An Open Letter Regarding an Open Letter to Adam Lambert
[Editor's note: Already, in less than 24 hours, the incredible response to our interview with Adam Lambert -- and our Editor in Chief Aaron Hicklin's open letter to Adam -- has made a few things clear: 1) His fan base is awesomely, ferociously dedicated to the singer and 2) perhaps there is some confusion surrounding the intention and/or overall point of Hicklin's letter.
In an effort to shine a bit of a brighter light on the subject, the author of the interview with Lambert (Part One can be read here and Part Two can be read here), Shana Naomi Krochmal, penned the following to address some of the literally thousands of comments that have been already left all over the Internet regarding this story.]Let's get the most obvious thing out of the way first: Yes, it is totally absurd to imagine that anyone thinks they can somehow control or manage how gay Adam Lambert seems on any given day. You've seen him, right? Maybe read an interview with him? That's exactly what I love about Adam, that in addition to being able to sing his face off (his words), he is defiantly, outrageously campy and queer -- and that he seems to have such a sense of humor about it, and a willingness to shake things up.
That said: Despite plenty of back and forth between the magazine and the label about the cover and the photo shoot, I still wasn't prepared for what happened when I showed up at the 19 Entertainment offices for the interview. I briefly met Adam, and then the publicist and I walked out to the balcony, at which point I was cautioned against making the interview "too gay," or, "you know, gay-gay." Specifically I was discouraged from asking about the March on Washington that upcoming weekend or other political topics. I pointed out the difference between the Advocate, Out's sister newsmagazine, and Out, which is more broadly a men's fashion and lifestyle book, but obviously made no promises one way or the other. It was pretty awkward, as if we were discussing two totally different people -- an Adam who doesn't seem to have any real filter when talking about his life or his opinions, and an Adam who could somehow be contained, made safe for mainstream America.
When Adam joined us, the publicist left, and Adam and I sat down for a little over an hour on our own. You can read a transcript of Part One here and Part Two here. (It was very lightly edited, mostly to remove blathering set-up for questions on my part or redundant or vague discussion of an album that, in early October, didn't even contain a track listing.) He clearly has no trouble expressing himself on any issue, be it political, cultural, sexual or musical.
I still wish I'd been more surprised when I was met with such a ludicrous and offensive request. I am a journalist. I ask questions. Out is a magazine whose primary audience is gay men. Is anyone confused about that? I've been doing this for a long time and though I've been generically warned in a similar fashion before -- "let's make it upbeat and fun!" reps often say, or "just talk about the album/movie/TV show!" -- it's never been quite so egregious or with such an obvious expectation that I would comply.
When I filed my piece I included in the email what happened that day, and like Aaron's letter from the editor, it was full of anger. (Aaron at least has the excuse of being British, and in my experience when he's pissed off, everything he writes sounds more formal.) This is our profession, as much as Adam's is singing and entertaining. A decision to celebrate and respect that talent is why none of the circumstances surrounding the interview were mentioned in my piece within the actual portfolio.
I think Aaron's very right to point out that this scenario -- a pop star at this level out from the get-go -- is basically unprecedented. I've seen such striking change in even the last two or three years of how comfortable industry gatekeepers and their clients are in handling such new territory. We're witnessing a changing of the guard, and it's bound to overlap a bit in the middle, creating these strange moments where we work with both proudly out stars and their reluctant handlers, sometimes at odd with each other even when they have the same ultimate goals. I'm sorry it happened like this, too. But I'm looking forward to Adam Lambert having a long career, and to him proving every single one of us wrong in one way or another.
-- SHANA NAOMI KROCHMAL
ETA: Out has posted the letter from Editor, with room for comments.