Chely Wright life and biography

Chely Wright picture, image, poster

Chely Wright biography

Date of birth : 1970-10-25
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Wellsville, Kansas, USA
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-08-11
Credited as : Country music singer, Shut Up and Drive,

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Chely Wright is an American country music artist and, starting in 2010, gay rights activist. On the strength of her debut album in 1994, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) named her Top New Female Vocalist in 1995. Wright's first Top 40 country hit came in 1997 with "Shut Up and Drive". Two years later, her fourth album yielded her first number one single, the title track, "Single White Female". Overall, Wright has released seven studio albums on various labels, and has charted more than fifteen singles on the country charts. As of May 2010, Wright's previous eight albums had sold over 1,000,000 copies in the United States. In May 2010, Wright became the first major country music performer to publicly come out as gay. In television appearances and an autobiography, she cited among her reasons for publicizing her homosexuality a concern with bullying and hate crimes toward gays, particularly gay teenagers, and the damage to her life caused by "lying and hiding".

As a songwriter she has written songs that have been recorded by Brad Paisley, Richard Marx, Indigo Girls, Mindy Smith and Clay Walker, among them Walker's top ten hit, "I Can't Sleep" that won her a BMI award. On May 4, 2010, Wright released both her memoir of being a closeted lesbian, Like Me, and her first album of new songs since 2005, Lifted Off the Ground.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Wright grew up in a musical family in Wellsville, Kansas, a very small town with a population under 2,000. As presented in her autobiography, Like Me, two major factors driving her approach to life were her calling to be a country music performer, which she resolved upon as early as age four, and her realization, as early as age eight, that she was gay. (In Like Me, Wright variously terms herself a "homosexual", a "lesbian", and a "gay woman".)

As a toddler, Wright would sit in a great-grandmother's lap and rest her own hands on the great-grandmother's hands as the woman played piano. Also in these years, she began to seek out adult audiences to sing for. Piano lessons followed. Starting at age 11, she was a professional pianist and singer, and from seventh to twelfth grades, the local branch of the American Legion appointed her the bugler to play taps at the funerals of veterans.

At the beginning of third grade, Wright realized she was in love with her schoolteacher. Although at that young age she lacked sexual awareness, this crush made her realize that she had an attraction to women that she knew to be taboo, having taken to heart the antigay slurs uttered by her parents and fellow townsfolk from time to time, as well as sermons against homosexuality preached at every church her family attended. Having internalized her culture's condemnation of homosexuality, she was horrified at her feelings for the schoolteacher. In consequence, she began a daily ritual, which would continue well into adulthood, of praying to God to "Please don't let me be gay . . . . please take it away." Not only did she share the general belief that her sexual orientation was immoral, she also believed that it would kill her career hopes for her audiences to know about it. From early childhood, she therefore built up resolve to never confide the secret of her nature to anyone, let alone pursue romantic love with women.

The summer before her senior year of high school, she worked as a performing musician at the Ozark Jubilee, a long running country music show in Branson, Missouri. In 1989, taking the advice of her grandfather, she auditioned and landed a position in a musical production at Opryland USA, a now defunct theme park in Nashville, Tennessee, starting the job straight out of high school. She would call Nashville home until 2008. For the next several years, she interned and attended writers' nights, while honing her singing and songwriting. She attained her first recording contract in 1993, when Harold Shedd signed her to Mercury/Polygram, and her first album was released in 1994 on the corporation's Polydor label.

espite her resolution against having sex with women, by her early 30s Wright had had sexual relationships with two women (as recounted in her autobiography). At age 19, for the first time a girl came on to her "it was the first time I'd ever had a girl's body pressed against mine "and this initiation into sex (by a girl of the same age) became an affair that lasted the better part of a year. From 1993 to about 2004, Wright maintained a committed relationship with a woman she describes as "the love of my life", a woman she met shortly after winning her first recording contract. The era of their relationship overlaps Wright's rise to chart-topping stardom. They maintained their union even though her partner subsequently got married to a man for many of those years and even though after the end of that marriage each woman briefly dated a man (not the same man). During their final five years they lived together. The relationship suffered numerous breakups followed by reconciliations, being as it was under continuous strain from several factors: the fact that both women were closeted, the fact that, at least in the early part of their years together, "neither one of us thought it was acceptable to be in a gay relationship", and Wright's prolonged absences while performing on tour nationally and internationally. Naturally, being closeted put immense strain on the relationship.

In the last months of 2000, Wright embarked on an affair with fellow country music singer Brad Paisley. Even though Wright and her female lover had moved together into a new home earlier in the year, tension mounted between the two. Wright was touring together with Paisley, with whom she had co-written one song the previous year, and he had been enamored of her ever since. Although she felt no sexual attraction to Paisley, as to all men, she recounts that because of the conflictual relationship with her lover, "well, I decided that if I was going to be unhappy and unfulfilled anyway, why not just try to be with a man." Her actions were further fueled by the fact that she held him in high esteem and great affection in every way other than sexual attraction. In her autobiography she expresses remorse for how she treated him. She also addressed this point in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, stating, "I have a lot of regret for how that [relationship] began and had a middle and ended. I had no business being in a relationship with him".

In the end, she abandoned the belief that being gay is immoral and deviant.

Wright is the founder of the charity, Reading, Writing, and Rhythm (RW&R), which is devoted to musical education in America's schools and helps supply musical instruments and equipment. It holds a fundraiser each June in Nashville, just before CMA Music Festival. In 2002 Wright received the MENC's "FAME Award" in honor of the accomplishments of RW&R.

In 2010 Wright founded her second charity, The Like Me Organization. Wright brought together friends, family, fans, and supporters of the LGBT community to build an organization to provide assistance, resources, and education to LGBT individuals and their family and friends. Wright will serve as spokesperson for the Like Me Organization, which will work to prevent LGBT bullying and teen suicide.

In 2001, Wright was given the "Stand Up For Music Award" MENC: The National Association for Music Education.

In 2003, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the American Legion Auxiliary and "Kansan of the Year" for her career achievements, her charity work and her support of the U.S. armed forces.

In 2010, Wright was named the National Spokesperson for the organization GLSEN. Wright was named one of Out magazine's annual 100 People of the Year. Metro Source New York Magazine named her as one of the 20 people We Love in 2010.

Studio albums:

1994: Woman in the Moon
1996: Right in the Middle of It
1997: Let Me In
1999: Single White Female
2001: Never Love You Enough
2005: The Metropolitan Hotel
2010: Lifted Off the Ground

Compilation albums
2003: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Chely Wright
2007: The Definitive Collection


Wright made her acting debut in the Disney film, Max Keeble's Big Move. She plays Mrs. Styles, Max's homeroom teacher.


2011 :
Kansas Music Hall of Fame Inducted
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Musical Artist
Lambda Literary Awards Best Biography-Like Me
Documentary Channel Audience Award-Nashville Film Festival
Documentary-Wish Me Away
Los Angeles Film Festival Best Documentary-Wish Me Away

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