Monday, May 03, 2010

Who the hell is Chely Wright?

Yes, I had to Google her, too. Like many of you, I had no idea who Chely Wright was before this weekend. I’m not a country music fan (well, except for classic country – Willie, Patsy, Johnny – sorry, I digress), so I had no idea that Chely won Best New Artist from the Academy of Country Music Awards in 1995, had a No. 1 hit with “Single White Female” in 1999 or made People’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in 2001. When the guessing game began about who would be the gay to come out on the People magazine cover May 5, I sure didn’t guess Chely. But evidence has mounted and now Queerty, TMZ and Gawker seem to have all-but confirmed that it’s her save for the tell-tale “Yep, I’m gay”-magazine cover. (Note: People confirmed it was Chely today.)

Now, at first glance Chely might not trip anyone’s gaydar – I mean, not even one tiny ping. She is not any of the standard stereotypes of what a lesbian looks, sounds or acts like. But I think the country music trappings (i.e. makeup, big hair, twang) are just throwing us off. If we look closer, we can see that the signs are indeed there.

[Click to enlarge for research purposes only. Ahem.]

Novelty T-ShirtsBig, Chunky BeltsTank Tops

Extra bonus points for the hands tucked gayly in her pockets.

And then there’s the 2002 People magazine feature about her glamorous look.

Her sister Jennifer says of their childhood in Kansas:
“We were such tomboys. We swam in the pond in our shorts and had mud fights. Beauty was never anything Chely strove for.”

Her friend and singer Keith Urban:
“She can kick your ass whether it’s on the golf course or softball field. I wouldn’t get near her – unless she was on my team!”

Her own words:
“For a long time I had a chip on my shoulder: ‘What about the music? I’m a writer. I’m a producer. I’m a singer. But then I started working with all the tools on my toolbelt.”

Tomboys. Shorts. Softball. Playing on the wrong team. Chips on shoulders. TOOL BELTS. Come on, people.

Her (allegedly) pending announcement brings a new, delicious layer of irony to her biggest hit, “Single White Female.” She’s looking for a man like you. And by you, she means the woman sitting next to that man. And, once again, the visual cues are there. The “man” of her dreams is reading “A Primer to Jungian Psychology.” Psychology! And her little leather-clad backup singer seems awfully enamored with her. Girl crush!

Silly signs scavenger hunt aside, if Chely is the big Cinco de Gaymo it doesn’t have to be a letdown. Sure, we all had fun dreaming about one of the Mega (Again, Allegedly) Closet Gays coming out – your Andersons, your Latifahs, your Oprahs. And then for a hot second we thought it might be Shelby Lynne (who I knew was gay the minute a friend showed me her first breakout album cover). But Chely would still be the first major maintstream country star to come out – like ever. She would be coming out in a genre not know for its inclusiveness or acceptance of gays – gay rodeo aside. And she would be coming out to a fanbase who I would suspect live in some of the reddest states in the union – we’re talking Palin country. These are all big fucking deals that Joe Biden would certainly give his blessings.

Like Jennifer Knapp, whose coming out sent a jolt through the Christian community, Chely’s revelation could be that initial Toby Keith-esque boot in the ass to the country establishment. How will they embrace an openly gay performer? How will country radio treat her? How will her fans react? So much of what we do in this fight for gay rights is just preaching to the choir. You can give as many impassioned speeches as you want, but if the only people listening are supporters you’re not really making any headway. But for someone like Chely to come out and face what will surely be a backlash is something else. If, say, a Michelle Rodriguez came out I really doubt too many of her fans would say, “You mean that tough chick in the tank top likes other chicks? I’m shocked! I hate her now!” But that’s exactly (minus the tough chick stuff, or not – ask Keith Urban) what some of Chely’s fans might be saying to themselves tonight. This is exactly the audience we need to reach.

And then, on a big picture level, this revelation has thrown the rules of celebrity coming outs on their head. I mean, in the old days celebrities ran from gay rumors until either 1) someone caught them down or 2) they just got tired of running. Now, by all appearances, Chely is using her gay announcement as a way to generate positive publicity. I mean, who ever heard of announcing your coming out beforehand as a way to build buzz? This whole thing is timed perfectly with the May 4 releases of her new CD, “Lifted Off the Ground,” and her new memoirs, “Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer.” Press material for her memoirs calls it “a book of revelation: honest, inspiring and true.” Like me? Revelations? Honest? Shorthand: Yay Gay!

Other interesting tidbits about Chely:

  • She has kept a video blog since about 2007.
  • She performs overseas for the troops with the USO.
  • She moved to New York in 2008.
  • She is loved by Kristin Chenoweth.
  • She is going to be on the “Today” show Wednesday.
  • She looks amazingly cute in glasses.

Hello sexy librarian, rawwwr.

So, welcome if indeed you’re the one we’ll be welcoming, Chely. I just met you, but I know you’ll make a lovely addition to the family. Though, and I mean this just as a bit of friendly advice, you’re going to want to cut those nails. Ye-and-Oww.

