Film

Exclusive: Todrick Hall Talks New Album, "Drag Race," and Fans "Cancelling" Artists

Todrick Hall and I recently had a phone conversation for the cover story of the new issue of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine, out now.

Source: Todrick Hall

Source: Todrick Hall


Issue 111 of Twin Cities Gay Scene, 4/8/2018

Issue 111 of Twin Cities Gay Scene, 4/8/2018

Derek: I just wanted to say that as a big fan that is it an honor to interview you because I have been a fan since you did your original McDonalds drive thru video.

Todrick: Oh my God. That’s the first video that I ever uploaded. So, thank you, I really appreciate that.

D: Your new album “Forbidden” features other artists singing full songs alone like on “Straight Outta Oz.” what inspired you to popularize this approach?

T: Well I’m a musical theatre person and I’m normally am trying to tell a story with my projects. And so, if it doesn’t make sense for my character to sing a song, I won’t sing it just because it is my album. When I’m writing my shows I also imagine everything as an album that is cohesive for someone to listen to. I am a person who typically enjoys female voices more and so if people are similar to me then I think they would love it. Some of these people are just my favorite. It is like bucket list people that I would live to work with, they are my favorite vocalists, and they’re on my album. I have Brandy singing a song that I created. It is like something that I would never as a child fathomed could ever be possible. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it. It feels like such a huge bucket list thing. She is one of the reasons why I wanted to be a performer; seeing her, as an African-American woman, be the lead in “Cinderella” - the Rodgers & Hammerstein version that I grew up loving so much. It was really inspiring and it was one of the things that made me initially want to get into theatre and to start performing. And so to have her sing one of my songs, it is just like I said, a bucket list thing, and I feel every time I see it can’t believe that it happened.

Source: Wolfe

Source: Wolfe

D: I was just watching your “Behind the Curtain” documentary again the other night. In it you mentioned that Brandy and that specific role of her as Cinderella inspired you. Having her sing a song on your album must have been such a huge moment for you. 

T: Yeah, it really was. When she told me that she was going to do it, I thought it was too good to be true. I didn’t tell anybody because I know that she is very busy she is an R&B legend and icon. And the fact that she even considered doing it is enough for me to be excited, but if she actually does record it, and then goes even a step further to show up to set and films it, I’ll be the happiest person on earth. And when she did, it was so much fun and she was everything I would of dreamed she would be. She stayed longer than any celebrity who has ever come and donated their time, she stayed longer than they all did. She wanted to rehearse and wanted it to be perfect for me. It was just really, really awesome. When I work with people like her, or Taylor Swift, they are divas at the top of their game. Or when I choreograph for Beyoncé, you see why these people are who they are, and where they are in their careers. Beyoncé was very adamant about making sure that she knew all of the choreography and it was perfect; the angles and that the weight was on the right leg that it needed to be. It’s the people who take the time to really perfect the finite details that it show in their product and in their brand and in their image every time they present it to their audience, and that is why they are the legendary icon stars that they are.

D: Your new visual album is even more ambitious than the last one. What was your favorite part of filming it?

T: I think my favorite part was planning, writing the songs and watching them come to life. Seeing the playback on the camera and seeing the vision was being executed properly. Often times when artists with limited budgets and limited resources come up with these crazy ideas, we learn how to settle with the 2nd or 3rd best version of the idea. With this project, I was looking at the playback and everything down to the wigs, the shoes, dresses, and the costumes. The details. The name on the tags, the scenery, the props and everything. It was coming out exactly how I imaged it in my mind when I was writing the music. That doesn’t happen often, so that was a really great feeling. And I think that was one of my favorite things. Also, just to see my friends come and to donate their time; I have so many friends that are talented actors and Broadway performers who I have learned so much from. To see it come full circle and for them to learn choreography from me, coming out at 6am, 5am to donate their time. My cousin had never danced on a music video before she came out. It was really a family affair, my LA family of performers, my real family, all my friends and fans coming together to make this. The people willing to stay up to 4, 5, 6, 7 in the morning to make this project happen in a very limited amount of time. What we did here was something that should have taken someone 3 to 6 months - to a year - to write. Another 6 months to a year to execute, and another 3 to 6 months to a year to do the post production and to post it. We did all that in 7 weeks, and it was an unfathomable thing. The fact that we have a team of people that were so persistent, so focused on the goal, was really awesome. I am really proud and blessed to have been surround by people that care enough about my work.

