Chely Wright Now Faces Death Threats + 50% Drop In Sales. Was Coming Out Worth It?

They’re wrong. There’s the gay community that now knows my name and it’s a long leap from the new demographic of people who will come to my Facebook page and hit the “Like” button to them buying my record and coming to live shows. It’s a big stretch from those new fans to make up for the fans I lost. It didn’t help my career. My record sales went directly in half. If it appears from the outside in that it’s helped my career, it could be because I haven’t talked about the negative. You won’t hear me bitching and moaning on my Facebook about the hate mail I’ve gotten. My life has been threatened. I get nasty letters every day, “I’m through with you Chely Wright, you’re going to hell.” There’s a big difference between press and advocacy and…. sometimes people forget that people who sing or make movies, this isn’t just a hobby for us. This is how I pay my bills. In coming out I had a feeling that it would diminish my wage earning, and that feeling was correct. And, I am fine with that.

—Chely Wright discloses the unspoken side to a celebrity coming out: you lose fans. But maybe you didn’t want those kind of fans anyhow? [via Autrostraddle]

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  • SteveC

    Well at least people now know who she is. There was a lot of hype prior to her coming out. Some of us were expecting someone FAMOUS to come out. When it was announced I had to google her.

  • dk

    There was bound to be fallout, country music has very conservative followers like hip hop. Maybe she should broaden her style and do more rock flavored stuff. Hopefully if she really loves making music, she will stick with it and find her niche. It worked for k.d. lang, melissa, and ellen. JMO.

  • Blackjack44

    you dont just lose fans you lose income. You get told by a community of people that as talented as you are, be that as it may, you are not worthy of my money and support because you love someone of the same sex. That is the tragic reality of being an out celebrity when your not Ellen Degeneres or NPH.

    The actors and tv personalities will always have much more breathing room when it comes to being out than gay and lesbian musicians for many years to come. That is until really prominent gay and lesbian musicians come out, and this reality gives them more reason not to.

  • rrr

    @Blackjack44: Really prominent gay musicians HAVE come out. Elton John came out long ago and he is a huge longtime success in music. Freddie Mercury is dead now, but everyone knows he was gay and died of AIDS yet Queen’s music has remained mainstream popular and even a traditional part of macho sporting events. REM is a mainstream popular act and Michael Stipe came out at least a decade ago as bi and more recently as gay. David Bowie is another big musical icon and he came out as bi in the 70s and wrote songs about boyfriends and pursuing guys back then. KD Lang has been very public about her lesbianism for a long time. KD is a longtime mainstream success and was part of the Olympic ceremonies in Vancouver along with out gay fiddler Ashley MacIsaac. Melissa Ethridge is an out lesbian.

    Some genres of music will be less receptive to out lesbians and gays than others. American country music is not receptive to gays just like they aren’t receptive to criticism of republicans as the Dixie Chicks discovered.

  • ForeverGay

    Thank you Chely for being honest. Too many gay celebrities want to avoid talking about the real consequences of coming out because it confirms heterosexual bigotry.

  • adman

    Honey, there’s no money in the till for the gays downmarket! Writing music for sadly misnformed, mediocre at best, barely functioning people who seethe in resentment at anything they aren’t instantly familiar with is not in your future. It’s because they are what they are, it has nothing to do with you. Sorry you had to hear it here.

  • Jeffree

    @DK: Great point.
    There’s been such a blurring of lines between country/ folk and even rock. kd Lang has had great crossover appeal.

    If Chely can crankout one or two great songs, she could make something of a comeback. Emmylou Harris (who is str8) had some lulls in her career but has made some really fine music outside of C/W.

    Sorry to hear about the threa.ts….It’s one sign of how much some parts of the country are beyond close-minded.

  • Franky

    I’m proud of Chely. She’s a strong and honest individual and put her personal integrity and self-respect and the fight for equality over the potential risks involved in coming out in a conservative environment. Unfortunately, the majority of the music industry is very homophobic, much because society, as we see here with her drop in sales, is homophobic in many ways. As RRR put it, certain genres of music are better than others. Genres where a person can be a little more…………..independent and forward thinking, whereas with country music, hip-hop/rap or heavy metal, there is a solid line that you cannot cross if you want to be successful. Things won’t change until/unless more musicians come out, or there is some type of highlighting of the fact that there are gay peeps in some of these genres, and gay fans, and that they need to be represented as well, instead of bashed in the lyrics of many of these songs.

    Just like with A list movie actors, agents/PR folks will tell musicians to stay in the closet and be as heteronormative as possible. Living in VA, relatively near Nashville, I know for a fact a major amount of the country music male stars and also bull riders are gay/bi/etc.

  • rrr

    @Jeffree: Have you heard Chely’s music? It’s the really trite cornball crappy type of country music, not the good stuff. It’s not even catchy.

    KD had talent, vocals and versatility that allowed her to have crossover appeal. I don’t see Chely creating songs considered great by people outside of country music or managing crossover appeal.

  • Devon

    The whole not having a hit song in nine years thing might have been a factor too. Just Saiyan.

  • Jeffree

    @RRR: Yep, I grew up right in c/w country. Chely was writing/performing what was selling at the time. Even mainstream c/w radio has gotten slightly more open to different sounds, but her coming out sure didn’t play well with the c/w crowd regardless of her music.

