Todrick Hall opens up his forbidden side for his new album and tour

By : Randa Griffin
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Todrick Hall’s rise to fame has not slowed down since he first appeared on season 9 of “American Idol,” where he made it all the way to the semi-finals. He has established himself as an influential force in every aspect of performing, showcasing his talents for singing, dancing, theater and choreography on his YouTube channel—which currently has nearly 3 million subscribers—and his sold-out performances around the world.

Hall released his latest album “Forbidden” in March and is taking his talent back on the road in his new show “Todrick Hall American: The Forbidden Tour.” Watermark spoke to Hall about his rapidly changing career, his impact on his LGBTQ fans and his plans to win a “grand slam,” in show business.

Watermark: How did you get started performing?

Todrick Hall: Well I started performing at 8 years old. I was in the gifted and talented program and my aunt took me to see my first show, which was “The Nutcracker Ballet.” I was blown away by it. I thought it was so cool! I had never seen scenery and special effects live on stage; and the costumes, fog machines, lights and just the entire energy of the people sitting in the theater, clapping and watching. I just was completely blown away by the entire thing and I knew at that moment that I would love to do something like that. I didn’t know that I had the chops to be able to do it, but I knew it was something that really fascinated me and intrigued me. So I started taking dance classes and started being introduced to other forms of entertainment: Broadway, theme parks, cruise ships and world tours. I just started making it my priority to get as much information and training as I possibly could.

You’ve been performing for a few years, but your career has really taken off recently. How would you say your life has changed in the past five years?

My life has changed drastically. I’ve been able to do things I never thought I’d be able to. I’ve been able to travel to places I’ve never been able to afford to travel to and meet people in exotic places who don’t even speak my language, but know the lyrics to my songs and whose lives have been changed by videos I’ve made on YouTube. It’s really been so eye-opening and I’ve been able to provide things for my family I never thought I’d be able to and just live a much more comfortable life. I came from a very poor family in Texas and I’ve gotten to rub elbows and become close friends, and cohorts, with people who I’ve looked up to for so long. I never thought I’d be friends with Taylor Swift or working for Beyoncé, or doing things with Disney, or having Raven-Symoné or Brandy in my videos. But now, these people are not just doing my videos, they’re volunteering their time in my projects, and that to me was like the coolest thing in the world.

You have worked on numerous unique projects and with a lot of talented people. which project would you say you’re most proud of?

Being a part of “Kinky Boots” on Broadway was really awesome. I feel like that story was written for me. I really connected with the character that I played and it was always a dream of mine as a child to even be able to be in one Broadway show. The fact that now I’ve gotten to be in five Broadway musicals and have starred in two of them is just something I thought was an unfathomable goal as a child. To be the star of a musical that preached love so profoundly during a time when I thought America really needed it the most was really awesome and one of my proudest moments on stage.

I also really pushed myself to be able to sing songs that I thought were out of my range, and to be able to play a character who had comedic and dramatic elements to him. It was just really cool and such a huge challenge for me to bring that to life. It felt great every night after I was done to know that I accomplished it.

Whether personal or professional, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome since your career has taken off?

Trying to learn my brand. It’s very difficult to be an unsigned artist who’s putting out records that are competing with people who have huge teams of people behind them, who are instructing them and informing them what to do. They have writers around them helping them write songs; they have an events producer making sure they have the best costume designers, the best hair and makeup team, the best visual teams. When you have all of those people who have so much experience and have the ability to tap into resources most regular people don’t even know exists, it’s really hard to try and produce a product that’s of the same caliber, so that when your video is being looked at next to a Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift or Beyoncé video it can almost resemble that quality level.

I think that’s been one of the biggest challenges for me, and it’s a challenge I’m so willing to face. I have a great team of people who really believe in me and have helped me try to elevate the quality of my art. I always feel proud of the fact that from the first video to now—and I have over 480 videos online—you can really see the progression of how much we’ve worked to build this brand, and how much we’ve all grown since the beginning of this YouTube channel.

How has being gay in this industry impacted your career?

I don’t know that actually being gay affects people’s careers, as much as being open about being gay does. You can be gay your whole life and never tell anyone, but when you’re open about it and share your story with people, and help other people who are going through the same chapter of life you went through—because it’s undeniably a really hard thing to do—it really helps people and pulls them out of a place where they might be questioning whether their life is worth living. The fact that your music, or your story, can change or sometimes save people’s lives, to me, is the reason you want to be a performer. The accolades and the immediate response of applause and the want for selfies or Instagram followers is part of it, but what’s really important as an artist is you can change someone’s life with your gift and with your story and with your art. That, to me, is what this whole business should be about.

You’ve already done so much in a short period of time, so where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I want the EGOT. I want to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, and I want to win them all for products I’ve created, not for other work I’ve done for other people. I want them to be for projects I wrote, created and brought to life, and I would love for them to be recognized on that level.

Will I still be satisfied as long as the work I put out is great? Absolutely. But I think it would be really awesome to have that extra stamp of approval, and to know that this little boy from Texas came out, created stuff that competed with people who were the best of the best and was able to come out on top. That would just be a game changing thing for me. I’m really hoping that it will happen.

You’re coming to The Plaza Live in Orlando on May 2 for “Todrick Hall American: The Forbidden Tour.” What can the audience expect to see on this tour?

Well if they’ve seen any of my tours it’ll be very similar to that. I have dancers, tons of costumes, choreography, a lot of great singers and a lot of talented people on stage with me. My concerts aren’t just a review of my music; there’s usually a story being told. I think my concerts could be described as the perfect hybrid of a musical and a rock concert experience.

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