Aubrey O'Day: Bad Girl Gone Good?
Three years after Diddy made Aubrey O’Day a member of Danity Kane on MTV’s Making the Band, he fired her from the now-defunct girl group on a 2008 episode for her outspoken attitude and “oversexed” tabloid reputation. Now going solo, the 27-year-old pop pariah hopes to set the record straight — with some help from gay friends — in her new reality series, All About Aubrey, which premieres March 7 on Oxygen. O’Day, who recorded an “It Gets Better” video and participated in the No H8 campaign, comes clean about her controversial bisexual claims and explains why she wants to raise a gay child.
Advocate.com: Establishing your solo music career while filming your new show, how difficult has it been to overcome your bad reputation in the media?
Aubrey O’Day: Thinking like that made me miserable, so I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself. I want to stop living for everyone else. I just wanted to get to a place where I’m honest about who I am, and people will either love it or hate it, but the truth about who I am isn’t consistent with what’s portrayed in the media. What you’ll see on my show is the truth. Some reality shows are so scripted and phony, so I wanted my show to be honest and inspiring.
A major theme of All About Aubrey is about your finding yourself as an artist instead of as a celebrity. How do you find that balance?
It’s really hard. The music industry side wants the celebrity side to completely detach, but that celebrity side is also a big part of who I am. I’ve been in a group that’s sold a ton of albums, but I’ve also done everything from Hairspray on Broadway to the cover of Playboy, so I’m both of those things. It’s been a big struggle to choose one or the other, because I don’t want to and I’m capable of being both. So I do have to fight that battle, even beyond the show to this day. But I feel blessed, because it’s a high-class problem to have, as my therapist says.
When tabloids did focus on your partying or diva behavior, did you believe that there was no such thing as bad publicity?
Yes and no. At the end of the day, just to sleep at night, you have to believe that all publicity is good publicity. But I’m such a sensitive person, so it always drives me crazy when people say bad things about me that aren’t true, especially when people called me a diva. I hate that. Not to say I’m not strong or that I don’t have very specific ideas about how I want things to be, but in a reasonable situation with smart, understanding people, there’s always a way to figure things out without being rude.
Speaking of publicity, you gave some very coy interviews regarding your sexuality in early 2009, saying things like, “I don’t like labels.” That, of course, turned into headlines that read, “Is Aubrey bisexual?” With all due respect, I didn’t buy any of it. Are you truly bisexual, or was that just a ploy to get more media attention?
Honestly, the whole thing started when I was on a red carpet in New York the day Prop. 8 was passed. Now, I’ve grown up with gay people my entire life. My first baby-sitter was a black man with AIDS who lived in our house, and I watched him die. He was one of my mom’s closest friends, and he was everything to me. I was brought up in a very liberal, accepting family, so I was very exposed to the gay community and to HIV and AIDS awareness, which spawned my own charity, FAN, Fight AIDS Now, which targets youth AIDS internationally. I was seriously offended by the Prop. 8 decision, so I grabbed my friend, who felt the same way, and told her, “Hold my hand and walk down this red carpet.” I just felt responsible to stand up for something that I believed in, which is that everyone deserves equal rights. That was my message that night, but it got turned into “Aubrey and her girlfriend parading around New York” on the blogs, and then all those questions started coming up in interviews.
Why didn’t you explain your original message instead of adopting a bisexual persona? On Chelsea Lately, for example, you said, “There’s no preference right now,” and that you’d be Portia de Rossi’s “girlfriend and slave.”
I’m very honest when it comes to answering questions, and I strongly feel everything I said, which is that I don’t like labels. But could I end up with a woman? I love the movie Chasing Amy, where the lesbian character basically tells Ben Affleck that she doesn’t need to be defined by one thing or by what she’s been told to want her whole life. You can find love, commitment, and your best friend in anyone, so why would I limit myself to a certain segment of the population? So I still stand by everything that I said. It wasn’t a ploy for attention.
Can you understand why it might have seemed disingenuous to some people at the time?
