No One Taught Adam Lambert “How to Be a Gay Celebrity,” But He’s a Quick Study

photo by eric shwabel for the advocate

Our gay boyfriend Adam Lambert is featured in The Advocate this week, where he’s asked many brand-new, never-before-heard questions like “what was up with that kiss at the American Music Awards?” (which I believed I crowned ‘The Best Gay Happening of 2009’ in some interview somewhere):

“I kind of asked for it in a way… not everything is so premeditated as people think it is. There are things that just happen, there are things you just do. It was an impulse… [it was] a bit reactionary on my part. I think I was a little overwhelmed with everything. It was me reacting a little bit to that ‘you’re not gay enough’ thing. At that moment for whatever reason I was like, Well, is this gay enough? It was me being a little bit pissed off!”

It’s really funny, the impulsive decisions we make in our lives without so much as a second of premeditation that we then spend the rest of our lives retrospectively examining and psychoanalyzing, trying to fit it into some kind of broader narrative that explains how we got here from where we used to be. In any event, he kept on kissing boys in his show.

As I wrote last November, I think Adam’s next album, which he discusses at length with The Advocate, will be the one that even hipsters will be forced to like because it’s just gonna be that good.

Adam describes it as “a more personal album, driven by vocal singer-songwriter tracks, electrofunk, and synth-pop in a Nine Inch Nails meets George Michael sort of way.”

Nine Inch Nails was what I cried/wrote/angsted to in the early 90s and George Michael is what I danced to in the early 90s, so basically it’s a gay baby and their Mom is the 90s and she has a lot of feelings and a very “of the now” haircut.

Adam says:

“No matter what the genre is, it’s all very personal, even on upbeat, fun tracks. The last album was a little bit more of a fantasy escape…even my image for that last album felt very theatrical and kind of over-the-top and intentionally tacky. I get a kick out of making artistic statements that are kind of ridiculous.

I think it’s going to let people underneath my facade a little bit — a self-created and totally admitted facade. I’m trying to convey to my audience that you really can’t judge a book by its cover, and there’s more to the universe than you can see with your eyes. It’s like existential pop.”

Described by The Hollywood Reporter as “among the most anticipated releases of 2012,” the album has been repeatedly delayed due to Adam’s perfectionist nature and other things related to the ever-unfolding “creative process.” It’s now slated for release “sometime in the first quarter of 2012.”

The Advocate also had questions regarding Lambert’s position within the industry as an out gay musician. Although two years ago Lambert seemed reluctant to identify as a “gay artist” — understandable, really, as he was essentially the first mainstream male pop star to be out from Day One and that’s a scary territory to navigate —  today his beliefs about gay rights and support of LGBT kids overshadow any image-management concerns:

“How many ways can I spell G-A-Y? Everybody knows I’m gay. And the thing that’s hard is, where’s there balance for me? I’m a musician and I’m writing music. I’m also becoming more involved sociopolitically, I’m getting involved with the Trevor Project and Equality California — these are things that I really do care about. But I do want to maintain a balance. What am I going to be known for in 15 years? I want to be known for my music, that’s my art. That’s what I’m contributing actively. I think visibility is a great tool, and that’s one other reason that I’ve been so verbal about it, but the irony is that here we are, talking about it.”

In mainstream culture, Lambert has found that his sexuality seems to be the primary focus of the conversation about his work, which is new for a guy who’d never been “defined by [his] sexuality.”

“All of a sudden it’s all about being gay. In some respects a lot of good can come from that. When I was a kid I didn’t have that many people to look up to. And if I’d had people in the public eye who were really up-front about it, it probably would have helped me. I feel like this is a conversation [Advocate] readers will understand where I’m coming from, because it’s tricky — I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing sometimes. Seriously. No one teaches you how to be a gay celebrity.”

I feel like he’s done a pretty good job so far — and bonus! He’s now in love, dating a Finland Big Brother winner with a name like a Nordic God: Sauli Koskinen. He makes Adam feel grounded, inspired, and happy!

