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.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Juan Gabriel

Born in Mexico as Alberto Aguilera Valadez (1950), the life of singer Juan Gabriel is a rags-to-riches story. He grew up poor, working as a craftsman at age 13, to become a legendary singer of Mexican ranchera music, as well as a star in the genres of Latin pop, mariachi music and Latino ballads. After several years spent honing his musical composition skills in a boarding school away from his family, he decided to escape at the age of 15. Taking advantage of having daily garbage duty, one day Alberto walked out of the school with garbage in his hand, headed for the dumpsters, and never returned.

He soon established himself as a performer in Juárez and Mexico City. In 1971, at the age of 21, Alberto signed a contract with RCA and changed his name to Juan Gabriel (Juan, in honor of a schoolmaster whom he held in high regard, and the surname Gabriel, after his deceased father, Gabriel Aguilera). He has become a legend in Latino music as a singer, composer and entertainer, selling in excess of 100 million albums.

As a philanthropist, Gabriel has consistently given large sums to support Mexican orphans. He has four adopted children of his own. To be an out-and-proud entertainer in Hollywood is one thing, but in rigidly traditional Mexico it is another, so when asked if he were gay, Gabriel famously responded, "What is seen does not need to be asked. I don't have to tell you things that do not concern you or others. I think that I am an artist who has given much with my music" (Lo que se ve no se pregunta. Yo no tengo por qué decirle cosas que a usted, como a muchas otras personas, no les interesa, yo pienso que soy un artista que he dado mucho con mis canciones). However, proving that actions speak louder than words, he recently confirmed that he was engaged to marry his male partner, 23-year-old Spanish singer Jaz Bael, shown below.

Gabriel has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and there is a statue of him on Mexico City's Plaza Garibaldi, a favorite performance area for mariachi bands. The sculpture, erected in 2001, was crafted by artist Oscar Ponzanelli.

In this live performance clip Gabriel performs his signature tune Querida: