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Todrick Hall Brings His ‘Femuline’ Tour to Houston on March 27

The out Texas native deep-dives into his new star-studded album.

Todrick Hall (photo by Pol Kurucz)

Is there anything Todrick Hall can’t do? The gay Texas native sings and dances. He writes songs. He acts on Broadway, in movies, and on TV. He’s also an outspoken activist. On Hall’s blockbuster new album Femuline, he is joined by all-star collaborators including Chaka Khan, Brandy, Tyra Banks, and Ts Madison, and the queer energy and spirit is through the roof. In fact, Hall tears off the roof and turns it into a fabulous costume. 

Hall was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk with OutSmart about his new album as well as his upcoming concert tour, which stops at Houston’s House of Blues on March 27.

Gregg Shapiro: Todrick, in “The Foreplay,” Femuline’s album opener, you describe it as a “Gay National Anthem” (which I think actually applies to the entire album) and an “open love letter to the LGBTQ community.” As an LGBTQ ambassador, what do you think of the rapid strides the community has made in recent years?
Todrick Hall: It makes me feel optimistic about where the world is going. I feel like we’re nowhere near where we need to be. As a queer person today, I don’t think I can list a single song where a man is singing to another man using a pronoun that would typically be used to describe a man. We have all the technology in the world, and we can fly people to outer space and do insane things with science and technology, but the fact that we have not yet advanced to the place where men can sing to other men on the radio without it being kind of sugar-coated and not addressed head-on is a sad thing. I’m grateful for the strides that we’ve made, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be in normalizing being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. That is my goal with every project that I do: to introduce my music and my message not just to people who are from my community, but to the allies and people who are heterosexual fans and followers that happened to tumble across my videos on YouTube.

The divas came out to play with you on Femuline, beginning with the goddess Chaka Khan who can be heard on the song “Fabulosity.” Please tell the readers how your collaboration with Chaka came to be.
Chaka Khan and I did The Color Purple on Broadway in 2007 or 2008. She didn’t actually remember that I was in the ensemble because she was only in it briefly. But I’ve always had such a huge love for her, and was able to watch her from the wings [during those Broadway shows] and hear her in a way that most people wouldn’t be able to. When you hear someone sing eight shows a week on a Broadway stage, you [gain] a huge amount of respect for their instrument and their gift. When she walked into the room to sing “Fabulosity,” she needed no warmups. She just said, “Press record and let’s go.” [Laughs] It was incredible to watch. It was like one of those moments in my life where I was like, “This is iconic!” To be able to soak up her energy and listen to her stories about working with [so many iconic] people. To talk to someone who knew Prince or Luther Vandross, or was friends with Whitney Houston, was a remarkable thing that a lot of people don’t get to experience. That was eye-opening and life-changing for me—one of those bucket-list things, and a milestone in my career that I’ll never forget.

Talk about fabulosity! Brandy is another grand diva with whom you teamed up on the song “Click Clack.” What was it like working with her?
Brandy and I have been friends for a while. It’s really cool to work with Chaka Khan, but to be in the presence of Brandy is otherworldly to me. She was the first Black princess that I saw [in the 1997 television movie Cinderella], and it was one of the first times I realized how beautiful a Black woman could be. I had seen many beautiful Black women around me growing up, but to watch everyone become obsessed with how gorgeous she was in that movie—I didn’t realize how impactful that would be for me! Not just at that moment, being a kid in fifth or sixth grade, but throughout my entire life. To get to work with her is game-changing. That movie is what planted the seed in me that made me want to be a Broadway performer and pursue dancing and singing. In a lot of ways, Brandy has been an icon to me my whole life. She’s now a mentor to me, and in some weird way she is my fairy godmother—the way Whitney Houston was her fairy godmother in that movie, and in real life. In so many chapters in my life, I’ve gone through things that celebrities or public figures go through. And you can’t really get advice from your close personal friends, because [they can’t] imagine the heartaches and back-stabbings that I’ve gone through [professionally]. If you look through Brandy’s career, she has gone through such tragic things so many times, and she’s come through victorious and still her voice shines. She’s been able to give me some lifelong advice that has helped me. She’s not just somebody that I collaborate with, she’s somebody I consider to be a very good, close friend.

That’s beautiful! None other than Tyra Banks joins you on the song “Fashion.” Please say something about the role that fashion and style plays in your life.
It’s everything to me. When I grew up, I used to try to fit into the status quo and wear the things that young Black boys were supposed to wear in Texas at that time. It took me a while. I’ve made some questionable fashion choices. My mom called me at one point and asked, “Why do you have to wear waffles and ice cream on your head?” I think it was a form of expression for me to scream out and stick out from the crowd. Wearing T-shirts and jeans wasn’t something that ever spoke to me—no offense to all the people who follow the Simon Cowell look. I always wanted to wear things that were one-of-a-kind and you wouldn’t even know where to get it. I love when I see Beyoncé wearing something and I’m like, “Where would they even make that?” Or Lady Gaga wearing clothes that look like they’re art pieces. Or boundary-pushing drag queens like Aquaria—from the way she does her makeup and her hair to the jewelry and clothes that she wears. It’s been incredible to be inspired by so many different things. Being a part of the drag community, the fashion even extends further than it does for the real fashion world. You can do anything, and no amount of campiness goes too far. Fashion plays a huge part in how I build my brand. I love when I can take something like a Solo cup and make a dress out of it—And make it such an iconic part of that era of music that my fans go home and do DIY projects, trying to figure out how they can construct a similar dress [laughs] out of Solo cups. It’s just so much fun, and it allows me to express myself in ways I’ve never been able to before. I love that it’s constantly evolving. I just live for fashion! I was so grateful that Tyra Banks found the time to squeeze me into what I’m sure was her crazy schedule.

