Gay Celeb Surprise: A Complete Guide To Chely Wright

Illustration for article titled Gay Celeb Surprise: A Complete Guide To Chely Wright

When Richell Rene "Chely" Wright announced — via People magazine's much-hyped Cinco de Gayo issue — that she is a gay American, you may have asked, "who?" Here's what you need to know:

Chely was born October 25, 1970, in Kansas City, Missouri, which makes her a Scorpio in the Chinese Zodiac year of the Dog, if you're into that sort of thing. She released her debut album in 1994, and has released 7 albums in total. In 1997 she earned her first Top 40 country hit with "Shut Up And Drive" (not to be confused with Rihanna's song of the same name).

Two years later, she cored a number one hit with her track, "Single White Female."

Since then, Chely's been relatively under the radar, though in 2001 she was named to People's Most Beautiful list. Now, nine years later, Chely has told People magazine that she's had to "hide" her sexuality for her music, and the "lookin' for a man" lyrics of "Single White Female" are a perfect example:

Yeah, I'm a little nervous I'm not sure if I shoulda put it in writing
It might have been a little reckless, a little desperate
But I think I did the right thing
I couldn't go on living keep it hidden
So I'm telling you everything
It's my confession I hope you get the message
There's a

Single white female
Looking for that special lover
To put it in a nutshell
A one women man who doesn't want no other
Oh, you never can tell
She just might be your dream come true
A single white female
Is looking for a man like you


In addition to being a singer, Chely is a songwriter — she's written for a variety of singers, including Richard Marx! (Check out "Edge Of Forever.")

At some point, Chely was romantically linked with Brad Paisley, for whom she also wrote songs. Chely's memoir, Like Me, will be released tomorrow, and according to, it will detail her life: "from her childhood in Wellsville, Kansas," to being "high school homecoming queen," and "determining at a young age to become a country music star, being cast in Country Music USA Opryland, making a pact with God-to keep her 'sinning' to a minimum if he'd get her to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry-and her dream coming true at eighteen…"

It sounds like Chely has had a really interesting life, and we love that she's showing it's never too late to live your bliss and whip up a little publicity. Know what else we love? Chely Wright has a song called "Jezebel."

It's totally catchy! Sample lyrics:

Jezebel, save your charms
He'll be back here in my arms
Oh how quickly you forget
He is not yours yet
He is not yours not yet

Gonna throw on this cotton dress
Put lilac scent on the back of my neck
Walk barefoot down that mountainside
Straight to your door girl you can't hide

'Cause I do not forgive and I do not forget
I will fight for love until the death


In other words: Don't mess with Chely!

Country Music Artist Chely Wright Comes Out [People]
Country Singer Chely Wright Will Be May 5 Big 'Celebrity' Coming Out [Queerty]
Chely Wright [Personal Facebook Page]
Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer

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Country singer Chely Wright's reasoning was sound. "There had never, ever been a country music artist who had acknowledged his or her homosexuality," she tells PEOPLE. "I wasn't going to be the first."

Except k.d. lang came out 2 years before this one even released her debut album. Of course, k.d. lang is one of the greatest singers in not just the history of country music, but all popular musicdom, period. Pretending lang didn't exist is a huge disservice to lang's heroism and artistry.