Photo: iTunes

Photo: iTunes

D: My favorite track is either “2003” or “T.H.U.G (Trade).” What is yours?

T: My favorite song switches from day to day. When I first started writing it, “Type” was my favorite. Lately before we were filming the project, “Apple Pie” was my favorite. I would listen to it every morning. “Painting in the Rain” is my favorite song to perform. I think it is a really cool metaphor. It paints a really cool picture, pun intended, when just listening to the lyrical content of the song and to watch it come to life on stage. I think it is a really cool image. I’ve always loved “Lose My Breath“ by Destiny Child since I was fresh out of high school; I have always loved things with drum cadences in them. So I picked that song for a number of reasons, as one of my favorites at the moment.

D: What it was like to choreograph the instantly viral “Kitty Girl” video for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” All Stars 3?

T: It was really, really cool. I think that the producers thought it was going to be an unfathomable concept. Like, “yeah, in the perfect world, we would have a one-take performance, but we don’t know if our girls and our crew, in the time we have, can do it.” I had so much faith in the girls and realized what a cool concept it could be. 

D: My next question is about Twitter and social media. Today’s fans are quick to “cancel” their favorite performers for a misstep. It feels like entertainers are held to a higher standard despite the fact you are all human and we all make mistakes. How do you fell about this shift?

T: I feel that it is one of the things culturally right now, where people are just so used to doing things like that. I think that it is really sad that people can jump on the bandwagon and “cancel” someone that they were a huge fan of, as if they themselves don’t make mistakes. I think if we shined a light on every single person in the world, we would see moments from even our favorite people. I’m sure that there are things about Beyoncé that I would not like if I saw everything about her. If we were all perfect then we wouldn’t be human, we would be robots. So, I think those imperfect things are awesome. It affected me in [Season Two] of “All Stars Drag Race” when Alaska had a weak moment at the end, and some people online didn’t want her to win anymore. I was like, this person has really fought a great fight this whole season, has really stepped up their game, and killed so many challenges. The fact that those people would even consider not letting her get the crown because she had a breakdown in the middle of an intense process in which she has been secluded for months… It’s insane to me, but it also has taught me that no one is immune to it. I am prepared for whatever might come up, who knows what it’s going to be. I also have learned that people have very short attention spans and eventually they are going to forget what they were upset about, as long you don’t feed into it. When negativity comes my way, I try to send out positive messages if I feel like it is something that warrants a response. Then I move on, because I realize that tomorrow they will be upset with someone else. 

Todrick with close friend Taylor Swift after his "Kinky Boots" show on Broadway. Photo: Todrick Hall

Todrick with close friend Taylor Swift after his "Kinky Boots" show on Broadway.
Photo: Todrick Hall

D: I love that answer. That is very true. I noticed that your album was not released on streaming services initially, like how Taylor Swift had not put “Reputation” on streaming services at first. And it worked - myself and thousands of others bought your album on iTunes. I would love to hear your thoughts behind this release process.

