Toxic Positivity With John Duff
PRIDE
PRIDE

Episode · 3 years ago

Toxic Positivity With John Duff

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

How does John Duff’s butt compare to Kim Kardashian’s butt? How does one become a pop star? Is there room in the world for a studly, gay, up and coming pop star to hold a mirror up to society? Can you come back from being cancelled? Find out on this week’s episode of Pride. Be sure to follow John on IG. Your host is Levi Chambers, co-founder of Gayety. Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @Pride. Want more great shows from Straw Hut Media? Check out or website at strawhutmedia.com. Your producers are Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson and Edited by Sebastian Alcala Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? We might feature U! Email us at lgbtq@strawhutmedia.com. *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

STRAWUT media. A lot of US start out life with high hopes and lofty dreams about what will be when we grow up. Maybe the goal is to be president or an astronaut or a movie star. I myself wanted to be a writer. Some of US get there and some of US end up choosing another path. My guest today, John Duff, spent a long time dreaming about being a pop star. Even though he's had his share of success, he's also found himself swimming against the current a few times, but the release of his two recent singles finally set him on his spotlit path. Still navigating the world of fame is a feat on its own. Today we'll talk about the journey, the music, the haters and the message, so stick around. I'm me by chambers, and this is pride. Just about a month ago John Duff released his second single rich. Besides the Bobby beat and catchy chorus, the song and the video are a satirical look at the vapid content that defines pop culture. Hello, I'm John Duff. I just turned thirty last Wednesday and I'm happy to be here in the cust on the on the tail end of the release least of my new song rich. Growing up outside Baltimore, Maryland, John says he always had an affinity for doing things that other boys didn't do. I now know plenty of boys who do what I do, but growing up in a smaller town, know I was the only one. Over the years, he did a lot of talent shows performing songs by Elvis and Michael Jackson. He tried to learn an instrument, but that didn't go very well. I think they kicked me out of the band when I was in fourth grade trying to play cello. Once I learned how to do a pitch bend on the thing, there was there was no point in...

...teaching me anything else. And all of that led him to musical theater, because the one thing you can always find no matter where you are, is drama camp. That became my main outlet as a performer all the way through high school, performing in the musicals. My High School drama teacher did not like me, so I was an ensemble member. But primarily, even though his drama teacher wasn't his biggest fan, John Excelled throughout high school. He won awards and regional competitions and eventually ended up graduating from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of fine arts in musical theater and then he moved to New York City. The first thing I did when I got out of college was a TV show called the x factor that Simon cow produced, after American idol. They totally hated me before I got three words out of my first song on the audition stage, which was for four thousand people and however many million of people at home, and they first implied that I was transgender. SIMCA'll asked me if I wanted to be a woman, and then Paula Abduel called me strange, and then they asked me to sing another song. So and I was after three words of one song. So pretty much my dreams of being a pop star. That were always my secret dreams, because when you're a gay man, that's not an option, or it wasn't an option. We're starting to see it now is an option, but for me, no, it was not an option. And they were still on that train that it wasn't an option, which now you know. They they want all the gays on their shows, they want to do all of that stuff. So that deterred me big time. One day, while writing the subway home from a class, John Overheard a conversation between two people next to him. They had just left an audition they were running. One of them noticed John eaves dropping and asked do I know you? And I was like no, you don't know me, but I was just wondering what you're talking about. And they said, well, we just wrote a musical about saved by the bell and we had auditions and I said, Oh, you should see me for it. I'm really good, and they said, well, you could be a slater,...

...you know, and I was a guy, I can definitely be this later and they're like, well, do you want to read for it? We're on the train, and I said sure, so I read for it and of course you know I'm a great cold reader. I was really one of my talents. So they were impressed. And then they said can you sing, and I said Yeah, like I'm I could say I had a resume on me too, because I was coming from a class. I gave it to them and they called me bayside. The musical ended up being produced by National Lampoon and running for three years in New York. John was with the production the whole time and it led him to his next role as Uncle Jesse in another national lampoon show, full house, the musical, which also starred Perez Hilton as Danny Tanner. I was backstage one day playing piano and singing something in. Perez Hilton said You know what is that? I said I wrote it. He said that's that's really good. It's like not everyone can make up melodies. That's you should move to la and write, be a songwriter, and I said, well, I want to be a pops with we're not going to be a pop star. You know you're too old, your hairlines receiving hey, he went in on me, and then he also told me, but you're not going to make it on probably either's a just gift. Basically, give up. That's never just. Is Terrible Advice. Well, some of it was good. Right. When someone's that brutally honest, when that's their whole stick, you have to pick and choose what you what you agree with or don't agree with, and what I ended up taking from it was he really thinks some of a good songwriter, even if Perez Hilton wasn't a hundred percent convinced about John Star quality. Since the release of his first single girly last year. John has definitely dipped at least a toe into the realm of stardom. This year he released rich just before his thirty birthday. So my new song is, like I wrote, to be just intentionally vapidum, and I really left. It's so skin and bones, melodically and rhythmically. Everything is just so much space in between. Because I'm...

