that it should have. It scared me and inspired me…I eventually read her mother’s book and again it troubled me again because I thought to myself that I will never have a parent like that. But I did have a parent who loved me like that so to be sitting on her stage and have her grab my hand and say, “I’m proud of you,” meant more to me than anyone could imagine.
There is a lot of darkness in your coming out story but it has a beautiful ending…What has the epilogue been like so far?
Chely: Well the good thing is that I know the ending. From the moment I decided to come out in 2007 I have been incredibly happy. It took me a couple years to write my book and prepare for my public outing but from the moment I made that decision I knew my life was going to be better. I knew it was going to be painful and emotional but I saw the light and it was dim and way off but I could taste freedom. I don’t know how I did it but having freedom is so much more amazing than I could ever imagine.
Chely’s memoir Like Me is out now in paper back and her seventh studio album Lifted Off The Ground is available on iTunes. You can follow her on Twitter @chelywright or on www.chely.com
We ask Kimberley Locke why so many gay men love her.
“I was hoping YOU could tell me!!” she says with a burst of laughter.
Gay men have stuck by Locke since her days battling it out on American Idol and much of it comes from her ability to make us dance our asses off. Fans can expect to do just that when she performs in St. Louis for the first time at this year’s PrideFest. She called us from L.A. where she’s been busy preparing the release of new music with her own entertainment company, I-AM-ENTERTAINMENT.
You are releasing your next single independently…Are you nervous about doing it on your own?
Kimberley: Oh my god, I am so nervous! Anytime you step out on your own you should be nervous because it takes a ton of confidence to represent yourself. I literally just started my label over the holidays. It was something I had been thinking about for a couple years but I never felt like I had the right tools to do it but then I had this epiphany where I saw that I did have the tools so what was I waiting for?
But the nervousness becomes a nervous excitement as you see your vision come together. It’s like being on stage…it propels you into greatness so you can channel it and give your best performance.
You are also starting production on a new daytime TV show for ABC called The Revolution (working title) with style guru Tim Gunn.
Kimberley: I’m very excited for the show! It is a panel show that’s basically about lifestyle transformations. It’s about helping that person who needs a reset in their life…with their job, finances, weight loss, family, we are going to cover it all. We’ll give practical and doable tips on how to manage your health and lifestyle so I’ll basically be a mentor for the women on the show.
What would be your best piece of summer fashion advice?
Kimberley: For me it’s all about having that summer dress you can dress up or down. Something you can wear with flip flops, a nice bag and sunglasses or a wedge heel and some great earrings to wear in the evening. I always go for a great color too. Since it’s summer you can go there with bright colors like teal or orange.
Do you still follow American Idol? Thoughts on the current season?
Kimberley: I’ve been watching the current season off and on but so far my two favorites (Casey Abrams and Jacob Lusk) have already been voted off! It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top this year.
On a scale from 1 to10, how GAY is American Idol?
Kimberley: [Laughter] Oh my god! No body has ever asked me that! I think that some seasons are more gay than others [laughing]. I’ll be honest with you, I think that American Idol does a really good job at keeping themselves broad enough musically where they’re not pigeonholed into a specific demographic BUT because the gay fans also have such a broad appreciation of music I can see why it is a gay man’s show. I’d love to be a fly on the wall at an Idol party full of gay men just to hear their critiques!
What makes a great dance record?
Kimberley: It has got to have a great hook and a power note. It HAS to have that money note.
You’re holding a contest on your Facebook page for your fans to choose your next single starting May 24th…can you give us an idea of what the tracks sound like?
Kimberley: Straight dance music where your head explodes at the bridge with glow sticks in your mouth! Whatever you do in that kind of scenario that’s what these songs are.
Looking back at the Kimberley we met on those first Idol auditions, do you ever think about her and the journey she was about to take?
Kimberley: You know, it’s funny, sometimes I look back and I feel like two different people with two completely different lives. It’s so hard to imagine that this little biracial girl growing up in a country town would be here in this moment. I was no different than the kid next door from a broken home but I look back at everything that has shaped me into who I am and I persevered. Right now, I’m riding the wave and letting it take me wherever it goes. I’m starting to believe I can do whatever I set my mind to.
Kimberley’s fan voting campaign for her new single begins May 24th on her Facebook fan page where you can receive automatic updates. You can also follow Kimberley on Twitter @KimberleyLocke and visit her at www.KimberleyLockeOfficial.com
BY: JOSHUA BARTON – STAFF WRITER