Lambert also talks a little bit about his female fan base, who don’t let Adam’s sexuality get in the way of their crushes on him. It’s an important thing to note when we’re talking about “how to be a gay celebrity” — Hollywood mythology has long told its young hotties that coming out will ruin their marketability as a teenage heartthrob, but maybe it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.  It’s not like many fans realistically envision going steady with their idol, whether he swings that way or not.

Mega-hottie Amber Heard‘s career has, if anything, gotten better since she came out last year (though coincidentally, I think) — despite the fact that Playboy Club was cancelled, she still had the opportunity to star in a primetime teevee series, and she co-stars in the much-anticipated film Rum Diary, coming out soon. Zachary Quinto, a young male at the peak of what will surely be a storied Hollywood career, came out yesterday and so far the reception has been enormously positive.

Our generation might be setting a different standard for its crushworthy stars whose eminent hunkiness or bombshelldom would have, in prior decades, required an illusion of heterosexuality in order to be properly marketed.

But even aside from questions about commodification or marketability, for people like Adam who grew up in a fairly tolerant world, staying closeted would mean going backwards in the life they’d already built for themselves, would mean covering up the past. Celebrities like Portia de Rossi and Chely Wright grew up in a different world, wherein they were never out to ANYBODY, which made being closeted to the media a natural extension of the privately-established policy that governed every part of their lives.

But now we’ve got hot young things entering the business as out queer people or coming out shortly thereafter; people like Jonathan Groff and Jessie J and (of course) Adam Lambert. And it’s an identity that doesn’t define them but it is still a part of what makes them so special to many of their fans.

This was a cute quote:

I pick up this kind of energy among young people that it might not be the coolest thing to say you like Adam Lambert’s music. People don’t think that I’m cool. So I love that I have the kids who are like ballsy enough to be like, ‘Fuck it, I like Adam’s music.’ I mean, I am kind of a nerd. I feel like there’s a collective eye-roll when it comes to me, in the media and just in general consciousness — with the exception of my amazing Glamberts, my hard-core fans who are the opposite.”

And at a time when many Little Monsters are wondering if they still count as weirdos when everybody’s doing it, Adam Lambert’s hard-core Glamberts have never strayed or doubted the greatness of their American Idol. Can you blame them?


Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Join A+

riese

Marie Lyn Bernard, aka Riese, is an award-winning writer, blogger, journalist, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in the midwest, lost her mind in New York City and is currently making it work in California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better, The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image and The Hazards of Being Female," "Dirty Girls," and "The Best American Erotica of 2007," magazines including Nylon, Marie Claire, GO, Curve, Interlude, and CollegeBound, and all over the web including nerve.com, Jezebel, Queerty, Emily Books and OurChart (RIP). She was the recapper for The L Word Online and host of Showtime’s Lezberado and her personal blog has earned many dubious honors including Best Personal Blog 2008. Riese has spoken about blogging, community-building, feminism, cyberculture and sexuality at places like BlogHer, Yale, New York University, The University of Chicago and The Museum of Sex. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Interlochen Arts Academy and The Olive Garden's week-long training intensive; she enjoys eating foods, having big ideas, reading books & talking to her stuffed dog, Tinkerbell. Also, she's Jewish. Follow her smokin’ hot adventures on twitter. Contact: riese[at]autostraddle.com

Riese has written 2895 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. Love him dearly and play him all the time for my grand children. So glad he came along in my lifetime. And, yes, I was an Elvis and Beatles fan but nothing compares to my being an Adam Lambert fan. Totally a GLAMBERT!!

  2. Adam never minded being indentified as a gay artist. Where he differed was he wanted to be identified as just an artist, a good artist, without the gay tag. It wasn’t and still isn’t necessary.

  3. No, we have never doubted Adam, not from January 2009. We had some heart-stopping moments after the AMAs hoping he hadn’t lost his chance at greatness, but it was because believe in him so deeply. Then, when we watched the interviews, his honesty, his humor, his intellect, we knew that even if there are people who will never accept him, he is one of a kind and deserves every bit of success the universe sends his way.
    We have been protective, sometimes overly protective, but that is only because of the hate that was spewed his way. Now we pick our battles, only call out the small-minded, mean idiots, and leave the cretins to their own devices.
    Support like that which you have given him is even more important because you have the influence that we, as individuals, do not. Thank you for that.

