Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ari Gold

He describes his own sound as "smooth, soulful, jazzy and funky." Born and raised in the Bronx by parents who were Orthodox Jews, he first gained recognition as a singer when he performed a solo at the age of five for his brother’s Bar Mitzvah. A guest at the Bar Mitzvah happened to be putting on a Jewish children's song festival and invited Ari Gold to participate. He performed along with his two older brothers, and they won first prize. From there, the festival engineer told him about an audition, and Ari got the lead. Then he got an agent and was regularly taken out of Yeshiva to go to work.

Soon he had 400 jingles under his belt, and he sang backup for Diana Ross (on her Swept Away album), well on his way to a successful professional singing career. He was also harboring the secret that he was gay, even from a very young age. Gold finally came out to his best friend at Yeshiva high school when he was 16, and to everyone else at age 18. It was not a huge surprise, because he had a shrine to Madonna in his room and had mostly played with girls (and their Barbies) when he was younger. He admits all that likely did not escape his parents’ attention. "C'mon, they're not clueless. They were pretty sophisticated Orthodox Jews."

His parents were fairly accepting, but along with coming out, he stopped being observant. That was more difficult for his parents to accept than his revealing his homosexuality.

Ari released his self-titled debut album in 2000, receiving acclaim from Billboard, HITS and VIBE for being the first openly gay pop singer who was out from the beginning of his musical career. The debut album included something unprecedented in R&B/pop: explicit gay love songs. He has released five albums, the most recent being Between the Spirit & the Flesh (2011). "This one was a big deal for me," he says, "every level of my identity: as a Jewish person, as a homosexual and where we are in the gay civil rights movement – all these layers of my identity." Assuming the role of a vampire for the video to "Make My Body Rock" panders to the metaphor of revelation and transformation.

Ari attended Yale and graduated with honors from NYU. He gives talks at community centers, synagogues and universities about growing up gay and Orthodox and is a contributing writer to the anthology CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay and Religious in America. Sir Ari received his Knighthood at the 24th Annual Night Of 1000 Gowns by the Imperial Court of New York for his commitment to LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS. Ari's activism and charity work also includes the HRC, UJA, Soulforce, Ali Forney Center, ACLU, Bialy House, amFAR, Live Out Loud and GMHC on HIV/AIDS awareness and research, homelessness and human rights. His career has also encompassed turns as a songwriter, music producer, actor and model. Whew!

He continues his tireless work as an advocate for the gay community and the pursuit of equal rights. "Music is political, and I don’t like when people try to pretend it’s not," he says, always using his platform as an out gay artist. "It’s never too late to learn and that’s something that both my parents (who were teachers) have always taught me." But between his responsibility to nourish his spirit and feed the flesh, Sir Ari still finds time to dance.

Ari celebrates a birthday this Saturday, February 11, when he will turn 35. He still lives in Manhattan, where he is a fourth generation Lower East Sider.

My Favorite Religion
(music video, the third from the album Between the Spirit & the Flesh, released a few days ago)

To say that this video is edgy is understatement. It contains both full rear nudity (Mr. Gold has a sexy, muscular butt – as you’ll note at the 2:21 timing mark), a Tallit (Jewish prayer shawl, at the 3:40 mark) and implied sex with a Christian cleric (at 3:04). And you can dance to it. Have a look and listen:

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