Country Star Chely Wright Comes Out
Singer tells the truth about being gay, whatever the risk to her career.
May 5, 2010— -- By her own admission, Chely Wright was a liar.
"It was a matter of life or death for me emotionally, spiritually, physically," she says. "It became time for me."
She was a country music singer, with a Nashville pedigree and No. 1 hits, and a liar -- until today.
"My truth is I'm gay," she says. "My truth is that I hid my homosexuality for my entire career."
From the time she was a young Kansan trying to sing her way to stardom, Wright, 39, didn't think country music could handle her secret.
"I lied every day, I lied to myself for a long time and then when I stopped lying to myself, I still did a lot of lying to my fans and there are a lot of lies to my family and to my friends," she says.
"Country music is not cool with an openly gay country music artist," she says. "I read liner notes as if they were bedtime stories; nowhere in there did I read anything about a homosexual."
So she tried to wish it away, inventing a heartbreaking prayer, that she would repeat three times a day for years: "Just take it away, please, please, please God, don't let me be gay."
She carried her secret to Nashville where she was recognized as top new female vocalist.
There, she scored a No. 1 hit with "Single White Female" and was named one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people, all while engaged in secret relationships with women.
"I can't tell you how many times people have tried to become friendly with me in my career and I've had so many of my contemporaries say you know people think you're cold, people think you're hard to get to know, they think you're a snot," she says.
"I would rather they think I'm stuck up, a snot, a shallow person who is not interested in their story than them think, you know, that I think she's gay, that was a better option for me at that time."
She tried dating men, including country sensation Brad Paisley, who didn't know the truth.
"I made these deals in my head," she says. "If I'm going to go without real love, I'm going to find companionship with someone I can enjoy and that I like, that's my best friend and Brad and I were good friends.
"We enjoyed one another. ... He's wickedly funny. I liked how he lived his life and we were compatible in many ways."
Except for one.
"I'm gay and he's not," she says.
The pressure of the double life became overwhelming and Wright contemplated suicide.
"When I found myself in my darkest place, it really seemed like my only answer to me and it really seemed like the only answer because, earlier, I had very masterfully created a life, what seemed to be a very successful life in which I can no longer exist," she says.
"I was lonely and no one knew me, not even my best friends knew me. I had painted myself in this corner. ... I couldn't for the life of me sit down and work out a plan to make the pieces of my life go together."
So she decided the truth was the only way.