'It got scary': Gloria Estefan's daughter on coming out as a lesbian

Tuesday, 20 October 2020 14:33 GMT

Emily Estefan arrives for the American Theatre Wing's 70th annual Tony Awards in New York, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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Singer Emily Estefan faced pressure coming out to her family and as the daughter of a global celebrity

By Hugo Greenhalgh

LONDON, Oct 20 (Openly) - Forbidden by her global superstar mother Gloria Estefan from coming out as a lesbian to her grandmother, singer Emily Estefan said she contemplated suicide.

The second child of multi-Grammy award-winning Cuban-American singer of hits like "Rhythm is Going to Get You" said her "anxiety went through the roof" when her grandmother died a few months later in 2017.

"It got scary, it got pretty bad," the 25-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a joint video call with her mother.

"I was disconnected from my music, so I was really feeling that I just didn't want to be here any more," she said, her black tank top revealing a tattoo of a dragonfly and an orb.

Four in 10 young LGBT+ people in the United States say they have seriously considered suicide over the past 12 months, according to The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organisation for LGBT+ youth.

The two women revealed how difficult it was for Gloria to support Emily when she came out because of her own fears that the news would kill her ailing grandmother in "Red Table Talk: The Estefans", showing on Facebook Watch this month.

The first series of the popular web talk show featured actor Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow Smith and Pinkett Smith's mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, discussing topics such as drug addiction and self-harm.

Gloria Estefan, speaking from her home in Miami Beach, said she felt "terrible" hearing her daughter open up about her mental health after witnessing her struggle.

"I was really scared because what I was seeing was Emily losing weight, Emily not making her music, Emily changing," said one of the world's most successful Latin crossover stars, who has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

"It was like I was seeing these changes that I didn't really know where they were coming from. I didn't know the kind of angst that was inside of her."

Emily, Gloria and Lili Estefan (l-r) of "Red Table Talk: The Estefans" in Los Angles, March 2020. Handout courtesy of Sami Drasin / Red Table Talk

Despite the praise Emily Estefan has won as an LGBT+ role model for young people, she said she does not want public discussions about her sexuality to overshadow her music.

"You worry that in some weird way people will shun your art because of your sexuality but the reality is I don't want those people listening to my music anyway," said the singer, who released her first album "Take Whatever You Want" in 2017.

It has not been easy for Emily Estefan to carve out a career in music with such famous parents - her father Emilio is also a musician and producer and winner of 19 Grammys.

"I didn't even sing to myself alone because I was worried I was going to open my mouth and my mom was going to crawl out," she said from the family-owned Crescent Moon Studios in Florida.

"I didn't start to sing until I was 18 and the first person I sang to was my mom. My voice was shaking."

Emily Estefan has gone on to sing publicly many times, notably with her mother at a 2018 musical celebration for her godfather, music legend Quincy Jones who produced some of Michael Jackson's most successful albums.

And while she is now comfortable in the public eye, Emily Estefan rejects the labels that others might place upon her.

"In reality - in a perfect alien society I would love to live in - I don't feel the need for labels," she said.

Ultimately she said she was now in a position - both in terms of her mental health and her music career - to simply be herself.

"You can call me a lesbian, you can call me Tom, you can call me Queen Zorba. You can call me whatever you want," she said laughing.

"Nothing makes me uncomfortable in terms of what you choose to label me."

Related stories:

'I see myself' - Stars of 'Equal' Samira Wiley, Billy Porter on LGBT history

Survey finds 40% of U.S. LGBTQ youth considered suicide in past year

'Tales of the City' author calls for 'revolution' to end homophobia

(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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