Adam Lambert on gay pride, touring with Queen and his favourite tattoos
Ahead of London Pride this weekend, adopted Queen frontman Adam Lambert talks about what it means to be gay in the music industry
Having just embarked on a European tour with Queen as their lead vocalist, Adam Lambert is having the time of his life. We catch up with the 36-year-old singer and pop icon about how much his life has changed since making a name for himself on American Idol in 2009.
GQ: How have you enjoyed touring with Queen?
AL: Queen is such a British institution and so in the UK there is a sense of ownership from the British audience. There’s so much loyalty and nostalgia. It’s really a warm feeling.
GQ: What’s been the most surreal fan experience from touring?
AL: We were flying into Italy and coming through customs, which is meant to be very official and very serious. But when I went through customs all the staff had stuff to sign and were so excited to see us. It was very funny.
GQ: How has your sexuality affected your career?
AL: I feel like I came to terms with my sexuality as a teenager – I came out to my friends and family at 18. And because I was in the arts and in Los Angeles, I was in a very open environment, so I didn’t really have a lot of hardships when it came to my sexuality. When I entered the public eye [on American Idol in 2009] and I was “on display” so to speak, that was the first time I really experienced any sort of real homophobia. People said, “Oh, you didn’t come out on American Idol,” but it just never really came up. It was a singing competition, not a dating show. Then all of a sudden my sexuality became this thing that I was more aware of than ever. It sort of preceded who I was, or my talent in certain situations, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.
GQ: Did you feel pressure not to discuss your sexuality?
AL: It depends on what you’re trying to market yourself as. The definition of pop is to be popular. Some people feel that in order to be the most successful and the most popular, you have to be palatable. And that’s just not me. I wouldn’t ever want to be dishonest about who I was. But I can see why certain celebrities feel like they might need to be, unfortunately. And it’s sort of like, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Sometimes you can’t change society, you know?
GQ; Do you feel like the public forces you to be a spokesperson for the gay community?
AL: I can see both sides of it, to be honest with you. Because I think that a lot of good can come out of being proud. That’s what Pride is, this whole idea that you have nothing to hide and you’ve accepted yourself and you demand people accept you for who you are. If it weren’t for people coming out and being confident and matter of fact about it, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I think it’s up to the individual, to be honest with you. It depends on how you want your relationship with the public to be.
GQ: How important are events like Pride in 2018?
AL: Society is shifting and evolving, but I think there’s always something that we need to be aware of. Pride is always going to be an important element, because it brings people together, so the community feels like a community and it’s a cause for celebration. Let’s celebrate who we are. And that’s timeless. In the United States we’ve had a lot of forward momentum, as far as equality and disability goes. Our current political climate is very weird right now and it’s creating a lot of tension and pressure, so back home I think Pride is more important than ever.
GQ: After the Orlando shooting and the Manchester bombing, do you worry about performing?
AL: These events definitely caught me off guard and scared the hell out of me. Events in Paris, events in Orlando, Ariana’s concert – all these terrible tragedies have scared me. I feel somewhat reassured by amazing security teams that have been put into place, at least for our concerts. I think there’s a lot of new security protocols that have been put into place, both on stage and in the audience, so that makes me feel better. Letting that stop what we do is letting them win and we don’t want that.
GQ: You have many tattoos. What was your most recent addition?
AL: I got a tattoo of my adopted dog on my leg. His name’s Pharaoh, like an Egyptian king, because he looks like a little sphinx. He’s half basenji and half chihuahua – so he’s small but he’s very proud.
GQ: Where do you get your tattoos done?
AL: There’s a London artist called Maxime Büchi and he runs a shop in Dalston called Sang Bleu. There’s also a woman named Rox in Malibu. I found both of them via Instagram. My next tattoo will be focused on classical art and the stories behind it. I think I might have found something new on a recent trip to an Amsterdam museum.
GQ: Which of your tattoos means the most to you?
AL: I have a tattoo of Antinous, emperor Hadrian’s lover on my ribs. It was a very public relationship, and they travelled around together until Antinous died while they were visiting Egypt. He drowned in the Nile. Hadrian was so gutted that he cried for weeks, and then he named the city where Antinous drowned after him, had the government declare him as a demigod, and created several temples around the empire dedicated to Antinous. He became the most sculpted figure in Roman art for about 200 years. To me, the story was just so romantic. They were like the early gay power couple.