Country music star Chely Wright comes out
Chely Wright Comes Out
Posted Mon May 3, 2010 9:01am PDT by Wendy Geller in Our Country
Chely Wright has done lots of important things in her career: Released seven albums, charted numerous hits (including 1999's No. 1 "Single White Female"), started a charitable foundation for music education, and written songs for other artists such as Brad Paisley and Clay Walker.
However, her latest personal accomplishment just may be her most momentous to date. The 39-year-old singer revealed this morning that she is gay, making her the first major country star to come out publicly.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Wright explains why she was reluctant to discuss her sexual orientation for so long. "There had never, ever been a country music artist who had acknowledged his or her homosexuality," she said. "I wasn't going to be the first."
However, "Nothing in my life has been more magical than the moment I decided to come out," she says.
Wright, a small-town girl who grew up in a musical family and released her debut album in 1994, says she's directed her whole life around the dream of making music. Given the conservative bent of the country music world, she decided to put her career ahead of her personal life. "I hid everything for my music," she explained.
Wright will appear on NBC's Today Show Wednesday (May 5). She is also releasing her memoir, Like Me, as well as her first album in five years, Lifted Off The Ground, this week.
So far, Nashville at large has been quiet regarding Wright's announcement (to be fair–the city is in an emergency situation, experiencing record flooding), but my guess is they will be largely supportive. Despite not releasing new music for several years, Wright's been active in the community with her charitable Reading, Writing & Rhythm Foundation, which benefits music education in public schools.
It's another guess how country fans themselves will respond to Wright's announcement. Inevitable speculation is that a largely conservative group will be disapproving--which, in country music, can spell crippling disaster to a artist's career.
However, I'm not so sure criticism will come solely from her sexual orientation. Coming out after an absence from the music scene, right before the release of a new album, will undoubtedly smack of opportunism to some fans. We'll see this week what Wright has to say, and I'm very interested in reading her autobiography as well as hearing new music after so long.
Inevitably, though--I leave all of this up to you. Does Chely Wright's coming out affect your opinion of her as a musician? Let me know what you think.
Chely Wright Biography
By Steve Huey
After several years of hard touring, Chely Wright broke through to become a chart-topping star on the contemporary country scene. Born Richelle Renee Wright in Kansas City in 1970, she grew up in the small town of Wellsville, KS, and fell in love with country music before she'd even started school. She took piano lessons starting at age four and began singing in groups at 11, also playing trumpet in her school band. At 14, she started performing in local clubs with a backing band called County Line, which featured her father on bass. The summer after her junior year of high school, she performed in the long-running Ozark Jubilee show, and as a senior, she successfully auditioned for a job impersonating female country stars at Nashville's Opryland theme park. She moved there permanently in 1989 and spent the next three years working at Opryland and an assortment of day jobs. Eventually, she landed a publishing deal on the strength of her songwriting, and a record contract with Mercury/Polydor followed.
Wright's debut album, Woman in the Moon, was released in 1994 and attracted positive notice from some critics and the country music community, earning her a Top New Female Vocalist award from the ACM. Unfortunately, neither it nor its follow-up, 1996's Right in the Middle of It, sold very well. Wright asked for her release from Polydor and moved over to MCA, where she had the opportunity to work with the commercially savvy producer Tony Brown. Though it wasn't a smash, Wright's 1997 label debut, Let Me In, did make the country Top 40 and gave the singer her first Top 20 hit in "Shut Up and Drive." Moreoever(sic), her constant touring was paying off in the form of a growing fan base, setting the stage for her breakthrough with 1999's Single White Female. The album's title track became Wright's first number one hit, and the following year, she and Brad Paisley duetted(sic) on their co-composition "Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife." Her next album, Never Love You Enough, became her first to break the country Top Ten, and she reached the Top 30 with the title track and "Jezebel." ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide
Chely Wright Videos hXXp://new.music.yahoo.com/chely-wright/videos/
Chely Wright Songs hXXp://new.music.yahoo.com/chely-wright/tracks/
Even if she is a girl exclusive commodity, for bi guys like me she is still pretty hot! At least she has finally admitted what she wants. Way to go Chely!
Chely Wright Pleads for Brad Paisley's Forgiveness
Chely Wright made headlines earlier this month with the surprising announcement that she is a lesbian, marking the first time in history that an award-winning country artist has publicly come out of the closet. Now, Chely is revealing even more details of her story – including her relationship with one of country's biggest stars -- from the comfort of Oprah Winfrey's couch.
"I was told in church that there were building blocks of sin and evildoing, and these words were strung together to scare me -- drunkard, thief, adulterer, homosexual. I thought, 'That's what I am,'"she told Oprah on Wednesday's episode of the popular talk show, explaining why she waited so long to come out. "I prayed every day for God to change me. And it was: 'Dear God, please don't let me be gay. I promise to be a good person.' I said that prayer every day, multiple times a day."
In and out of a relationship with a woman named Julia for several years, Chely tried to keep that aspect of her life hidden from those closest to her. Even her family and her best friend were unaware of her inner turmoil. "When you start telling people, it puts people in the position to lie for you, and I knew that," she says. "So I just didn't tell people. I wasn't just in the closet. I was behind the sheet rock in the closet. The duality of my existence was so much work."
So determined was the rising star to keep her sexual orientation hidden from everyone, she tried to date men, including country artists Vince Gill and Brad Paisley. It was a decision that she profoundly regrets. "My dating men was my giving it a Hail Mary toward normal," she reveals. "I ultimately just confused the heck out of them because I couldn't love them the way they loved me."
Chely's relationship with Brad happened about a decade ago but still haunts her today. "I have a lot of regret for how that began and had a middle and ended," she admits. "I had no business being in a relationship with him ... I was making a deal again with myself: 'Well, Chel, you'll forego love. You'll go without love. Find someone with whom you can spend your life that makes you laugh, that you like how they live their life, that you can share a life with.'"
Now, years later, she still hopes to someday set things right with her famous ex. "Doing anything with someone you shouldn't be doing something with -- having sex with him, kissing on him, going into a movie and holding hands with a man when you're a lesbian feels wrong," she says. "When you want to be with someone else, it's wrong. I wronged him ... I damaged [Brad], and I hope he forgives me. I hope this fills in some emotional gaps for him. I don't assume he's pining over how Chely Wright hurt his feelings a few years ago. I'm assuming he's happy and moved on, but I would welcome any chance [to talk to him]."
Resolved to tear down stereotypes, and willing to wear the title as the first openly gay country singer, Chely says she is still a bit shocked at her own boldness. "Had you told me in 2000, had you said, 'You're going to be the first chart-topping country music singer to step forward and acknowledge her homosexuality,' I would have laughed in your face," she admits.
Feeling support from her fans from all over the world, she admits the support from fellow stars has not been what she had hoped. "They all have my e-mail, and it's been a little disappointing that I haven't heard from more," she reveals. "That said, I have had hundreds of e-mails and phone calls and text messages from the country music community at large."
Ultimately, the timing was right. "I've been whispered about in country music for a long time," she says. The word 'lesbian' has been used as an insult … You can say I'm ugly. You can say my songs are stupid, but I won't allow the word 'lesbian' to be used as an insult toward me anymore."
Chely released both a memoir, 'Like Me,' and a new CD, 'Lifted Off the Ground,' earlier this month. She's now prepping for her 10th annual Reading, Writing and Rhythm event on June 8, along with special guests Rodney Crowell, Sarah Buxton, Justin Moore and Bucky Covington.
Wow, she is beautiful and hot.