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Adam Lambert ‘Behind The Music’ Handles Sexuality In Inspiring, Not Exploitative, Manner

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Since Adam Lambert is undoubtedly an endless one-man supply of soundbytes, watercooler-chatter subject matter, and blog fodder--seriously, the guy parts his hair on the other side or grows a goatee, and it's frontpage news--it's no surprise that VH1 decided to do a "Behind The Music" special on the Glamerican Idol before he'd even gotten around to releasing a second album. And while the special doesn't totally delve into areas of Adam's life that diehard fans haven't already gleaned from his E! "True Hollywood Story," Barbara Walters one-on-one, Rolling Stone cover article, etc., it's the way the rock doc spins his saga that really makes this must-see TV.

Yes, Adam's "Behind The Music" covers the fact that...wait for it...he is gay. Shocker, huh? There's a great deal of emphasis on his sexuality throughout the special, perhaps too much emphasis--I personally would have enjoyed more music talk and more footage of him in the studio working on that second album, recording new songs like "Freak Flag." But the emphasis is still in the right place, as it's entirely positive. Adam's "Behind The Music" practically comes across as a one-hour Trevor Project "It Gets Better" PSA, and that's a very good thing. Because if there's anything that can convince sexually confused kids out there (assuming that kids actually watch VH1) that their future is glitteringly bright, it's this chronicle of Adam's journey from closeted theater gleek to out-and-proud pop star.

"Sexuality is so sensationalized; everybody feels like they have to label it and call it out. And I'm proud of it. I'm proud of my sexuality. I have no hang-ups, I have no shame," Adam boldly declares in his "BTM" interview. "But for me, it's not about wearing a T-shirt that says 'gay.' It's just 'Adam.'"

All the key moments in Adam's pre-"Idol" life are covered, of course, starting with plenty of home-movie footage of his awkward adolescence in school plays and prom nights on the arms of clueless female companions. Then Adam's "drugs and drag queens" Hollywood years and incredible transformation from theater kid to club kid are detailed, from the cockroach-infested North Hollywood apartment where he used to live ("It was like something out of a Stephen King movie," shudders dad Eber Lambert) to his life-changing experiences touring Europe in the "Hair" theater company, performing in feathers and facepaint in the glam-rock revue "The Zodiac Show," and undergoing a "psychedelic experience" at Burning Man. But unsurprisingly, it's when the special gets to the moment in his life when he historically auditioned for "American Idol" that things get interesting. And inspiring.

It's at this point, obviously, that Adam's struggles as a gay man in a straight pop world really come under the "Behind The Music" microscope. ("It's really difficult to convince a middle-aged record executive that a 27-year-old gay guy who wears eyeliner is going be the next pop star," Adam laments.) The commotion surrounding leaked photos of him kissing an old boyfriend, his Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone cover stories, his "hetero-erotic" Details photo shoot with a female model, and his androgynous For Your Entertainment album cover is chronicled, but it's what Adam has to say about the two biggest controversies in his career that really packs the biggest punch.

Regarding the 2009 American Music Awards "kiss that shocked America," when Adam smooched male keyboardist Tommy Joe Ratliff and got himself pretty much banned from the ABC network, he says: "I felt like I was coming under attack for reasons that were actually a little deeper than what I did." And about "The Early Show's" decision to blur out a photo of Adam and Tommy's AMAs kiss, but not blur out a photo of the notorious Madonna/Britney VMAs kiss, he says: "I thought, what message is this sending to kids? Is this saying that being two girls and kissing is okay, but two guys kissing is not okay? It was really frustrating."

And regarding a famous feud he had with Out magazine editor Aaron Hicklin, who wrote a scathing open letter claiming that Adam's handlers had put restrictions on Adam's appearance in the gay publication, Adam says: "I felt like, aren't I doing enough? What else do you need from me? Yes, I will be open about my sexuality, but I'm not here to carry a torch. I'm not here to be the example of 'how to be gay.' I didn't sign up for that. I'm not a politician, I'm an entertainer."

But before you think Adam's "Behind The Music" is totally exploitative--gay this, homosexual that, yada yada yada--there is, like I said before, a lot of positivity here. And ironically, despite his understandable reluctance to be a gay spokesperson, he speaks quite eloquently on the topic. "There have been a handful of occasions when I've gotten a little choked up with a fan who said, 'You know what, you changed my life, you gave me confidence,' or 'You made me change my mind about your lifestyle,'" he says proudly.

However, it's Adam's old "Zodiac Show" crony, singer Scarlett Cherry, who perhaps words it best. "You have these little kids with their eyeliner and their 'I Love Adam' posters, and these grandparents and older women," she says as she describes Adam's unlikely universal fanbase. "I think he moves people because he has this message of loving yourself."

Prepare to get inspired when Adam Lambert's "Behind The Music" airs this Sunday, August 7, at 10pm PT/ET.

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