Out comedian Wanda Sykes headlines a scaled down True Colors Tour that’s coming to Nokia Theatre on Sunday. But first she takes time to talk about coming out, married life and being a first-time parent
HRC’s True Colors Tour
with Wanda Sykes
1001 Performance Place,
July 12 at 8 p.m. $40â€“$50.
For the last two years, the True Colors Tour has been Cyndi Lauper’s Valentine to the gay community, a comedy and music festival that has brought in big names in big numbers for lengthy shows that with artists like Joan Jett, the B52’s, Andy Bell of Erasure and Debbie Harry.
This year, it’s going to be a much smaller affair, running only two nights (both in Texas) and with one star.
The good news is that star is Wanda Sykes.
On Sunday, Sykes will perform solo at the Nokia Theatre Grand Prairie solo under the True Colors banner, with funds still going to benefit the Human Rights Campaign.
(The first concert will be July 11 at the Austin Music Hall in Austin.)
Why True Colors approached Sykes for the gig is simple: "Wanda was a big supporter of last year’s True Colors and has become vocal about GLBT rights. She’s also incredibly funny and puts on an amazing show. The organizers thought it would be a perfect fit," a representative of the tour says.
Sykes was more than happy to oblige, although she said in a recent telephone interview that she wasn’t entirely sure why the show was not going on in the original format.
"I assume it’s the economy," she says. "It was a huge production for them. Me? It’s just me and a microphone."
(A rep for the tour confirmed that organizers decided to concentrate on the True Colors Fund, the non-profit arm that raises money in support of LGBT causes. Plans are in the works for different kinds of events in 2010.)
But despite the fact that she’ll be going it alone this year, the focus of the event, as far as Sykes is concerned, is still exactly the same.
"It’s about the HRC," she says. "It’s about putting awareness out there and getting the message out there. Even not doing the big tour. Any time I can get the message out there I want to do it."
In the past, Sykes has performed at Pride celebrations across the country, on the True Colors Tour and aboard a gay cruise. She also did a PSA for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), joined the board of Equality California and appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to speak out against Prop 8. But until last year, she had never pronounced for a fact that she was gay. But in the lead-up to the vote of Prop 8, she came out, loud and proud.
With all of the proverbial toe-dipping in the pool, her public coming out was somewhat subtle — at least as subtle as someone with a personality like Sykes’ can be. Last fall, she told a crowd at a Las Vegas rally that she and her wife had gotten hitched just a few weeks prior. It was the first truly definitive sign that anyone outside of close friends and family had been given.
Sykes and her wife are the proud parents of two-month-old twins, a boy and a girl. "It’s great," she says. "It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s also the most rewarding. Every day is something new."
Although Sykes knew it was time to come out publicly, she wasn’t sure just how people would react.
"You never know," she says, "especially being African-American." Sykes had cause to fear: Although a string of white actors had come out before her, she is one of very few African-American celebrities to do so. Being first is always a cause for pause. But when she did go public, Sykes says she was pleasantly surprised.
"It’s been all positive," she says. "I can’t say anything negative about it. It was very liberating and I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback." Many people have thanked her for coming out and she’s thrilled that what she’s done has provided encouragement for others struggling with coming out. "I am happy. I am really happy," she says.
Sykes says her stand-up has changed in some ways for this tour because her life has changed. "Now I’m married and a new mom. So there’s a lot of stuff in the act about that."
Ask Sykes why she came out and she doesn’t take even one moment’s pause. "Timing," she says. "Publicly, the laws changed. When they passed Prop 8, it became personal. My rights were being taken away. I had to speak out."
When it first hit the ballot, Sykes didn’t think Prop 8 would pass. But she was worried.
"Barack brought a lot of new voters and they may have been open to voting for Barack but still conservative in terms of gay marriage," she explains. She also questions how much it had to do with people voting for first time in general. "The ballot was very confusing. People had to wonder, ‘What am I voting for?’"
Wanda Sykes is a calmer, gentler version of her prior self these days — marriage and babies can do that. And although it was the tiny cries of those babies that ended our phone conversation with shared laughter and shouted goodbyes, it’s clear that her family will in no way stop her commitment to fighting for equality. She has no plans to keep her own mouth shut when it comes to LGBT rights. Her plan is simple.
"Just being out there," she says. "I have a talk show coming out for Fox starting in November. Not the Bill O’ Reilly Fox; the ‘American Idol’ Fox," she laughs. The one-hour show will air on Saturday nights 10 p.m. and will be shot both in the studio and in the field. "We’re still working on it," she explains. "But it’s a late night talk show from my point of view."
And that’s one point of view that many people will welcome.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 10, 2009.