Also, and I mean this sincerely too, thank you for the tank tops.

p.s. What’s in the water out there in Kansas, ladies? Melissa, Jennifer and now Chely. Behind wheat and tornadoes, gay gals with big voices seem to be your state’s chief export.

p.p.s. Chely also did an interview with The Advocate talking about her coming out. I think this quote sums it up pretty well:

“I grew up feeling like there was no one else, no one that I could relate to. I felt like there was no one else like me, which is why I called the book Like Me. Even though this process has been incredibly difficult, I’ve still enjoyed a very fortunate life. Even if my career in country music ends, I know I will be OK. But I think about that girl in a small town in Louisiana who is too afraid to come out because she knows she won’t be safe. I think about that 15 year old boy living somewhere in Kansas, feeling scared and alone. If a country singer that he knows comes out of the closet, maybe that makes him feel a little less alone. And what about his parents? Maybe his mom knows my songs, or maybe his dad saw me perform for the troops in Iraq. If my coming out of the closet makes them rethink their ideas about gay people, then I’ve done something good. After finally coming to terms with my own life, I just felt like it would be irresponsible for me not to be honest about it.,”

p.p.s. Oh, and she has apparently never asked a girl out before. May I humbly offer my services as a test case.


Anonymous said...

I don't know where you live but Chely CERTAINLY looks like lesbians where I live (Thank the goddess)!

;)) babs said...

"Cinco de Gaymo" - ROFLMAO

Amanda said...

As a gay lady from the Midwest, I couldn't be more proud.


Kathryn said...

It's confirmed this morning on the People mag website.

Anonymous said...

I've been a fan for years and again didn't notice a ping.
Ooh, look what I found, it's the blurb crap from the publishers of her memoirs.
That seems to pretty much confirm it, now, I must go and see how quickly I can get this sent to England

Lyn said...

I am not a country music fan however I heard her song "It was" years ago and I loved it. It was one of the few country music mp3's I had on my computer. I never had a clue she was gay but that's awesome. She's gorgeous.

betsey said...

Holy crap. As a midwestern country music fan, I can't tell you how much this would have rocked my teenage world! It took me a very long time to realize I was gay, I think in part because the only gay women I knew were butch, mullet wearing, PE teachers. Even though she is not as popular as she once was, I am so happy for the young, small town girls who need a femme, country gay lady to look up to. Alot of people will probably say that this isn't a big deal, but you know what? IT IS.

ignacia said...

those nails in the video are definitely fake.
the first thing i noticed about Chely in that album cover photo was that girlfriend has a serious case of Gay Hands.
that and her frequent use of the wrist cuff.

welcome to our ranks, Chely!

the crustybastard said...

Not a word about Chely's striking resemblance to Holly Hunter? Am I the only one that sees it?

In answer to your "what's with Kansas?" question, it almost certainly must be due to the brave acts of some West Coast lesbian. At least that's what I learned on The L Word.


Anonymous said...

You got it, Dorothy! Many years ago, a straight friend/colleague of mine from a traditional Chinese family said "I didn't know Asians were gay." There will be lots of folks around the redder parts of the country who will have a similar response when they hear about Chely Wright, "I didn't know [fill in the blank] were gay." These folks aren't mean, they just have stereotypes in their heads. Just as we often do about them.

(By the way, that is not Shelby Lynne's first album. Now you owe us Shelby fans a few pics of her in a t-shirt.)

Anonymous said...

So, are we just not counting K.D. Lang as a country singer who came out?

Anonymous said...

Re k.d. Lang. She was not really part of the Nashville system. I don't think she wanted to be and, obviously, "country" -- as represented by the narrow corporate system of Nashville -- wasn't ready for her. Chely Wright is/was a pretty standard Nashville product.

Anonymous said...

Cubby Hole = NY lez bar!

Marcy said...

Shelby Lynne has been around longer than "I Am Shelby Lynne". Here's the cover of one of her early albums, but not the first. This is 1991. She was 12 years into her career when she won Best "New" Artist.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 8:57, thanks for the clarification. The nuances of the country music scene elude me.

J School said...

I've always loved Chely Wright and hearing this news makes me like her even more. I just hope those country fans in those red states you mention don't decide to dislike her now that she is out. I don't want her to turn into the third original member of Sugarland.

Anonymous said...

ds, I'll comeback later, and will read them on today,
hold on, hold on!

have a nice day!
I was so mad about steamy hot weather through yesterday to today.

btc said...

love this "p.s. What’s in the water out there in Kansas, ladies? Melissa, Jennifer and now Chely. Behind wheat and tornadoes, gay gals with big voices seem to be your state’s chief export."

So true! I'm originally from the east coast but i have a deep appreciation for these lovely Kansas ladies :)

Norma Desmond said...

Dear Ms. Snarker, Please stop making me want to move back to the Midwest. Best, Norma Desmond

Anonymous said...

Hey, Chely call Shelby. You can get her number from her sister, Allison Moorer, who also lives in NYC.

Kay said...

