When asked about his personal coming out experience, YouTuber Todrick Hall can’t help but laugh.
While Todrick came out to his family and friends when he was 14-years-old, it wasn’t until last year that he made the decision to discuss his sexuality with his fan base. And what better — and more Todrick — way than to share the news in an original music video. Titled “Cinderfella,” Todrick’s remake of Cinderella quickly went viral and has been viewed over a million times.
A former contestant on the ninth season of “American Idol,” Todrick is a talented singer, songwriter and choreographer whose YouTube channel has become best known for its original music videos and intricate flash mobs. Talking with NMR, Todrick shared his advice for Pride event novices and how his stand for marriage equality almost tore his family apart.
What does Pride Week mean to you?
Pride Week means a lot to me because I grew up in a very conservative town and in a very conservative neighborhood with a very conservative family, and when I used to hear that Pride was in town it was always something that I wanted to go to but I was just unsure of who I was at that time. And now it’s exactly that, a time for me to be proud. I go there and just look around and it makes me smile. I just went to Pride actually here in L.A., and it was just so uplifting and inspiring and promising to see so many families and little kids and elderly people and people who are not gay but are just there supporting their children and other family members. It just means progress to me.
What was the first Pride Week that you went to?
This year was my first Pride. I did go to West Hollywood
last year during Pride but it was just by fluke accident — I just went there to get a milkshake and realized it was Pride. This year I bought the flag, I went there for the parade, and I enjoyed the festivities — saw the Ciara concert — so this year was my first Pride ever.
Do you have any advice for people who have never been to a Pride event?
Just be prepared to be open-minded and see a bunch of crazy stuff that you’ve never seen before, because I absolutely love the fact that there are people who are just not afraid to show whatever they have. There are people there — I wish that I was that confident in my body and my image — they go there and they just strut their stuff, and it’s just so inspiring to see people just being 100 percent themselves, because it’s very often that we go places and everyone is only giving 50 percent of themselves. And so I would say that anyone going to Pride just be prepared to have fun.
What was your coming out experience like?
Well I came out to my family when I was 14-years-old, but I was very career-focused and so the people who know me personally, I came out, but I came out in phases. I came out to my friends, then my family, and I actually never acknowledged the fact or said anything about myself being gay or straight or bisexual or whatever until I made the “Cinderfella” video — that was my way of coming out. I was like, I want to do something artistic, I love Disney, I love the story of Cinderella and I think this is — you know Google came out with the Legalize Love campaign and they launched that on the internet, and I was like, I want to do something that shows what I do but then directly pertains to this topic. And so I made the “Cinderfella” video and that was my way of coming out [laughs], and I thought that everyone was going to be like, “Yeah congratulations you’re gay!” but instead people were writing in the comments on the video they were just like, “So does this mean he’s gay, or does he just support gay people?” So it was kind of an epic fail that I came out with a viral video and still people were wondering whether or not I was gay.
What does it mean to that you’re now a part of this campaign that so many LGBT YouTubers are joining to really take a stand for equality?
It means a lot to me, and not so much just to be a part of the group with the other LGBT YouTubers, because that is awesome in itself, but this main thing that I do is I did a video on YouTube called “It Gets Better,” and it was the video that changed my life and let me know that I really wanted to do music. YouTube can be more than just a video that you click on to make people laugh. The whole Dan Savage campaign “It Gets Better” was going on while I was on Broadway, and I made this “It Gets Better” video to promote that campaign and I got literally over 3,000 messages from kids like teenagers and even kids that were as young as 9 and 10-years-old that already knew that they have these feelings and that they were gay and they wanted to express that, and it changed my life to be able to have a voice for these kids because that song was an uplifting song because so many people were committing suicide and writing me things that I’ve never felt such strong feelings like “I didn’t know where I belong” and “I didn’t have anyone that loved me and nowhere to turn.” These kids get made fun of everyday at school and then they can’t go home and talk to their family because their family is also bullying them and that just must be a crazy existence for someone who is going through that, and so my song — I felt from what these kids were writing me — helped change these kids’ lives and helped in some cases save their lives, and because of that, that is the reason I’m most proud to be a part of this.
That is amazing. How do you see YouTube having the opportunity to reach out to these communities that feel like they don’t have anyone else to turn to?
Well just that. We have a voice to make people laugh and to do crazy things and the cinnamon challenge and you know, “Gangnam Style” parody and “Harlem Shake,” but what I try to do on my channel is touch every single aspect of being entertaining. And if that means we make a video that cuts to someone’s heart and makes them cry or touches someone’s mind and inspires them to do something or just inspires people to just be better people. As YouTubers sometimes we want to just get views, and I think that we don’t realize that we have a built-in audience to say things that we need to say. And it kind of, in a sense, this whole gay pride thing kind of tore my family apart for a while. I didn’t talk to my mom for nine months because I took a stand about marriage equality and things like that, and my mom didn’t think that was the best career move for me, and I think in a sense YouTube brought my family together because I had been saying to my mom like, “I don’t want to be one of those people who sits on the sidelines and doesn’t talk about real issues because these are issues that are not just real issues for some people, they’re issues for your own son and other people that are in my family.” And so to me it’s amazing that YouTube was ever invented and that now we have a platform to speak to people on a much larger level then we would have ever been able to years ago, and we’re changing people’s lives which is so crazy, you know? And it’s just a blessing; I honestly feel blessed to be a part of the YouTube family and blessed to be a part of the LGBT family as well.
What were you doing when you found out about the Supreme Court ruling this morning?
I was watching reruns of “Dance Moms” this morning, and then my phone started blowing up. I’m just ecstatic about this. One thing that people don’t know about me is I am dating someone who is Australian, and it is very difficult because this is my second time falling in love with a man who is not American, and so I am hoping that this is just a step closer to us being able to be married and being able to stay in this country and not have to worry about marrying a female or whatever. I just think it’s ridiculous that it’s been this long, and so when I hear things like this it affects me personally and also people that I know and love and I’m just so excited about taking one step further and being able to look at this. I didn’t even know because I grew up kind of sheltered that once black people and white people couldn’t get married, and so this is to me as ridiculous as that when I see things like this happen; it lets me know we’re on our way to being able to look back at this and my kids being like, “Wow what? You guys couldn’t get married? You had to fit for that? Make YouTube videos to explain to close-minded people why we should be able to get married?” And I can’t wait for the day where I have to say, “Yes son, I did” — in my Mufasa voice — “Yes son, we had to fight to be married and to have you here legally.” But yeah it warms my heart and brought a tear to my eye to see Obama was promoting this and he tweeted some beautiful things today, and I just think that slowly but surely we’re making progress, and progress is just a beautiful thing.
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