T: Well, the plan is very simple. I am an unsigned artist; an independent. I don’t have management, or a record label. I spent almost half a million dollars of my own money on this project. So, that’s why with a label, I would have chosen something different. I know the popular roll out plan would be to put it on every platform individually, but unfortunately I have to find a way to make my money back for these projects, because it is not affordable for me to put it out for free. I’m already releasing the entire visual movie for free. I felt like, for me, at this time, until my situation changes where I have people helping me and funding my projects, I have to do whatever I can do to sell a product. I think it was worth it. Not to knock at what anybody else is doing, but not a lot of artists write their own music; they have so many collaborators. I write every lyric, every melody, to every song. The only part I didn’t fully write was Shangela’s rap in “Doll Hairs.” I wrote almost 45 songs for this album, and it was dwindled down to 30 songs. I choreographed every number, picked out almost every single costume. I was in charge of guiding the hair, wig and make-up department to the area they needed to be in, and picked out the lighting. I had my hands on every single aspect of this show. Most performers don’t choreograph their own dances or hire their own dancers and cast their own people. It is a lot that I personally do, because I want the project to look like something that came from my brain; my art and my creative zone that I was in when I wrote the song. For that, I feel like I know the worth of it. I know that $20 is a lot these days to spend on an album, but most people are not putting out 30 songs. Most albums don’t tell people a story with characters and a climax. I just felt that it was really important for me to do what I had to do to make business sense in some way, shape or form. This way, they have an option to pay to get it or they can wait for it to come out on streaming services, or they can watch the movie for free on YouTube. That way everybody wins.

D: It’s very high quality content. It makes it justifiable to actually buy it. Sometimes when artists have an album that isn’t so good - that has a lot of filler on it - it’s not really worth the $10 or $20, but yours is because it packs a punch in every track.

T: Thank you very much. I’m really proud of it.

D: I have one final question. I was wondering what your fans can expect from your Minneapolis show on April 8th?

T: They can expect a live version of what they saw online. In the encore, there will be other videos that I have done in the past. It is a fun time. I think my shows are a perfect blend of a musical theatre performance and a concert. You are going to get a storyline and be taken on a journey. It’s totally okay for you to stand up, hoot, holler, dance, and have a good time. I love this show because I think it has really cool, funny moments that have comedy. It has light heartedness. It has numbers that make you want to dance, and get really hood and ratchet if you want to, too. It will also have moments that are really touching, inspiring, uplifting and emotional. It has that raw spiritual-ness that you get on a Sunday morning in a gospel church, because of the well-rounded nature of the show. There is something for everyone, and I tried to write the album that way as well. The album includes pop, R&B, gospel, rock, musical theatre elements in it. It feels eclectic. There are songs that sound like were cut from the “Hairspray” musical, then songs that sound like Kirk Franklin or the Clark sisters would be singing, mixed with a song that Linkin Park would of sang. I have such an eclectic, diverse love for music that in my album, it doesn’t feel like I have to choose. I put everything together and I’m just so grateful that, in my opinion, it blends well together. With my album it’s like a buffet of music, and I feel my concert is the same thing. I think that everyone will come in and enjoy it, and it’s a really good time.

Photo: Live Nation

Photo: Live Nation

D: I’m really excited to see it. I’m actually going to be writing a review as well, so I’m really excited for your show. Thank you so much for your time today, this was an amazing interview and I appreciate the time you took to do it.

T: I appreciate that you took the time to do your research. I do lots of interviews and it makes a huge world of a difference when you’re interviewing with somebody who is clearly a supporter and familiar with your body of work. So I thank you for that, it’s very cool. I hope to meet you when I’m in your town.


What's your favorite Todrick video? Tweet me: @DerekPlease

Film Review: "Justice League"

DerekPlease.com got an early look at this year's most buzzed-about superhero movie.


Warning: Spoilers ahead.


The holiday 2017 blockbuster film season is upon us. “Justice League” is finally here, and I was lucky enough to attend an advanced screening. The film, which successfully ties together Warner Bros.' messy DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film franchise, follows a ragtag bunch of heroes that play well as a team, but vary in quality individually.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

The new characters are a mixed bag.

The Flash steals the show in a star-making performance from burgeoning queer icon Ezra Miller. Every Flash one-liner got a big laugh from the crowd. It’s been tough watching mainstream Hollywood figure out what to do with Miller’s skill set - his role in “Harry Potter” prequel “Fantastic Beasts” was not the ticket - but “Justice League” is his showcase. The only thing he’s lacking is a better backstory, which is probably being saved for the DCEU “Flashpoint” film.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Aquaman is… basic. There’s not much else to say. He’s just sort of there. The film didn’t care about him, so neither did I. Jason Momoa gives a shirtless shrug of a performance. He was mostly reduced to the overused, albeit classic DC joke that Aquaman’s only power is talking to fish.

