Tevin Campbell may be known for his hit 90s song “Can We Talk” and this week, he definitely talked, opening up about what it was like to be a queer man in the R&B industry in the 90s and how it has changed from then to now.
In an interview with host Janine Rubenstein on the PEOPLE Every Day podcast, Campbell confirmed that he identifies as a gay man, something that likely did not come as a surprise to many of his fans as earlier this year, he tweeted (and later deleted) the phrase “Tevin is…” followed by a rainbow flag emoji.
Campbell discussed some of the struggles of being a child celebrity, noting that he never really hid his sexuality from anyone close to him, saying that “I didn’t hide anything about me. I didn’t try to act a certain way or anything. You just couldn’t be [gay] back then.”
He explained that many of his songs were just R&B songs, but the industry tends to make songs heteronormative.
He noted that despite growing up in the public eye, that he was lucky to have made it while claiming that a lot of child stars “don’t make it.” He then went on to note that “a lot of us do,” saying that the fact that he has is one of the reasons that he has embraced himself. (Campbell first began his music career at age 12.)
He noted that when he did Hairspray in 2005, it was the first time that he was around a significant number of LGBTQ people who were living their best lives and that’s how he became more comfortable with his sexual identity.
He said that major stars such as Lil Nas X and Frank Ocean have helped increase LGBTQ representation in the R&B and music industries in general, but still noting that there is a lot of work when it comes to representation and acceptance in the industry.
He also dished on some of the general industry turmoil including a decades-old semi-beef with Usher, who was also mentioned as a possible artist to sing “Can we Talk” back in the 1990s. (He said that he and Usher are on good terms and there are no hard feelings.)
He also said that he likes watching the “Can we Talk” challenges on TikTok today and that he is excited about the future of R&B, citing artists such as Frank Ocean and Jasmine Sullivan.
He left listeners with the parting advice to love themselves, both the good and the bad.
The full episode can be listened to on iHeart at https://www.iheart.com/podcast/1119-people-every-day-76003809/episode/rb-star-tevin-campbell-opens-up-101008105/.