Music Bear Tony Banks Turns Up the Static
(HOUSTON) – “In relationships you must have the wisdom to know when enough is enough,” says Music Bear Tony Banks, who describes himself as a gay, black man with the fun of Missy Elliot, the swag of LL Cool J and the dance moves of Heavy D. “You gotta have the courage to make change and stand up on your own two feet and press forward. Life is too short to allow someone else’s self-destruction to bring you down.”
He sings about breaking free from static relationship cling in his new funky hip-hop track, “Static.” It’s the first single from his upcoming album, Yes, Homo.
Along with the track, Music Bear is releasing a music video that stars Catalin Constantine as his boyfriend and features animation by wikistylista.
“Who has time to watch someone they love not love themselves?” he continues. He knows a thing or two about the difficulties of breaking-up. Music Bear and his ex are in the midst of a divorce, although their separation is not due to the level of destruction Music Bear raps about in “Static.” “Our relationship may have grown stale and staticky, to the point where we had to go our own ways, but we remain friends and that’s important,” he says. “We still support and want the best for one another.”
Not all of the songs Music Bear writes are about his life. “I’m often inspired by people around me, and now and then, I’ll use their lives as subjects for songs. For me, the power of music is about writing something I know someone out there needs to hear or feel me say.”
Still, he tries to stay true to who he is as a man and an artist. You’ll rarely if ever, hear Music Bear Tony Banks rhyming about “Popping Bottles” (he barely drinks) or “Fighting Bitches” (not his style). In his upcoming album, “Yes Homo,” he tackles issues like love, lust, partying, the state of hip-hop and police brutality. It’s meant to be a full depiction of what it means to be a black, gay, male, hip-hop artist in 2017.
Music Bear Tony Banks was born in Brooklyn in the early 80’s. He grew up during the golden era of hip-hop and believes that at its core, hip-hop is love. It’s soulful, empowering, fun, beautiful and caring.
The music industry, however, is another monster all together. “The industry turns hip-hop into a misogynistic, homophobic creature that sells its soul for the promise of money, cars, and hoes,” he says. “It then turns the people in it into that same image. Remember, hate is a learned behavior. No one is born homophobic but when hip-hop spreads that message to millions of people, for decades, it catches on and it’s hard to break away from.”
The LGBT community is not much better, he contends. “As a black, gay man of size, I sometimes feel ostracized from my gay brothers and sisters. I used to think that if I were a different type of gay, a more stereotypical skinny boy, and fancy dresser, I would have it easier in the community.”
But Music Bear has come to learn that being different isn’t always a bad thing.
“What I hope people who listen to my music and watch my videos take from me as an artist is: Don’t be afraid. Embrace something different every once in a while. Break from monotony. Cut the static. You might just enjoy it! In fact, I know you will.”
Country Superstar Ty Herndon To Perform At Rich’s Friday Night
Country Music’s Sexy Cowboy Ty Herndon Returns To Houston Friday Night For Special Performance At Rich’s
HOUSTON – It’s rodeo time and one of country music’s biggest hearts and brightest stars, Ty Herndon is heading to Houston for a ‘one night only’ performance at Rich’s in Midtown. Herndon, known for hits like “Living in the Moment,” and “What Mattered Most,” garnered three number ones, four top ten hits. Beyond charting more than 18 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, Ty Herndon makes his return to Texas tomorrow night.
In an exclusive interview the day before his Houston concert, About Magazine sat down with Ty in his downtown Nashville condo. From the open patio doors sounds of tourists and bachelorette parties can be heard drifting up, Ty sits across the room in a wingback chair; he’s wearing his trademark black t-shirt and skinny jeans and has a big smile. It’s 8:20 am and he’s full of energy.
“I absolutely love Houston,” he says when asked about his return. ” I might as well be from Texas! I feel like I have spent half my life there.” Ty explains he has a deep history, passion and love for Texas. “I have two of the most amazing little God-sons in Houston with the most affirming parents.” Ty hits that stage at Rich’s Houston on Friday, March 15, 2019.
Though his performance is not part of the official Rodeo Houston concert series, Herndon will headline “The Stockyard at Rich’s,” an LGBT country music-themed night hosted by Al Farb. “It’s going to be an exciting show, I am excited to be performing for all my LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” Ty says.
“I ABSOLUTELY LOVE TEXAS, I FEEL LIKE I AM FROM THERE, AND EXCITED TO RETURN TOMORROW!” -Ty Herndon
In its first-ever country night, Rich’s has pulled out all the stops to ensure Herndon’s performance and the crowd enjoys rodeo season. “My love for country music and country bars for more than 15 years has lead me to tomorrow night,” Jeff Harmon, owner of Rich’s says. “One of the most amazing country music DJ from the Round-Up in Dallas, DJ Jeff Doll will be here to keep the music alive.”
Recently Herndon returned from Las Vegas after being invited to sing the National Anthem at the National Finals Rodeo. “The NFR just had an openly gay dude sing the National Anthem on the world stage,” Ty is referring to the progress made by the LGBT community.
As an outspoken LGBT Advocate, Herndon, along with GLAAD and CMT produce “Love & Acceptance,” a concert held in Nashville during CMA Fest each year. “We will announce all of our talent in the next few weeks,” Herndon says. ” We have had everyone from Vince Gill to Tanya Tucker to Michael Ray in the past.”
This year is gearing up to be the biggest yet. Love & Acceptance takes place on June 6 at the legendary WildHorse Saloon.
OPINION: The Complicit Exodus of Julie Chen
In the wake of sexual assault allegations surrounding husband and now-former CBS CEO Les Moonves, Julie Chen has voiced her support of his claims to innocence, having left one of her two CBS TV hosting gigs at The Talk while remaining onboard its reality game show, Big Brother. Columnist Rachel Abbott weighs in.
Sexual assault, rape, violence against women.
In the wake of sexual assault allegations against her husband (former CBS CEO, Les Moonves), TV host and personality Julie Chen announced that she will be stepping down from her position at CBS daytime talk show The Talk. Along with that announcement came the news that she will, however, retain her position as host of the reality game show Big Brother. Chen made a public note about her position on the issue. Stating the following:
“I have known my husband, Leslie Moonves, since the mid-90s, and I have been married to him for almost 14 years,” Chen said in a July 27 statement. “Leslie is a good man and loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader. He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being. I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.”