Cyborg could use a tune-up. This mostly-robot character lacks much of a human element, sense of humor. The only human part of him is maybe half a face’s worth of gorgeous Hollywood skin. He’s just about as animated as a robot in “Transformers”, and that is not a good thing. Actor Ray Fisher could have breathed some life into the character, but gives a wooden-faced, self-serious performance… all in a monotone voice. 

When he’s not in battle, Cyborg wears unrealistic hoodies that somehow cover his giant robot body without looking misshapen. It seems like even the filmmakers are insecure about the effort they put into this character. Between Cyborg and Aquaman, it would have been great if the characters of color had been given more character development.

Halloween 2017 may be over, but “Justice League” invites “Frankenstein” to its Thanksgiving table. Kal-El AKA Clark Kent AKA Superman AKA God (if you’re asking the deranged Lex Luthor, and I am not) comes back in a thrilling, frightening sequence. The Batman vs. Superman fight scene that follows is the best action sequence of the film. The Mary Shelley vibes are real. The “big gun” Batman brings in to end the fight is a brilliant touch. 

Superman? More like super objectified. Kal-El spends that aforementioned fight fully shirtless. And that isn’t the only time he inexplicably loses his clothing. I’m not mad at it, though. It’s about time straight men get a taste of their own objectifying ways, and us ladies and gaydies get to enjoy a petty benefit of Hollywood’s paradigm shift.

The move to further fetishize Superman, while obvious and gratuitous, makes sense. DC tried and failed to make Superman more than aesthetics. In “Justice League,” DC nods to the feverish online army of Henry Cavill stans. Even Buzzfeed published posts lusting over him. The thirst is real, and they even joke about that - at Lois Lane (Amy Adams)’s expense. 

Left: The Amazons in "Wonder Woman" / Right: The Amazons on the set of "Justice League"   There was some pre-release controversy over their reduced clothing in the photo on the right, but the change was not evident in the final cut of "Justice League."   Warner Bros.

Left: The Amazons in "Wonder Woman" / Right: The Amazons on the set of "Justice League"

There was some pre-release controversy over their reduced clothing in the photo on the right, but the change was not evident in the final cut of "Justice League."

Warner Bros.

“Justice League” is actually the best use of Superman in the 21st century, so it seems like an odd choice not to feature him in the trailers or first wave marketing materials for the film. I mean, we all knew he was coming back. Hello! “Batman vs. Superman” literally ends teasing that fact. [Edit: I think they gave up and already started advertising Superman being in "Justice League"]

Ben Affleck is finally settling into his role as Batman, so of course, he wants to quit. Warner Bros. obliges, setting up a strong foreshadowing for Bruce Wayne’s near-future exit. The film is peppered with “old man Batman” jokes, and references to how this iteration has been fighting crime for 20 years. 

All previous Batman films featured a Batman that instantly recovered from injury. However, “Justice League” features a Batman who licks his wounds after every battle. Wonder Woman even insists that Batman “can’t keep doing this forever.” It reads as a set up for disenchanted actor Ben Affleck to leave.

Wonder Woman has a great story arc you may have thought would have been saved for her solo sequel. The one thing “Justice League” got right that “Wonder Woman” did not? A more even tone. Whereas the campy villain scenes in “Wonder Woman” didn’t quite fit the rest of the film, “Justice League” invites camp along for the full ride.

The DCEU films remain aggressively masculine, but now in an almost tongue-in-cheek manner. The cinematography is flamboyantly fire and brimstone. The CGI is adorned with a grainy faux film look. The fights are loud, ultra-violent, and metallic. Concrete slabs burst apart like sticks of chalk. Surely no film is this cartoonishly macho without being self-aware… right?

