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Todrick Hall has long supported the communities he comes from

Todrick Hall has long supported the communities he comes from

<p>Todrick Hall has long supported the communities he comes from</p>
photo by Haris Nukem

"Some people will love what you do and some will never be fans. Give your attention to people who will defend you in rooms you’re not in."

There is no denying the talent, star power, and fierce determination of Todrick Hall. The award-winning singer, rapper, songwriter, and choreographer has risen from an American Idol hopeful on the show’s ninth season to a bonafide Broadway star, world-famous musician and video darling, and burgeoning business mogul.

But years before all this, Hall says he somehow subconsciously knew as a young child that he was destined for much more than his humble beginnings in Plainview, Texas.

“Even though I had no perspective of how big the world really was, I knew at a young age that I wasn’t like most people in Plainview,” Hall tells Plus. “I loved to sing and dance, write songs and stories, and show off for anyone that would watch. My mother loved me and always took responsibility for getting me where I needed to go, even though she sometimes wasn’t sure what we were doing and why. My grandmom — who I called Mimi — used to let me use her credit card to order backdrops and costume pieces so I could perform shows for my family and friends.”

Hall's videos and live performances often include costumes and themes inspired by 'The Wizard of Oz.'Trevor Paul

“So I was supported in that way,” he adds, recalling how he often felt out of place in the conservative Texas town. “But most people didn’t relate, and so my dreams only ever felt like dreams at most, not ever as a potential career. And things like theater and ballet often telegraph as ‘gay’ to a lot of people, so it was hard for both women to reconcile that with their deeply religious beliefs.”

Still, Hall says with the love and support he received from his mother and grandmother, he eventually did start to make his dreams a reality as he grew up — and experienced one of his first big bouts of backlash and discrimination in his teens.

“When I was in high school, I decided to adapt The Wizard of Oz to the stage, and I got the most talented kids in school onboard,” he says. “Well, when my teachers — who planned to do The Sound of Music — found out, they reported me to the licensing company who owned The Wizard of Oz and I was sent a cease and desist 16 years old. I was scared and devastated, but poor people are resourceful people. My mom suggested that I write my own version of The Wizard Oz as it was in the public domain. So, I did. And now, almost 20 years later, I have just launched my own licensing company, Todrick Hall Musicals, so others can perform and enjoy the shows that made me into the storyteller I am today.”

Haris Nukem

After gaining some notoriety on Idol, Hall went on to become a YouTube sensation with his visually dazzling music videos and skits. In 2015, his creative process was highlighted in the MTV docuseries Todrick. During the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he joined the reality competition as the resident choreographer and served regularly as a judge. He’s also appeared on multiple other TV shows over the years, like Dear White People, Queer Eye, and The Masked Singer.

In addition, Hall has also collaborated with stars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, RuPaul, Chaka Khan, Brandy, Billy Porter, Gwen Stefani, Kristin Chenoweth, Jenifer Lewis, Tyra Banks, Tiffany Pollard, Bob the Drag Queen, Monét X Change, and Tiffany Haddish. To date, he’s written, co-produced, and released 17 studio albums.

Despite all his success, Hall has also experienced some of the pitfalls of fame in our internet-driven world, and has occasionally received backlash from folks online throughout his career. These days, however, he says he’s learned to weather such storms by focusing on those who do love and support him.

“Life is good. Rumors come and go,” Hall says. “Some people will love what you do, and some will never be fans. Give your attention to people who will defend you in rooms you’re not in. Invest your time in people who make time to see you. And trust those who don’t assure you that you can. Real ones prove themselves, they don’t need to campaign.”

Todrick and Taylor Swift receive the 'Video For Good' award at the 2019 MTV Video Music AwardsDimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

While he’d already performed onstage in several productions, including The Color Purple, Memphis: The Musical, Beauty and the Beast, and Hairspray, Hall got his first big lead role playing Lola in a Broadway production of Kinky Boots in 2016. He followed that by landing another great part as Billy Flynn in Chicago from 2017-2018 on Broadway and London’s West End. And now, he’s preparing to star in the highly anticipated Burlesque musical this summer.

“The last several years of my life have been dedicated to writing for myself, as a music artist,” Halls says of returning to the stage. “So when the team for Burlesque reached out about contributing songs, I did what I always do — wrote songs and recorded the demos. I think the part was ultimately offered to me because I had composed for this character with my own abilities as a singer in mind, and the creative team had been listening to me singing the songs over and over.”

“But I’m very excited to create a character from start to finish. In my other theater work, I was stepping into someone else’s shoes. I loved playing Lola in Kinky Boots,” he explains. “Billy Flynn in Chicago was also fun to do, but it’s probably the least ‘me’ I have been cast to play. And when a production has been running for 25 years, there’s little room to add your own flair…there is an expectation from the audience.”

Todrick and Tiffany Pollard in the video for “Y.A.S.”Trevor Paul

Another current project he’s working on, called U.G.L.Y., is the first since the launch of Todrick Hall Musicals. The studio cast recording will feature Tony Award winners Kristin Chenoweth and J. Harrison Ghee, as well as performances by Nick Adams, Wayne Brady, Derek Klena, Tiffany Mann, Orfeh, and Hall himself.

“This is bespoke for my new company,” he says. “It is my version of The Ugly Duckling, and I really lean into the othering of the main character. It’s something I really relate to as a Black man, as a queer person, and as an artist. ‘March to the beat of your own drum’ is a great bit of advice, but I encourage people to build their own drum and then play it so well that they can’t deny how special you are.”

In addition to his many achievements in the entertainment industry, Hall has always been a loyal advocate for many causes, especially those that affect the communities he’s a part of. Organizations he’s helped support include Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Covenant House, and Black Queer Town Hall. In March of this year, he headlined the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival.

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

“It is important to draw attention to the issue as it is still very much an issue in the LGBT+ community and beyond,” says Hall. “Some people think of AIDS and HIV as things we ‘used to’ deal with. While I am very grateful for the advancements the medical community have made to treat HIV/AIDS, there are still over a million people living with HIV in the U.S. who don’t even know it. I am committed to supporting organizations like the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival because they understand we need to continue to work together to educate people about this epidemic.”

So what keeps Hall, one of the busiest people in entertainment, happy, healthy, and sane?

“As far as caring for myself, creativity is a natural high. I don’t stay out all night and party,” he says. “I’m not a thrill seeker. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs — although I eat an unhealthy amount of gummi bears. I don’t enjoy what many people do to blow off steam, or to feel free. A good night out to me is a yummy dinner, a Broadway show, a post-show talk, cuddling with my boyfriend, and falling asleep in my comfy bed.”

photo by Alex G. Harper


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