Maybe I am a fuddy duddy. Maybe I'm a workaholic. Maybe I'm a spoilsport, a killer of dreams, a wet blanket. Maybe I need to go to Disneyland again. But I have to say it.
Most of us will never become movie stars. Even here in Hollywood, most of us will not be discovered by a director, or a music producer. A very few of us might. But not really too likely. We may start in this queer film or that queer film, but are you really expecting to parlay that into major studio success?
Nobody is going to become wealthy and secure by lip synching Lady Gaga, no matter how well. We already have someone who does this. She is called Lady Gaga and, from what I can tell, she performs her own stuff.
Besides, I know people who have succeeded in these businesses. You may know some, too. Most of them are fanatics. They put everything into their art--it's not all glamour--it's a lot of effort and most of it is unnoticed and misunderstood.
I worry about selling such dreams to our queer youth. We are stars and special, and amazing, yes--but to present the dream of success in a field that has destroyed so many--a field where being out is still a career killer--where people are paying their dues night after night without ever being in front of a camera. Are we really doing queer youth a service by saying you can be a star by just coming to our programs and being the fabulous you?
Everyone is fabulous, but that is both a great thing and a problem. Being fabulous is not enough. It takes luck and powerful friends and connections and often being monomaniacal to the point of insanity about your craft. It is not about being too cool for school. It is LIVING at school. Oh, and you can't just be fabulous--you have to be brilliant...gifted. Do you have any idea how GOOD some of these performers are?
When I ask an LGBT youth of color "What do you want to be?" and they reply with Madonna or Gaga or West or Minaj or whateverever, part of me breaks inside. Somewhere, somehow "achievement" has been conflated with "fantasy." If you want to be an actor, great. A musician, great--but do you have the will to practice your craft and get better at it? Day in night in? As in not seeing your friends because you have to practice? As in having door after door shut in your face? As in dealing with all the cruelty the entertainment industry can throw at you?
Some people will say yes, and for them--go for it! But know what you are in for. You are going to be a trailblazer and the odds are that you will fail. If you have it in you, you won't care. In fact, you're probably too busy working to be reading this now.
But for those who want to be a star for the image, the identity, the fun... For those who won't give up partying now--it's just not going to work. And even if it did, chances are, you'd be too fucked up to enjoy it.
I wish we wouldn't present stardom as the end point. I wish we would push continually reaching for excellence. I wish we would talk about working hard for something and getting closer each day. I wish we valued glitter less and determination more. I wish it would be less about building self esteem and more about building literacy. Less about being gorgeous for the cameras and more about improving living conditions.
Most of all, I wish we could present other options to our youth. A queer youth in LA has a greater chance of becoming a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a police officer, a restauranteur, a nurse, a CPA... than becoming the next media darling. This sort of excellence does not require luck nor knowing the right people, nor cameras nor glitter.
All it requires is a certain faith...a faith that you will be here tomorrow, and the day after. That if you work hard, you not only can...you will get better. That better means more opportunities and pride for yourself. That is what I wish we would present. That we'd work to help give our youth a faith in their tomorrows, and an accountability to their futures. Flash and glitter fades. Skills, knowledge and wisdom take you forward. Our youth are beautiful, yes... But we can help them be more than that. We can start them on the paths to being wise. We can help them believe that they can grow older, more fulfilled and grateful for every day ahead, that life is not something to burst in a dream, but something that can be nurtured, loved, and raised into ever more meaningful, beautiful and rewarding tomorrows.