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Redemption Song

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Leo Laredo, who left the Christian-music industry after coming out, is crowned Pride Superstar.

By Don Maines

Leo Laredo is no longer just “one of the boys.” Suddenly, he’s Houston’s 2017 Pride Superstar, and he’s feeling good after several years of “deep, deep depression.”

Laredo sang a self-penned tune, “One of the Boys,” as well as Michael Bublé’s 2005 version of “Feeling Good,” in the finals of the annual American Idol-style competition on June 22 at Rich’s.

The victory was a return to glory for the award-winning former Christian-music artist, who left the industry rather than continuing to hide his sexual orientation from his fans. “I came out officially in 2010,” says Laredo, who grew tired of sidestepping press questions about his personal life. “I pulled my album off the shelves because I decided, ‘I can’t live a lie. I won’t pretend to be something that I’m not.’”

After finishing third in the Pride Superstar competition in 2013, Laredo came out on top this year. His performance included an aerialist on a wire who stripped down to his rainbow-colored underwear. (Dalton DeHart)

The 1996 graduate of Katy High School, whose full name is Emilio Laredo, grew up singing in church as the son of a pastor. His mother, the late Molly Laredo, was a sought-after Christian vocalist who Laredo describes as “the Mexican Sandi Patti.”

However, Laredo says his heart belongs in musical theater, where he hopes to debut a one-man show he’s written, called Becoming Leo. “Soon,” he says. “Maybe as early as this fall.”

In “One of the Boys,” a song from Becoming Leo, Laredo explains to his parents how playing sports, throwing punches, and picking fights is not his style. He sings:

Knowing that I’m a li’l different
Shouldn’t frighten you at all.
Knowing that I’m a li’l different
Should make you stand and cheer
And say, “Ready, world, he’s here!”

Laredo adds:

Superman’s cape has never been my size;
I’m Super Queen!

Laredo unveiled a floor-length, rainbow-colored cape when he performed his second entry at the finals of Pride Superstar. “I also had an aerialist on a wire, who stripped down to his rainbow skivvies.”

Some OutSmart readers might know the song “Feeling Good” from a recording popularized by Nina Simone, but it was composed by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1965 Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd.

“I sing it several times every day,” says Laredo, explaining how the song helped brighten his mood during a dark time in his life.

Fleeing the Christian-music industry, the singer moved to Austin, but returned to Houston in July 2012 to care for his dying mother. “I was her caregiver; I was her ‘little sonny boy,’” he says. “I spent four-and-a-half months at her hospital bed, but otherwise I was homeless, because none of my family would let me live with them. They didn’t support my ‘lifestyle,’ a word which I hate, because going to work, coming home, and cuddling with my dogs—that’s  my ‘lifestyle.’”

Following his mother’s death in November 2012, Laredo says, “I went into a deep, deep depression.” Part of “crawling out of that cave,” he says, involved entering the 2013 Pride Superstar competition, where he placed third.

“My mother’s dream for me was to be a recording artist; my dad’s dream for me was to be an opera singer. And I’ve done both,” he says. “With my music, I love lifting people’s spirits.”

The day after winning this year’s Pride Superstar, Laredo was back at the Walgreens store on Bellaire Blvd. at Rice Ave., where
he works as a makeup artist and beauty
consultant.

“I can slay a face and beat a mug,” he says. “I think of myself as ‘the glam bear.’”

This article appears in the July 2017 edition of OutSmart Magazine. 

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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