  4. You guys should totally sell Lesbians for Lambert merchandise cuz I know there are quite a few. Its fascinating to me since really not so many gay guys like or support him. And so basically my take is there is simply a sexiness that is like a silent dog whistle attracting women to him and it has nothing to do with orientation but just a primal urge towards the pretty. One of my first introductions to the Adam Lambert fandom was in an article written by a middle aged author that said something like Why do I want to Throw my Underwear at Adam Lambert. And this was before plenty of women were doing just that on the American Idol tour of all things.

    I think this is indeed a great step towards showing others, both performers and producers, that fans will appreciate art and talent and yes, sexy, regardless of orientation. Its great to see so many current performers being strong enough to come out and Adam has helped that no doubt. He asks in this article what his legacy will be and he wants it to be his music but his impact overall WILL be judged greater than that and he should be proud.

  5. I appreciate this article so much. Some are just starting to “get” Adam Lambert. I’m proud that I’ve been a proud card-carrying Glambert from day one. Adam brought me to life, and I support and trust him with the knowing that he is part of a great shift to a more accepting loving world. His music is an amazing part of him, but there’s so much for the history books where Adam Lambert is concerned. His star has only begun to rise!!!

  6. Adam is doing very well indeed. IMO, it is easier for a male celebrity to stay out than it is for a female celebrity. Much of it has to do with how gay men and lesbians are viewed by the mainstream. The mainstream never states a gay man may be going through a phase or may end up with the opposite sex. The same does not hold for a lesbian so lesbians, who become worried about their career, have an option, due to disrespect shown to their sexuality by much of the mainstream, of going right back in the closet.

    Amber Heard is interesting but, considering that it is mainly straight men who decide who gets the jobs, my concern is if she will have the strength and resolve to stay openly queer. The worst thing needed now is her getting worried about job offers drying up and deciding she has to be on the arm of a guy. So far so good but we will see.

  7. “It’s not like many fans realistically envision going steady with their idol, whether he swings that way or not.”

    Actually I was running on the treadmill at the gym when I found out that Lindsay Lohan was dating Sam Ronson and I threw my hands up in the air and squealed a little because my chances had suddenly improved.

  8. On the subject of a gay male pop star’s “marketability” …

    I remember reading somewhere — linked off of Jezebel, probs — some pop science study where it was determined exactly why young girls looooovvve prepubescent male pop stars like Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers, Hanson &c. These guys present for their fans a delicate balance between manly and boyish traits: manly enough to be desirable; boyish enough to be nonthreatening.

    This theory rings true to me. And it seems like a gay male pop star will be able to interact with his female fans in a similar sort of way. There’s no reason for his publicists to be fearful, clearly.

  9. Riese, it’s funny that you say “the impulsive decisions we make in our lives without so much as a second of premeditation that we then spend the rest of our lives retrospectively examining and psychoanalyzing” because these are the lyrics in a Diane Cluck song (folk singer, lesbian, writes a lot about her relationship with women and living in a ‘man’s world’ by the way), Montecarlo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSLm_P43ug8 “While we spent three quarters of our time apologizing for the quarter of the time that we’re thoughtless and thoughtless and mean”.

  10. Anyone who is worried about gay men being ‘Marketable’ to women because of their sexuality only needs to look at the massive amount of Fanfiction that pairs different men, both strait and gay, together in fantasy relationships. Adam and indeed his whole circle of friends feature massively in this, and the majority of it is written by women.
    There really doesn’t seem to be a problem on the fantasy level.
    Indeed there seems to be more of a concern that some are getting so involved with these fantasies that reality and fiction is getting somewhat blurred for some.
    I don’t think this is really surprising considering how many strait men fantasize about lesbians.

  11. Would it be weird for me as a straight woman to proudly wear a Lesbians for Lambert t-shirt? I met so many amazing women at his concerts and a friend at work came out to me when she found out I was a fan. She said she knew she could trust me because ‘his fans take a lot of shit’ and still support him. No one should ever have to lie about who they like, and certainly not about who they are.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!