Can we taaaaaalk…for a minute?
After a career in the public eye with huge chart hits, lauded Broadway performances and a much-beloved song in a ’90s Disney classic, R&B star Tevin Campbell is ready to let fans in on a part of his personal life. In a new interview on the PEOPLE Every Day podcast, Campbell confirmed that he identifies as a gay man, and took a look back on what led him to officially open up to his fans.
“What makes me happiest right now is how far I’ve come in life,” he said on the podcast. “You know, there are a lot of child stars that don’t make it. But a lot of us do … and the fact that I’ve embraced me.”
Fans have long speculated about Campbell’s sexuality, but the singer has kept his private life out of the public eye since the inception of his career. But that speculation came to a head earlier this year when Campbell tweeted (and later deleted) the phrase “Tevin is…” followed by a rainbow flag emoji.
The singer signed his first major label record deal with Warner Music back in 1991, releasing his debut album T.E.V.I.N. to critical acclaim. Campbell was just 14 in March 1991 when he landed his first top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 — “Round and Round,” which Prince wrote and produced for the film Graffiti Bridge. Campbell’s performance on the track brought him a Grammy nomination for best R&B vocal performance, male — his first of five Grammy nods.
Song such as “Can We Talk” and “Tell Me What You Want Me to Do” would go on to break into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Many fans also know Campbell as the voice of Powerline from 1995’s A Goofy Movie.
Campbell, who referred to himself as a “former child star,” revealed that throughout his early years in the industry, he never really concealed his identity from those around him. “I didn’t hide anything about me. I didn’t try to act a certain way or anything,” he said. “You just couldn’t be [gay] back then.”
It wasn’t until 2005, when he appeared as Seaweed J. Stubbs in the Broadway musical Hairspray, that Campbell says he felt he’d truly found himself. “Being around people who were like me, LGBTQ+ people that were living normal lives and had partners. I had never seen that,” he said. “That was a great time in my life.”
The “I 2 I” singer also praised stars such as Lil Nas X and Frank Ocean, who have found success in R&B and hip-hop while also being openly queer. “It wasn’t like that in the ’90s, but I’m glad I get to see it. I’m glad that’s changing,” he said. “There are a lot of kids, especially young Black boys that need to see representation. They’re not being taught to love themselves because of who they are.”