Arts & EntertainmentFeaturesMusic

Still So Cool

Cyndi Lauper does it all.
by Blase DiStefano
Photo by Miranda Penn Turin

See also:
Kinky Boots
The Tonys Get Kinky

Singing out: Cyndi Lauper visits Houston at the end of June during her “She’s So Unusual” tour.
Singing out: Cyndi Lauper visits Houston at the end of June during her “She’s So Unusual” tour.

Cyndi Lauper is insane. Well, not exactly. Her schedule, however, is insane. The fifty-nine-year-old entertainer recently wrote a best-selling autobiography (Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir); she recently starred in her own TV show (Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual); she recently composed music for a Tony-nominated Broadway play (Kinky Boots); she is preparing for her thirtieth-anniversary tour (she will have turned sixty years old the week before she performs in Houston); she oversees the True Colors Fund, None to Forty Project, and the Give a Damn Campaign; and she plays wife and mom on a daily basis. One more thing: she took time out of that hectic schedule to answer a few of OutSmart’s questions via e-mail.

Blase DiStefano: I interviewed you in 1997 when you were very pregnant with Declyn. You said then that he and you “worked on the Tina Turner concert [in Houston]. He did [the ‘Ballad of Cleo and Joe’] shoot with me. He went to the Halloween ball with me—we went as a belly dancer. We raised money for AMFAR….” Did Declyn turn out to be as cool as his mom?
Cyndi Lauper: Way cooler!

You also said, “This baby will probably teach us all a lot of things.” What has he taught you?
I am learning something new from him every day. He’s my greatest gift.

In that same interview, you said your sister, who is openly gay, was an acupuncturist and herbalist. Does she stick lots of needles in you?
Yes, she does … LOL. When we were kids, I followed her around everywhere she went. I just thought she was the coolest, smartest, funniest, and strongest person (I still do today). I followed her around like her own shadow. She couldn’t shake me. My mom said we were made to be best friends, and I took that literally. She is still my best friend.

You’ll be touring throughout June, with three concerts in Texas. Houston’s concert is June 28, which is during our Gay Pride Week. What can we expect, besides a great concert?
I am doing the She’s So Unusual album from beginning to end. Kind of a celebration for me, as this year is the thirtieth anniversary year of the album. Simon & Schuster published my autobiography this year, so it was a year that I spent a lot of time looking back and appreciating what an amazing ride my life has been. I have a musical on Broadway called Kinky Boots that the audiences love and was nominated for thirteen Tonys, so this summer I’m getting my dance shoes on and celebrating with my fans that have been with me for all thirty years through all my different twists and turns.

You’ve been a gay rights advocate for what seems like forever. Do you remember when you first knew what “gay” was?
Listen, I am family and friend. My sister is part of the community, as are other family and friends. All I knew was that, where I come from, when you see your family and friends’ civil rights being stripped away, you speak up and do whatever you can to keep that from happening.

The True Colors Fund does amazing work, and now there’s the Forty to None Project. Including your involvement with your charity projects, where do you find the time to do all the things you do?  
It takes a lot of coordination and a great team to help make it all happen. It is definitely overwhelming at times—it is the struggle of the juggle. Balancing time with my family, my career, and everything with the True Colors Fund is an art within itself. When we first started the True Colors Fund five years ago, it was just my manager Lisa Barbaris, our executive director Gregory Lewis, and myself. We tackled what we thought we could do and do well first with the Give a Damn Campaign. When that was a success, we started to tackle the larger task at hand, and that was working to bring an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth homelessness. We did our homework—we built strong partnerships with people like Terrence Meck at The Palette Fund, and we built the Forty to None Project. Now, Gregory has brought on an amazing team at the True Colors Fund, including [former Houstonian] Jama Shelton, to take us to the next level. We just stay focused on the task at hand, and that is helping these kids, helping them overcome the rejection they have faced and help them move on to be happy and successful adults.

Brittney Griner with the WNBA came out, and Jason Collins with the NBA came out. Do you think huge changes in sports (and marriage equality) are finally taking place?
Absolutely. That is the case when anyone of notoriety has come out publicly. We will look back when equality has been achieved—and it will be—and we will see that it is primarily because people were brave enough to tell their stories, famous or not. From a gay or transgender person to a straight family member or friend, every time someone tells their story and how inequality has impacted their lives or the lives of people you care about, that is change for the better in its purest form. Plus, if someone sees someone else being willing to share their story, then they will be inspired to tell their own. It is a ripple effect.

Thirteen Tony noms for Kinky Boots! What are you wearing to the Tonys?
I’m just so excited. Yea, Nikki Fontanella (my stylist) and I are working on that right now!!!

Are you in love with Billy Porter? I assume you’re in love with the entire cast and crew.
It’s the perfect cast. Billy Porter is amazing. He is a great actor and an amazing singer. Everyone is cast so perfectly. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

If there is anything else you want to tell OutSmart’s readers, now is the time!
Come to the Houston show and celebrate a fab time with me. I can’t wait to see you all out there.

What: Cyndi Lauper: She’s So Unusual Tour
When: Friday, June 28, 7 p.m.
Where: House of Blues, 1204 Caroline

UPDATE: Kinky Boots won six awards at the Tonys on Sunday night, June 9. Among others, Cyndi Lauper won for her music and lyrics; Billy Porter won as best actor for his role as Lola; Jerry Mitchell won for his choreography; and Kinky Boots won Best Musical.


Blase DiStefano

Blase DiStefano is the Creative Director/Entertainment Editor for OutSmart Magazine.

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