Melissa Etheridge's Pride Message to Her Younger Self: 'Don't Let Fear Guide You'

Joe Kohen/WireImage for NARAS
Melissa Etheridge performs in concert during The Recording Academy's Grammy Artists Revealed with Melissa Etheridge at Hard Rock Cafe - Times Square on June 21, 2010 in New York City.  

Since 1988, Melissa Etheridge has released 14 studio albums, spawning hits such as “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window.” The Leavenworth, Kan., native -- who came out publicly at the Triangle Ball during President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration -- also has won two Grammys and an Academy Award, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 56-year-old mother of four reflects on what she would say if she met her younger self today.

“I would first say, ‘Don’t worry about your hair. Everyone’s going to relax about their hair, and it’s not going to be an issue.’

“Then I would mostly say, ‘Take your time. Be more in the now.’ I was such a dreamer and such an ‘I got to get to this place’ [person] that when I got there I didn’t even know I was there. I would say enjoy the journey. Don’t let fear guide any of your choices: that either it’s never going to happen or it’s all going to go away. All that fear is going to fade away quickly. Just stay the course and you’ll get there.

“Back in 1993 when I came out, nobody was out, and the ruling thought was that if you come out, you’re going to lose your career. Everyone will leave you in droves. I came to a point in my life where it wasn’t worth it -- that this fear, this thought that if people aren’t going to like my music if they know I’m gay, then they’re not listening to my music. I just had to believe in myself. I needed to let the fear of being rejected, either publicly or privately, go away. What other people think of me is none of my business. Once I got to that place, it made all the difference in the world.” 

This story originally appeared in the June 17 issue of Billboard.

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