The Voice's Beverly McClellan on Rocking Hard and Succeeding as an Out, Bald Lesbian

“I’m a fine mixture of blues and rock with a shot of Southern Comfort,” says Beverly McClellan, the bald lesbian rocker who made it all the way to the finals of NBC’s The Voice. “If Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge had a baby, and they invited over my grandmother — who’s Etta James — that would be me.” The Florida native got on the phone for an outspoken, sometimes outrageous interview with TVLine where she talked about making a living as an openly gay entertainer, winning over Voice coaches Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine with her “Sword of Troy,” and redefining the beauty standards we’ve come to accept from network television.

TVLINE | So before we talk about your performances on The Voice, I’m curious about how you ended up on the show in the first place.
After I dropped my fifth CD, just before March, my guy from the studio — SoundBox Records, Chris Monteleone — sent me an email he got at the studio looking for people that would be interested in casting for The Voice. In the subject line he put, “Ha-ha, I know you won’t do it, but this really is a gig for you.” And that’s how he got me to do it: Because nobody tells me what I can and can’t do. [For the finale], they told me “Don’t get up on top of that piano, Beverly. It’s only one of four in the world.” All the more reason why I want to lay and sing on it! I’m a bit of a rebel: Is that good with you?

TVLINE | Absolutely.
Right on, man. Where the hell did the rock and roll go? Epic moments were made: We need those again. I have no fear of it. I’m a kid that never grew up. I feel like I’m finally, for once in my life, where I need to be, showing the right people, even if it’s not something I planned on doing: Come out here and get famous. I thought, “S***, I have just as much chance as anyone else.” Am I blown away that I came this far? Yeah. But now I don’t want to slow the train down.

TVLINE | CeeLo made a comment on the show that if someone tried to make you compromise, you’d probably kick some a**. And that really seemed to sum you up. I mean, it’s not like you’d see an out, bald lesbian over the age of 40 on American Idol
Abso-f******-lutely not, dude.

TVLINE | But the interesting thing is, here we are in a country with a lot of heated rhetoric about same-sex marriage, where we don’t see very many music stars who are gay, or who are out of the closet at the start of their careers at least, and you come on The Voice, present yourself and your sexual orientation very matter-of-factly, and you make it all the way to the finals based on the public’s vote. I wonder what that says about where the country is at in terms of accepting gay and lesbian artists.
Listen, dude, we’ve got to be the change we want to see. I have to set that precedent for myself. I can lay down at night and think, “Wow. I did everything in a way that I can live with myself.” And the children are our future: How can we show them a different way if we don’t continue it with every step we take? Doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and be a bit of a rebel, but break the right rules. There are the ones that need to be broken. I’ve never ever ever not lived out loud, and I’ve known my sexuality since a young age — kindergarten, really.

TVLINE | I have to say, too, that The Voice itself was very matter-of-fact in terms of its representation of gay contestants. It didn’t flinch from presenting your story but it didn’t make a big deal out of it either.
Exactly! And I’m finding out that I’ve inspired a lot of youth, and maybe people who’ve lived in my time. Being born in 1969, I’ve seen some things! I’ve been bald for 20 years! Walking around all hard at 25 years old in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, looking to make a name for myself. And I made a living down there off music. I quit my dental career, because I’d rather have followed my dreams, and lived exactly how I felt comfortable.

TVLINE | And yet there are plenty of gay and lesbian entertainers who don’t come out because they’re worried about the effect it’ll have on them commercially. Your success on The Voice kind of flies in the face of that.
There was a place called Tarpon Bend in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Two levels of a bar, but also a restaurant. It was right downtown near the Broward Performing Arts Center. You could get anybody from a mom with the three little kids, with the dad parking the car, and grandma and grandpa meeting ’em there, or you could find the Friday-night boys there to take advantage of happy hour, and they’d get rotten hearing your performances and scream Lynyrd Skynyrd. And I entertained every last one of ’em in that 400-seat place — while they were having dinner! I got the looks: “Oh my God, is she gonna sing punk rock?” “Oh God, she’s definitely gay.” But I just had to show these people a different way — and do it with class, in such a way they’d feel stupid about their own selves for ever having judged that. And music is universal, and I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed by God and my mother to have really beautiful deliverance about me. I don’t know exactly where it comes from. I don’t question it. But I am thankful for it, and if I can change the world doing something like that — giving the youth of today a direction to go — then so be it. I was looking up to Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, who’ve been speaking out loud since the day I was a teenager. We need those profound people in life. And I may not have sought out to be that, but if I am that, I’m okay with that. That’s something to be damn proud of.