Chen continued on to announce via Twitter that she would be taking a brief hiatus from The Talk a few days ahead of its ninth season premiere to spend time with her family, but made splashes in the media by signing off from Big Brother for the first time in her eighteen year tenure as host not as just Julie Chen, but as Julie Chen-Moonves.
At the height of the #MeToo movement earlier this year, twelve women stepped forward and accused Les Moonves of sexual assault and harassment. Moonves was formerly a Chairman and CEO at CBS, as well as an executive at Showtime and the publishing house Simon & Schuster. His victims stand by their allegations of Moonves, which include an array of acts of sexual violence ranging from forced kissing to rape, all of which spanned over a series of decades from the eighties to the late aughts. He reportedly threatened to end women’s careers if they didn’t acquiesce to his advances; and more of these allegations against him can be read in Time Magazine and the New Yorker.
I have no doubt in my mind that Les Moonves is a predator and rapist. After all, a key component of the #MeToo movement is to believe women when they share their experiences, and I believe the twelve women who have spoken out against Moonves. They’ve demonstrated great bravery in speaking out against one of television’s most influential and profitable leaders. Moonves fiercely denied the allegations, saying that he may have made advances but never crossed a line of consent. He has since stepped down from his positions at CBS but remains employed in a limited capacity while they train his predecessor.
His wife, Julie Chen, lingers somewhere between neutral and supportive of her husband. As stated above, as host of Big Brother, she recently began greeting and signing off as Julie Chen-Moonves, a subtle but significant addition to her professional name. Watchers have taken this as a signal that she’s standing by her husband in light of his rape accusations. Logic follows that if she’s standing by her husband, she’s denying the validity of the accusations made against him. However, her exodus from The Talk, of which she was a founding employee since its inception 9 years ago, indicates that the accusations are taking a toll on their family and personal lives.
“Right now I need to spend more time at home, with my husband and our young son, so I’ve decided to leave The Talk,” she said in her farewell statement.
On a personal level, I find this entire situation difficult to grasp. My knee-jerk reaction is to be angry with Julie Chen. How can she so blatantly disregard the accusations of twelve women against her husband? Moreover, why would she want to? I can’t imagine aligning myself with a man accused of such monstrous and reprehensible behavior. I wouldn’t want that kind of human to be my husband. The logic to follow is worse, that being the thought that perhaps she knew all along. Perhaps she’d heard stories of him fondling his employees and chose to look the other way. But even that seems too evil. It’s easier for me to imagine that she didn’t know and learned of this news at the same time as the rest of us. Given the timeframe of the accusations, not only was he assaulting women in the workplace, but he was assaulting women in the workplace while married to Julie Chen. Sexually abusive, cheating, manipulative of the careers of a dozen young women—these signals should send Chen running — not walking — in the direction opposite her life partner.
And yet, we also must be cognizant of the fact that we do not have access to the Moonves-Chen household. We don’t have access to whatever surely painful conversations have occurred over the past few months. At the very least, we can guess that Chen is distressed by the news about her husband — whether that be because of the realization that her husband is, in fact, a sexual assailant, or due to the overwhelming coverage the press has given this issue. Given that Moonves has assaulted at least a dozen women in his life, Julie Chen could very likely be experiencing assault and manipulation herself. Leaving now, as Moonves grapples with his damaged career and reputation, could spell disaster for Chen and her son. It does not matter how wealthy, established, or accomplished Chen seems to us; serial abusers have highly developed tactics of manipulation that can bring even the most powerful woman to her knees. Indeed, many abusers get off on targeting powerful women in particular.
That’s not to say that Julie Chen is necessarily suffering from domestic abuse herself; we don’t know her life and cannot fairly draw conclusions based on the actions of her husband. And while the actions of her husband are not a reflection of Chen’s character, we must remember that she is sharing a household and a child with a rich, influential man with a track record of abusive and violent behaviors. Whether she had acknowledged it to herself or not, she is in a dangerous position.
I want to ask Julie Chen to be better. I want her to state that she believes the women who have accused her husband, that she’s ended her relationship with the man she thought she knew, that she and her son will be creating a beautiful life for themselves away from that evil man. I want her to remove all traces of this abusive monster’s influence in her life. I want her to apologize to the survivors of her husband’s abuse, as well as for not believing them sooner. I want least want her to stop using her husband’s fucking name on national TV. Maybe I want too much.
On the other hand, I must remind myself that wanting these things from Julie Chen is akin to making her atone for her husband’s crimes, which as mentioned a moment ago, we cannot do. Chen herself hasn’t done anything wrong, apart from being too publicly passive. Is it fair to ask that she apologize and uproot her entire life? It should be him of whom we ask for atonement, him that we ask to throw his life into uncertainty, not her. As someone who was recently making $70 million a year, he can certainly afford to put himself into intensive therapy and community service.
Julie Chen’s situation is complicated and precarious. Above all, I wish for her safety in the coming months as she and her husband deal with the allegations against him. However, I also wish for her to take a stand on the side of the abused — on the right side of history (or, in this case, herstory). I want her to live a life free from abuse and free from complicity. I hope she can find that.
LGBTQ Advocate Kathy Griffin Delivers More Than Just Jokes
After a year of being disavowed by Hollywood, attacked by the Oval Office, and shunned by many fans, Kathy Griffin returns to Houston on her new tour triumphant.
“In the words of my new friend, Robert Di Nero, ‘Fuck Trump!’”
This opening line set the precedent (or, should we say ‘president’) for the rest of the evening of stories regaled to an audience by one of Donald Trump’s largest opposers and one of the LGBTQ community’s most long-standing and active advocates. Kathy Griffin, the self-proclaimed D-list celebrity who became one of the many faces of the resistance against President Donald Trump, detailed for over three hours last Monday night the events of the last year that launched into a world-wide spotlight after she released a photo of herself holding up what appeared to be Donald Trump’s bloody head (in reality: a Halloween mask covered in ketchup). Kathy, keeping true to her storytelling manor of comedy, kept the laughter coming but also allowed herself to become real and vulnerable as she laid out the details of the threats against her life and the lives of her family.