I do understand that we’re in a time where tons of young paparazzi-driven celebrities are running around with their sexuality all over the place, and everyone does little gimmicks to get attention. And I realize that I’m notoriously known for being an attention whore. But when the subject came up in interviews, I had to ask myself what I really felt. Did I only want to be with guys the rest of my life? If there was any doubt in my mind, I couldn’t say I was completely straight and that I only liked men. So I didn’t. Frankly, I don’t date a lot because I’m so work-oriented and so picky about opening my heart to anyone, so it wasn’t really a question I’d forced myself to answer before.
Will your attraction to women be addressed on your show?
I definitely go to lesbian bars, and you do see me kiss a girl on the show. You’ll see me exploring all kinds of options because I don’t want to limit myself. Sex with a male or sex with a female? For me, sex is really about love and trust. The best sex I ever had wasn’t with some hot, sexy guy. It was with somebody I loved.
Tell me about some of the gay people featured on All About Aubrey.
Well, I notoriously have my g-hubs, which are my gay husbands. My number one g-hub — I have to give them in order because they get very particular about it — is Jasen Kaplan, who’s a makeup artist-slash-fame whore. He’s one of my best friends, and I don’t love him any less because he loves the spotlight. He’s not for everybody, but none of my friends are. He and I have conversations about how he can make obnoxious choices just to be famous, which gives him a bad reputation and can reflect poorly on me. But he’s actually a very good guy with a kind heart, and I want to world to see him like that.
We also meet your hairstylist, Cesar Ramirez, and your choreographer, Gil Duldulao.
Yes, Gil is as real as it gets, and Cesar is a genius. If there’s anything you can say about my show, it’s that I have flawless hair.
Your dogs, Ginger and Mary Ann, might be the gayest thing on your show. I can sort of understand why you’d dye them pink and purple, but why did you give Mary Ann, a male dog, a girl’s name?
I chose the name Mary Ann as a “fuck you” to gender stereotypes.
You’re totally hoping for a gay son one day, aren’t you?
I do hope my kids are gay. I don’t say that to be some crazy, obnoxious gay supporter, but because there are so many gay kids who grew up with mothers who didn’t support them. When I hear about that from gay people, I just wish I could’ve been their mom. When I’m a mom, I will love and embrace my children no matter what. I don’t really follow rules or social norms; I just do what I feel. And I don’t judge others, because I don’t want to be judged. If everyone had that mentality, our world would be full of people who feel they have the potential to do anything. Gay kids wouldn’t feel like they have no option other than to kill themselves.
You’ll also sit down on your show with Perez Hilton, who hasn’t exactly been your biggest supporter. Do you blame him in part for your negative portrayal in the media?
I don’t blame anyone, because I made the decision to do me and deal with the consequences. I will say that he’s definitely portrayed me as a very pointless person, but I’m actually someone with a strong voice who is involved with tons of philanthropic projects. I stand up for great causes, I’ve educated myself to great lengths, and I have important things to say. I can be a force in making things better. But because he was so adamant in making me look like a pointless person, it muted my voice a bit, and that’s unfortunate. Instead of trying to make people to go away, we should want to see the best they have to offer.
Perez says he’s committed to being a nicer person.
I don’t care. The sad thing is that so much bad has happened, even when you want to be good, people have already stopped listening. I know that his blog is silly entertainment, but this is somebody who told the world that it was OK to laugh at and make fun of people, so whether he’s changed his ways or not, he’s part of the problem.
While we’re on the subject of gay men you’ve rubbed the wrong way, let’s talk about Josh Strickland. On working with you in Peepshow in Las Vegas, Strickland told The Advocate that he felt “snubbed” by you. “We really tried to be friends with her,” he said. “How many times can you try with someone who just goes into their dressing room and doesn’t speak to you when they’re walking in the hall?” Were you really that big of a diva?
This is a tough one because I never like to speak bad about people. I don’t like negativity around me. It doesn’t matter if someone’s being negative to me or negative in general, when you’re around it you start to stink like it, and I don’t want to stink. So no, I was not a diva, and it wasn’t as dramatic as he’s made it sound. I just saw enough to know that he wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be around. I didn’t feel like he was someone who would make me better, stronger, or more valuable. Maybe he can do that for other people in life, and maybe other people are better suited to him, but I was not one of those people. But he’s very talented and good-looking, so I hope he turns over a new leaf and becomes a positive, inspiring person, because he has all the tools to be a very watched man. And that’s the nicest way I can say that.