By: Robin Garrity/Special to TRT—
Singapore pop singing sensation Wils is best known for his album, WTF, named Best Pop Album of the Year at the Hollywood F.A.M.E Awards. The album also received a Best Album nomination at the Los Angeles Music Awards where Wils was named Pop Artist of the Year (male).
Additionally, Wils is known for his Men’s Health Magazine cover that revealed his washboard abs and established him as the “Beast of The East.”
This month, he is releasing “Open Up Babe,” a song he calls his most authentic track to date and the one he says will introduce the real Wils to fans. It’s his coming out song and his hope is that it inspires others to break free from their cages. We spoke with Wils from his LA home.
Q: How does it feel to be out of the closet?
Wils: I feel super refreshed and really liberated. A little nervous, too, but it’s important that, as an artist, I create from a real part of me. One that isn’t in hiding. So yeah, I’m nervous but I’m so excited about the journey ahead.
Q: Do you worry about being labeled an out artist?
A: I really don’t. Unlike many in my generation, I’m ok with being labeled. In fact, I think it’s empowering because if people have a stigma about you and you surprise them with things that they don’t expect from you, it can change their mind about how they feel about you. I think the stigma will only change when gay people interact with others genuinely in our day to day experiences.
Q: What about in Singapore, where you’re from?
A: It’s tricky. There are no anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ individuals in Singapore. There is actually a law named the 377A penal code that criminalizes consensual sex between two gay men. Things are changing, though. Families have become much more accepting of their LGBTQ children. However, it’s still kept very hush hush as parents don’t want their children and their families to be stigmatized.
Q: Do you worry about the impact that being gay and out may have on your career in Singapore?
A: Truthfully, I don’t. I’m more excited. I think it’s time for the LGBTQ movement in Asia.
Q: What has the response been from your mostly female audience?
A: A lot of ‘I had no idea’ and ‘we still love you’ and yeah, some ‘no more panties for you.’ (laughing) I think the fans have taken it very well. Most deal with things like how I do: with a joke!
Q: You’re releasing “Open Up Babe” independently. Have you severed ties with your label?
A: Severed? More, like, my hands are untied! My previous label removed all of my social media after I told them I wanted to come out publicly. They were worried that it would cause a stir and they wanted nothing to do with it. But that’s okay. I understand that they didn’t know how to handle a situation like me. I’m excited about embarking on this journey on my own.
Q: Is there freedom in being an indie artist?
A: I get to write anything, say anything and not worry about what the label might say. I get to work with the creative people I’ve always wanted to work with but that the label didn’t approve of. I get to collaborate with forward-thinking individuals that share my views and I finally get to write the songs I’ve always wanted to!
Q: What are some topics that you plan to explore in future records?
A: The lonely side of gay culture, friendships, and the power of freedom.
Q: Kesha wrote “Praying” about triumphing through adversity, and finding peace in forgiving those (namely her former management) who had hurt her. Would you consider doing something similar?
A: Ah, if I could write a song like that, I definitely would! That song is so powerful. I think everyone needs a song that keeps their heads held up high when the waves come crashing.
Q: So now that you’re out, what comes next? What are you looking for in a man?
A: I like guys who don’t take themselves too seriously, have a sense of humor and get my sense of humor. I want a guy with heart; who is kind, genuine, yet a rebel.
Q: What’s your message to those in the LGBTQ community who remain closeted, especially those in Asia?
A: I know it can be lonely, even terrifying at times, being in the closet and not having anyone but yourself to open up to. Find your happiness in your chosen family. Find comfort with friends and people you love and trust. You’re not alone. It’s okay if others don’t accept you, but it’s important that you accept yourself. I’m here. DM me. Let’s support each other in our journeys.
Wils “Open Up Babe” will be available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and all other major retailers, as well as for streaming through Pandora and Spotify. For more information, follow Wils on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @heywils.