I'm I'm my opinion. I'm holding a mirror to what I see and what I see people wanting. I think, you know, like I said about pop music in general, it's redundant and and soulless. And I it wasn't always that way. I think a lot of it is now, not all of it, but people want soulless because because things are so dark, because people are feeling so many things, we want to hear that stuff that just is about nothing. And so I wrote this on a couple years ago. It had been sitting around and the truth was I wanted to make the video. Otherwise it's I'm going again so much trouble for saying this stuff. It's not my favorite Song of mine at all and I but I but I like it and I like walking down the street to it and I love the production. The production so fire, but in terms of like representing me as a writer, it's not the best representation of me. But it's clever and it's cute and you can view it however you want to view it. You can take it as this is a pop song, just a literal POPs it sounds like a lot of themes the people are singing about, or you can view it as wow, he's really ripping into these people and this is a very satirical piece. I wrote it as satire, which which like. I also think satire should be taken seriously. I think a lot of people look at that ny think it's parody. It's not parody that. They're two different things. I'm using total it's totally different. Anyway, this song's Great. The productions great. Alex delacatta produced it. He has some really great hits under his belt. It's it's cool. I like rich and I think you should download it and listen to it and argue with fight me on it. Tell...

...me the tell me you think it's my best song. Someone does. I bet people say it's their favorite song and that makes that's just cool. That's just cool to make someone's favorite home. I think putting out the song five day rich, five days before my birthday. Let me let me lead into my thirty if year with a great deal of it, with a great sense of accomplishment. Yeah, yeah, and so I just and I went to therapy the day of my thirty birthday and that was a cool move because I realized I really like where I am and that I've grown up at ton, particularly this year. And if I was stuck on my gosh, I'm an aid emotional saying this. If I got stuck where I am right now for the rest of my life, I'd be okay with that. In the music video for girly, John pays homage to almost every s pop star you can think of. The bulk of the video is modeled after Mariah Carey's iconic heartbreaker music video, but he also manages to squeeze and nods to Brittany, Madonna, Christina Aguilera and beyonce. S Music is probably John's biggest influence. He says that during the s people were happier and had more patients for intricate melodies. You know, I believe melodies are catchy. I don't need to hear the same word over and you know, here's a popular song that you might have heard fifteen versions of from the past couple of years. But like work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, like I don't need that to be catchy and I you know, for me personally, I'd rather hear like a Mariah Carey Song. I like the complicated throw me from Shakespearean Vocabulary, baby face, stevie wonder. That's where I take a lot of my inspiration and so my music is a combination of that and I have a lot of Etoway Bass and hiphop production. So right now it's kind of hard to...

...place what I'm doing because I'm not following anyone else's sound. But when I find out what my style is, I will let you know and then I will ask spotify to put me on playlist, because right now they don't do that. Like this is I know where I am now. Yeah, exactly. I've always been a lost, lonely lamb and this is no exten to you. Do you feel like Queer pop stars are becoming more of a thing? Right? You have like can petras, you have Vincent, you have a lot of people who are just great, like it. You had said like Simon cal and Paul Joe. Were like, Nope, you'll never know. That's not going to work. Right where? Now it's like a thing, right, oh, it's definitely a thing and it's I still I have to be honest and this is going to sound I need to be really careful with how I say this. Currently we are very accepting of queer artists. I take a little bit of heat for being like sis, white and attractive. Actually, I hate to say like that, but they're like, you shouldn't be making queer music because you don't really live the queer struggle. But I also got told my entire life that I couldn't do this, so I'm in. I think we're all in the same boat and we have to embrace that. I'm just happy the people are getting popular from this boat, and so with like Kim and Vincent and Parson and like even taught Una tajerk over here is blowing up. It's it's exciting. It's really exciting. Rich calls attention to and criticizes society's Obsession with the rich and famous and shallow interest in real world issues. It's especially harsh on the Kardashians. The video also has a few cameos from viral internet celebrities like Rebecca Moore, the self proclaimed Cock destroyer, Justin, Jedlica, the Human Kendall, and John's good friend Chris Crocker. What is the deal with you and Chris Cross sucker? Oh,...