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

The Jack Kirby creation Steppenwolf is better than most Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) villains; certainly better than the next Avengers film’s big bad, that boring purple giant Thanos. Despite heavy motion capture, actor Ciarán Hinds pulls off a fantastical performance. Whereas a similar “world ending” big bad in the MCU film “Thor: Ragnarok” is the butt of jokes, Steppenwolf is a serious threat. His army isn’t weak, either. With their unique look and backstory, Steppenwolf’s insect-like Parademons are more memorable than your average, disposable “faceless army.” All this good does not save the bad final fight scene, which feels long and predictable. 

The credits feature a strange and intriguing decision not to credit Joss Whedon as Zach Snyder’s co-director, despite Whedon’s heavy rewrites and reshoots. While likely a show of respect to Snyder, the idea that this is as much a Snyder film as “Watchmen” or “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” does not compute. Whedon does take a writing credit for his reshoot efforts, though. 

Despite the tragic circumstances that brought him on (director Zach Snyder’s daughter Willow died by suicide early this year), “Justice League” is lucky to have Joss Whedon. The film could have been another dark, violent mess for DC without Whedon’s signature crowd-pleasing touches. Joss Whedon's genre-defining work directing the MCU game changer “The Avengers” set the bar so high, his involvement in DC’s equivalent film “Justice League” was its only chance of being comparable. This film was never going to be perfect, but it’s at least a very fun ride. This is a best-case scenario for the most complex film in the messiest cinematic universe. 


3.5 out of 5 stars


Who's your favorite member of the Justice League? Hit me up on social! @DerekPlease everywhere.

Exclusive: *NSYNC VHS Remastered in 4K

Oops!... I did it again. After the excitement surrounding the DerekPlease.com exclusive 4K remaster of the Britney Spears half of the "Your #1 Video Requests... And More!" VHS tape, I decided to post the *NSYNC portion. 

This video cassette was on for sale for only $5 exclusively at McDonalds in the year 2000. Check out the boys in all their Y2K glory, below.

Missed the Britney Spears half of the tape, or just wanna hit play one more time? I got you: 


Stay tuned for more exclusive throwback videos! Follow me for updates:

In Memory of Stevie Ryan (1984-2017)

My friend Stevie Ryan has died at age 33. 

Currently crying because I found out my YouTube friend and someone I have looked up to for over 10 years, Stevie Ryan, committed suicide this weekend.

A lot of you know my brother Justin committed suicide 10 years ago last month. That summer, Stevie Ryan hosted a YouTube video contest in costume as “Little Loca,” one of her many characters. The topic was “Who or what inspires you the most?”

I did my video about my brother and his huge trip around the world he completed not too long before he died. The video was posted under 2 weeks after his suicide. The real life Stevie Ryan, not the character, reached out with an extravagant Edible Arrangement, and a thoughtful and touching card. She also awarded me the grand prize including an original piece of art. When people accused me of faking my brother’s suicide for attention, she vehemently defended me and shamed her own hateful audience, something barely any celebrities or politicians dare do now, even when it’s right.

This is why fundraisers like the one we did for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention last month are so important. Together we raised $510. That may seem small but it is huge. Especially for a topic and organization that is so totally made taboo by the public and media, who largely pretend doesn’t exist, beyond a television storyline

Stevie Ryan was an accomplished and hilarious, young, beautiful comedian, but she was also a GREAT PERSON and someone I was proud to call a friend. We still casually kept in touch on Twitter and such prior to her death. .

Devastated and wishing her family and friends and fans all the best. 😢❤️ RIP my love, I will never ever ever forget you your talent or your kindness...
— Derek - July 3, 2017

XOXO D: Wonder Woman

This week I had the honor of asking some of my friends across social media to lend their opinion on the superhero film phenomenon that is Wonder Woman. Emotional and cathartic in a society of systematic patriarchy, the film has touched many in different ways.

Read more below, and head to Twin Cities Gay Scene's website to enjoy the full Pride issue. 

XOXO D is an original column by Derek Scott
which runs in each biweekly issue of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.