As a disclaimer, I’m a huge Kathy fan. I’ve been each of her last three shows in Houston prior to this, buying pre-sale tickets the minute they become available online for purchase and following her on social medial. I have even attended a show the day after having my tonsils removed (thank god for pain killers). To say the least, this was the show for which I was living. I couldn’t wait for her to dish the tea … and boy did she she serve that shit up.
Throughout the entire night, Jones Hall in Downtown Houston was riddled with laughter, gay gasps, ‘Yas queens’, and slow applauses. I’ve often heard that a comedian’s material comes from their pain; and this couldn’t be more true in the cases of such stand-ups as Hannah Gadsby in her recent Netflix special Nanette. Kathy has done the same by taking her hardship, her blacklisting in Hollywood, and the multitude of death threats by turning her agony into material to use in a place where she is able to enable other women and Donald Trump resisters to stand up for their first amendment rights and to speak out against the atrocities of this administration. Recently, Griffin has teamed up with Stormy Daniels — the adult film star who has been said to have had a problematic affair with the president only to be later asked to never speak of it — after Daniels was arrested at a Columbus, Ohio strip club for touching an undercover officer who asked to have a photo with the performer after her second show.
What I admire about the LGBTQIA community is that it’s a community that knows how to mobilize. I always say as a feminist, “We’ve got to learn from the gays, as women we bitch and moan, but gays actually get legislation done, they write bills, put candidates up and get them elected.”
— Griffin in her Pride Portraits statement about the LGBTQ community while in Houston
From being on Interpol’s travel advisory list to traveling internationally and being detained in multiple countries on her world-wide tour, Griffin has not let anything stop her from telling her story and speaking out against the administration. She has built up an alliance of other celebrities around the world that stand with her. But in that pain comes a greater deal of suffering — losing out of strong allies like former CNN New Year’s Eve co-host and longtime friend, Anderson Cooper. In a letter she read to the crowd from a fan in Florida, Kathy revealed that a gay man should never turn on a “fag hag”. The room erupted into laughter because … well … the truth is the truth. Kathy Griffin has been one of the few celebrities of our time that has — since the beginning of career spanning nearly 40 years — been a tireless and outspoken advocate for LGBTQ people, LGBTQ rights, and LGBTQ equality. It is no surprise that the one demographic that did not disown the comedy legend after her infamous Trump photo was the LGBTQ community.
The night was full of raw, unfiltered laughter, but it came with a strong political and emotional narrative. Mixed in with the stories of Trump where the usual dick jokes, use of language as foul as the word ‘cunt’, and regaling stories of Kim Kardashian and Kathy’s mother, Maggie Griffin. But in the end, it was a story of a woman the government try to silence, one they told told to shut up. Nevertheless … she persisted.
Ariana Grande Releases Fourth Album: Sweetener
Ariana Grande has released her highly-anticipated, fourth studio album, Sweetener, today, which debuted at #1 on the iTunes album chart in more than 90 countries and includes LGBTQ anthem, “no tears left to cry”.
– Grande will be performing her single “God Is a Woman” at the MTV Video Music Awards
– She is preparing currently for “The Sweetener Sessions” in partnership with American Express
– Buy the album here.
Today, Grammy Award-nominated musician Ariana Grande releases her highly anticipated fourth studio album, Sweetener, via Republic Records. The album debuted at #1 in over 90 countries on the iTunes Album Chart. Sweetener includes three previously-released tracks, LGBTQ anthem “No Tears Left To Cry” now officially certified RIAA PLATINUM, “The Light Is Coming”, and current second single “God Is A Woman”.
Ariana is preparing for the television debut performance of “God Is A Woman” on MTV’s Video Music Awards airing Monday, August 20th from Radio City Music Hall. “God Is A Woman” was released alongside the female empowered music video directed by Grammy Award-winning director Dave Meyer. Meyers also directed the music videos for “The Light Is Coming” and “No Tears Left to Cry”, and all three videos combined have now been streamed on VEVO over 600 million times. “No Tears Left to Cry” was regaled as an LGBTQ power anthem.
Also available today, fans have the chance to purchase limited edition Sweetener merchandise and music here.
Ariana will be performing songs from Sweetener next week in partnership with American Express, giving Card Members and fans the exclusive chance to see “The Sweetener Sessions,” a series of three intimate shows in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Those who miss the chance to grab a ticket will have the chance to see select songs from the Chicago performance on Ariana’s Instagram IGTV later this month, stay tuned!
ABOUT ARIANA GRANDE
With her powerful vocals and astonishing range, Ariana Grande has emerged as one of the most magnetic and massively successful performers in pop music today. At age 24 she’s delivered three platinum-selling albums and surpassed 18 billion streams, in addition to nabbing four Grammy Award nominations and landing eight hits in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. With 2016’s critically acclaimed Dangerous Woman, Grande both boldly defies expectation and reveals the full force of her voice (recently hailed as an “extraordinary, versatile, limitless instrument” upon Grande’s appearance on Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list).
Since making her full-length debut with 2013’s Yours Truly (featuring the game-changing, triple-platinum smash “The Way”), Grande has brought her striking vocal presence to a genre-blurring breed of pop, taking on R&B, soul, and electronic music with equal nuance and assurance. Arriving in 2014, her sophomore effort, My Everything, garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album and spawned the 6x-platinum hits “Problem” and “Bang Bang” (a Grammy nominee for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance). Grande embraced a more uncompromising vision than ever before in the making of Dangerous Woman. With People noting that the album “celebrates feminine might,” Entertainment Weekly praised Grande for “having something meaningful to say with that jaw-dropping voice — one of the most exquisite in pop today.” Grande wrapped up her widely lauded Dangerous Woman Tour in support of the album last year, performing 85 arena shows worldwide.
Through the years, the longtime actress and former Broadway star has proven the scope of her talent by appearing on Scream Queens and Hairspray Live! and showcased her comedic chops by hosting Saturday Night Live. With her social media following now surging past 200 million, Grande has also earned numerous accolades from the MTV Video Music Awards, iHeartRadio Music Awards, and American Music Awards (including the highly coveted Artist of the Year prize).
