Black, gay, artistic, need your audience? You’re in trouble! 3

If you are gay, are in the public eye, and hope to make a career in the entertainment industry, there is one mistake you should never, ever make: DON’T put yourself out there as a lady’s man!! Please.All the gay men in the entertainment industry (and goodness knows there are more gay men in the world of music, movies, on the stage than I have had hot dinners) who have made it have one thing in common.

Let’s take a trip to illustrate the point:

Liberace

Liberace was a larger than life showman in the 1970s who pretended to be straight (he even claimed to nearly having married a woman at some point) while leading the most obviously flamboyant gay life in Las Vegas. He made a great living as a live performer and it is safe to say that no one who attended his ultra camp, sequin-dripping shows came away thinking that Liberace was anything other than a flaming queen. He, however, steadfastly denied being gay and won a couple of lawsuits after which he famously proclaimed that he “cried all the way to the bank.” Liberace died of Aids without having formally come out but nonetheless camped it up to the very end and died very rich indeed.

Elton John

Elton John, has always pushed the envelope with his outlandish costumes and stages antics. He actually once married some woman and then came out after he divorced her. Because he had never projected himself as a ladies’ man (when he married a woman, everyone was asking themselves “who is he trying to fool?”), Elton continued to make huge money and remains one of the most successful musicians of all time to this day. But let’s face it, no black man could go on stage in Elton John’s outrageous costumes, even with the talent, and get away with it. No one.

George Michael

Queen’s Freddie Mercury died of Aids in 1991 but his homosexuality was an open secret well before then, something that hurt Queen somewhat in Bible belt America where they should have mopped up but really didn’t realize their full potential despite their undeniable talent. There was no way one could have mistaken Mercury’s ‘leather’ look with those wife-beaters he wore on stage, or the handle-bar moustache that was his signature look. It would be impossible to believe that there is any woman who spent her nights oozing juices on account of the sexual effect Mercury had on them. His deal was clear despite the ambiguity and he died with money in the bank as a result. Of course he was helped along by the fact that he was a highly talented man with a voice that remains incomparable before or since.

On the other hand, George Michael was a swarthy teenage heartthrob in his early 20s which helped him sell millions of records to unsuspecting girls who came of age wetting themselves to his stunning looks and sugary pop hits. His homosexuality was always known in gay circles so when he was arrested for cottaging in a Los Angeles toilet, we all just shook our collective heads and went about our business. But George Michael had made most of his money projecting the image of a straight sex symbol and his career, already at a crossroads due to wrangles with his recording company, never recovered from the public humiliation of the gay sex-in-the-toilet incident.

Ricky Martin gyrated his hips, simulated sexual acts on stage and sent young girls swooning in the aisles. Gradually, he couldn’t run away from his true sexuality and he eventually came out a couple of years ago to no one’s surprise at all. He is still trying to make a living as a musician but it is safe to assume that his career as a heartthrob is over despite maintaining his stunning looks of yonder years. He is a great entertainer who is, moving forward, going to get a lot more pleasure raising his children than exciting revelers in sold-out stadiums.

Trey Songz

But then look at Trey Songz, …, though I have no evidence of it, there are too many telltale signs that point to a gay predisposition: too pretty in a delicate way, over-the-top attempts at proving that he is straight and, of course, there are the rumors that refuse to go away. Songz (real name Tremaine Aldo Neverson) seems to spend more time hatching plots to prove he is straight than he spends in the studio writing his own songs. He is trying too hard to be straight which is understandable since he is still at the stage when he hasn’t made enough money to thumb his nose at those whispering behind his back that he likes to spend his hot nights with naked men. If, however, he is gay, and continues taking his shirt off to make girls swoon, he is setting himself up for a fall so mighty they might have to rewrite the nursery rhyme replacing the title of Humpty Dumpty with Trey Songz.

Carter: note the lady’s negative body language

Terrell Carter. What can be said about the absolutely stunning Terrell Carter that has not been said already? He was outed by a spurned lover at absolutely the wrong time – when he was still trying to make it in the unforgiving world of macho black entertainment. He is now reduced to auditioning with nobodies on X-Factor.

Tevin Campbell: now … and then

Poor Tevin Campbell’s highly promising career, too, came to a screeching halt in 1999 on account of soliciting other men for gay sex in a public place. He happened to be unlucky that, like George Michael a year earlier, the man Campbell solicited for sex was a cop. Another talented black man’s career was halted by his gay sex johns.

Clearly the white gay boys know how to handle themselves better when it comes to keeping their sexuality vague or ambivalent. For the most part they act out their gay fantasies, sing opaquely about it or act so flamboyantly gay that only an idiot can fail to figure out what their orientation is. That was why you could hear the guffaws around the world when R.E.M’s Micheal Stipe announced that he was 80% gay. Oh, please, everyone sighed … we have known you are 100% gay for years darling and we don’t really care. That was a totally needless announcement from Stipe and one hopes that other musicians took a lesson from it.

Here is telling evidence if one needed one that the white world is more liberal about homosexuality than we black people. It is not accident that the ‘stars’ who have been outed, or have lived on the margins of being out, and have continued to have successful careers in show business are almost all white (Freddie Mercury was Indian but not many people knew this simply by looking at him), and have made their money from the white community. Elton John continues to sell out shows, thanks to the white fans he has grown up with. Notice, however, that these ‘white’ artists retained their fan base after their secret became public fodder. I think it is because they didn’t try too hard to pretend that they were straight; perhaps they were not attractive heartthrobs in the first place so that helped them not raise expectations in the minds of their straight following. Who can say that Liberace, Elton John or Freddie Mercury are/were exactly drop dead gorgeous ladies’ men who would have women taking off their panties and flinging them on stage?

Never came out despite the success: Luther Vandross

But there are a number of prominent black men that I know without a scintilla of doubt are gay because I have mingled in gay circles with them (no, not slept with any of them even though I would likely have jumped at the chance with two or three of them) who remain tightly closeted despite being very rich and seemingly happy in their gay skins when they are in gay company. The reason for this must be … the color of their skin. Despite their phenomenal achievements and financial success, these men still feel they will lose respect and credibility should they come out. And you know what? I can understand why they are so frightened to come out of the shell and shout it out given that we black people are still extremely judgmental hypocrites when it comes to matters of sexual morality.

If you are black, gay, artistic, and are still looking for a way to express yourself, while still climbing the rungs of success even as you live your gay life, please don’t ask me what you should do. Beyond warning you not to actively project the image of a straight sex symbol, I haven’t the faintest clue.

Related reading:

1. Black celebrities who died of Aids (most of them were gay but they never came out)
2. 10 of History’s Biggest HIV Positive Celebrities 
3. Why rappers are suddenly speaking out in support of Gay Pride