‘The Voice’ finalist rocks the PUB for Pride Center School Year Kickoff

By Kate Daniel, Eagle Life Editor

Photo by Anna Mills  Beverly McClellan has performed on many television events and alongside celebrities, such as Cyndi Lauper and Christina Aguilera.
Photo by Anna Mills
Beverly McClellan has performed on many television events and alongside celebrities, such as Cyndi Lauper and Christina Aguilera


“I always knew I was different, I just didn’t care,” said Beverly McClellan, finalist on season one of NBC’s “The Voice,” as she prepared to play at the 2012 Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation awards.

From singing “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” as a child in her grandmother’s basement in Gate City, Va., to a duet with Cyndi Lauper on national prime-time television, McClellan has remained proud of who she is and says she wants others to do the same.

A group of about 40 students and staff gathered in the PUB piano lounge Oct. 3 to hear McClellan perform at 4 p.m. Throughout the performance, several passers-by stopped to listen, nodded their heads and sang along. A few even danced as they made their way down the stairs.

Many songs were covers; they ranged from “Purple Rain” and “Tiny Dancer,” to “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and “Let the Circle be Unbroken.” McClellan also played some original selections which she said will be featured on her upcoming album.

The event was part of the EWU Pride Center’s back to school kickoff. The Pride Center is a campus organization aiming to promote acceptance and equality for the campus LGBTQIA community.

Sandra Williams, coordinator of the Pride Center, said she had watched McClellan on “The Voice” and was inspired by the artist’s story, pride and talent. Thought she would be an ideal candidate for a Pride Center event.

“I saw her on ‘The Voice’ and I think she’s amazing,” said Williams. “I think her story is amazing, I think she’s got an amazing voice, and then when I discovered that she was out also, it was sort of a bonus.”

Williams said that bringing LGBTQIA celebrities and public figures to campus is particularly important because many EWU students come from small towns and conservative communities and may not have had much access to LGBTQIA role models. She said that many students have received negative messages and have been told that they are “not OK.”

“I bring in LGBT people — she’s an out lesbian — because I think it’s important for the LGBT students on campus, everybody, but especially the LGBT students on campus to get to meet people and
have them be role models of how you can live a happy, healthy life and still be LGBT because they get a lot of messages about that not being possible,” said Williams.

Williams said that she was excited to see an out lesbian in mainstream media.

“It was really exciting for me to have it [McClellan’s sexual orientation] sort of be a non-issue on ‘The Voice’ and for somebody like Christina Aguilera to really celebrate her. And when she sang that song ‘Beautiful,’ it was really, for me at least, it was really powerful. It was sort of celebrating who she was … That was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that so I was excited to have that here [on campus] and she seems really comfortable and she seems really proud and so those are the kinds of people I try to bring [to EWU].”

According to Williams, she was also drawn to McClellan’s message of positivity and acceptance. She said that she hopes that concert attendees will be inspired by McClellan and possibly see a part of themselves in her.

“Beverly’s message is about feeling good about yourself and so I think for me, the takeaway would be that somebody would listen to her and see a little bit of themself in her and realize that they have the ability to do what they want to do in life,” said Williams. “Young people need to see themselves in somebody … I think she will provide people a mirror.”

Williams said that she believes music is an excellent medium for education and enlightenment, saying, “I think there are barriers that you can get through with music.”

McClellan said her bandmates forwarded her an email advertising auditions for a new NBC singing competition and dared her to apply. McClellan said she agreed and emailed the agency a video recording from one of her live performances. Later that day, she received a call from the NBC casting agency asking her to officially audition. Soon afterward, McClellan was performing for the first time on national television with famed musical artists such as Cyndi Lauper and Christina Aguilera.

“It was the most adrenaline that I’ve ever, ever, ever dealt with in my life, in my body. It was like sitting at the front of a very exciting ride,” said McClellan, recalling the feeling of performing on television. “You’re very scared and you know it’s going to be fun but still you’re scared. And when you get off you’re like ‘Oh that was the best thing ever.’ That’s how it felt because it was like a whirlwind of Hollywood at its best. You know what I mean? It doesn’t get any more star-studded than Christina Aguilera.”

McClellan has released three official albums to date, but is working on a fourth which will feature The Roots Band which backed up the late Etta James’ vocals. This, McClellan said, has been the most gratifying moment in her career.

“Whole reason I went to ‘The Voice’ in the first place, I wanted to meet Etta James. She passed right after the show. I didn’t get to meet her,” McClellan said. “But hey, I play with her band. Her band is on my new CD. So, you know, I think that’s like the pinnacle moment. I went out on the road with BB King, and hearing stories from him about her, telling me personally ‘She would’ve loved you, Bev.’”

McClellan said that prior to “The Voice,” she did not necessarily see herself as a role model in the LGBTQIA community, but said that since the show she has felt a sense of responsibility to promote her message of acceptance and love.

“I live out loud and I never chose to put myself in any kind of closet, man. Ever. Ever. So if I became a role model to people afterwards and, you know, the ones that had seen me being out and proud and on TV [then] by all means, for sure. I stand for that. Freedom. Be yourself. People die in those closets. You know? [That] shouldn’t be anybody’s story. It’s not who you love, it’s that you love.”

Growing up in a small town with a population of less than 3,000 people, McClellan said she was met with a great deal of adversity and had no support from her conservative, Southern Baptist parents. She said she turned to music and the “outside” for role models, and now hopes to be a role model for others, including those in small towns like Gate City, Va., and Cheney.

“I can say this for kids of small towns: make sure you’re friends with everybody, everybody, even those ones that don’t deserve it. They probably need it,” she said. “Because you’re more open than them if you’re being loving to someone who is hateful to you. Always show love because then they’re going to walk [away] and go ‘Wow they really weren’t that bad,’ you know? And maybe that’s how you break the cycle.”

Will Stotts and Sierra Vanderhoodt are both seniors at EWU and members of the Pride Center. Stotts said he had never watched “The Voice,” but said he applauded Beverly’s openness and pride.

According to Stotts, LGBTQIA celebrities who “come out” can have a positive influence on teens and young adults who may be apprehensive about doing so themselves. Stotts said that for teens and young adults, seeing someone who they look up to coming out can give them courage.

“I would say that it’s inspiring to see that somebody within my own community is becoming well-known and is succeeding in their endeavors,” Stotts said. “Whether or not the public eye is completely accepting, they’re still sticking it out, they’re taking a stand and they’re setting an example for the rest of us, for some of us who are still afraid to be noticeable or to make ourselves noticeable.”

Vanderhoodt said that she watches “The Voice” occasionally and found it inspiring that McClellan’s sexual orientation was never a factor in the competition. She said it felt great to see another out lesbian woman on prime-time television, and said that it made her feel “normal.”

“I’d just tell her thank you because she didn’t have any obligation to go on there and talk about her personal life. And I mean there [are] a lot of people who wouldn’t [speak publicly about being LGBTQIA] because a lot still goes on,” said Vanderhoodt. “To have someone be so comfortable and so strong that they know literally anybody could have watched her perform and heard that she was an out lesbian and that she was comfortable with that … It gives hope to others who maybe aren’t so comfortable at that point in their lives, and I mean it gives hope for me even.”