In this weeks Sing-off post for "I Am What I Am," from La Cage aux Folles, I included a video of former supermodel turned singer, Karen Mulder, performing what to many is an anthem for outcasts, particular those of us that make up the LGBT community. The story is about us, and the song, in its original context, is sung by us. But can a heterosexual bombshell blonde supermodel sing it with the same passion and conviction?
Many in the comments said no she couldn't. The song is ours, and this is insulting cultural appropriation. But Robin Tyler had a different opinion:
OK-I loved Gloria Gaynor's record because we all danced our way through isolation to a disco beat. Of course, Dame Shirley Bassey is the performers performer. But this song is so powerful that it does not only belong to the LGBT community. Anyone who is willing to live their lives openly, honestly, overcome whatever their demons were and face the world can sing this song, including Karen Mulder. I have lived with a woman who was a top high fashion model for decades. If you saw her in Vogue or NY Times or television, you would never know the horrific background she had to overcome. So, let us not judge people who are beautiful and successful and say they have nothing to shout out about. We should not celebrate by downing others. Our national anthem has inspired so many people, that if it helps anyone at all, we cannot just keep it to ourselves.
I personally have to agree. Take a moment and scan Mulder's bio - she has gone through some rough times including depression and a suicide attempt. She definitely has something to sing about.
Is it completely in the original context of the song? Did we need the allusion to the original by having women in male drag in the back? Debatable.
But the biggest question I feel people are discussing is, "does this diminish the song or its root meanings?"
I think it belongs to everyone. As Robin said, "Our national anthem has inspired so many people, that if it helps anyone at all, we cannot just keep it to ourselves." I agree. Do you?
(George Hearn in La Cage img src)