Right on!! I was a huge country fan when Chely was in her prime, and I always thought she was beautiful.

Now we just need Terri Clark to come out and my dreams will have come true!!!

Anonymous said...

I LOVED Chely when I first heard her and saw her. I am happy to know that there was something under the surface that I picked up on. Kudos Chely - you're lovely and very talented.

taylor said...

"She’s looking for a man like you. And by you, she means the woman sitting next to that man."

Love this. Hope I am sitting next to that woman, perchance.

Anonymous said...

i discoovered her myself about2 months ago when my cheno obsession led me to look at her twitter (read: squeeing virtual love letter to chely). what cheno says, goes. that should have been the gay clue right there. cheno is attracted to/attracts gays in droves. rosie, ellen, entire cast of glee.

Anonymous said...

K.D. Lang was in country music for a long, long time so great as Chely's coming out is, she is not the first.

OH PS K.D. was part of the Nashville system, I can remember her doing backup and also solo's in the most horrific dresses, it was painful to watch.

When she started to really get a name for herself then the sht hit the fan and K.D. went her own way.

I love country music, hate the whole country mind set or lack thereof..

Also hate the posters on this site who think it's kool to bash women with masculine energy. Get over yourselves. Your not all THAT...

Anonymous said...

WOW! She's a super hot lady (kind of a Holly Hunter with pointier features lookalike).

El N said...

Ms. Snarker, you know that's how we roll out here in Kansas. We grow 'em on the farm and ship a few off to the east/west coast now and then. Third largest export after soybeans and giant balls of twine.

Anonymous said...


today's post is difficult to leave comment.
anyway, you look exciting. that's what I like.

she looks good, I think you like certain type of lady~looks like good person, I mean visually.

go for it!!!

what I can do, say hello everyday,
sometimes friendly comment, or complain about life. Silently support every creature's rights in universe. AND!

Unlimited prayer for your happiness.

no even hug?

you're so far away.

good night~~

do you think I can do more than that when I'm getting old? I'm pretty old now, though.

susanj52 said...

I fucking love it. NASCAR you dicks. She is FAMILY!!!! How COOL. Love her music even thou I dislike country, Everyone one should listen to the words of her music. She has been coming out for YEARS but no one was listening!

Cat said...

Aww yeah. Welcome to the family, Chely!

I love country music, but living over in the UK I've never heard of her. I will be fixing that.

Also, I can't see enough of the tshirt to make it out, but "The Cubby Hole" is a gay bar in the East Village NY, and it sells tshirts. I'm just saying.

Your point about her reaching people we need to reach (and don't, usually) is very well made.

pickpocket said...

Anonymous said...
"I don't know where you live but Chely CERTAINLY looks like lesbians where I live (Thank the goddess)!"

What? Uh,, like where do you live?

A Strange Boy said...

some serious floodgate opening. I really hope more people are emboldended by her example. I hope the blowback from the red states isn't too vicious, but I know how they can be.

and count me among the people that was sure Shelby was going to come out first.

Kristin said...

I'm sorry but this is so fucking disappointing. They said it was going to be somebody huge. What a let down

Juanita said...

I'm soo proud of her. She had the guts to come out though..although it woz a bit obvious and I expected sumone HUGE!

nightFire said...

i read somewhere that said she was doing it simply to promote her new cd. so i was thinking that if thats how you promote country music now, well the world is getting truly weird

Bent said...

It will be fun watching the Music Row peeps shitting all over themselves if she sells a ton of records on this one!
Now, for our boys I wish Kenny Chesney would please step forward. Can you imagine the size of the closet holding him in?

Anonymous said...

not even remotely shelby's first album cover... and not even the gayest ha... saw her live in sf a couple of weeks ago and she had the fiercest femme-hawk i've ever seen... yes please to posting pictures of her...

sugababe said...

She is lovely, I wish her all the best.

"Also, and I mean this sincerely too, thank you for the tank tops."

ROFL! I so knew you were going to say this!

btw, is there such a thing as "gay hands"?

slicey said...

:) Perhaps I shouldn't be so disappointed about moving back to Kansas... we seem to be doing pretty well for ourselves recently.

I like how susanj52 said that Chely has been coming out for years and we just weren't listening... wow. isn't that the truth about coming out!?!

tangeresa said...

I was about to ask whether the Cubby Hole shirt was, in fact, from the lesbo dive bar in the West Village, but Anonymous beat me to it. I never got the impression Cubbyhole had merch but I guess it could be old... If it is a shirt from the bar, I'd have thought that would be a dead giveaway. ;)

Gotta admit I'd never heard of her either before this, so I especially appreciated the title and perspective of this post (even moreso than every other day, that is).

Anonymous said...

I know one thing it is a shame she is flat out smokin.

Anonymous said...

Wow. She's stunning!
@Anonymous who posted a comment at 4:32 AM: Where do you live? Because I'd like to move there

EVIDEO Media Solutions said...

She is a beautiful lady. Thank God she can be herself now. Lifes too short to live for other people. God bless u girl....