Chris Claus, is there a deal? Is it just a friendship? Is it? Yeah, a Krit. No, Chris Crocer and I are best friends and it is so bizarre. We met two plus years ago now at Mickey's, which is a gay bar on Santa Monica. I've got to be honest here. I met him, I'm very good for my friend Roy Bianca del Rio and my friend Danny ador Delano. We were all out and Danny Adore has been friends with Chris since they were teenagers, and so I was introduced to him and then I was at the drag show, and the drag shows really long. I've got to be honest. I blocked out. I do not remember. I'm stick. Can I say that I don't remember the end of the night at all. But I woke up at my own place, you know, my own bad and I had Chris's phone number. He had text me. So I'm like, Oh my God, I made friends with Chris Crocer last night and that was that was it. Now we did like a world of wonder series where we talked about our relationship and that was where I found out that for him at the beginning it was he had a different interpretation than I did. I was like, we're friends, Oh my God, he was like weird dating. So that wasn't a weird start to our relationship, but I this time went by, we've really just become like an incredible support system and honestly, he's been through so much and he as a as a queer gay man, he is is so insightful. He's really think about it. When he did leave brinny alone in two thousand and seven, you know, the whole world laughed at him and it was the first viral video and there's clips from CNN where they're making fun of him. So the strength of this person is is just beyond admirable. So I'm he's my...

...best friend and he's my soundboard and I'm so proud of his crazy ass, because he's still crazy to this day, but he he owns all parts of it. So he's a cool dude. I do love his twitter feed because he's crazy and like a fun, fun way. Oh, Oh my God, yeah, he goes off. That's the best for yeah, I. But yeah, they're there. There's a million people following him place because they all feel that way. His people are so protective of him. It's amazing. When we come back we'll have a dialog about coming out, cancel culture, toxic positivity and the life changing magic of letting go. Plus, we're all dying to know. Is that really John's butt in the rich music video? Tell US you're coming out story. Well, I was sucking Dick. Now I by coming out through I was always a very visible human being. I was told I was gay long before I ever knew what gay was, you know, starting in third grade, I think second grade, and for the longest time, because people are telling you you're a thing that you don't have ownership over, it really hurts. And so I remember getting to seventh grade and that was like, why do they all think this about me? I I can't do this anymore. You know, I was a little suicidal and of course you go to counseling and everyone talks you down and I'm like, I'm not gay. I'm not gay, I'm not gay, I'm not...

...gay. And when you when you create that emotion towards yourself, fighting against the very thing that you are because other people are speaking to you negatively, of course it becomes a really horrible experience. But well, I was in high school and I don't know, ma'am, this one boy got out in he was on the Lacrosse team, and then this other boy like jumped out and they were both like cute and nobody really cared. and rather than come out, I just started dating a boy at the rival high school that I met on my space and and the word just kind of got around. So I think more I just decided one day that if people ask me, I was going to say yeah, and then it just happened I was out. I don't know, everyone knew. Everyone knew. I hate to say that because I believe like feminine men don't have to be gay or whatever, but everyone knew I was queer as a two dollar bill. Isn't that what they say? Yeah, that's like what my grandfather would say. So, yeah, should he'd be like Elton John is Great. He's queer as a two dollar bill, though, right. Yeah, yeah, all right. So you were just like out, it was just a thing. There was no like moment really like everyone kind of new, and then you just started dating people. So, talking about dating people right now, if you pursuing your music career, are you able to pursue those sorts of things? Are you just hyper focused on music? Someone just did an astrology reading on me and told me that, like this little passing that we're in, like the next month, I was going to be a very sexual person. Ker I just okay, let me be honest. I just had a surgery like two weeks ago. I had had to get a call on Oscar pe. I had like a pall up up in there. That can they just happens like it didn't. Your body just does it. So, honestly, I'm very off limits with the downstairs areas. So right now my dating life is limited to text message, but when it comes to the music and whatever, I don't...

