Long before Lady Gaga's second full-length album ever hit the charts, thousands of kids across the globe played out its title song in real life, showing friends, family members and themselves they were “Born This Way” — namely, gay. In January, 2011 Paul V. Vitagliano (aka DJ Paul V.) launched BornThisWayBlog.com, a web-based compendium of childhood photos paired with the subjects' grown-up musings about their own homosexuality.
“I knew it would have a really positive impact on the gay kids of today,” he says, “And I knew that it needed to be seen by as many eyes as possible.”
It was. Now, millions of blog hits later, Paul V. is the proud papa of a book inspired by the website, Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay, published in October.
The book features dozens of photos and blurbs from people such as U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, Erasure's Andy Bell, columnist Michael Musto, singer Sia, drag star Jackie Beat and more. Collectively, the stories are meant to show kids and parents of all persuasions what it was like to grow up gay, but Paul V. also has a deeper motive.
A promo video for the book
“I hope that any LGBTQ kid who reads my blog or book gets the strong message that they are beautiful and worthy exactly the way they are, that they should believe in themselves,” says Paul V. “I also want families to take away some guidance in how they can navigate relating to gay kids or siblings, and to treat the topic of being gay as normal and natural.”
Drag performer Jackie Beat
Paul V. reads from and signs copies of his book Wednesday, December 5 (7:00 p.m.) at Book Soup in West Hollywood, where he's expected to be joined by one of the book's subjects, makeup artist Billy B. Brasfield (who just did Britney Spears' makeup in the new Will.I.Am music video). The author will also be part of a group reading on Sunday, December 16 (6:00 p.m.) at Stories Books & Café in Echo Park. He's also DJing at Akbar in Silver Lake on Saturday, December 29 and celebrating the 20th anniversary/grand finale of Dragstrip 66 on Saturday, January 12 at the Echoplex. But these days, Paul V. is focusing more on his blogs, including a new one dubbed My First Gay Crush. So what else lies ahead?
“I'd love to tour my book, talk to kids at middle and high schools across the country and keep the discussion going about our experiences as gay kids,” he says. “Lastly, though, I would love to see future volumes of the book, because there are many, many more stories that need to be told from all over the world.”
Here's a sample of the stories from Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay, with comments from Paul V.:
“If he looks familiar to you, this is Andy Bell from [the pop duo] Erasure. We've been good friends since the early '90s, and it was really an honor to include him — not only as a fan, but having his perspective of growing up gay in the UK.”
“As this project isn't about sex, but early innate attractions, this photo pretty much seals
the deal. And to top it off, Kent grew up to be Jackie Beat, one of the most talented drag performers and singers, ever.”
“I love Rae's story, as she was a late-bloomer who came out after a straight marriage
and having children. But the beautiful part is that all her kids and her family still love and
completely accept her.”
“I couldn't resist having a photo of a happy gay kid, holding a rainbow flag.” –Paul V.