Adam Lambert is currently on the road fronting the massive rock band Queen, which means he's being heard by more people than ever before and reaching new audiences. So the timing is perfect for him to participate in AT&T's second annual Live Proud campaign, which seeks to foster awareness, empowerment, and pride throughout the LGBT community and beyond.
Through August 10, fans can enter to win a trip to New York to meet Adam at a private event by submitting a unique meme that represents a personal "Live Proud" moment. Yahoo Music got a chance to catch up the living-proud singer himself between Queen dates to talk about his history of activism and advocacy, how the world has changed in the years since he broke down barriers on American Idol, and how the Internet can be a place for lovers, not haters.
YAHOO MUSIC: When you first got off Idol, you didn't really discuss your sexuality or political issues. But over the years, you've become very outspoken about a lot of great causes, a real ambassador. What changed over that time?
ADAM: It just wasn't something that I was immediately interested in. I think I'm a little bit of a tunnel-vision type of a person; I think a lot of creative artists tend to be. I get kind of OCD and obsessed with a project, and that's kind of what my whole world becomes. On Idol I was really consumed with, "OK, what songs do I want to do every week?" Then I started looking ahead a little bit and what was on the radar was, "OK, now you have to make an album." But then my recording career was off to a good start, and more and more things started showing up on the periphery, different opportunities to turn my celebrity around and use it for good. I just became more and more interested in those types of opportunities: charity work, and organizations like GLAAD and the Trevor Project. And slowly but surely, as I got my footing, it was something that I felt I could contribute to.
I know sometimes you've said you felt a little uncomfortable being a "role model" for the gay community, because there are so many different opinions within that community…
I think things are definitely changing, and I think they're changing for the better. I think that there's still a bit of a generational gap within the LGBT community. There's kind of the older school's philosophies on activism and integration and all these issues, and then there's the kids that are coming up now, the new members of the community, the people that are 18, 19, 20, 21 — they have a different outlook on all of it, because they've grown up in a different time and the community is changing so rapidly. Even the civil rights side of it is changing so rapidly, so it's going to create a bit of a divide. I think when I started to come into prominence after Idol, we were kind of right in that tipping point. And now it's starting to get a little bit better, I think.
Do you think you were instrumental in changing people's minds about the gay community or gay rights, that you helped foster acceptance in any way?
I don't think I can sit here and say I did something, that's pretty narcissistic. But I do think the timing was very particular. When I hit on Idol, it was at a time when, if you really think about it, there weren't a ton of out celebrities, especially men. So it was at a time where the gay community was really just starting to integrate into mainstream pop culture, as opposed to continuing to be kind of the niche thing that we always have been. Now, five years later, we're such a big part of pop culture, like regular mainstream pop culture. So I think it's almost easier now than it was five years ago, which is exciting, because I'm curious to see how that affects connecting to people musically.
Does that mean you'll have more topical songs on your next album, along the lines of the gay rights anthem "Outlaws of Love" from Trespassing?
I'm not sure. "Outlaws of Love" just happened. It was pretty organic; I was sitting there writing and it just kind of came up, you know? A lot of the stuff that comes up is very impulsive and it just kind of happens, and then you capture it and it turns into a song. But it's hard for me to say now, "Oh yeah, hold on, let look at my crystal ball and see what I'm going to be inspired by."
Have you received any interesting feedback from fans about how you've affected them?
I've gotten a couple letters. I've met a couple people, for sure. I got a letter from a woman in Utah, and she was saying, "I grew up in a very conservative area and we didn't understand anything about gay people, it was just a thing no one talked about. And then I became a fan of you and you started talking about it, and it forced me to ask some questions and get comfortable with it, because I wanted to understand it." And I think she said she made friends with her hairdresser or something, which was ironically cliché! But it was a really nice letter to get from somebody that had chosen to open her mind. To be able to kind of be a catalyst for somebody that way is pretty cool, pretty powerful.
Of course, there will always be haters, especially on the Internet. Twitter and websites' comments sections are so full of hate, and sometimes you get the brunt of it. How do you deal?
I think we can all get sucked into it. But the thing to keep in mind is that life is not necessarily only on the Internet! Real life is not all that. I think there's so much in our lives that we live on the Internet, and we forget that there's another dimension we're missing out on. And I think when people get sucked into these arguments and debates on comment sections in blogs and whatever, it's not even a real debate. I mean, you can't even see the person and so much of the inflection gets lost in translation, it's not even a real conversation. I always kind of joke, like, "God, I wish these people who go online and bully people and hate people could have the balls to do it to their faces." Because it would probably be a much different ball game.
But now you're using the Internet and social media for good.
Yes, on the flipside, the Internet can be an amazing tool and super-powerful. This Live Proud campaign that I'm part of is kind of my way of marching in a flag parade, but doing it simultaneously on the Internet with fans. It's obviously to promote empowerment and pride and individuality, and to remind people that there's a way to kind of assert yourself and to be your own person, and break out of the lemmings mentality.
What does it mean to you to "live proud"?
I think actions speak even louder than words, and I think that just by daring to just be different, that in itself is a statement. It's not easy to go about your life or your creative artistry that way. I think for everybody, whether you're in high school or you're older, following trends and following the fold is usually the safer way to go about things. But it takes a lot of guts to be different and be an individual. And I think that that's part of this campaign, is let your voice be heard and figure out a way to sum up in a meme what your mission statement is, or what your outlook is.
Do you have any special memes?
Yeah, I created a couple that we tweeted out. I said "Get Your Life," which is in [my song with Avicii] "Lay Me Down" that I wrote. I wanted to try to incorporate some of the language I hear in the gay community, kind of the slang and empowerment speech that I hear. That's something people say, like, "Oh, get your life" — kind of a more interesting way of saying, "Go on with your bad self!"