Country music star Chely Wright shocked the country music industry and her fans last year when she publicly “came out” — the first country performer to do so — by detailing her homosexuality in her best-selling memoir, Like Me. “It’s been an extraordinary experience,” she says, admitting she hid her “true self” from her family, friends and even onetime boyfriend, fellow country star Brad Paisley. “I was afraid of what would happen to my life, to everything I had ever worked for if I came out,” she adds. “But one day, I realized I had amassed all this fame and fortune, but I was like Miss Havisham, living in a big old house with lots of stuff, but I was all alone — nobody knew me.”
Chely admits it took three years from the day she decided to go public about her sexuality to the time she actually did it. “I wanted to do it the right way,” she says. She admits that the reaction to her announcement has been mixed. Some of her longtime fans have remained supportive; others have turned their back on her, and initially, she reportedly even received death threats. “I won’t say that [the fans’ reactions] didn’t hurt — it really stung,” she admits.
Chely is also estranged from her mother, who, she says, does not accept her lifestyle. Additionally, Chely says that the industry itself has been less than encouraging. “I haven’t been invited to do any industry-sanctioned events since I came out,” says Chely, who won’t be attending the upcoming CMA Awards because she’ll be at a film festival screening a documentary about the last few years of her life called Wish Me Away.
Although she plans to release a new studio CD and a holiday compilation in 2012, she admits that she doesn’t know for sure what the future holds. But no matter what, Chely says she is proud of the choices she’s made, has faith in her fans and the industry and says that she hopes through her own gay and lesbian advocacy work, “I can make a difference in someone else’s life.”