TVLINE | Having made a living in music for two decades, was it weird or humbling going into the blind auditions, having the coaches with their backs to you, and having to wonder if anyone was going to turn around?
Honey, I didn’t go out there set for them to not turn around: I went out there with the Sword of Troy. I was singing so hard my veins were popping out of my head, and I could see the spit slinging from my mouth. And just in that split instant I saw Christina and Adam turn around, and I was like, “Oh, it’s on now.” [Laughs.] Of course I had to go with Christina: Why freaking not? She sings her face off. She’s an icon.

TVLINE | After that, you had to go into the Battle Round wirth Justin Grennan, where you duked it out on “Baba O’Riley” in a boxing ring. Was it counterintuitive for you as an artist to approach a duet like a duel?
Here’s the difference between what people see on TV and the reality of the situation. Grennan and myself never really wanted to go up against anybody. We just wanted to be involved in being possibly The Voice. And then to have to go up against a friend I had made there — who’s also a really wonderful vocalist with more of a Stevie Wonder-Kenny Loggins vibe… I definitely have more of that Janis Joplin rasp. Put us both together, and it was a magical moment. And I said, “Look dude, at the end of the day all we can do is go out there and be ourselves, and I wish you nothing but the best. And I’ve given you absolutely every tool I can.” We sat and we learned the song together because he’d never even heard it. And I thought to myself, “Oh no.” But I taught it to him. We listened to it. We sat and we practiced it. And it was royally wonderful. So at the end of the day it was just a matter if they wanted shrimp or chicken, because they’re both awesome.

TVLINE | Your Quarterfinal performance was a cover of Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One.” Did the added pressure of performing in front of a TV audience of 12 million people freak you out at all?
I didn’t think about that. I did not for one minute think about that. I thought, “I’m in the room with these people now, and they can physically see me. So I’ve got to give it my all.” And the capture of the camera told the truth; the camera don’t lie. When it’s live it’s live. And all my shows for 20 years have been live, so bring it on. It didn’t matter if five people showed up to my gig or 200 people: They still got the same show, because I love what I do. I have sacrificed as an individual, and given up a career that I went to school for — because my mother would say, “Beverly, you’ve got to have something to fall back on. You can’t just do music.” “Oh yeah? Why not?” I’ve proven her wrong, just by being that rebel.

TVLINE | It seems like you’re something of a throwback to a different era of music…
I’m a Led Zeppelin fan. I’m a Foo Fighters fan. I’m all about “Let it be live, baby. Let it be live.” But I’m a Lady Gaga fan, too. And secretly, on the down low, I desperately want to be on a hip-hop record for some reason. I just love music: Any aspect of it.

TVLINE | On “The Thrill Is Gone,” you changed direction, sat at the piano, went for something more bluesy and a little less rock. It seems to me like that’s really your wheelhouse, but I’m curious how you see it.
My fans know me, and they were not shocked at all. If anything they sat there and cried because they saw me give the world myself. Because my favorite singer is Etta James. And some Otis Redding and some Ella Fitzgerald and — come on! — some Nina Simone.

TVLINE | I especially loved your duet at the finale with Christina Aguilera on “Beautiful.” That point where you first sing the line, “I am beautiful, no matter what they say,” you had such a look of intense joy and satisfaction…
Oh, it was completely a satisfactory moment, are you kidding? I got to tell the whole world, “I really don’t care what you think of me!” It was the most beautiful, elegant way to say “Whatever.” And how beautiful was that, with Linda Perry there, too?

