National Coming Out Day, observed Oct. 11, had the crowds coming out to AT&T's downtown flagship store, 600 N. Michigan Ave., for an event celebrating people being their authentic selves. LOVELOUD and The Trevor Project joined with AT&T to bring in some diverse talent on that special evening.
Several of the performers stopped to talk with Windy City Times about their coming-out experiences.
RuPaul Drag Race's Shangela, who is currently in the middle of a 180-city tour, summoned her inner Beyonce for one number and also performed a parody of Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk."
D.J. Pierce, also known as Shangela Laquifa Wadley, originally came out to his best friend in Paris, Texas, right before going to college. He said, "I think we should celebrate self acceptance and love. As people of the queer community, there are times we don't feel accepted, or feel alone. It is great on a national level that we can celebrate today. It's important to find out who you are and embrace that."
On his appearance in the movie A Star Is Born: "The audition was for a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. I knew, no matter how long I stayed out of the sun, that wasn't going to happen! They contacted me and said Lady Gaga wanted me for the part. I grabbed a white dress, put on a mole, and hopped on a plane!
"Bradley Cooper gave us a lot of freedom, so we seasoned it with drag, making it more authentic. I am thankful, halleloo!"
Although not a household name yet, openly gay singer Wrabel has an impressive resume with writing songs for Ellie Goulding, Adam Lambert and Lea Michele. When asked about the coming out process, he described it as difficult: "I tried to come out to myself for years, and came out once I fell in love. I met a boy in a diner, and that was it."
His memorable song "The Village" was written for two transgender people he discovered outside his stage door on his first tour. He performed it for the audience that night along with several other songs, hitting some impressive high notes. His full-length album is planned to be released soon.
Fox's Empire co-star Jussie Smollett closed the evening with several songs. He had worked with The Trevor Project to attend the recent LOVELOUD concert in Utah, which he described as "mind-blowing."
When asked about what coming out means to him he said, "It is about being who you are, and living your own truthful journey. Everyone's journey is different, and shouldn't be compared to others. The most important person to be right with is yourself; the rest of the world is just icing on the cake!"
Smollett went on to say that people are made to feel invisible in the world right now, so these events are especially important. He couldn't give away too much information about the current season of Empire, but did say that it would be significant for his character Jamal Lyon.