Out ‘American Idol’ alum David Hernandez embraces the increasing diversity of Pride celebrations

SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
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As an entertainer headlining Pride events nationwide, David Hernandez has noticed a gradual but important change in crowd demographics. While he continues to see a majority of LGBT faces in his audiences, lately he notes a larger-than-ever number of supportive straight allies.

“You know, Pride used to just be sort of a gay thing when I first started,” Hernandez says. “Now I feel like it not just for homosexuals. It’s also for the heterosexual world. It’s for anyone within the community wanting to be accepted for who they are authentically without hiding. I think Pride is loving yourself and the people you love.”

Hernandez, who was bitten by the singing and acting bug at age 6 when he landed a local musical theater role in his native Arizona, made a 2008 career breakthrough as a Season 7 contestant on American Idol. The singer-songwriter, though, was not always openly gay. During his Idol tenure and even a while afterwards, Hernandez chose to keep most aspects of his personal life outside the spotlight. It was not until 2016 with the release of his single “Beautiful” — a song celebrating uniqueness and diversity — that Hernandez publicly acknowledged his sexuality. He says that living openly has not only been a liberating experience, but it has also made him a better artist.

“I felt obligated [to come out] for kids who were taking their own lives or struggling in small cities around the country, to say that you can pursue your dreams and do what I do and still be gay … or be who you are, whether that’s trans or bi or whatever,” Hernandez says. “That’s why I did it. I didn’t do it for attention. I didn’t need the attention. Everyone who knows me knows I’m gay. But it has — and I didn’t even know this at first — it has made me a much more transparent artist. I feel very comfortable in my own skin. I don’t have to hide that part of myself anymore.”

Hernandez, who with multi-platinum recording artist Thea Austin headlines Saturday’s Miller Lite Music Festival in the Park, says his career has offered many upsides. In 2009, he opened for John Legend in Washington, D.C., at an inaugural ball for President Obama. But his career also has exacted a toll. As an L.A. resident, Hernandez doesn’t get to spend as much time with his family in Arizona as he would like. He also finds it challenging to balance a demanding tour schedule with sufficient time for serious romance.

“I think I’ve sacrificed so many relationships,” Hernandez says. “I’ve had some long term relationships that didn’t work out because more often than not the person is not secure enough to deal with the fact that I’m always on the road. I’m always on tour. I do a lot of gay Prides and gay events.”

When Hernandez is not logging frequent flier miles and racking up hotel rewards points, he is often at home writing songs — “It’s always in the shower [when ideas strike]” — either for himself or for others to perform. He recently wrote an ‘80s-inspired song called “Our Day in the Sun” which producers will use in the remastered and rescored classic Baywatch TV series soon to be released in high definition. For Hernandez, creative inspiration often comes from simple, everyday living.

“I find it really easy to write slow, sad songs,” Hernandez says. “I find it more challenging to write upbeat songs, [although] I generally am a happy person. I think life in general inspires me, [things like] whether I’m in a relationship … how friendships are going … how business relationships are going … or when I wake up, what kind of mood I’m in.”

Even though Hernandez makes frequent appearances at Pride celebrations and other gay events, he finds he does not necessarily have a large gay fan base. It’s an issue that perplexes him. He would like to change that, both for himself and for other artists like him.

“The gay culture is really finicky when it comes to supporting gay male artists,” Hernandez says. “I notice a lot of gay men idolize the big black girl singers. I feel like we all have inside of us … that big black girl. [But] I think it’s really difficult in the gay community to get recognition or respect from your fellow gay man.”

As for the future, Hernandez plans to continue making music. But he does not want to restrict himself to that pursuit alone. In fact, he lists a number of additional goals on his career bucket list.

“While I’ve done a lot of really cool shit,” Hernandez says, “I still have dreams and aspirations. I’d like to be in a feature film. I just started a podcast with my cohost. I’m diversifying a little bit. There are a lot of things in the entertainment industry I would love to do, including hosting and television and stuff like that. Music is sort of one aspect of who I really am. I want to do a lot more, man.” █