Come Out With Pride has an entire week of festivities planned for locals and visitors alike to celebrate their coming out. One event is the official Come Out With Pride Weekend Launch Party which will feature Grammy-nominated performer Frenchie Davis.
Davis came out as bisexual in 2012. As a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community, she has performed at Pride events in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Honolulu and San Francisco.
The singer first came to the public’s attention when she was a contestant on the second season of “American Idol” in 2003. Davis followed that up with an appearance on NBC’s competition show “The Voice” in 2011, where she joined Christina Aguilera’s team and made it all the way to fifth place.
Davis is also a veteran of musical theater, appearing in “RENT” on Broadway from 2003 to 2007. She has played the role of Effie in “Dreamgirls,” Mahalia Jackson in “Mahalia: A Gospel Musical” and the Fairy Godmother in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” She also appeared alongside “American Idol” alums Ruben Studdard and Trenyce Cobbins for the national tour of the 30th anniversary of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
Davis most recently starred as Henri in “The View Upstairs,” an Off-Broadway musical about the Upstairs Lounge arson attack in New Orleans that killed 32 patrons at a gay bar in 1973. Watermark touched base with her ahead of the singer’s appearance at COWP’s Launch Party Oct. 11.
WATERMARK: How excited are you to be a part of Come Out With Pride’s Launch Party?
The Orlando community has always made me feel so welcome, so I’m really excited to join the celebration!
Who are your musical influences?
Ella [Fitzgerald]. Aretha [Franklin]. Whitney [Houston]. In my opinion, they are the Holy Triumvirate of vocal performance. Honorable mention to Leontyne Price and Dinah Washington, as well.
You released “Love’s Got On Me” in 2012, which was supposed to be part of a full album. Do you have any plans for a full release or is your focus more on theater?
I think I will eventually at least do an EP. Recording full albums as an independent artist is expensive as hell. Right now I’m just enjoying being able to do what I love and travel the world.
You starred in the Off-Broadway production of “The View Upstairs,” which is about the second largest massacre in LGBTQ history, after the Pulse shooting. As someone who is a member of the community, what were you feeling while you brought their stories to life?
It was so humbling and such a great honor to bring to life those stories,particularly because so many of the characters and their stories represented LGBTQIA people of color. Those first days of rehearsal were really powerful because, as a cast and entire production team, we sat and talked about so much of the historical context of the piece and what it meant to be gay in the Deep South and also a person of color. I love how my character — this tough but soft butch black woman matriarch/patriarch — managed to create this magical safe space for so many people in the community.
I remember talking to someone who during that time period lived in Mobile, Alabama and used to drive all the way from Mobile to the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans because that was one of the only places LGBTQIA people of color had to go at that time. It’s filled me with so much pride to be able to tell that story.
You’ve said on multiple occasions that you’ve faced homophobia, biphobia and racism. How has that shaped you as a person and to what degree do those past experiences influence your activism now?
I’ve experienced homophobia, biphobia, fatphobia and racism. I think it has been most hurtful when it comes from other oppressed groups of people.When I experience the racism that often runs rampant in the mainstream LGBT community; or homophobia from black people; or biphobia from lesbians who shame bisexual women. It is particularly hurtful because I consider myself a part of all of these communities and I stand at an intersection that inspires the kind of dialogue that makes people feel uncomfortable.
Here’s the amazing thing though, my experience of isms and phobias at that intersection have liberated me in a number of ways because experiencing public humiliation and shame will do one of two things: it will destroy you or it will push you to really do the work of loving and accepting yourself, and for me it’s done the latter. The more I’ve learned to accept myself, the more unapologetic I feel about who and what I am. And the more unapologetic I feel about who and what I am, the more clearly I can see that the way other people process that isn’t really my problem.
What advice would you give LGBTQ youth and POC facing those same struggles?
My advice is this: When writing the story of your life, don’t let anybody else hold the pen. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks about you. It is your life and you are responsible for making it beautiful! You are enough. You are not a mistake. You are exactly who and what you are because the universe deemed it so. So much shit had to happen and transpire in the universe for each of our singular existences to come to fruition and I don’t believe that is a mistake. We are all worthy of love and we are all worthy of joy!
Self-doubts are normal, insecurities are normal. If you’re artistic or creative, bouts of sadness will be normal. Most of our wounds aren’t even our fault;but healing them, that is our responsibility. And that healing begins when you learn to love those things that other people might try to shame you for. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to be loved the way you want to be loved, and you deserve to love whoever the fuck you want to love! Stand in that truth, young people! It does in fact get better but the journey towards better begins at self acceptance and I wish that for everybody.
Orlando’s Pride is a full week of events. Outside of your own performance, what are you most looking forward to experiencing while here?
The thing I most look forward to is the fellowship and the interaction with the people.It is always something that fills me with joy to see LGBTQIA people, particularly the youth, enjoying themselves and loving themselves and feeling free to be themselves. So I’m looking forward to experiencing that joy with them!