Josh Strickland, Stripped

Star of Peepshow and E!'s Holly’s World, Josh Strickland reveals why, despite much speculation during his stint in Broadway’s Tarzan, he hasn’t publicly discussed his sexuality until now.



Jenn Gambatese JOSH Strickland X390 (HEINZ KLEUTMEIER) | ADVOCATE.COMWhat did you think of Ramin Setoodeh’s recent Newsweek article?
Whenever somebody writes an article like that, it’s just one person’s opinion. It’s just too bad it was in a big, international news magazine like that. It’s disheartening because you don’t want to go backward when you’re moving forward. Especially for people in smaller cities who aren’t used to being out and around gay people like we are, that stuff makes them fall back in the hole a bit farther.

When you were auditioning for American Idol in late 2002, did you think about how you would navigate your sexuality in the media if you made it to the finals?
Well, I was much younger then, so I wasn’t mature enough to even know what I needed to do. It was season 2, so I had seen the first season, and I just remember thinking, Oh, my gosh, I want to be a star. Of course, there was the question of whether or not I could I be out, and of course there were people around you saying, “I don’t know if that would help your career.” But now I’m older and I’ve had more experience. There are actors in their 50s who are still trying to get an original lead role on Broadway, so Tarzan helped me grow up a lot. Being in the public eye, I had a chance to think about what I wanted to do and about who my career is really for.

In 2008 you starred in the New York Musical Theatre Festival production of Play It Cool as a young gay actor rebelling against the constraints of 1950s Hollywood. That was sort of art imitating life, wasn’t it?
It was. It’s funny because when I auditioned for that part, everybody kind of looked at me, like, “He is this character.” That’s what was so cool about doing it. You see me do an audition in New York in one episode of Holly’s World, and I actually sing a song from Play It Cool.

Let’s talk about Peepshow, which I’ve also seen. You’re a good-looking guy in a burlesque show, yet you keep your shirt on the whole time. What’s the deal?
[Laughs] Because Vegas is all about the women. Obviously there are the Chippendales and the Australian stripper guys, but Peepshow was about bringing back the old-school female burlesque.

But Peepshow was created by out choreographer Jerry Mitchell and inspired by Mitchell’s Broadway Bares benefits, so there are some shirtless guys and a gay sensibility. I assumed that maybe you’d had enough of being shirtless after wearing nothing but a loincloth in Tarzan for so long.
That was in the back of my mind! I spent so much time with practically just a diaper on, so I thought I’d just hang out in a suit for a while and let the beautiful girls do the job.

Tags: television