TVLINE | It’s a pretty demanding song, vocally. What was your first thought when Christina suggested it?
“You better work, girl! I am all day with that, honey!” I had actually told her at our outing — after we went out to dinner and the cameras were off — she asked everyone what their favorite song was. And I said, “Beautiful.” That’s my favorite. I know Linda Perry wrote it, but I really relate to the song and the video. We’re all mistaken for something we’re not. If people would take the time to really look, you’d see more than what you really bargained for.

TVLINE | So let’s talk about the first time you heard “Love Sick.” Did you consider other original songs for your final Voice solo?
I only wanted that one. And to be honest with you, I changed it up from what it originally was. Bill Appleberry and I made an epic rock record, that’s how I feel. And that’s definitely something that I dreamed of as a child, while I was standing in the mirror with a hairbrush — [Sings intro to “Rock of Ages.”] Gunter. Glieben. Glauten. Globen. I was a Def Leppard fan hardcore, so it just felt so right. And I loved Journey. And I got back to [Sings a bar of Twisted Sister.] “We’re not gonna take it!” These are epic records. I wanted one like that for sure, and I look forward to doing more like that.

TVLINE | Getting back to “Beautiful” for a second, in a sense, when you were singing, “I am beautiful, no matter what they say,” you seemed to be commenting about what our beauty standards are in this society, and challenging people that a bald lesbian can be beautiful, too.
Honey, women come in all sizes, shapes, and flavors. And if I put a different flavor into the mix, I’m thinking the world said they’re okay with it — loud and clear. And Frenchie Davis, same thing. Even Emily Valentine. Casey Desmond. So many of us on The Voice redefined what beauty is. Like I said, I go back to when Madonna and Cyndi Lauper walked around with the craziest hair and outfits ever, and everybody wanted to be them. Why not pull that card? Come on: Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Heart, Lita Ford. Melissa Etheridge changed the world, too. I talked to her twice, and she’s really the real deal. And Stevie Nicks, too. Wonderful. For me? Linda Perry, Christina Aguilera, those two together at the same time, and then let’s pop over to Blake Shelton’s wife, who wants to sing with me. Cee-Lo calls me Killer B. I’ve met so many cool people and I feel very accepted, and life feels like a pretty good dream I wake up to every day. All I ever wanted to do was be accepted, and I finally feel like I am. If that paved the way for anyone else, then God bless that situation.

TVLINE | What’s next for you?
Everything. Everything. America needs to watch out, ’cause they’re not even ready for what’s coming to them: Beverly McClellan, Vicci Martinez, Emily Valentine, Tyler Robinson, Kelsey Rey, and so many other folks from The Voice. And the list goes on.

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  1. GeekGirl13 says:

    Great interview! Beverly’s style of music isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but I seriously admire her and really enjoyed reading this.

    • Sodey says:

      What a great voice. She is a great performer and I love her great positive attitude. I am so happy she lives an open positive life and does not let her sexuality define her as an artist or person. She let’s her performance speak for itself. I wish Mike spent more time on what a great performer she is, and less about her being bald and a lesbian, because she is so much more than that. She is a great performer and a truely positive person. I look forward to the time when we can just judge the performers without talking about who they go to bed with.

  2. Yo says:

    This woman is way too repressed and introverted. :-) I think one of the best features of The Voice was that the show essentially let the performers be who they were. And, yes, they were quite matter of fact about performers American Idol would see as outside some kind of perceived mainstream. Truth is, people fake you out; and they are often more accepting than even they know.

    Bev appears to be having fun. Good for her.

  3. Mikaylah says:

    Great interview! I really liked Dia, and was rooting for her, but Beverly is amazing. :)

  4. Michael says:

    Bev was my choice to win. Can’t wait to hear anymore of her stuff, but mostly I just want to see her sing live!!

