Can we talk for a minute about Tevin Campbell? Because the ‘90s heartthrob is coming out and opening up about being closeted during the height of his fame.
Picture this: It’s 1993 and Tevin Campbell’s single “Can We Talk” has broken into the top ten of the pop charts and is peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. On top of that, the song spent three weeks at number one on the US R&B chart. But, while those lyrics about a man serenading a woman were heard around the country, the singer was struggling with his attraction to men.
This is a problem that Tevin Campbell is NOW talking about with the public. In a new interview on the PEOPLE Everyday podcast, Campbell confirmed that he identifies as a gay man. Campbell also shared that what made him open up to his fans is the fact that he’s comfortable with himself now.
“What makes me happiest right now is how far I’ve come in life,” he said on the podcast. “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.”
The 45-year-old shares that he was forced to lean into an image when he was a teenager in the music industry. What was portrayed in music videos, in interviews, in performances wasn’t him. That includes his cameos on Moesha or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. With the latter, Tevin Campbell played as a fictitious teen idol and crush of Will Smith’s cousin Ashley Banks.
“I don’t think the sex symbol thing worked, but the love songs last,” he said of his debut album T.E.V.I.N. in 1991 and his follow-up album I’m Ready in 1993. “I had no idea at the time, like when I was 15 or 16 recording that it would have that impact,” he added. “I was just a kid singing in the studio.”
Campbell elaborated that while he didn’t try to hide his sexuality, he couldn’t openly talk about it back in the ‘90s either.
“I just kind of wanted to be me, you know?” he explained. “I didn’t hide anything about me. I didn’t try to act a certain way or anything,” he added. “You just couldn’t be [gay] back then.”
That doesn’t mean that Tevin Campbell wasn’t out to his close ones, though.
He shared, “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.”
What also helped Campbell start to come to terms with his sexuality and understand himself was playing Seaweed in the 2005 Broadway production of Hairspray.
“Being around people who were like me, LGBTQ+ people that were living normal lives and had partners. I had never seen that,” he said. “That was a great time in my life.”
Congrats to Tevin Campbell! 🏳️🌈 Powerline is now canonically queer. pic.twitter.com/zelVPKXgDc
— Curtis Kimberlin Jr (@ckimberlinjr) August 18, 2022
I hope Tevin Campbell is having the best day of his life.
— DJ Cuzzin B (@DJCuzzinB) August 18, 2022
Though, technically this isn’t Tevin Campbell’s first time acknowledging his sexuality to the public. Earlier this year, the man who voiced Powerline in the 1995 film A Goofy Movie expressed his sexual orientation on Twitter. Campbell responded to a Twitter user’s question about famous singers who are rumored to be gay by tweeting, “Tevin is…” and included a rainbow emoji.
When talking about that tweet, Campbell said, “It was a casual thing for me. I love my fans, but what they think about my sexuality is of no importance to me.”
Campbell also shared his appreciation for queer Black artists in today’s music industry like Lil Nas X.
“It wasn’t like that in the ’90s,” he said when asked about Frank Ocean and Lil Nas X. “But I’m glad I get to see it. I’m glad that’s changing. There are a lot of kids, especially young Black boys that need to see representation. They’re not being taught to love themselves because of who they are.”
Good for him. You can listen to the full podcast episode here.