Adam Lambert: The Out Interview
By Shana Naomi Krochmal
In early October, Out sat down with Adam Lambert for an hour-long talk about his upcoming album, life inside the American Idol machine, and how carving out a career in the music industry is still easier for him than being in love. (Lambert and then-boyfriend Drake LaBry broke up following that interview, after Out went to press.)
In the first half of our extended interview transcript (read part two here), Lambert gives us a play-by-play from the center of Fox's PR storm, talks about his taste in men (hint: 'pretty' is pretty important), and gets graphic about just how far curiosity can carry you.
Out: Let's start off by talking about Lady Gaga.
Adam Lambert: I saw those pictures in Out, the Halloween pictures. They were incredible! I'm so refreshed by her. I think she's finally taking risks. Like where are those people? You know what I mean? I'm inspired by it. I'm like, 'Yeah, fuck yeah. Let's take risks.'
We all wanted those rumors that you would take Kanye's place on that tour to be true.
[Laughs.] Not true. It would be really fun.
Would it be the gayest tour ever?
It would probably be. The audience would be amazing, probably, at that tour. It's really funny to me because a lot of my core fans -- people that went to the Idol concerts, and I glance at the messages boards once in a while -- there is a surprising amount of them that don't like her.
And I'm like, but -- her way of approaching music is not that far off from what I'm trying to do. She's doing what the club kids are doing and making it like, Top 40.
What has that inspired you to do?
Definitely just to take risks. Sonically, the actual style of her music is, like, club music. It's not necessarily as avant garde as she's presenting visually, but that's what makes it so genius. It's a song that everybody loves and she's getting to play dress up and doing whatever the hell she wants. Which, I think, is what it should be. It's how you interpret it.
Is what you learned on Idol applicable to the real world of the music industry?
I think so, yeah.
Do you feel like you're having a different level of conversation with music execs?
When I stop and realize who it is that I'm talking to and what they've done, I'm like, holy shit. These people are powerful and they have a resume like'whew. I try to not to think about it. It's the same way I dealt with the show. Just don't think about the fact that there are 30 million people watching right now, just do your thing. Just stand on stage, sing for the people in the television audience, and don't think about the cameras.
How did you manage that?
I think that what I did on Idol was me thinking to myself, OK, I want to stay on the show as long as possible, so what do I have to do to keep people interested? For me, that was kind of going into slightly chameleon-like situations where this week, I'm going to do more like this, and sound like this. I was always me, but now I'm going to go here, now I'm going to go there. Because we had different themes, and that's what you kind of have to do. Trying to give it a through-line with me at the center of it, but playing different types of music. This week I'm not going to have any rocker style. I'm going to do Motown. I'm not going to wear any makeup, and I'm going to do my cleaned-up classic retro look. And people were like, 'Wow!' And I'm like, 'To me it's not really that different. I'm just wearing a suit, I just brushed my hair.'
Watching your performance on Idol, it was almost like you were using an old-fashioned code to say, 'We're all in on this.' Tell me which parts of that were deliberate.
There was never any deliberate, like, 'I'm going to hint now'' because I was never in the closet. The funny thing about dealing with all that was' [Long pause.] When those pictures came out online, I got freaked out. I was like, 'Great, that's gonna fuck things up.' 'Cause I just figured, you know, this is a national television program and people are conservative in our country, aside from L.A. and New York and a couple of other places.
I think for a lot of people, no matter how out you've been, you have these moments where you're like, 'How are people going to react?'
To be honest with you, it was a really weird moment, because I've been living in L.A. for eight years like, yeah, I'm gay. I go out to gay clubs and bars and I go out to straight clubs and bars too. I don't think twice about it. And it was the first time since I'd come out of the closet at 18 that I had to think about it.
During the audition process, it didn't come up? Like, 'Okay, I'm going to maybe pull this back a little''
I was just going to make it a non-issue, because to me, it really isn't about that. It's about the entertainment factor. And I don't understand why it has to be about my sexuality. I'm just not going to talk about it one way or another. It doesn't matter. And then when those pictures came out, I was like, you know what? I thought maybe I'll just own it and say, 'Yeah, I'm gay.' But I didn't want to label myself. What I did was, I said, 'I'm not ashamed of the pictures.' I didn't do the thing that some people do and say, 'I made mistakes in the past.' I didn't want to acknowledge it as a mistake or something I was ashamed of, because I'm not.
It wasn't like it was some hardcore sex tape that anyone, gay or straight, would've been kicked off of Idol for.
I was making out with my ex-boyfriend.
But that fear, that there's a queer double standard -- it's not always wrong.
It's a hard thing that everybody's gonna have their opinion about. You know? Some people in the gay community might look at it like, 'You really should've owned that. You didn't hide it, but you didn't admit it and that's weak.' My whole point is, I'm not trying to lead the fucking way for the civil rights movement that we're in right now. I just happen to be a gay man -- and I'm not ashamed of that at all. Regardless of how I handled it, it became a huge issue. And I knew it would. So I figured, you know what, I'm just not going to label myself, I'm going to own the pictures, I'm going to get past it and just keep being myself on the show. And then I waited until after because I was finally given the opportunity. I mean, on the show, we're not really [allowed to talk to press].
You've said it was your choice how to handle that. Even the most savvy gay people I know are dubious about you having that much control. How did it happen? Did you get called into a meeting?
Literally, the minute the pictures came out, the publicist for the show called me up and was like, 'So? Did you hear about these pictures?' And I was like, 'Yeah.' And she goes, 'What do you want to do about it?' She was really cool.
This is the publicist from Fox?
The publicist from Fox, [Jill Hudson]. She was like, 'You know, stuff like this has happened before, and this is usually what happens'' And I was like, 'Jill, I don't want to deny it, and I'm not ashamed of it. And I don't want to seem like I'm ashamed of it. Because that's not me. That's just not how I am. But, at the same time I really want this opportunity and I want to stay on the show as long as possible. So, I kinda have to come up with a compromise.' And she was like, 'Well, is it a big deal to you?' And I'm like, 'No.' And she's like, 'Well, then let's not make a big deal out of it.' And that's what we did. She was like, 'You know, own it. Tell them who you are, and just move forward.' And that's what we did. And I'm glad that I handled it that way, because I think that had I immediately said the words and labeled myself -- you know, said 'I am gay' -- I think that it would've been more about that, initially, than anything else. And the fact that we didn't come out and make a big announcement or anything like that -- that doesn't make any sense to me anyway. It's not an announcement. It's just, it's part of who I am. But because our nation is the way it is, it's an announcement. And also, there are very few gay celebrities. [Long pause.] It's really cool, now, looking back, because I think that without saying it, and making that part of my identity, I think I allowed viewers to be more open to me. I think, had I put it out there that I was gay right off the bat, I think that people would've closed their minds right away.
But wouldn't you say that it was a minority of people who were actually surprised that you were gay?
Yeah, I would hope. If somehow this can open people's minds or whatever, then great. I'm not sitting here thinking about ways to open people's minds. That's the thing people have to understand.