Since the age of six, David Hernandez has found a second home on stage.
"I was that annoying little kid running around the house singing all the time," Hernandez tells Out. "I needed an outlet."
Hernandez made his acting debut in a production of Annie before starring in other musicals. Just as he was finding happiness performing, however, Hernandez went to live with his father and his relationship with music entered rocky terrain.
Growing up in a Mexican-American religious household, Hernandez confronted hyper-masculine ideals and beliefs that deterred him from the stage. Performance was looked at as feminine, a view continually contrasted with his younger brother's natural athleticism. Hernandez felt like he "needed to be more like him." Music was quickly put on hold.
Years passed before Hernandez rediscovered his passion at the age of 17, when he refused to allow stereotypes and his upbringing to keep him from doing what he loved.
"[Performing is] a high that no amount of drugs or alcohol can give you," he says. "It just takes you up so high and it just drops you on your face when you get off stage."
In 2008, Hernandez made it onto the reality competition series American Idol, landing in the top 12 before being eliminated. Rumors, however, quickly started circulating about the "real reason" Hernandez was sent home. Viewers bombarded Hernandez with comments about his past as a male stripper and soon questioned his sexuality, wondering if it influenced his exit from Idol.
Hernandez has said members of the show were fully aware of his past from the very beginning. But still, the media was relentless. "It was hard to go online and not read something negative about myself."
People were more interested in rumors and scandals than the music.
Though Hernandez now believes he has the strength and self-confidence to handle a lot of backlash, his younger self did not, and the Idol drama took a toll on himself and his family.
"My dad still knew nothing about my sexuality or my profession. So when it's plastered all over CNN that's not how somebody really wants to go down."
But it's times like this that helped David find the strength and confidence to live as his true authentic self and not worry about the opinions of others. That's the message he brings to his new single "Beautiful," produced by Mark Grilliot.
Hernandez wants to use the song to reach out to people of all groups and remind them they're beautiful just the way that they are and that there's no reason to feel ashamed.
"If you're missing a leg, you're still beautiful. If you're overweight, you're still beautiful. If you are 75 years old, you're still beautiful," Hernandez says. "That's why I wanted to share my own story as a gay man."
For years, Hernandez has been forced to portray an image of himself that wasn't real--and he's over it. Now he wants his art to reveal who he really is: an out and proud man with a strong, honest voice.
"That's why this song resonates with me. The lyrics are just so powerful. This is who I am, take it or leave it."
The music video for "Beautiful" features people of all ages, races, and sexualities, people whose so-called "flaws" must be owned, loved, and shared.