Girls just want to have fun – and change the world in the process! Pop icon Cyndi Lauper is currently celebrating the 30th anniversary of her debut album, She’s So Unusual, with a concert tour that will have fans breaking out their 1980s jelly bracelets, denim jackets and scrunchies in celebration.
The popularity of Lauper’s early hits – such as “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time” – is a remarkable achievement in pop music’s ever-changing landscape. Part of Lauper’s enduring success is embracing the past while continuing to look forward. Her newest project is the hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots – the uplifting story of a British shoe factory that avoids bankruptcy by specializing in flamboyantly fabulous, drag-queen-worthy shoes. In June, Kinky Boots won six Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score for Lauper’s work writing the music and lyrics. It’s an especially meaningful recognition because Kinky Boots also reflects Lauper’s longtime advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community.
In an exclusive chat with The Seattle Lesbian, Lauper talks about the tour, her social advocacy for homeless LGBT teens through her True Colors Fund and why she can envision living in Seattle with umbrella required!
The She’s So Unusual tour will be at Tacoma’s Broadway Center for the Performing Arts/Pantages Theater on Sunday, June 16. Information and tickets can be found at broadwaycenter.org.
The She’s So Unusual Tour celebrates the anniversary of your debut album. What’s it like revisiting the album and playing it live after 30 years?
To go back and listen to what you did 30 years ago and worked so hard on – but had so much fun doing – is pretty cool. It’s like you literally get to go back and feel what you were feeling at the moment you recorded that record. We even found some old demos and listened to them, too. It is fun to recreate that moment in time. There is not a single song that I look forward to perform more than the other. I just look forward to enjoying that ride with all my fans again. It will be like sitting on your bed, putting the record on and we are all going to go back there together. In the fall, Sony is going to release a 30th Anniversary CD and it will include live concert audio and some other fun surprises!
Any teasers for people planning to attend the concert?
We will be performing the entire She’s So Unusual album from beginning to end. I will be performing them with the original arrangements, so it will be like they were 30 years ago. Of course, I will be tossing in a few surprises at the encore, but that’s something you will have to come and find out for yourself. Also, I will have one of my favorite bands, Hunter Valentine, on the road with us (as the opener). They kick butt.
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is consistently ranked one of the greatest pop songs ever. Have there been any unusual places where you unexpectedly heard it playing?
There are just too many. I don’t think I can narrow down to just one. Girls is still one of my favorite songs to perform live because the audiences always react so strongly. It’s a feel good song with a great message for women, so that’s why it has the staying power it does, which I’m very proud of.
You’re a longtime, devoted advocate of the LGBT community. Were there certain people or experiences that inspired your passion?
It is simple – I am friend and family. Where I come from you do not stand by and let your family and friends’ civil rights be stripped away. You have to speak up, get involved, and do whatever you can to ensure that everyone is treated equally. Equality is what this country was based on. We just have to help it reach its full potential.
Your True Colors Fund does amazing work. Can you speak a bit about the mission to end LGBT youth homelessness?
When up to 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender – yet only up to 5 percent of the general youth population does the same – you have an epidemic. These [LGBT] kids are being thrown out or forced out of their homes at an alarming rate. There was a significant void on the national level. There has never been a national organization whose sole focus has been to address gay and transgender youth homelessness.
So, the True Colors Fund launched the Forty to None Project last summer after spending a year traveling the country and really learning about the issue and the solutions that were needed. The Forty to None Project fills that void with our education, advocacy, empowerment, capacity building and inclusion programs, as well as research. There is a lot of work to be done and we welcome everyone to get involved and learn more at fortytonone.org. This is a fixable problem and we can do it together.
Part of the True Colors Fund’s goal is to engage everyone. In what ways are LGBT issues the issues of our entire society?
If one of us is not equal, then none of us are equal. I do not want to live in a society where one group of people is considered less than or not as worthy as any other group. Plus, if one group of people is discriminated against today, who is to say that the group you are a part of isn’t going to be the group singled out tomorrow?
Congrats on the huge success of your new Broadway musical, Kinky Boots – winner of six 2013 Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score for your writing of the music and lyrics. How fantastic was that night?
The Tony’s was a magical night. The show won so many awards including Best Musical. Billy Porter won Best Actor in a musical. That was so important to me – and to take that statue home for Best Score was humbling. The first time I ever performed was in front of my family, acting/singing all the parts of my Mom’s Broadway cast recordings. So to be there full circle, being accepted by the Broadway community was a thrill for me. What’s also amazing is that the audiences are coming. Kinky Boots, a story that at the root of it all is about acceptance, is what the audiences are responding to. Maybe we are becoming a kindler more gentle nation after all.
How many shoes are in your personal collection and what are your “kinkiest”/favorite pairs?
I do have a lot of shoes. Some I love for the art but they usually kill my feet. And there are some I love because they are just nice to my feet. I love them all!
You’ve been to the Northwest over the years. What are some things or places you’re looking forward to during the upcoming visit?
I can’t wait to be back. The tour [started June 12] and I am super excited. I just wish I will have some time to visit other than seeing the venue and my hotel. But the food in Seattle and the people of Seattle are great, as is the music. It’s a super town. It’s definitely one of my favorite cities because it definitely has its own vibe. I could live in Seattle, but unlike most residents of that great city, I would use an umbrella!