Ariana’s recent single “No Tears Left To Cry” debuted at #1 on iTunes in 88 countries worldwide and began the next era for her upcoming fourth full length studio album Sweetener. With the release of “Not Tears Left To Cry” she became the first artist in music history to see the lead single from her first four albums debut on the Top 10 on Billboard Hot 100. This year she has graced the prestigious magazine covers of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders, FADER, and British Vogue. The highly anticipated album, Sweetener, will be released August 2018.
Cher to Release New Album: Dancing Queen
Music legend and LGBTQ icon Cher pays tribute to the music of ABBA following global mega-success of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
The one and only LGBTQ goddess Cher will be releasing Dancing Queen, a new album of all ABBA hits on September 28, 2018, which was officially announced August 9 by Warner Bros. Records. Those who pre-order the new album will immediately receive Cher’s rendition of the song “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).” You can listen to the official audio below.
The Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning icon was inspired to record the album following her stunning performance in the recently-released mega-hit film, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Commented Cher: “I’ve always liked Abba and saw the original Mamma Mia musical on Broadway three times. After filming Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, I was reminded again of what great and timeless songs they wrote and started thinking ‘why not do an album of their music?’ The songs were harder to sing than I imagined but I’m so happy with how the music came out. I’m really excited for people to hear it. It’s a perfect time.”
Dancing Queen was recorded and produced in London and Los Angeles with Cher’s longtime collaborator Mark Taylor, who previously produced Cher’s global smash “Believe” which was number one in over 50 countries.
The track listing for Dancing Queen previously announced on Cher’s twitter is listed below.
Cher is scheduled to be awarded a Kennedy Center Honor on December 2nd in Washington DC. She is a co-producer of The Cher Show, the upcoming Broadway musical opening on December 3rd and will be touring Australia and New Zealand in September. She is currently performing a residency at MGM Resorts. Get tickets HERE!
Dancing Queen Tracklisting:
1. Dancing Queen
2. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
3. The Name Of The Game
6. Mamma Mia
9. The Winner Takes It All
10. One Of Us
QFest, Spectrum South Present ‘1985’
Now rounding off it’s 22nd year of queer film festivals, QFest will screen ‘1985’, it’s closing film, on Monday, July 30th, presented by Spectrum South.
(HOUSTON) – Houston’s premiere LGBTQ motion picture nonprofit, QFest, started screening films for the 22nd year in a row this past Thursday and will be closing up their annual film festival until next year on Monday, July 30th. The nonprofit cites their mission to be showcasing Houston’s LGBTQ community through cinema and related events not just during QFest, but throughout the year. But year-by-year, QFest has struggled to maintain the same numbers in their audiences that they have in years past. Drawing the newest generation of queer Houstonians into the festival has proven difficult. However, our other favorite queer Houston magazine, Spectrum South, has partnered up with QFest to help change that for the better. By co-hosting QFest’s Closing Night, Spectrum South and QFest are hopeful about introducing this incredible nonprofit to the attention of LGBTQ youngsters.
Friend of About Magazine and Spectrum South editor-in-chief Megan Smith had this to say about their newfound partnership with QFest:
“We are so excited to partner with QFest Houston to present the Closing Night of their 2018 festival. This year marks QFest’s 22nd year and we are delighted to help bring this longstanding queer cultural staple to the next generation of LGBTQ Houstonians […] We also encourage everyone to stick around after the [movie] screening for a reception of free drinks, mixing and mingling with fellow queer film enthusiasts, and a DJ set by Bradley David Entertainment.”
A movie and free drinks? You can count us in.
Additionally, this year QFest is sponsored in-part by Bradley David Entertainment, the Catastrophic Theatre, the Houston Film Commission, Mystiq, Julie Mabry’s Pearl Bar Houston, Stages Repertory Theatre, the Orchard, and About Magazine’s own Morena Roas.
Yen Tan’s 1985 opened this year at SXSW in Austin, TX to outstanding reviews. IndieWire gave the film a B and concluded, “As such, “1985” has the distinct feel of being a fine piece of cinematic craftsmanship by two artists with a shared vision. It is a haunting elegy for a generation of gay men.” The Hollywood Reporter said of the film, “Even when dealing with loaded themes such as stigmatization, bullying, death, denial and the shattering possibility of final farewells, the director’s gentle touch adds resonance.” Said SS‘s Smith:
“The evening’s film, Yen Tan’s ‘1985,’ is a powerful southern portrayal of the height of the AIDS crisis. For some folks, it will be a reminder of their lived experiences and, for others, it will serve as a wakeup call to the realities of what can happen when those in power oppress marginalized groups. Either way, its message is important and relevant to our current circumstances, and we look forward to sharing it with audiences.”
The festival’s awards ceremony begins promptly at 7:00 PM at Rice University’s Rice Cinema with the screening of Yen Tan’s 1985 beginning at 7:30 with a reception to follow at 9:00. For tickets to QFest, you can click here. You can also RSVP to the Facebook event here.
Jack Tracy’s Debut Album, ‘Older’, Released Today
Older — the debut album from Jack Tracy, creator and star of the award-winning web series LGBTQ History — is available today for purchase.
(NEW YORK) — Following the release of his debut single, “Satisfaction”, back in June, Jack Tracy’s freshman album is being released today. The album, entitled Older, is Tracy’s first studio EP and venture into the world of recorded music. But the artist — who is also the creator and star of the award-winning LGBTQ web series History and the owner of Necessary Outlet Productions — is no stranger to music. Jack was a musical theatre major in college and has performed numerous times over the course of his career in musical productions and self-produced cabarets around New York City.
