In the midst of his early 2009 run on American Idol, Adam Lambert remembered thinking during auditions that the judges were never going to pick him because, “I’m the gay guy. This is a pipe dream.” The singer who placed second to Kris Allen that season after a memorable run during which Lambert made a name for himself by bringing unique spins on songs by Johnny Cash and Tears For Fears, described his decision to lean into his true self while accepting an award at the 2023 Creative Coalition Spotlight Initiative Gala on Saturday (Jan. 21).
According to EW, the 40-year-old solo singer and Queen frontman discussed the homophobia he faced early in his career, describing his thoughts about making that season’s finale. “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?!’”
Lambert said he then began a “very interesting journey” through the music industry in which he felt like there were “no gay guys. It was kind of the Wild West in terms of that.” Lambert also described the iconic moment during the Nov. 2010 American Music Awards on the eve of his first single’s release when he thought he was doing the same thing he’d been doing since he 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,” he said. “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 L.A. amongst artists, weirdos, and I didn’t realize that that kind of thing would ruffle feathers the way it did.”
Instead of shrinking away and hiding his true self, Lambert said he thought the best move was to lean in and, “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.” In the years since, said Lambert, he’s seen how his decision has played out and it makes him proud.
“Over the past few years, I keep meeting more and more young people that saw me when they were a kid on TV and they’re like…’You helped me talk to my parents about being gay,” he said. Lambert was on hand to receive an honor at the Creative Coalition’s annual Sundance Film Festival gala, presented by his Fairyland co-star, Cody Fern, who also appears in the 1970s drama about a teen girl with two dads.