R&B singer Tevin Campbell opens up about his sexuality

The hit-making singer identified as a gay man publicly for the first time on the "People Every Day" podcast.

Tevin Campbell has publicly acknowledged himself as a gay man for the first. The five-time Grammy Award nominee opened up about his sexuality this week during an episode of the “People Every Day” podcast.

7th Annual Black Music Honors
Tevin Campbell attends the 7th Annual Black Music Honors on May 19, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Black Music Honors )

Campbell, 45, became a music sensation as a child. In the early 1990s, he earned hits with songs like “Can We Talk,” “I’m Ready,” “Round and Round,” “Do What You Want Me to Do” and “Always in My Heart.” As he was being marketed as a teen heartthrob and heterosexual crooner, Campbell shared, disclosing his sexuality wasn’t expected at the time. However, he insisted that the demeanor he exuded to the public was authentically him.

“I didn’t hide anything about me. I didn’t try to act a certain way or anything,” he said. “You just couldn’t be [gay] back then.” Campbell said although the marketing of him as a heartthrob may not have succeeded, he is thankful that his music has endured. “I don’t think the sex symbol thing worked, but the love songs last,” he said.

7th Annual Black Music Honors
“I didn’t hide anything about me,” says singer Tevin Campbell, shown here in May at the 7th Annual Black Music Honors in Atlanta. “You just couldn’t be [gay] back then.” (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Black Music Honors )

In the mid-1990s, as his sales began to slip with the release of his third album, “Back to the World,” due in part to record label staff changes, Tevin Campbell began to reveal his truth–but only to his loved ones.

“When I came out to my family and friends [at] about 19 or 20, that was it for me,” he shared. “And then I went on the road of discovering myself. I didn’t know who I was.” The singer took a six-year hiatus from the music business after that. When he began a years-long run on Broadway with the musical “Hairspray” in 2004, he said became more comfortable with his identity.

“Being around people who were like me, LGBTQ+ people that were living normal lives and had partners. I had never seen that,” Campbell said, calling it “a great time in my life.” 

With today’s climate in the music industry more tolerant of LGBTQ+ Black artists such as Lil Nas X, Frank Ocean, and others, Campbell said he is happy that social norms have begun to evolve.

“It wasn’t like that in the ’90s,” he said with a chuckle. “But I’m glad I get to see it. I’m glad that’s changing. There are a lot of kids, especially young Black boys, that need to see representation.”

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