That buzz in your ear is probably that of country singer Chely Wright’s coming out. Although you weren’t supposed to hear that until Friday from the newsstands. People Magazine was trying to create buzz about this week’s issue in order to create a big reveal. The only thing is, TMZ got a hold of it and now, it’s out. Or rather, Wright is.
The Advocate, Salon plus every celeb site and blog are already all over it. The thing is, we got the impression that People had wraps on someone who’s a little more, um, superstar-ish. We have no doubt that Chely Wright is a big deal — in country music — but admittedly, there were a couple of us in today’s editorial meeting asking, “Who?” Speculation on the web was figuring the likes of Queen Latifah, Kevin Spacey or Anderson Cooper, all who have been under the scrutinizing eye of gaydar. People’s handling of this seemed a little over the top. Had they said nothing at all, they probably would have gotten the result they wanted.
Here’s an excerpt from the Advocate piece:
Even in a year already full of celebrity outings, Wright’s emergence as an out lesbian is truly something of a big deal, especially considering the world from which she is emerging. Not only is she arguably the first big name in contemporary country music to come out of the closet, she also happens to be doing so in a very big way. This month Wright will release, Lifted off the Ground, her first new album in five years and the most nakedly heartfelt piece of music she has ever created. Even more surprisingly, she is releasing a tell-all memoir—Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer—which chronicles her rise to fame in country music and a candidly details of her lifelong struggle to come to terms with her identity as a gay woman. The book will undoubtedly be a polarizing topic for fans of country music and, even more tellingly, Wright’s own fan base.
Also floating around the web is the notion Wright is the first openly gay country singer ever, but former Dallas Observer writer Sarah Hepola reminds in today’s Salon that’s not the case.
She is certainly not the first openly gay country artist — Lavender Country released the first openly gay album in 1973 — and if K.D. Lang isn’t classified as a “country music star,” she was, at least, country music-ish. But Wright’s announcement is still a sea change for a largely southern and conservative genre.
The issue of People, with Wright on the cover, hits newsstands Friday. That is, if you need a hard copy.