And as a part of the album’s release, Jack Tracy and About Magazine are giving away a free digital download of his album. To enter for a chance to win drop by our Instagram post and leave a comment. The winner will be announced August 1st. You can otherwise purchase the album on iTunes here. And check out the music video for “Satisfaction” here:
Christina Edwards Wells Advances on AGT
Houston’s hometown hero, Christina Edwards Wells, has advanced to the live shows at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on America’s Got Talent
(HOUSTON) – She’s been keeping the secret for weeks — even when we interviewed her about it for our About Magazine Pride Edition — but now the rest of the world finally knows. Christina Edwards Wells, the 2016 Pride Houston Pride SuperStar and Montrose favorite, is progressing onto the live shows on NBC’s America’s Got Talent for season 13. Tonight’s episode, like her initial audition, was previously taped earlier this year. This is Wells’ second go at the program. She previously auditioned but did not progress. Christina is a well-known member and performer in Houston’s LGBTQ community.
Wells’ performance started off as a nail-biter, with judges noted that she was a bit off-key at the beginning of her song. Although she sounded fine to all of us, and apparently found her vocal footing within a few short bars. The judges commended Wells, who is a full-time registered nurse in Houston. Guest judge, comedian, and actor, Ken Jeong, telling Christina, “[…] my wife told me, ‘You’re no longer a doctor. You’re a comedian.’ You’re no longer a nurse, you’re a singer […] an artist.”
Just before the judges made their decision, Christina weepily told the camera that she never thought she would make it this far, and that she did not want it to end. Luckily, when the time came, Simon Cowell told Christina, “Today, I’m going to be honest with you […] this wasn’t better from the first audition. We had to make decisions based on who do we think could really do well in the live show.” After a brief and histrionic pause, Cowell continued, “And that’s why, Christina, we have decided to put you through to the live shows.” Christina immediately erupted in tears before saying, “I thought you were going to tell me no!” Mel B. jumped to her feet and rushed on stage to hug Wells.
Jack Tracy: A Gay “History”
Gay actor and performer Jack Tracy, the creator and star of the acclaimed web series, History, sits down to talk to About Magazine about his forthcoming freshman album, Older, and much more.
(NEW YORK CITY) – When it comes to television, there aren’t a lot of options available that are central to just the LGBTQIA community. Sure, it’s commonplace in the late 2010s to have a sassy, gay best friend who is constantly sleeping around and panders to straight audiences with flair and histrionics, or maybe even a butch lesbian that is the punchline of U-Haul jokes and poor clothing choices by way of the show’s stylist. And for chrissakes, it takes an act of Congress to get a trans person more than a few minutes of screentime. Even with shows like Transparent coming back to Amazon with a plot now centering around more of its previously-supporting trans actors, there is literally no room made at the table for trans and nonbinary artists to paint a genuine and relevant picture on a canvas for their communities. Even in the age of the aforementioned Transparent and rebooted Queer Eye or Will & Grace, there are not a lot of intermediaries that depict an accurate portrayal of LGBTQIA life on the screen. Is it because queer artists aren’t writing them? Hell no. It’s because networks and studios aren’t producing them.
Enter Jack Tracy — the gay attorney and New York City resident in his thirties who one day tired of the mundane aspects of his life. Sure, he had friends and wasn’t hurting for money. But Jack’s creative muse — and maybe even his Id, as Freud may have put it — was starved for attention. In turn, he was not living a life he felt was fulfilling; and the lack of LGBTQIA representation in the media (or maybe even more accurately, how LGBTQIA folks are portrayed in the media) was only affecting him further.
So Mr. Tracy took it upon himself to do what many studios and networks have only hesitantly and in small increments been willing to do: he began creating queer video content. Better yet, when Jack begat his content centered around gay characters, it wasn’t about living the flashy life or the perpetuation the stereotypes involving glamorous parties, sexy Grindr hook-ups, or irresponsible drug use. No, Tracy wanted to — and did — give LGBTQIA characters a depth that they often lack in the way that they’re represented. He dug past the frivolousness and superficialities to create a character named Jamie in a then-small web series entitled History. So what was so special about Tracy’s creation that made it stand apart from the others?
Absolutely everything. Jack Tracy employed a method of writing for his main character I first heard described by television writer and creator of the original Charmed series, Constance M. Burge. As Burge put it about her trio sister of witches portrayed by Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs, and Alyssa Milano (and later Rose McGowan) from 1998-2006, Charmed was created to be a show not about witches who happened to be sisters, but sisters who happened to be witches. And that was just the thing that Tracy implemented into his narrative. He wasn’t using Jamie as a soap box to shout the needs of equality or to end discriminatory behavior (or, at least, not so blatantly). No, Jack created a series not about protagonists that were gay and happen to have normal love, personal, and professional lives, but one about characters who had normal love, personal, and professional lives (albeit not without their own disparities) … who just so happen to be gay.
In doing so — and possibly without even knowing it — Jack Tracy progressed LGBTQIA normalization in a subtle way. By eliminating the preachiness often credited to the Ellen show of the ’90s, the showrunner, creator, and star of History presented gay characters in lives and with feelings not unlike straight or cisgender characters who haunt the screen of nearly every station or streaming service at any given time. Then — by tapping into the emotions that were neither queer-centric nor heteronormative — Tracy took possibly unconscious steps in the normalization of queer characters to a not entirely queer audience.
And he did so at the perfect time, all things considered. With a vice president who has openly denounced homosexuality and in the past called for conversion therapy, when trans murder rates at all-time highs in just the past 7 months, and with countless people openly discriminating against the LGBTQIA community, Tracy’s once-small, pipe dream web series — which has moved on to critical acclaim, receiving innumerable accolades, including the Los Angeles Film Award for Best Web Series — has gone on not only to entertain, delight, and bring audiences to tears, but to inspire queer people to make things happen for themselves, even if no one in the world has given them permission to do so.
And this Friday, the star of the show will be releasing his first-ever album, entitled Older, for which he is in the early stages of planning a national tour. The album’s first single, “Satisfaction”, was released late last month and can be found under the header of this article above (the official music video can also be found in the interview below).
Jack sat down with About Magazine editor-in-chief, Anthony Ramirez, for an interview on Wednesday, June 11th to talk about his life and inspirations, Older, “Satisfaction”, his forthcoming film that is currently in postproduction, and how fans can help make the third season of History come to life (hint, hint: you can click on this subtly highlighted text to donate to the cause).
Anthony Ramirez: Can you tell me about when you decided to create the album and what inspired it?
