Like a lot of chart-topping pop stars, Adam Lambert didn't set out to be a role model. Yet, as soon as the openly-gay 'American Idol' alum began to attract the ears and eyes of a mass, mainstream audience, the pressure grew for him to become the voice of LGBT youth -- a responsibility that Lambert accepted with a great deal of reluctance.
"At the beginning I was a little bit like, 'I don't know what to say, I don't know how to be that role model,' even though all of a sudden people are telling me I am," he says in an exclusive interview with Billboard.com. "One of the things I find very gratifying now is that I have grown a lot more comfortable with my position and I'm embracing the opportunity to be able to address this stuff through music. "
Lambert describes his latest album "Trespassing," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in May, as a "post-gay statement" that addresses issues of life and love through a universal lens that everyone -- not just LGBT listeners -- can relate to. Still, Lambert says that he's not wholly at ease with the gay icon status that has been thrust on him.
"There's not just one type of gay person,"he says, "and that's the hardest part about being one of the few in the public eye. I'm not the guy next door, necessarily. I dress kinda crazy, I'm a little bit more in-your-face about some of my instincts, and i've gotten a certain amount of flak for that because I get the sentiment of 'you're not representing us in a way that's going to help us integrate and help outside society accept us.'
"Artists are supposed to be individual … to challenge people and make (them) think. Artists aren't always supposed to have everybody like everything they do. That's part of it."
While Lambert applauds the entertainment industry as a whole for moving past cliché images of LGBT people, he still struggles with its hesitance to showcase gay characters outside of the "safe" and socially accepted norm. "It's still like, 'look, this person is gay but they're just like you. They dress like you, they act like you ... they just happen to have a same-sex partner."
In the end, Lambert says he will continue to speak up on issues facing the LGBT community, but he will do so in his on terms, even if he's still defining what those terms are.
"In so many cases, I find myself saying, I wanna be the really nice down-to-earth guy who happens to be gay in order to set an example that it's not threatening," he says. "Then there's another part of me that's like, no I wanna be fierce and ... do whatever I want because I'm a rebel. I have that battle inside of me. I know a lot of people do. "