Adam Lambert says facing homophobia early in career pushed him to be 'as gay as I f---ing can be'
"When I went to audition, I was like, 'Man, I don't think they're going to take me. I'm the gay guy. This is a pipe dream,'" the Fairyland actor — who ultimately placed second behind season 8 winner Kris Allen in 2009 — said while accepting an award at the 2023 Creative Coalition Spotlight Initiative Gala on Saturday. "And I made it to the final and I couldn't believe it. I mean, I had no idea that it would go that long. And then once I got off the show, I got signed a record contract. There was an Entertainment Weekly article that was like, 'Oh, this guy's exciting, and it may or not be because he might be gay.' And I was like, 'Might be?!'"
As he entered the recording industry, the former Broadway actor says he went on a "very interesting journey."
"There were no gay guys. It was kind of the Wild West in terms of that," he continued. "And a year later I did a performance on the evening of my first single coming out, on the American Music Awards. And I did the kind of performance I had seen since I was a teenager. I was kind of sexy, and had dancers on stage, and I did a couple of suggestive moves with a couple of dancers, and an impromptu kiss with my bass player. I was feeling it. Well, I got off stage and I got in trouble. The network was like, 'How dare you?' They banned me for a while. They threatened me with a lawsuit. It was like, 'Oh, okay, that's where we're at.' I didn't know. I'd been in a bubble in LA amongst artists, weirdos, and I didn't realize that that kind of thing would ruffle feathers the way it did."
From there, Lambert felt the best way to effect change was to "be as gay as I f---ing can be. And be flamboyant and be wild, and if it gets me into trouble, it gets me in trouble, but I'm not going to back down from it."
And he says he's seen the impact of that visibility: "Over the past few years, I keep meeting more and more young people that saw me when we were a kid on TV and they're like...'You helped me talk to my parents about being gay."
Now, Lambert believes the music industry considers it a "viable business move to sign gay talent. And the film industry is moving forward. There's more and more queer stories being told."
Lambert was honored at the Creative Coalition's annual Sundance Film Festival gala by Cody Fern, who costars with him in Fairyland, a 1970s/80s coming-of-age drama about a teen girl with gay dads. Other honorees included Phoebe Dynevor (Fair Play), Luis A. Miranda Jr. (Going Varsity in Mariachi), Lewis Pullman (The Starling Girl), Randall Park (Shortcomings), and Nikole Hannah-Jones (The 1619 Project).
"Visibility is so powerful," Lambert said, concluding his acceptance speech. "The LGBTQ community has been under attack for a long time, are under attack again. There's a lot of conservative pushback, and making art that represents the queer experience and stars people. That gives the LGBTQ community strength...hope. It gives us inspiration. It makes us shed some of that shame and self-loathing that we grow up with. I'm so thrilled to be an artist in this time. We have a lot of challenges in front of us. It's not over yet. There's still work to be done, but I am just so proud of the work that's been done so far."