The versatility inherent in the album’s title comes through loud and clear on the song “Both.” How important do you think it is to be versatile and flexible, both in life and in love?
I think that it was something that was so scary for me. Even if you’re a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, there are so many rules within that community that [lead to people being] shunned and judged and put into boxes. Oftentimes, somebody who blurs with the feminine side, at least publicly, gets shunned and becomes less desirable to other gay men. That was a part of being in the community that I was super-insecure about. In my relationships, I never wanted the guys that I was dating to see me having heels or wigs around. I know a couple of guys who told me that when people come over for dates they hide their heels. It was such a sad part of our community. I think writing an anthem that made people feel comfortable and confident about that aspect of being gay was something that was really important. I wrote that song, and it is actually my favorite song. I think it’s such a powerful song. As far as I know, there are no other songs that tackle that topic. I’m grateful that people have gravitated toward that song in the way they have.

The song “Dick This Big” features Ts Madison, and the aptly named “Berserk” uses the terms of endearment “sis” and “bitch,” which were also utilized to great effect in a scene in the movie Zola, in which Ts Madison appears. Have you seen the movie, and what did you think of her performance?
I have not seen that movie, but I have experienced Ts Madison on so many levels, so I can only imagine how incredible she would be in that movie. She is a  superstar and has been doing so many things to break down barriers and boundaries—things that, at the time, could have seemed like a grotesque statement. But now look at the things that she’s done. She’s always been trailblazing and standing up for people who are in that category that people didn’t understand. She’s somebody who’s been unapologetically herself for so long. She’s given so many people the confidence to walk in her footsteps. I just think she’s incredible. She’s such a badass. That term gets thrown and stamped onto people who I don’t feel possess that badass energy. But Ts Madison is the definition of what it means to be badass after living her truth, even if everybody doesn’t understand it. I just love that! I’m so grateful that she was willing to join me and the cast of characters on this album. [Laughs] To have a trans woman of color on the album is revolutionary. For her to sing on that song, specifically, is boundary-pushing. I sent her a few songs that she could have done, and that was the one she chose. I hope this is the first of many times [I can work with her], because I love her energy.

That definitely comes through! “Rainin’ Fellas,” your homage to “It’s Raining Men,” made me wonder if you ever had the chance to meet Martha Wash, one of the original Weather Girls.
I have not been able to meet Martha Wash, but I think that she’s incredible.

By extension, because of Martha’s association with Sylvester, how much of an influence would you say that Sylvester has had on you?
There have been so many projects that have come up where people have compared me to Sylvester. A couple of years ago, I went down this rabbit hole and I started watching interviews with Sylvester’s parents and his closest friends. I saw how groundbreaking he was. The fact that he used his head voice, which a lot of people don’t have or shy away from. There are few singers that have become known for singing in their head voice, similar to the way that Prince sang. It crossed the boundaries of masculinity and femininity, which I think is what this entire movement is about. And the clothes that Sylvester wore! I think he was so fabulous! I wish that I could go back in time and meet him. I hope that someday I’m able to work on a project or something that is a tribute to him. I think that even though I didn’t directly watch his work as a child, I definitely knew “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” I think he was one of the most trailblazing people. I don’t know any other LGBTQ+ people who have been able to break into mainstream radio. I think Sylvester is the only person that I know that has been able to successfully do that because of his talent and his gift. I’m a huge fan of Sylvester. I wish that more people knew about how legendary he was, and how difficult it was for him to do what he did at the time.

Yes! We’re speaking shortly before you’re going to begin this big concert tour.
I am doing something that I’ve never done before. I’m proud of the inclusivity that I have on my tour. I looked back on it this year and realized that I didn’t have enough trans representation. I think that I could do bigger and better and more, because I’m learning and growing with every single project that I do. I really wanted to encompass the whole Femuline era. I want you to watch the show and not be able to tell if someone is male or female—or to even care, because it’s an irrelevant point. I want you to see incredible, talented people bringing this show and this music to life. I want it to be full of fashion and epic costumes. I want it to be a celebration. It’s going to be fun, no matter what. It always feels like a huge celebration of Pride at my concerts. But this time, more than ever, I want people to feel like they can come out of their house, dressed however they want, wearing whatever they want, and know that this is going to be the one night out
of the entire year that they won’t be judged by anybody. In fact, they’re going to be celebrated for the fact that they’re so different. That’s what this tour is about. I’m going to make sure that the fans know that and see that when they watch the show. 

What: Todrick Hall Live
When: March 27, 7 p.m.
Where: House of Blues Houston, 1204 Caroline St. 

This article appears in the March 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.


Gregg Shapiro

Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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