    In live shows she showed more range. Whether or not she’s willing or able to diversify her music now will remain to be seen. Emmy Lou Harris made that swi.tch & it worked out for her. Even the DixieChicks had to change up their act to keep their career afloat.

  • CJ Maciejeski

    @Blackjack44 Ellen is exempt? Really? Remember the nineties?

  • Daez

    Its really sad that the fans of country music are such bigots when many of the performers aren’t. I’m willing to guarantee that Darius Rucker faces this same sort of shit on a daily basis. I’m willing to bet that many country music fans refuse to buy his albums just because he is black.

    If Chely were in the pop music scene her music would suck, but at least she could have a better chance of coming out.

    Also, this woman turned down Brad Paisley to come out. If you can turn down Brad Paisley to tell the world you are a lesbian, I think its proof that ex-gay therapy is bullshit.

  • Daez

    @Blackjack44: Umm, I hate to nitpick, but coming out almost DESTROYED Ellen. She really didn’t make a come back until must later on. Ellen is just a very brilliant talent. Its her talent and drive that kept her from working at BK after coming out. She was very close to doing that at one point though. Coming out basically destroyed her television show while it was still going strong, and no one really talked about her for the longest time until she got her own talk show and made an amazing come back.

    NPH came out at a time when more people were willing to accept him in that profession. Country music is still a very bigoted scene, they have three black stars in its entire history, no Asian or Hispanic stars, and no openly gay stars. Its mostly marketed to people that believe they are better than the rest of the nation because they hold true to their ideals and expect everyone else to be forced to as well AKA tea baggers.

  • Jaroslaw

    #4 RRR, I second Daez on #14 – all the people you cited on your post #4 were already hugely successful before they came out. I would daresay Ellen was “popular” but her success wasn’t carved in stone when she came out. And don’t say Freddie Mercury was “out”, maybe he was, but that was NEVER talked about where I lived yet Queen music was played constantly.

  • Xtincta

    It’s funny how time gives people selective memories. When Elton first announced he was bisexual we went from being a bit of a heart throb who could sell magazines to being black listed. When he fully came out and announced he was gay the world was starting to change but his rise in terms of relevancy was still a work in progress.

  • mk

    That’s true, Elton John’s sales in America did plummet when he came out as bi. Despite being gay rather than bi really, he married a woman finally to increase sales.

  • rrr

    @Jaroslaw: Um…the fact those people were very successful before they came out was my point. Blackjack was saying things wouldn’t change “until really prominent gay and lesbian musicians come out, and this reality gives them more reason not to.” I was responding to that noting that a number of really prominent gay and lesbian musicians have already come out over the years as lesbian/gay/bi, so a lack of prominent out stars is not the problem in music overall. The issue here is genre specific.

    Freddie wasn’t fully out in life. I was pointing out he is out in death as gay and an AIDS victim. He is a music icon and his music has maintained popularity, so he is a prominent music legend well known to be gay. I believe he came out as bi eventually in interview although he said that a good woman friend of his was the only person he was really close to and trusted.

  • Jaroslaw

    Um my foot #18. Okay if you hadn’t made that little condescending remark, I might reply nicer but since you did……your post clearly implies precisely what I wrote on #15 – read your own post again! You start by saying Elton John came out long ago. That makes it seem like he came out before he was a huge success. Then you say “everybody knew Freddy Mercury was Gay.” Again, the average person would think he was out all along. So before you get all snippy, learn how to write coherently.

  • rrr

    @Jaroslaw: I didn’t make a condescending remark. I indicated faint bewilderment that you were taking me up on something that made no sense. It appeared you had not looked at my comment in context, so I ran through the context at #18.

    If you check my post you will see it is exactly as I described. It was a direct response to Blackjacks comments. Blackjack was talking about really prominent musicians coming out. That is, musicians who are prominent and then come out while they are prominent. I replied to him with an @blackjack44 and began with “Really prominent gay musicians HAVE come out”, also in context and phrasing talking about musicians who were prominent already coming out. I talked about the length and success of their career to emphasize the fact these people are big stars and icons in music, thus whatever impact the existence of gay music icons might have will have already happened in music in general.

    It is well known Elton John came out as bi and then later gay when he was already famous. That’s something that’s fair to assume knowledge of, especially on a gay website. By saying he came out long ago I was establishing the relevant fact that there have been out gay/lesbian/bi stars in music for a long time (i.e. there has not been an absence of such figures in music).

    I did not say “everybody KNEW Freddy Mercury was Gay.” which would imply he was out when he was alive. The quote from my comment is “Freddie Mercury is dead now, but everyone KNOWS he was gay and died of AIDS”. He is a dead music icon who continues to sell and be paid respect and who is well known to be gay, so he is a prominent gay figure in the musical landscape although dead.

  • Jaroslaw

    #20 I’ve seen “um” used a lot to mean “uh, or duh” meaning the other person is stupid. If you didn’t mean it that way, I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.

    Well, lets just say your sentence structure describing Freddy could be better: He is dead now but every knows he was gay…. (so he’s not gay anymore?) You’re mixing present with past.

    As to the rest of it, I could argue more, but I will accept your gracious explanation that the misintepretation is my error.

  • Shannon1981

    What a shame for Chely. I totally admire that she went ahead and came out, though, despite the consequences. I cannot stand country, but I might start buying her albums just to support her.

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