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Cyndi Lauper Gives a Damn and Discusses �Memphis Blues�

Cyndi Lauper Gives a Damn and Discusses �Memphis Blues�

With over 30 million records sold worldwide, 13 Grammy Award nominations including two wins (both in 1985 for She’s So Unusual), 11 studio albums, two Primetime Emmy Award nominations with one win (for her guest starring role on Mad About You), and an extremely successful celebrity tour for equality called True Colors (after her second album by the same name), Cyndi Lauper is still going strong and dedicating her life’s work to LGBT equality and inclusion through her Give a Damn Campaign.

We all know that she is So Unusual and that is in large part why the LGBT community loves her. We can certainly relate! With over 30 million records sold worldwide, 13 Grammy Award nominations including two wins (both in 1985 for She’s So Unusual), 11 studio albums, two Primetime Emmy Award nominations with one win (for her guest starring role on Mad About You), and an extremely successful celebrity tour for equality called True Colors (after her second album by the same name), Cyndi Lauper is still going strong and dedicating her life’s work to LGBT equality and inclusion through her Give a Damn Campaign.

Lauper’s love for the gay community has never been a secret. In fact, her outspoken support has assisted in anchoring the LGBT community with the straight community for years. The marriage of the two often parallel but misunderstood communities is what inspired the Give a Damn Campaign in the first place. The equality-driven effort asks the question, “Do you give a damn?” and offers an inlet to members of the straight community to get involved with the fight for equality. The gay community has been fighting for equal rights, marriage equality, same-sex partnership benefits, employment non-discrimination, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell legislature, and protections under the federal government for decades but Lauper’s Give a Damn Campaign is the first of its kind that works exclusively to aid those efforts from an organization not based from within the community itself. Bravo, Cyndi!

Recently, I had the rare chance to chat with Cyndi about her career, the fight for gay rights, being fired by Donald Trump in The Celebrity Apprentice, and her new album titled Memphis Blues

Thank you very much for chatting with SheWired, Cyndi! So honored to have a little bit of your time! You have been such an inspiration to the LGBT community and there are no words to express our gratitude for everything you have done in support of equality and inclusion. Your constant efforts have not gone in vain. For the few people out there who do not know - what prompted your decision to develop the Give a Damn Campaignthrough your True Colors Fund?

I wanted to do something to encourage my fellow straights out in the world to step up and get involved in supporting the gay community. While I was growing up, I witnessed the civil rights movement in the 60’s and I saw black and white people marching together for equality. It was one of the things that inspired and taught me that if I had the opportunity to stand up for the underdog I had a responsibility to do so. All of us in any majority have a responsibility to stand up for those in the minority. We have a responsibility to teach people that if one group of people's freedom is put up for grabs, then that means that your group could be next. So, I saw an opportunity to do something with the Give a Damn Campaign to help educate and engage straight people to stick up for the gay community and to live up to their responsibility as Americans. 

Whoopi Goldberg, Anna Paquin, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Kardashian, Clay Aiken, Elton John and many other famous faces have stood up in support of the Give a Damn Campaign. Who else is on your wish list?

I am so honored that we have had all of these amazing people take part in the Give a Damn Campaign so far. You know, Whoopi also inspired me a long time ago to do what I can to help. I heard her say once how if you can do something, even if it is a little something, you have to step up. So having her be part of the videos was really special for me. We have a long list of people we would love to take part and we are going to ask everyone we can in the entertainment business. We will be adding some great people to the list.  We will also have some other videos in store over the next year that feature more every day people telling their stories as well as some surprises. So keep checking things out at and join the campaign if you have not yet.  

Why do you think the conservative right has such an issue with “allowing” us to get married and share in all of the stress, headache and burden that goes along with it?

Fear. They are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid that the myths and lies they have been taught will come true. But, as more people come out as straight allies and as more gay and transgender people live their lives openly, things will continue to change for the better. 

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If you could have a private one-on-one with President Obama to discuss gay rights, what would your talking points include?