Jack Tracy: Yeah! I guess it all goes back to when I turned … I’d say like 31, I had this sort of epiphany. I was in a place in my life where I was at my day job, I had my social circle, and I kind of thought to myself, Is this it? Am I just gonna do this ’til I die? Is this the end? And I sort of just decided that any little dream, any little thing that I always wanted to do, I just had to go and do them. I mean, you only live once. So I told myself, “If you wanna do a show, go do that show. If you wanna sing a song, go write that song to sing it.” So, I sort of just made this mantra that whatever dream I had, I was just gonna do it. So, an album has always been on the list, but I didn’t have the knowledge or skills to really make it what I wanted to make it. So, I did a little cabaret show where I sang some covers and really enjoyed that. And it was through the process of making my web series, History, and since I’m a do-everything-yourself person, I had to teach myself how to make music — electronic music. I have a musical background, but I wasn’t familiar with the software. I wasn’t proficient.
So, I really taught myself how to do it so that I could make background music for all of the […] scenes [in History] without having to go out and license a bunch of pre-made music. […] I did not want to go through the nightmare of licensing; and I am an attorney, so I know how that works. So, I made these really basic, like, club beats that I thought, “These will be good for the background.” And then there were a few of them that I really fell in love with, and I thought, Well, if I can do this, why don’t I spend some time really pushing them a bit more and adding a bit more? And then taking them to a sound engineer to get that those things fixed and to get recorded? I mean, I had recorded vocals for History. But other than that it was just piano. And so I knew how to make beats, I had a relationship with a sound engineer. So, if you’re a fan of the web series, you will hear the first sort of pass at a lot of the instrumentals that are currently on Older.
Yeah, I wanted to ask about that. Because when I watched the first season of History, one of the first things I noticed — because I’m a music person, too — is that piano piece that plays in the opening scene of the pilot. And I wondered if that was an original piece of yours.
Yeah, it’s all original. The only thing that isn’t original in History would be, in the first season, anything that’s electronic that’s like background, club-y beats, party beats — that wasn’t me. That was all licensed. But in the second season, that’s when I took it over. I wrote the song “Take It All Away”, which is the motif that plays throughout season one; and I wrote the song “Together”, which plays throughout season two; and I have a new one, “You Lose”, that I’m still working on for season three. The idea with that is that each season has a song that sort of speaks to the themes of the season’s emotional arc; and then I use pieces of that instrumentation as the motif throughout the series.
Okay! Before we get too much into History, with Older — that album comes out on Friday the 20th, I believe — I noticed one thing when I was listening to your single, “Satisfaction”, that it’s sort of got an early ’90s feel to it. And especially that song is sort of a “fuck you; I don’t need you; I’m not going to give you the satisfaction” song. Is there something specific that kind of inspired that? Because I know that you’d said elsewhere that the album is meant to be listened to in order from one track to the next.
So, with “Satisfaction”, the story of the song is of course about an ex, because I believe that that’s the best way to encapsulate the feeling within the narrative of an ex. Like, who is your classic romantic villain but the ex?
But in terms of what I was trying to communicate and what I was feeling, the idea was — and for this, I really try to emphasize my LGBTQ+ eye toward these situations — that there are a lot of people in your life that want to get a reaction out of you […] We pick fights with each other in order to have a little drama. It’s just what happens and I see it happen regularly. And I could psychoanalyze why that is, but … The point is that if someone is getting on your nerves, think about what their entire is to work you up and get a reaction out of you. So, maybe don’t give them the satisfaction of that; and maybe just move along with your day. And that was sort of the kernel, and then [it] was wrapped in this “ex” sort of narrative in order to be more universal.
I think that that’s true. And a lot of the issues we’re having in the LGBTQ+ community is because of infighting, which makes it hard for us to progress when we really need to be, as long as that’s going on.
So, I appreciate you sharing that part of the song. It’s a really solid and important stance to take.
Just to get a little more into History, tell me about how this started as a show, as well as about how Necessary Outlet [Tracy’s production company] got started.
Okay, so Necessary Outlet sort of started as my “midlife crisis”. It hit when I was in my early thirties and I was in a relationship that I wasn’t very happy in; I was in social circles I wasn’t necessarily happy in; and I had a job that made me a fair amount of money, but I wasn’t really happy with. And I think the pivotal moment was at my 30th birthday party, which I walked out of alone and trudged through an apocalyptic snow storm in New York City, as we tend to get right around my birthday. Then I just sort of thought to myself, Something has to be different. I have got to do something different with my life. This cannot be it. So, in college I was — and even though now I am an attorney — I was a musical theatre major. I loved performance. I was a dancer first, singer second, and actor third. And it was just, you know, why not just use my resources to see if I can do this.
So, the idea was to launch Necessary Outlet, because I wanted a channel of LGBT content that was focused on visibility and telling our stories in a way that the center of the story, or the center of the piece — whether that be music or a series or whatever — is not “I’m gay and I’m fierce. High school sucked; college was meh; now I have money and I have lots of sex; life is amazing; it gets better.” And that’s not to say that that narrative doesn’t need to be told — but it is told. I think by everyone! I think it’s sort of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the center of, I don’t know, how many campaigns? It’s the center of a lot of things. But what I wanted to do was to tell the stories of, “These are just four people who are dating,” or, you know I have a show called Big Law, “This is just a corporate law firm. These are just people working in a corporate law firm and [it just so happens] the protagonist is gay.” The show is not about him being gay. But the protagonist is gay. And it was just about telling our stories — and telling universal stories with an LGBTQ+ point of view.
I think that’s really important. It’s definitely a shift in the perspective of the narrative. Because at that point, you’ve taken away the soap box and made the content easier to relate to and it normalizes LGBTQ+ people. One thing that I noticed with History is that it’s simple in its relatability. In my opinion, that’s done mainly through the characterization of not only [the protagonist] Jamie, but also the supporting characters. Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind the other characters, as well?
