BY Brandon Voss
December 13 2010 1:05 PM ET
Last year you made magic with filmmaker Lee Daniels in Precious, and now you’ve created another holiday miracle with Marc Shaiman. Not to detract from their talent, but is there something special about gay men that makes them a perfect creative match for you?
I mean, how could I say that there’s not? I can’t generalize too much because straight people I work with will be like, “Well, what does that say about me?” But it is true that there’s a certain chemistry there. Yes, their talents are gigantic, but they’re also open-minded, and it’s all about the shared references. I really clicked with Marc when we wrote our first song together, “Christmas Time Is in the Air Again,” because our references were so similar. His are way deeper than mine in terms of standards and older Broadway stuff, but he was surprised that I knew old standards that most people don’t know, because my mom would sing them when I was really little. And Lee’s another one that you just can’t help but love. He’s got his own unique personality, and we share so many of the same references as well. I can’t even think of all the crazy things we quote and laugh about.
Whether it’s those surprised concertgoers on Oprah last year or the “Party in the FIP” boys who just made a YouTube video for “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” your gay fans aren’t shy about expressing their love. When did you first feel that support from the gay audience?
I’ve never really categorized it like that. But I’ve always been able to connect with different kinds of people, because whoever connects with me realizes that I do truly appreciate and care about them. And... wait, what was I saying? You touched on something I wanted to discuss... Sorry, when you’re pregnant you don’t remember things from one second ago.
Your connection with gay fans.
Yeah, maybe part of the connection is that I do write songs from an outsider perspective. A lot of my die-hard gay fans don’t just know my singles, but they also know all the album cuts. I have songs about feeling different and alienated, because I grew up with my own issues, being biracial and not having money. Some of those lyrics can apply to anybody who feels different. My die-hard gay fans listen to songs like “Outside” and “Close My Eyes,” songs that most people wouldn’t know, and these songs have become anthemic for them for their own personal reasons.
Do you have any words of encouragement for the young victims of antigay bullying?
It’s horrible that it’s almost 2011 and this is still going on, but I don’t want to get on my podium and say, “Just keep believing!” — I know that’s cliché, and it would be typical of me to say something like that. It’s almost impossible to say anything, really, except you must be aware that dealing with that in high school is a passing place. You have to stay strong, rely on your true friends, and try to get through it, as opposed to drowning in it. Look at how many people suffered during high school and came out of it a better, stronger adult. That’s the thing to focus on.
You also returned the support from gay fans last year when you invited a young gay couple onstage at a Las Vegas concert to help facilitate their marriage proposal.
If two people want to get married, it’s their prerogative — we hope. Everybody should be able to do what they want to do and be in the pursuit of happiness. Ever since I was a little girl, my mother was very open-minded and had many different types of friends, so being gay never seemed wrong or strange to me. Her best friends were a gay couple, Ernie and Mort, and they kind of co-raised me. They were the nicest guys ever, and they would watch my little shows when I’d sing. Today, I guess they’d be called my guncles. Sometimes they’d put us up when we didn’t have a place to go. I couldn’t wait to go stay at their house because it was so beautifully done.
Are they still in your life?
One of them passed away. They weren’t together at the very end, but they were together for a long, long time.