I know that there is a lot of anger out there being directed at the President right now. Anger that he is not acting fast enough on promises he made to the LGBT community during the election. He has started to make good on some of those promises, but he still has many left to fulfill. I would thank him for what he has done so far, especially the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but I would let him know how much more work is still left to be done.  I would try my best to let him know that every day his promises go unfulfilled is another day that fear, anger and frustration lives in the hearts of the LGBT community and those who love them. I encourage everyone reading this to do the same, but not just to the President, but to your Senators and Representatives. Let your voices be heard, email and call them and let them know you want them to pass the Employment Non-Discriminiation Act and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  And after you have emailed and called them, encourage your family, friends and co-workers to do the same. 

I know that there are young adults out there reading this interview and feeling powerless because their state leaders and the Federal government are telling them that they are “less than” because they are LGBT youth. What words of advice and encouragement could you give those beautiful young souls?

Be proud of who you are and seek out people in your life that will love and accept you. Also, be a part of the solution. Get involved in ensuring your own equality in whatever way you can. Volunteer for your state equality group or your local LGBT community center. Get educated about the history of the LGBT civil rights movement and the issues impacting the community. Knowledge is power and power equals change. 

Rosie O’Donnell, The B-52’s, Joan Jett, The Cliks, Indigo Girls, Joan Armatrading, Sarah McLachlan, Carson Kressly and other notable performers joined you on the road for your True Colors Tour in 2008. Any plans for a True Colors Tour in 2010 or 2011?

Yes of course we will do True Colors in 2011. This year I wanted to focus on Memphis Blues and bring it on the road. That's the main reason [we didn’t do the tour this year]. The other reason is that the economy is still pretty bad and a lot folks just don't have the money for those big ticket festival shows. The more acts on the bill the more the ticket has to cost. But we do want to do it in 2011. We are going to do a three day festival in NYC and take it out on the road as well. Stay tuned.

You were recently a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice. I’m not sure how you did it…if I had been fired by Donald Trump I probably would’ve kicked him in the balls. Probably not appropriate to say here, but I know you can handle it! What was that experience like for you? (The Celebrity Apprentice, not the kicking in the balls part that you obviously couldn’t do).

I had a blast on the show w some amazing friends like Sharon Osbourne. Did you see her on the latest installment of video?

Also, I wanted to play for the True Colors Fund and knew so many people watch the show that it could really help me push the mission of the fund forward. If I have to do it all over again, yes [I would] and raise even more money for the True Colors fund and another chance to talk about civil rights and the gay community.

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Your career has been so successful. Is there anything in the entertainment industry that still surprises you? Anything you wish you could change for the greater good?

Nothing in the entertainment industry surprises me anymore. Seen and heard ‘em all. Ha!

Let’s talk a little bit more about the new album. It’s called Memphis Blues and is incredible! What prompted you to make the departure from pop tunes to the blues?

This is an album that I've wanted to do for eight years. I wanted to do this CD when I was signed to Sony. Jeff Beck and I had wanted to do a blues cover project back in ‘04 and it didn’t work out. I have always been a fan of blues because, as Muddy Waters is quoted, "If blues gave birth to a child, that child would be rock and roll..." and really all popular music. I have been listening to the blues since I was a kid. Later on I loved how Janis Joplin and acts like the Rolling Stones made it modern in the 70's and it has been speaking to me ever since.  

What were you doing when you found out that Memphis Blues had become the #1 Blues album in the United States?

I was at sound check for my show in Chicago at the time. My manager called and gave me the great news. I started to cry as this was the result of project that took eight years to happen. 

Mad About You brought along an Emmy Award for you, Mrs. Lauper. Is it true that you will be returning to television with your own reality TV show? Can you tell us what it will be about? 

Yes, it is true. The deal with Mark Burnett Productions was signed before The Celebrity Apprentice. Mark Burnett is the most successful producer of reality TV. He has a great team put together for my show and I know it is going to be a blast. It is about me and my day to day [and is] focused on my career. You will have to wait and see for more information about the series. We start production in early 2011. On top of that, I will rejoin the cast of Bones for a few episodes.  We shoot in late October.

Tell us the truth – do you enjoy hearing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” after all of this time or do you want to throw the radio out of the window when it comes on? For the record, we all still love it!

Of course! I love it. I am thrilled that I can still connect and still do what I love to do.

Can we look forward to an autobiography in your future? If so, can you give us a little, tiny, miniscule, really…scoop?

I am writing an autobiography that will be released via Simon & Schuster in late 2011. I am in the middle of writing it right now so ask me this question again next time we chat. Stay tuned.

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