Queer reality singer Nakia brings the bears to Deep Ellum
Even before nationwide attention as a contestant on NBC’s The Voice garnered him a huge following, Austin singer Nakia already had a cadre of fans. But it’s the burly gay men whose rabid enthusiasm for the bearded singer have made him an icon. And Dallas fans have Facebook to thank.
“[Bears] have always been a part of my fan-base and that’s certainly a part of my life,” he says. “I have several friends who identify as that and I could always expect a good showing of ‘em at my shows.”
But the group Live Music Lovin’ Bears of Dallas blew up when Nakia posted that he’d be performing here. The RSVPs swelled so that Friday night at the All Good Café should look like a mini bear run in Deep Ellum.
“When I was on the show I used to joke around with Beverly [McClellan] and Vicci [Martinez] because they were lesbians and lesbian fans can be fanatic,” he says. “I learned that bears are the same way. I dig that it’s kind of a thing.”
Martinez actually defeated Nakia, placing him seventh, though he says by going back to his roots, he still came out a winner. He was approached to audition after casting agents saw him on YouTube. But what drew Nakia to follow up was the notion that the judges would select him based on his voice. As a blues singer, he says he’s often not the image of what people imagine.
“That was the main reason I did the show. I’d been told my whole life I sounded different than I looked. Cee Lo thought I was black!“ he says. “On top of that, the producers never asked me to shave or lose weight. They saw that at the core I was this blues/soul singer. And they never made a big point about me being gay. They just casually mentioned my partner and that was cool.”
Nakia had been selected by judge Cee Lo Green to join his team and he applauds him for keeping him authentic throughout. But where do the blues and homosexuality meet? It’s not a genre most associated with the gay music agenda. Nakia credit ZZ Top … and his dad.
“He handed me a candy bar and put on ZZ Top. I was mesmerized and I got it,” he recalls. “Now, when I sing the blues, it’s coming from truth and understanding. There’s still a lot of heartache in our world as gay men and I think that it’s not gonna change anytime soon.”
If it means more emotive tunes like “Water to Wine” or “Making It Up to My Baby,” then let the misery play on. At least the bears will eat it up like honey.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 10, 2012.