Todrick Hall has one of the most impressive CVs going around. You may know him from his YouTube channel, Season 9 of American Idol, perhaps you saw him on Broadway as Lola in Kinky Boots or you’ve heard the hype surrounding his international touring show Straight Outta Oz. I could honestly talk to him for hours but I jam packed it all into 15 minutes. P.S. He loves our accent!! #Winning.
It means so much and I didn’t realise how much that story and that character paralleled so perfectly with my life. It meant a lot to me especially with the state of our country at the time. I was there the day after he [Trump] was announced and the energy in our country and in Times Square was unlike anything I’d seen before, but it was awesome to be in a show that preached acceptance and love so strongly. It was awesome to be part of a show that has such a great message at such a scary time for our country.
We’re very excited to have your show Straight Outta Oz tour to Australia next month. It’s a modern take on The Wizard of Oz. Why this storyline and not one of the other classics? What resonated with this one for you?
I’ve always been obsessed with the story of The Wizard of Oz and I was feeling so many things about racism, politics and homophobia. I was inspired by Zootopia too. I love that they took amazing topics that are relevant and could have been touchy or risque, but told them in a way that a child could digest. It was relevant and I thought it was so cool. I wanted to have these adult conversations but through an American classic and something that is a fairytale. I thought that it was ironic that we as humans often go searching for things that we already have the power and ability to do, we just didn’t believe in ourselves, and that’s the fundamental message of The Wizard of Oz. It was a very easy decision for me to make.
I’ve noticed over the years you started to create original music. Is that a vessel for you to express your ideas and concerns with the world that you’re living in at the moment?
In some cases yes. I think each artist has to figure that out on their own. There was a point in my career where I was releasing stuff about dancing, twerking or having fun; I go through a lot of different phases, but I think I was really inspired by Hamilton and Beyonce, and how she would sing about the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s really big and affected my life personally. I thought I should use my voice to speak out for not only the that movement but also the LGBTQI community because we don’t have as may people in the industry with names that are speaking of our audience. I felt it important to join our people who are huge advocates and do my part to change our future.
A lot of artists at your level and in your industry have a legacy. What do you want yours to be?
I was on American Idol and I think the hardest thing about being on that show, even though it was five years ago and the world was such a different place, [was that] being an openly gay man was not socially acceptable. I know that we still struggle with those things today but we’ve come such a long way, and I want to be a trailblazer and create the world where someone like me can, 20 years from now, go on a show like that and sing a song about someone they love that is the same sex, or whatever it is they want to sing, and not feel like I felt. I thought I wouldn’t be successful on the show if I didn’t open up about who I was, and I thought that was sad, so I hope to be part of the solution.
When you’re in your everyday life and you have people come up to you, what is one common thing they say to you or one thing they’re grateful for that you imparted onto them?
A lot of times they’ll just feel like outcasts – not necessarily LGBTQI. They’ll just be a musical theatre person and people don’t understand them at their school. They say thank you for helping me believe in myself or making me laugh and smile and reminding me it’s okay to be different. It’s insane cause often I don’t know how to move forward, but my fans have helped me come out of that space. I have these kids I have to do this for, and they say the reason they’re still here or haven’t committed suicide is because I’m their music, and my bravery has helped them come out. They aren’t my struggles but I’m helping them. I’m just being myself and that to me is an invaluable thing, and I think we are supposed to do it.
Thinking back to day one, did you think this is where you’d be and how much of an inspiration you’d be to people not only in America but all over the world?
Absolutely not! There have been times where I’ve been bullied and I’ve been the bully and it’s hard to accept that. But if you’re being honest with yourself, I can teach these kids. I’m not saying I don’t make mistakes because I’m human, but I’m a lot more aware and aware of the person and role model I want to be. When you make videos on YouTube it’s because you want attention or to be famous, and those things are cool and valid reasons why I started. Now I realise it’s so much bigger, and I have a responsibility to be a role model. There are kids that don’t have a single black gay man they can look up to, they don’t exist. I’m willing to accept that challenge. I’m flattered and honoured that people look up to me as an inspiration and now I’ve accepted it, but I never thought that’s what it was gonna be. I just wanted to make people laugh and dance, and that would be it. It’s so much more than that and more valuable, and it makes me feel good as a human being.
Now I realise it’s so much bigger, and I have a responsibility to be a role model. There are kids that don’t have a single black gay man they can look up to. They don’t exist. I’m willing to accept that challenge. I’m flattered and honoured that people look up to me as an inspiration and now I’ve accepted it, but I never thought that’s what it was gonna be. I just wanted to make people laugh and dance, and that would be it. It’s so much more than that and more valuable, and it makes me feel good as a human being.
I love that you’re talking about the importance of being a role model. Do you wish you weren’t famous and could just be a role model? Do you think the two can be separate or are they a packaged deal?
I think that anyone can be a role model and fame has nothing to do with that, but I’m glad I can put up a video and use my voice. This whole situation is just my story, it’s nothing crazy. I’m really grateful I’m in the position and I’m loving every single part of my life. Some parts are negative and there are downfalls to doing this but there are other parts I love and embrace and accept, and I love telling my story and love that is has inspired people. I didn’t think that writing this album could affect so many people and identify with it. I have mums and straight dads come up to me. You never know, when you’re going to put up art, how people are going to receive it, and that is the beauty of art; it’s why we make it. It’s subjective because people can watch it and digest it in different ways.
Tickets to Straight Outta Oz are on sale now, but unfortunately Brisbane has sold out. For more info and further details, head here.