...know. I wish I was dating more because I want to be like Taylor swift and right about that stuff. Instead, I always just find myself writing songs like nobody likes me and I don't like them either, which is all right too. Oh my God, I love it. My managers always like, you're so negative. I'm like, I I honestly, I take negativity and I make it empowering, because I don't I don't believe and I believe in toxic positivity, and I also believe in allowing ourselves to feel negative things, because that's the truth. There are two sides to every battery. I mean that we need the negative to charge the positive. It just is what it is. Santa. So, talking about negativity, then, have you encountered homophobia while performing? Duh, I mean like the thing that happened to be on the x factor was so devastating. solutely. Yeah, it really like I can't explain it. I just felt so worthless afterward and the really there wasn't a place for me. And I've experienced a lot of it from other gay people who've just said, you know, who view everything that I do as a joke because I'm gay, that my artistry is somehow second best, because because I'm gay, whereas I'm like, what I'm doing is Badass, and if a straight dude was doing and I think people would like well, I guess they'd be mad. I guess they would call that appropriate creation now, right. They kind of say that I don't mean now anyway. I don't think I'm appropriating anything, though. This was what I was doing in my basement my whole life. This is my fantasy world as a performer. So I don't know. I there's just it's always there's just criticism from everyone all the time. It's so lame. I think that that's definitely where culture is at right now. Right like it's very hard to make everyone happy and if you make anything that's perceived as some sort of mistake, they will come for you, no matter who you are and how much they loved you...

...yesterday. Well, it's because it's a control issue right so people feel like they have no control over anything right now because times is tough, and so they want to look at someone and say this is what's wrong with the world, and point out a person and cancel them. The thing is, nobody's going to cancel me, ever, because I want to allow myself to be canceled. The only people I don't know. Man, it's really frustrating. There's a lot of people who are out there convinced the criticism is a talent and it's not, and I will not take it. I just don't. I don't know, I won't take that's your instagram bio is canceled since two thousand and eleven. Yes, sir, because what happened, what I happened, was this is really sad. I was I was really drunk a gay pride in two thousand and eleven, and this was right after x factor happened and I was a very angry young man. I was like twenty years old and I was probably on more than just alcohol and I've definitely was a little, little upper and someone came up to me and said, what do you think, or what do you think about lady Gaga or something, and I was like pissed because I'm like, this is gay pride and every single song that I'm hearing this was two thousand and eleven. And remember firework by Katie Perry. We are who we are, by Kesha FMPERFECT, by paying. WHO SAYS YOU'RE NOT PERFECT? By Selina Gomez, raise your glass, by paying. Mote does the it just was all coming out, and it all come out before born this way, by the way, and then more in this way came out and everyone's like she's the savior of gay people, and I was just pretty mad because I'm like, the music industry is capitalizing off of gay people without representing gay people. So they're telling us they accept this by literally just got laughed at to my face by Paula Abdulancept so I was angry and I have my own reasons. But this video goes viral of me every year and they come for me, they send me death threats, they tell me I'm the dumbest person in the world. But what I'm saying wasn't...

...dumb. Actually, what I was saying was real and and really affected me and a lot of people agreed with that and I don't think it would go viral every year for ten years if people didn't think it was a smart point right. But so, yes, I've been canceled since two thousand and eleven and it was so overwhelming to have that many people coming at you and telling you you're the dumbest, most worthless person ever and that you should die. But you know, I guess at the same time they're thinking about me. So a little bit ago you mentioned like that you're, I think you said, your managers like they say, Oh, you're so negative. But like in my writing, in my writing, because I'm always like, I'm some of them. Nobody will ever love me. I Hate La. This place is awful. Like what else do I feel like? It's always that. Those are my themes, unrequited love. But like, talking to you, you actually sound pretty optimistic and positive right, like about your career, your music, what you create. So where do you find that inspiration, you know, to stay like, yeah, La does stuck right. The traffics awful. You're right about appropriating queer culture. Like it was okay to talk about queer things, but if you're a queer popstar and your mail, it's not going to work. You know, where do you find that inspiration? Um, well, I go to therapy all the time. I had to adapt for survival because it's like, if I let all of these things affect me, and truly negatively, and I don't just embrace them for what they are, then yeah, I'm going to kill myself. And instead I say, okay, I feel this. You have to feel it to heal it. So I have to feel this, I have to accept this and, you know, let it go frozen. You honestly seem like a positive person. You know, like you are optimistic about things like you're not a negative person. Yeah, even if that's what goes into your music. So for...

