Fantasia Barrino says the gay community has been one of her biggest supporters, but can we say the same of the R&B singer? No stranger to controversy, the American Idol and Grammy winner’s struggles have been well-publicized—a victim of sexual assault as a child, teen pregnancy, money issues, a suicide attempt, allegations she was dating a married man. And then there was an Instagram posting in which it appeared she was speaking ill of gay marriage. Fantasia recently released her fourth studio album, Side Effects of You, and is set to perform at the 30th annual Long Beach Pride festivities. We talked to her to get her side of the story.
Have you played a Pride festival before?
I’ve done Atlanta, D.C., New York and L.A. I love playing Pride, because people are so free. You don’t have to worry about being judged, and everybody does what they want to do. I know when I hit the stage, it’s going to be really turned up. I’m going to be doing a little bit of everything. You never know who’s in the audience. You never know who’s going through a certain situation. And some song may motivate them to keep going.
Why do you think the gay community is drawn to your work?
I think it’s me being me. Me being free. Me being open. Me being the type of person who stands for what I believe in. I don’t judge. Let people be themselves. Let people be free. When all that bull crap came out and they were saying I was against gay people or against gay marriage, it really bothered me and hurt me, because when I stepped on the Idol stage, I was open and free. I didn't want people to judge me. I wanted people to let me be free. They would say, “How can she be an idol? She has a child. She doesn’t have a diploma.” We all have flaws, we all have things we’ve gone through. That doesn't mean we’re not special or that we can’t do what we want to do. That we can’t love who we want to love. I think that’s why they supported and loved me and my music.
You’ve said your Instagram message about gay marriage was taken out of context. What were you trying to say?
I wasn’t saying I’m against gay people. All I was saying was stop trying to judge people, getting on my page and getting on my Twitter and quoting scriptures and telling me what I did was a sin. Let people live their life. All this stuff you’re quoting, nobody’s doing that right now. Yes, the Bible speaks that, but come on! It’s 2013.
Everybody in this world has a story. Nobody’s perfect but Jesus. I’m not trying to be perfect. I never have, I never will. I just want to live my life. Do I try to do good? I do. Do I try to do good by people? I do. I never want to hurt anyone. I never want to disrespect anyone or tear anyone down. So that’s all I was saying—stop tearing people down and judging folks. Move the hell on with your life. The people who have something to say have a bunch of skeletons in their closet, too. Fall back.
Then people started pretending they were me and putting up quotes on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, like, “I am a Christian and I stand for only things that are said in the Bible.” The people who looked at my Instagram and took that and twisted it got joy and satisfaction out of feeling, “Yes, we were able to make her look like a bad person.” The people who really know Fantasia should’ve known that was a bunch of B.S. If you look back at my history, I’ve done many, many gay Prides. I’ve been to many events where there’s a marriage or something going on. I know they’d realize, “She couldn’t have said that.” I am a Christian, but I grew up in a church where there were gay people in the church. If you knew me, you’d know that is not something I would ever say. It was just somebody lurking, trying to start more drama in Fantasia’s world.
Social media seems like it can be a double-edged sword.
It’s a blessing and a curse to me. It’s turning out to be more of a curse right now, because people are pretending to be celebrities, starting drama between other artists, putting things out there that’s not true, and taking pictures of them that are not too flattering and putting them out. I love Instagram, because I can share my children and my journey with the world. But sometimes I also get upset because people are being bullies on social media. Everybody has something they’re working on every day. People take those things and put them out there for the world to see and try and tear people down. Then when you click on their page, you notice it’s somebody that is not too flattering themselves. You know what I’m saying? It’s like, “How would you like it if I was to take your flaws and call them out?”
[Social media] can be good to promote your music or promote where you’re going to be. But then it can be very sad, because I posted a picture today and I noticed there were 20 good comments and then, boom, here they came, people saying some of the most hideous things about my children. It makes a parent want to go on there and just blast off—and I know that’s what they want. I have to look at it like that’s just showing ignorance and their insecurities. So I have to look over it.
American Idol gave you the opportunity of a lifetime, but do you ever miss your anonymity?
I do, sometimes. Celebrities are just like regular people. They just give us that name. We have our bad days, our moody days, our sick days. Me being a mother, sister, friend and boss lady, I have a lot of things I have to deal with. There are some days when it just takes over my mind and becomes an overload. When you’re out and about, you can’t look at people and say, “Look, I’m having a bad day.” The first time you do that, it’s like, “She is a bitch” or “She is a diva.” You have to put on a smile and keep on moving. Sometimes I do wish I was still that little girl Tasia that could walk the streets and sit on my best friend’s porch and kick it and chill. On the other end, I’m happy I got to share my music and story with the world.
Long Beach Pride takes place May 18-19 along Shoreline Drive in Long Beach. Catch Fantasia on Saturday’s main stage.