Nearly 30 years after “Can We Talk” catapulted him to music stardom, Tevin Campbell is opening up about his sexuality for the first time.
Campbell, on the “People Every Day” podcast this week, confirmed that he is gay. The five-time Grammy nominee said he never intended to keep his true self a secret from fans. Referring to his early 1990s heyday, he nonetheless acknowledged, “You just couldn’t be [gay] back then.”
“I didn’t hide anything about me. I didn’t try to act a certain way or anything,” the pop and R&B singer, 45, said. “What makes me happiest right now is how far I’ve come in life. You know, there are a lot of child stars that don’t make it. But a lot of us do … and the fact that I’ve embraced me.”
He added: “When I came out to my family and friends [at] about 19 or 20, that was it for me. And then I went on the road of discovering myself. I didn’t know who I was.”
Media speculation about Campbell’s private life can be traced back to 1999, when he was arrested for “soliciting a lewd act” from an undercover police officer and later pleaded no contest.
Tevin Campbell in 1992.
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In a 2003 interview with the now-defunct publication Sister 2 Sister, he reportedly described himself as a “Try-Sexual,” noting: “I’m not gay but I’m a freak and I think a lot of people know what a freak is. Basically, I’m trying a lot of things. Being open-minded. It has nothing to do with attraction.”
In March of this year, he appeared to hint at his sexuality while responding to a fan in a since-deleted tweet that was captured by Out magazine and other news outlets.
“Tevin is,” he said, while quote-tweeting a fan who wrote: “My mom keeps telling me Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, and Tevin Campbell were gay.” The tweet included a rainbow flag emoji.
Elsewhere in his “People Every Day” chat , Campbell touched on other Black queer stars like Lil Nas X and Frank Ocean, whose careers haven’t appeared to be impacted negatively after they came out as LGBTQ.
“It wasn’t like that in the ’90s, but I’m glad I get to see it,” he explained. “I’m glad that’s changing. There are a lot of kids, especially young Black boys that need to see representation.”
“I didn’t hide anything about me,” Campbell said of learning to embrace his truth as a gay man. “I didn’t try to act a certain way or anything.”
Paras Griffin via Getty Images
A Quincy Jones’ protégé, Campbell released his debut album “T.E.V.I.N.” in 1991. His second album, “I’m Ready,” was released two years later. It yielded the No. 1 smash “Can We Talk,” along with the title track and two hit singles, “Always in My Heart” and “Don’t Say Goodbye Girl.”
From the sounds of it, Campbell is aiming for another artistic triumph, telling People he plans on returning the studio this year to record new music. Interestingly, he credits his 2005 run in Broadway’s “Hairspray” ― where he was one of actor Corey Reynolds’ replacements in the role of Seaweed J. Stubbs ― with helping him to embrace his queer truth.
“Being around people who were like me, LGBTQ+ people that were living normal lives and had partners,” he said. “I had never seen that,”
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