Oh, yeah! Well, when I launched this, I did a little cabaret, and then it was History. And, in order to build everything up, I sort of had to break down and break away from everything that was not helpful to me. So, during that time and right before that time, I had just gone through this break-up and a move-out. And then I was [in this place] where I had been in New York City for ten years and I suddenly felt like I was starting again from zero, and kind of just had to rebuild everything. And through that I was taking a screenwriting course. So, I was writing the script as sort of an exercise, as a practice in [the way of], “Can I write a narrative? Can I do this? Am I good at this?” But that was also very therapeutic. And that’s sort of why the first pass of the scripts sort of just look like angry diary entries. [Laughs]
And then it sort of got me to a place where I had to set them aside for a year. I’d gotten a new job, so I wanted to focus on the new job and make sure that I was solid there. And then, after a year, I turned back to the scripts. Let’s polish these up and turn them into more of a narrative and make them something. […] Everything in History is based on something — a plot point that has happened to myself or a friend/acquaintance. You know, Will is based off of my best friend; Matthew is based off of another friend; and I found that my skills as a writer was taking real events, finding the relatable emotions and underlying story, then weaving it into a narrative. Not everything happened exactly the way it happened, and not everything happened in quite the order that it happens. But it was sort of like me vision boarding with here are all of these things I find interesting, useful, relevant, or that people could connect to emotionally. Then I had to ask, how can I crack this into a 6-episode arc that tells an overall story?
And so, that’s what I did! [Laughs] Season two happened the same way; and now going into season three.
As a content creator, it is 100% ambition and not letting the fact that you don’t know everything and aren’t particularly qualified to do everything stop you from trying. […] it’s about not letting perfect be the enemy of good; and then putting it out there and moving on to the next thing.
What’s great about History is, sort of like you said, that its foundation is in some underlying level of truth. And from the very first episode, “Void”, when Jamie is sitting in the restaurant with his friend, Bianca, the dialogue feels very authentic and genuine.
Well, thank you very much.
You’re welcome. And to that point, I kind of want to take note that television — especially in the 2010s — does not spend so much time on exposition as it used to. Even looking at shows in the early 2000s like Gilmore Girls, which really spent a lot of time on just dialogue and getting to know characters. I found that to be one of the strong points of History.
Thank you! And that’s partially because I think that’s my strength as a writer: dialogue. And maybe that comes from my legal background, because it’s very — I almost find that style of writing to be like a persuasive brief, or an oral argument.
[Laughs] Yeah, absolutely.
I mean, Gilmore Girls was great! I love that I get to be compared to something like that. Just the witty turn-of-phrase, the quick back-and-forths and quick returns. That’s what I love. And the shows that I really fell in love with growing up were […] extremely expository. For instance, I’m a huge Star Trek fan; and that show is nothing by sci-fi exposition and techno babble. And then you have things like Will & Grace, where there’s all this quick one-liners and amazing zingers back and forth. I love David E. Kelley shows like Ally McBeal, Picket Fences, The Practice, and [its spin-offs] Boston Legal and Boston Public. I like — well, and also my love for theatre probably plays into that, as well, as a theatre major. I mean, I love dialogue. And when it’s smart, it just captures you and it sucks you in. And I hope that what I’m writing, that’s what it’s going to be like.
Absolutely. And with those shows — like you mentioned Will & Grace, which just recently came back — it’s just “banter-banter-banter-banter-banter”. Even shows like Murphy Brown, which is also coming back, were similar in that regard. Those sort of shows that were built around dialogue-based story telling, we’re seeing now that it’s making a bit of a comeback — even in a bit from the LGBTQ+ perspective. And a lot of where that’s happening is actually outside of network television.
You’re a part of something that we’re seeing more of now. What that is is that we are kind of existing in this realm — and probably because everything is more accessible to us — wherein more and more people are becoming content creators themselves and tasking themselves in that way; and you’re definitely a part of that. I know from similar experience with our magazine and with my work in television that this is not an easy thing. It does not come without some level of suffering.I mean you aren’t just doing it with History and with Older, but you have your other series, Big Law, not to mention you just wrapped up production on a movie, and then your other show, Millennial Memoir. Can you give your fans a little insight into what that’s like? What is that like wearing so many hats and being in these positions while also working a 9-to-5 job as an attorney?
So, well … the 9-to-5 is what finances it.
[Laughs] Right now, I am doing my first attempt at crowdfunding. Everything else has been self-finance. I understand that [crowdfunding] is where most people start; and I’m just very fortunate that I have the resources of my own that I can tap into on my own. Other content creators don’t necessarily always have that. There are some people who don’t have those [resources] and have to do favor-trading with other [artists]. And that’s not to say that my stuff isn’t low budget. But there are some folks who have to go out and grab a $100 HandyCam, or who have to record on their iPhones — but you use what you have to get it done. You do whatever you have to do to get it done, no matter how you do it.
So, I’m doing crowdfunding for season three, because — as you noted — I have a lot of stuff going on and the dollar starts stretching. So, I guess the hardest part in content creating — and I hate that term. I understand it’s the term we’re supposed to use. But for me it’s like, [with faux-arrogance] “Oh, my brand. I’m a content creator. Synergy.”
No, I get that 100%.
But, as a content creator, it is 100% ambition and not letting the fact that you don’t know everything and aren’t particularly qualified to do everything stop you from trying. I think to be a successful content creator is to fall on your face over-and-over-and-over again; and to learn-and-learn-and-learn and keeping applying those lessons to get better-and-better. It can be demoralizing. You can … I don’t know … make this thing that you think is really great, and then the audio or something isn’t the best, but it was the best that you could do. So, it’s about not letting perfect be the enemy of good; and then just putting it out there and moving on to the next thing.
Now, the community itself is still developing. You know the different showrunners and directors, the people who head this stuff up, are very ambitious people who are focused on their successes. So the community is kind of a community in name only. We see each other certain festivals and at certain events. And there can be favor trading and some, “Oh, use this tech guy or this sound person.” But overall, everyone is very driven and focused on their own thing and trying to get noticed and seen. My take on it, as Necessary Outlet Productions, is that I am not focused on my narrative. I’m focused on LGBT narrative. I’m not focused on one form of narrative. I want movies; I want series; I want albums; I want live shows; I want a theatre production; I want a touring show; I want dance — I want everything.
