Most of us know Adam Lambert as the amazing talent who knocked the socks off American Idol’s judges and millions of TV viewers back in 2009 during the singing competition’s eighth season — or as the fabulously flamboyant front man who has been touring with legendary rock band Queen over the last decade. But what you may or may not know about the arena-filling superstar is that he is also a longtime activist for his community of LGBTQ+ folks and other marginalized people.
After years of supporting numerous charitable causes, Lambert launched his own nonprofit, the Feel Something Foundation, in late 2019. The organization is focused on promoting LGBTQ+ human rights by assisting other charities “that are moving the needle for communities of all ages and backgrounds,” its website states.
Despite being almost immediately hit with a global pandemic, the foundation has been quite active. Partnering with GLAAD, Feel Something hosted a roundtable discussion with LGBTQ+ youth and auctioned off some of Lambert’s famous stage costumes to raise funds for those affected by the crisis. The foundation also collaborated with Project Angel Food to deliver meals to those in need during the pandemic. Now Lambert and Feel Something are joining forces with Pride Live for its fourth annual Stonewall Day celebration.
“I went on one of my first trips to New York to the [Stonewall Inn] bar with a friend,” Lambert recalls of discovering this pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history. “And I think someone mentioned [the Stonewall uprising], and then I went on the internet and kind of read up on it.”
“I tend to seek things out,” he continues. “I educated myself when I heard that there was a big scene there in the ’60s.… I think the big wake-up for everybody was people pointing out, you know, this was a riot — and it was really led and started by trans people of color. I mean, this is something that’s really important to know.”
His passion in spreading awareness about Stonewall and activists like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two trans women of color who were instrumental in the LGBTQ+ liberation movement, led Lambert to take part in this year’s Pride Live Stonewall Day event. The virtual celebration will be held Sunday, June 6, and will include musical performances curated by Lambert as well as inspiring messages from Stonewall Day ambassadors and other special guests.
“I’ve been saying that it feels like, in many ways, we’re sort of doing a full circle with the late ’60s again in our country right now — the unrest, the division, the generational divide, people fighting for their rights and their equality,” he says. “And hopefully, this time we’re that much further ahead, where we have each other to lean on, and we have the support of our allies more than ever…. But the pendulum always swings forward and then back. We’ve made a lot of progress in the past 20 years, but then the last four years, you know, our political situation has been sort of a blowback thing. We’ve all been dealing with the negative aspects of that — just the tone of the last administration and all the rights that they took away, all the progress that we made that they sort of reversed. So now I’m excited for the Biden and Harris administration because I do feel like that’s one of their priorities, to sort of put back into place all the things that the Obama administration pushed forward.”
Photo by Joseph Sinclair
As with many others in the entertainment industry, 2020 caused the globe-trotting performer’s typically packed touring schedule to slow down a bit, allowing him the time and space to reflect on the whirlwind past 12 years since his Idol days. “I had my 39th birthday [recently] and I was like, Wow, here we are,” Lambert confesses with a laugh. “It’s just like, Wow…I remember being a little twink!”
Still, Lambert says he is comfortable with his age as well as in his role as a sort of connector of generations in the LGBTQ+ community. Not only is he now educating younger generations on their queer history, but he’s also managed to bring a fresh voice and legions of new fans to a band as iconic as Queen. As an out gay man who has always been unapologetically himself, billowy sleeves and all, the multitalented musician now ruminates on how much attitudes and perceptions have changed since his twink Idol days, when even his wearing makeup on mainstream TV was considered a big deal.
Lambert says his fondness for fashion, flamboyance, and all that glitters came early in life and was heavily influenced in his youth by drag queens, club kids, and larger-than-life pop idols like Madonna, David Bowie, and Freddie Mercury. “I mean, some would consider what I do all the time as a type of drag,” he quips.
Photo by Joseph Sinclair
“Well, I’ll go further back,” he continues. “I remember being a little theater kid.… I fell in love with theater and everything about it. And one of my favorite things was the makeup…. It was just so cool. You get to change your face…. I remember like, even in my adolescence, like in middle school, I would come home after school and just play with makeup…. And then in high school, as I grew into my teenage years, I started becoming more and more interested in not just stage makeup, but more into cosmetic fashion makeup.”
Though he briefly worked for MAC and, in high school, sometimes charged gal pals a few bucks to do their makeup before dances, Lambert says he was always focused on a different kind of artistic platform: the stage. “I always wanted to be a performer. That was my first love,” he says.
Photo by Joseph Sinclair
And a performer he has certainly become. Since his star-making appearance on American Idol (it’s now hard to believe he lost to Kris Allen), Lambert has recorded four studio albums. His debut, For Your Entertainment, included the Grammy-nominated track “Whataya Want From Me,” and his critically acclaimed second effort, Trespassing, became the first album by an out gay artist to reach the number 1 spot in the U.S. and Canada. His latest full-length album, Velvet, was released in March.
Not one to stay idle for long, Lambert is keeping himself busy these days by running his foundation and embarking on another exciting new creative venture — writing a musical, which is still mostly under wraps, although he can say it’s based on a real person.
“I’m approaching this more in the writing fashion of how I’ve done my albums in the past, which is working with a handful of amazing collaborators, different writers for different songs, different producers for different songs. The idea is that it’s sort of a hybrid between an album and future stage production, so it’s slightly different in how it’s being approached,” he says.
Photo by Joseph Sinclair
Looking to the future, Lambert is optimistic despite challenging times. The difficulties of the past year have only fueled his passion for the Feel Something Foundation and changing the world for the better.
“It’s been a tough year for people,” he says. “I think people are discouraged and kind of bummed out. There’s a lot of mental health issues going on. People are isolated. They’re sad, they’re anxious. But I think there’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel…. It looks like the ice is melting and everyone’s excited for the summer to come back, and maybe for the opportunity to get back into, you know, parties and interacting and being a community again — which is more important now than ever, you know?”