  5. Shannon says:

    What a great interview!!! Beverly made me such a fan this season. I would have so been one of those people she talked about sitting in a restaurant watching her walk on stage and worried she was going to sing some crazy punk rock but then being absolutely blown away with how amazing she is. That’s how I felt in the blind auditions. It’s like what is she going to sing? Is she going to be any good? But then she just blows the roof off the place. I can’t wait to hear more of her stuff!

  6. cmp says:

    Loved the interview and her candidness and wonderful energy. Too bad The Voice wasn’t around when Adam Lambert hit the scene. The whole “gay” question would have been non-existent and he and Beverly would have rocked that stage…..with Adam winning of course. haha. Sorry Beverly.

  7. jenna says:

    love bev. She completely blew me away with ‘Beautiful’

  8. JuneauXena says:

    Yay Slezak, you’ve done it again with your trademark interviews. LOVE this. Thanks! Now I need to go back and watch Beverly’s audition.

  9. Danielle H. says:

    Really nice interview! You seem to really get people to open up when you interview them. I only watched one episode of the Voice, and it happened to be the one that she was auditioning on. I think the blind auditions are really what made the show work as well as you did, because you had people like her that were able to get an actual chance. I can stomach this being on TV; down w/ Idol I say! (Sorry, I know you love it xD)

    • TS says:

      You don’t have to work hard to get Beverly to open up. She is just that type of person, very real and does not pretend for anyone.

  10. andrea says:

    ohh, i just like Beverly more with this interview, she is so awesome, i´m looking foward to hear more about her and her music. now i´m can´t wait for vicci!

  11. Owen says:

    If you listen to Adam’s critique of Bev’s last song, I think he’s saying “Look, you aren’t going to win. But dammit, I and every other musician on this panel KNOW you are The Voice, despite how wonderful your competition is. This is a youth obsessed voting block, its wonderful you got THIS far, but know that WE know you deserved to win the whole thing.”

  12. AJ says:

    I knew from the first time Javier sang that he was going to win, but Beverly won me over. Honestly, she should have won. She was the best on the show, and it really came out of left field for me. I prejudged her based on looks alone, which is exactly NOT what The Voice is about, and I was really wrong. I hope she has nothing but success. Closest second was Jeff, and just barely second, who got royally screwed by Adam.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Tiny Request: next year, can we get an Idoloonies-type of interview w/ at least the final 4?

  14. TS says:

    I really feel that Beverly is the one who we will see more from in the future and that will determine who the winner really is, won’t it?

  15. Sivat says:

    I love Bev!

  16. MichelleR says:

    If anyone can say with authority that women come in all different flavors…

    I wish her huge success.

  17. codi315 says:

    Beverly us certainly the unique Real Deal
    She us the Almond you find in all the peanuts !!!!!
    Love , love ,love her

  18. Paisley says:

    BEVERLY!!! You are an original, baby! I said it before and I’ll say it again, I think THE VOICE was created for Beverly. Blind audition totally necessary, really hearing that powerful, soulful voice shine through…paying no mind to looks or preconceived notions. I enjoyed her more than any other contestant on the show. Good luck, Beverly, and keep the music coming.

  19. Meredith44 says:

    I have never voted for a reality performer before. Heck, I think I’ve watched only a handful of episodes of reality shows before. Yet there was something about Beverly that made me vote for her in The Voice. I figured she wouldn’t win the whole thing, but I hope she does really well after this.

  20. andrea says:

    Slezak, where is my vicci interview please!

  21. Char says:

    Bev is awesome. Now where is Vicci’s interview. I feel like I’m waiting on Haley’s Idoloonies all over again, lol.

  22. Rena Graham says:

    Yes, bald-headed women are sexy. This seems to be one of the few things left that women tend to fear doing. They never asked for permission on tattoos, sleeping around, drinking beer from a bottle or adopting men’s clothes as fashion but fear having really short or no hair and how they will be judged. Hmmm, its a shame because most bald-headed women would look better than the men who shave their heads.

    Hair Transplant Singapore

  23. David Mingee says:

    I really like your sound . Can I buy some on iTunes? Please list some albums