I saw an interview with Tyler Perry the other day […] and I really appreciated his outlook. And that was that you make it yourself, you create it yourself, you don’t sell anything. You build-and-build-and-build. Then that equity pays off in the future by having this major portfolio and being able to say that you own all this content and can do what you want with it.
No one out there holds the permission to do what you want to do. Don’t wait […] Do everything you want to do; do it now; do it with your all; and don’t wait for someone to tell you to go.
Well, if you think about, Tyler Perry was really one of the pioneers who started this trend of self-creation — especially so for people of our generations.
Before we saw Diary of a Mad Black Woman hit movie theaters, seeing someone put out this much content from the theatre stage to the movie screen and even to television was not really something that was done. And then to be done by a person of color was even more impressive.
And to go back to something you said a minute ago, which was that [Tyler Perry] was someone who was not always necessarily the most qualified to do what he was doing, and he was often nailed to a cross by the critics, but he just kept going and never gave up.
And — did you know? — he now has the largest movie studio. Period. The largest. It’s in Atlanta, they even filmed parts of Black Panther there. It is the largest movie studio.
Oh, and his best friend is Oprah Winfrey. I mean … if Oprah thinks you’re doing a good job, you probably are.
I think that I where I am right now — and I try not to compare myself to anyone because everyone’s experiences are different — but if I were to compare my journey to his journey, I am at the stage of doing the local theatre productions to build the audiences. I am meeting the community through the album. The goal is to start traveling. I have Jersey City Pride booked, I’m hoping to get other Prides booked. I wanna go out and meet the community. Right now, Necessary Outlet is very New York City […] So, the goal is to go out and meet people, then hopefully the album and the tour that I’d love to put together will go along with that.
I think it’s so impressive, everything that you’re doing. It’s even more so impressive because of someone who not only works a 9-to-5, but who is an attorney, which is obviously not an easy job and I’m sure is extremely demanding of your time. Do you sleep? Is there ever a reprieve for you?
The problem is that I’m like my father and I don’t know how to sit still.
Oh, trust me. I get that.
Like today, I’ll go home from work; then my son — who is a six-year-old cocker spaniel — and I will sit and watch television. And, you know, I was religiously watching RuPaul […] but let me tell you, on commercial breaks, my brain is going. I’m jotting things down; I’m coming up with ideas; I’m making to-do lists; I’m ordering props for the next shoot. Which, we just had the shoot for the second video this past weekend and we have another coming up. But, for me, it’s a matter of “this is a marathon”, so I need to be moving and keeping a steady pace.
Obviously the acclaim for History has been wonderful. You won the Los Angeles Film Award for Best Web Series and soooo many other accolades. What can your audience who have been keeping up with the first two seasons expect from season three?
I will say that anything I share will only happen if we reach our funding goal. We started today [Wednesday, June 11th] and we are at 33% [currently at 41% at time of publication]. We need $7,000 to make it happen, so we’ve gotta get the money. It’s time for our fans to jump in.
The idea for season three is all about taking past circumstances, juxtaposing them with the present, and sort of showing the growth and maturity that comes with being a gay man. It also shows how you evolve, and how program out of situations, and your views on love and friendships uniquely through the lens of a gay man. So, in season one it was putting a break-up from the past up against the present rebuilding of a life. In season two, which began a year later, it was showing the evolution of friendship coupled with the flashbacks of what happened over said year that got us from Point A to Point B and what was different a year later. The flashbacks showed us how events turned, what led us here, and how things got that way. And season three is going back as far as you can go back to answer the question What is love? for Jamie, for Will, and for Matthew. And it’s a sort of answer, I think, for each. For Jamie we are going to see that through his most formative relationship that I think is at the center of every gay man and what he understands love to be. And that is his relationship … with his mother.
Ooooh, okay. So you are really delving into the introspection.
Yeah! And it’s the first time I cannot play my past self [on screen]; because as young as I may look without a beard, I can no longer pass for 18 anymore.
So, we’re going to have to actually have to cast a Young Jamie.
Oh! And before we go, give us a little info about the movie you just produced.
Omigod. I am so excited because I just finished the first cut last night. And I cried because I had finally made my first movie. I’m very excited to see it, but I still have a lot of work to do. It’s called Snowflake. It takes place in a world not unlike our own — a political landscape not unlike our own, but from LGBTQ point-of-view. [In it], a Trump-like character has become president. There is a VP who is very much like Mr. Pence. So, the plot is two interwoven stories. One is that of the VP, and one is that of a gay man in New York dealing with the changes in society and the changes in politics that come from that election, how they process their anger, and how far they’re willing to go to protect their [way of] life. It’s very much [about] how a community and society — at least during my lifespan — has socially progress, then reaching a peak where it feels like we’re about to take a dip.
Oh, and without even knowing [at the time of production] what was coming, there’s a lot of [parallel] stuff about the Supreme Court in there. So, I definitely want to get this out immediately. We talk about gun control. We talk about a lot of what’s going on right now, but from an LGBT point-of-view of someone on the ground. [It’s about] how they get past things in their daily lives, their emotional state, their friendships, their ability to concentrate and to have relationships when they are consumed by bad news.
That sounds really, really exciting. I can’t wait to get to see it. And congratulations on finishing your first movie. That is no small accomplishment.
Thank you very much.
You’re very welcome. So, my last question for you is this: I know we started off this interview saying that all of this started off as a passion project for you and you joked that it was a bit of a midlife crisis for you. So, with that in mind, if you could give younger Jack any small nugget of wisdom, what would that be?
Oh, let me give that a second of thought. [Laughs] I would say … [Pause for thought] … that there is no one out there who holds the permission to do what you want to do. No one is going to tap you and tell you, “Okay! You can do this. Go do it.” Don’t wait. There is no one out there that is going to give you the permission to do it. Just. Go. And do it. Do everything you want to do; do it now; do it with your all; and don’t wait for someone to tell you to go.
You can follow Jack Tracy online and on social media by clicking the links below:
To purchase “Satisfaction” on iTunes, click here.
To pre-order Older on iTunes, click here.
And to donate to the third season of Jack’s web series, History, click here.