pride to pride

R&B singer Tevin Campbell found the power to lay it all on the line

Image Credit: Instagram, @tevincampbell

This profile is part of Queerty’s 2022 Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out and make a difference in the past year, in celebration of National Coming Out Day on October 11.

Name: Tevin Jermod Campbell, 45

Bio: Tevin Campbell made his mark on the ’90s as a rising teen R&B star. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, his talent was undeniable from a young age. He had topped the R&B charts with a Quincy Jones collab and signed to Warner Bros. Records by the time he was 13 years old.

His 1991 debut album T.E.V.I.N. had hands on it from all over the industry; Prince produced and co-wrote the lead single, Jones produced a later single, and folks like Commodores singer Skyler Jett and EGOT-recipient Marvin Hamlisch contributed throughout. It was platinum and landed him his first top ten Hot 100 single with “Tell Me What You Want Me To Do“.

His sophomore project I’m Ready incorporated genres like new jack swing and soul, as well as more mature sounds—though he was just 16 at time of recording. The album went double platinum and solidified him as a ’90s R&B star.

His subsequent musical ventures didn’t manage to live up to the commercial success of the first two albums, and by the time the ’90s came to an end, his popularity had largely cooled. Of course, not before he voiced the favorite fictional pop star of ’90s kids everywhere, Powerline, in Disney’s A Goofy Movie.

Coming Out: Campbell’s sexuality had been a point of rumors for some time before he came out. Initially just owed to his high-flying vocals and soft demeanor, the suspicions were stoked by an apparent cruising sting arrest in 1999.

Discussion of his sexuality reemerged back in March this year when he responded to a user’s speculation. The user wrote, “My mom keep telling me Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, and Tevin Campbell were gay,” which Campbell simply quote-tweeted and wrote “Tevin is” with a rainbow emoji and smiley face. The tweet was quickly deleted, leading folks to wonder whether it was genuine or not.

The statement went unaddressed for months before Campbell appeared on the People Every Day podcast in August and set the record decidedly un-straight.

Image Credit: Instagram, @tevincampbell

Campbell says he was openly gay to those around him, but that being public about his sexuality wouldn’t have been accepted in the scene.

“I didn’t hide anything about me. I didn’t try to act a certain way or anything, you just couldn’t be [gay] back then,” he recalls.

“I wouldn’t have been prepared when I was a kid to be a spokesperson of the LGBTQ+ community, but I’m glad that it’s changing. There are a lot of kids, especially young Black boys, that need to see representation, because the ‘machismo’ thing exists in our culture, and it’s poison.”

He shouted out Black male stars like Lil Nas X and Frank Ocean who are out and proud in contemporary music in a way he didn’t feel he could be then.

“I hate that it wasn’t like that in the ’90s, but I’m glad I get to see it [now].”

Image Credit: Instagram, @tevincampbell
Don't forget to share: