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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

In Advance of His Upcoming House of Blues Concert, LGBT Icon Todrick Hall Tells Fans to ‘Be Brave, Be Fearless and Do What is Right’

Posted By on Wed, Oct 23, 2019 at 5:35 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF UNITED TALENT
  • Courtesy of United Talent
Todrick Hall (mostly known as just Todrick, much like Madonna is just Madonna) is — to put it mildly — a multi-talented stage performer and “online content creator,” as he usually explains it.

Today, he’s an LGBT icon, spewing out words of wisdom to his community whilst tossing fistfuls of glitter as his impossibly perfect wigs fly to and fro during his larger-than-life choreography. His work and imagery have given his slew of adoring followers freedom and courage to not only step out of the closet but to strut the hell out of there.



“My favorite part about performing live is getting to see the fans. I am a theater person first and foremost. I grew up doing musicals and dancing in ballets,” he says in a recent phone interview. He brings his Haus Party to House of Blues at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4.

His shows are a colorful celebration and for many, a timestamp in their LGBT journey.

“It’s really, really cool for me to be able to go online and have these videos getting millions of views,” he continues. “But sometimes, they become just numbers. What I really love is actually being able to see the faces and getting to see the people who have been moved and touched and whose lives have been changed by the content that we create online and also to be able to help people feel comfortable in their own skin and to help them come out of the closet. I’ve seen so many people who come to me, and they’re afraid to take a meet-and-greet photo because they don’t want their family to know that they were at this event that so many gay people were at. Then, the next year, they let me know that they came out of the closet, and then, the next year, I meet their boyfriend and the next year, they’re engaged. It’s so cool to get to go on this journey with them.”

He's basically an Oprah in training, and we probably don’t deserve him. This year, Hall released two albums, Haus Party Part 1 and Haus Party Part 2 with Part 3 expected to drop soon because “oh yeah, it’s a trilogy, bitch,” he promised fans on YouTube back in August.

With songs like “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels,” “I Like Boys,” “Wig,” “Fag” and “Dripeesha,” the albums offer an infectious collection of self-expression and confidence. He told Billboard earlier this year that the goal was to create music for a house party where “fabulous, fashionable people would be.” He also wanted the albums to be something you could play on loop during pride month without needing to mix in other songs. The accompanying music videos feature his impressive trademark choreography. It’s stuff that Beyoncé could learn a thing or two from (she literally was Hall’s dance student at one point — more on that later).

His latest ass-clapping collaboration (again, literally) was an unexpected surprise. Comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish joined him on the twerk-heavy “Dripeesha” track and video that finds them going to “ass class.” The pair share such natural chemistry, it’s almost a mystery we didn’t get this content sooner.

Hall explains that he met Haddish through Taylor Swift, and they hit it off immediately.

“I just love her energy,” he says of Haddish. “She is one of the most real people that I’ve ever worked with. What you see is what you get. What you would imagine her to be when you watch her on TV and in interviews and in movies is exactly the human being that she is in real life — nothing is a put on. There are celebrities that I’ve worked with where you see them behind closed doors and they are one person and then the moment that they walk outta their house they immediately transform into someone else — the persona they’re presenting to the world is someone different. She’s not like that.”

When Hall pitched Haddish “Dripeesha,” she wasted no time jumping on it.

“She was like ‘When are we recording it? Tonight, or tomorrow?,’" he says. "She was super gung-ho about doing the video and she actually produced the video. She paid for most of the video because she was so passionate about it and loved it so much.”

Most artists don’t usually give us two albums in one year let alone three, but Hall pushes himself to almost unheard-of limits. He’s a singer, rapper, actor, dancer, writer (he pens every single one of his songs), director, choreographer (he was the resident choreographer on RuPaul's Drag Race), and of course, YouTuber. Hall received his first major wave of exposure on American Idol in ’09 but many ended up recognizing him most from his viral YouTube videos.

Many YouTubers clog up the platform with repetitive makeup tutorials and skincare routines that no one’s really asking for. But when Hall hit the YouTube world, he immediately went viral for his creative musicality which earned him a plethora of fans, work with Beyoncé and a lifelong friend in Swift (you can see him in Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” and “Look What You Made Me Do” videos).

“I can’t deny that [American Idol] put me on a platform where I was able to be seen by masses,” he says. “But I would say that the McDonald’s commercial that went viral on YouTube was a thing that made people notice me. Obviously, I’ve done a lot of projects since then like my 'Beauty and the Beat' video [which] was huge for me and the Target [store] flash mob that Beyoncé shouted out. Those were like huge staples in my career that were game-changing for me, but I would say that the McDonald’s commercial was the thing that changed my life because it made me realize that I had the opportunity to take my career in my own hands, and I didn’t have to wait and ask for permission from traditional media in order to be able to make a platform for myself.”