...people who I think a lot of lgbt people, specifically young people that may have aspirations or dreams, what you just said, can really feel like they're only option right, that they just have to take their own lives. and talking about therapy and mental health, that's all super important. So how do you? How have you gotten that to that point where that's like, despite negativity and a bunch of crap, you still find thought light. I look, I've been suicidal many times in my life. I can't, I would care not to talk about when it's happened to me most recently, because it wasn't that long ago. But what I've learned is if you can go that far into the darkness and you can see things that that way, you have to be pretty damn smart. I don't think dumb people get depressed. I think it's the more you know, the more you have the propensity to be upset about it. And so with me understanding my emotions and understanding what's going on around me and seeing just how helpless we are in this situation which we are, you can view that as a real lack of power, or you can view it as oh my gosh, this is all laid out for me and all I have to do is show up, because I don't have any control over anything. So all I can do is is love people and be compassionate understand that other people are going through things, because if I can go there, they can go there. They probably are there. And I'm someone who talk about things, so I know there are people who aren't talking about things. So I think it's just awareness. And yet therapy is really important, talking to people is really important. Yoga, all that stuff, meditation, breathing, Drinking Water, taking to it's awareness. It's all just awareness of where your mind is and where it's going and you can't allow it to go you're in control of that. I'm pretty much nothing else, I think. I definitely agree with you that if you aren't aware, we I maybe...

...they're not dumb people, they're just not aware. Ignorance is bliss. That's real. It really is. You're absolutely right, it is, but obviously you don't have that blow girls. So I'm the smartest person. I know. I'm just kidding, but I do understand the theory of relativity and when you understand what Albert Einstein was saying. It kind of makes things come off a little worthless, like the whole experience. But if it's all worthless, then why not do whatever you want to do? Right? I tell that all the time to my friends when they're struggling. there. I don't know why I'm doing this anymore. I don't know why I'm even here. I said, great, if if you're this close to jumping off a bridge, then why not take that that energy, that freedom, that and do whatever you want to do? Right, if nothing matters, you can do anything, if nothing matters, like get lip go be a singer, go trying thing. I will always love you at Karaoke every night, even if you can't sing. Who Cares? Go do whatever you want, embarrass yourself, have fun, right, because at the end, I guess that's all that matters. Right, like you're right, you can't control anything, so it's just fun. Yep, Love Each Other, be compassionate, understand, like, look, people, everyone's going through it. So about your music video, just quick question. So is that your butt in the Kim Kardashian so it is my but it is my butt, but there is a little bit of an effect on it to make it bigger. And at the end of the video, if you look, I don't know, it's about three seconds. Oh, I know what you're talking about, where it's our, it's we grows, it grows. So at the very first second of that that's my real body got it. I have an amazing but so if you're looking...

...for a reason to watch my video, if I didn't sell you on the song, please go gay people and watch it. John has another upcoming song that's a little different from his previous releases. In fact it's a ballad. This one's a little more of a raw, from the heart thing. This one's not clever. It's clever, but it's not intentionally clever, and that's I'm really excited to start getting into that part of me, the honest stuff. I have music about this January when I went completely off the rails, and I have music about being told I needed to be medicated and I have music about my feelings toward all of that, and that's what I'm really excited to share. Also on the horizon for John a feature film coming out and select theaters and streaming this November. It's called Cubby and has already garnered a few nominations as it ran through the LGBTQ Film Festival circuit. It's great. It's like the first gay slacker film, they're calling it. So where can everyone connect with you, or where should they connect with you? The Bar? No, Um, you can connect with me. My main source of connection is Instagram, and that's at I am John Duff. I do a lot of stories and I post quite a bit and that's my main my main thing. But my youtube is I am John Duff. That's where you can see girly and rich, and then spotify, John Dove, apple music, John Duff. Twitter is I was John Duff because once I did some problematic shit on twitter in January. Someone's hijacked my user name and started posting awful things about me on my page, so we had to have that page scrupped. So it's I was John Duff fell. That makes it fun. Oh my Gosh, you know what I'm I like it, I enjoy it. Whatever tear me apart, go for it. The greatest things Jesus did was...

...remain defenseless, and so he's a big inspiration to me. Just let them say what they're going to say, because they're going to say what they want to say. So go and watch the videos for girly and rich and see if you can spot all the references. Keep an eye out for that forthcoming ballad. And, in the words of tlw in, two thousand and Tay Swift, fourteen years later, hater's going to hate, but that ain't got nothing to do with me and you. That's the way it is, so shake it off. I'm in. Thanks for listening. Pride is a production of Straw media. If you like the show, leave us a rating and a review on Apple, podcast, spotify or wherever you're tuning in from. Share us with your friends, subscribe and follow us on Instagram, facebook and twitter. At Pride. Yes, it's at pride. It's that easy. You can follow me at me by chambers. Pride is produced by me LEA by chambers, Maggie Bowls and Ryan Tillotson, edited by Sebastian Alcohol. I tried my best not to swear. I think I did really God. I think I said like three cost words the whole time, maybe three.

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