The now 9-year-old McDonald’s video he’s referring took him and his friends only about an hour to throw together. They drove through a McDonald’s restaurant and sang their order. People started noticing him out and about as the McDonald’s guy. Shortly after, he choreographed a flash mob in a Target Store around the release of Beyoncé’s 4 album which caught the attention of Queen B herself.

Hall ended up creating choreography for Beyonce’s 2014 “Blow” video — a sexy, blacklight, roller-skating dance party. It’s easily Hall’s favorite choreography moment. “I love her so much and it was so awesome to be able to teach her something — to have her be a student and to ask what foot she should be stepping on and stuff was really, really cool. She asked such educated questions that a lot of times, artists don’t ask because they’re not dancers enough to even ask those questions, and the questions she asked were so smart.”

Taking the initiative with his brilliant ideas also led him to the VMA stage this year. When his bestie Swift was putting together her video for “You Need to Calm Down” (which was her political coming-out moment that lined up in time for pride month earlier this year) she enlisted Hall’s help. He went to work rounding up some of his closest drag queen and LGBT pals and jumped into helping out in any other way he could. Swift surprised him with the co-executive producer title which landed him on the VMA stage with Swift when the video won Video of the Year.

This was a moment he’s extremely proud of and could easily be a win to brag about, but instead, he chooses to see it as a huge win for all LGBT.

“Me being on stage at the VMAs and accepting that award and giving a speech is huge for my community,” he says. “I’m just grateful that people are still doing it and I hope that more artists start to take the initiative to involve gay characters and gay storylines in their music and stories even if it seems like odd for some people. I think it’s important for people to be seeing it on a regular basis so that it can become more mainstream.”

Another one of Hall’s biggest undertakings was the musical and visual album Straight Outta Oz. He slapped it together in 2016 immediately after being inspired by Beyoncé’s Lemonade album. As fate would have it, it soared to number two on the iTunes pop chart, right below Lemonade. The reimagined Wizard of Oz story blended the original story with Todrick life’s story. (You can watch the blood, sweat and tears that went into making it in his 2017 Netflix doc Todrick Hall: Behind the Curtain).

He told Rolling Stone a few years ago that Straight Outta Oz was also born from his frustration with homophobia and racism in Hollywood. When asked if he’s seen any improvements since then, he says he absolutely has.

“I think that everybody who lives on this planet has seen the improvements in racism and homophobia, but we still have trans people being killed,” he says. “Every single month, it seems like I see a new story about a few different [trans] people who have been killed.”

He’s happy with the increase in numbers of other-than-white actors being cast in movies and gay characters or storylines incorporated in newer movies as well.

“People are taking huge leaps and it feels amazing to be what I think is a part of helping that change come about. I think that there could be a lot more [improvement] but I am so grateful. There’s a line in Hamilton that says, ‘Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.’ I’m so grateful that I am alive right now in so that what I’m doing can help create this change that hopefully that my children and grandchildren are going to see as something like prehistoric.”

If there’s something Hall can’t do, he hasn’t found it yet. The endearing part of it all is he wants you to feel the same way too.

“I think what I want them [fans] to know [is] you don’t need permission from anybody to chase your dreams,” he says. “Oftentimes, we’ve grown up in this culture where you need a diploma to do this and you have to take a class to be able to do this and someone has to give you a stamp of approval to be able to do something. Now, we’re in such a day and age where you don’t need permission to be called what you wanna be called or identity as what you want to identify as, to chase whatever dream or be who you want to be. I think right now more than ever it’s important for people who are not the norm and who are out of the box to be telling their stories because there are so many people who are now not being afraid to say who they really are. My heart breaks for all the people who lived in the past who weren’t able to ever be really in love and truly in love with people that they wanted to be because the time they were alive just didn’t allow it.”

If Todrick (or Toprah, if you will) has another request for fans, it’s this: “Don’t accept ‘no’ from anyone.”

“If there’s a door in front of you that no one will open, find a window, find a tunnel, find a cave find some way to get out and let your story be heard because ‘no’ is not an answer that you should accept easily,” he says. “Be brave, be fearless and do what is right.It’s a hard thing for some people to do the right thing but it’s always more fulfilling at the end of the night [when] you can go to sleep knowing that you’re a good human being and you did great things for great people,” he says. “It is like a classic thing that people who are nice and sweet and good to everyone are always the people who prevail even if you don’t see it immediately. They’re always, always, always the people who have a successful, lifelong career and karma is in their favor.”

Todrick: Haus Party Tour, 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $29.50 ADV, $35 DOS, houseofblues.com.

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