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Meet the Openly Gay Producer Behind Your Favorite LGBT-Inclusive Viral Videos

Taylor Henderson

Ever wanted to hear a mashup of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" with "La Vie Boheme" from Rent? How about Beyoncé's Lemonade album mixed in with the Hamilton soundtrack? Producer Michael Korte has just the thing for you.

You've probably seen his videos circulating on the internet over the last couple of years. Korte's unique point of view has created some of the most unexpected musical combinations and a series of viral hits. But it's not just about the choice of which tracks to use; it's the incredible featured vocalists, many LGBT and/or people of color, that have ultimately given his YouTube channel over 10,000 subscribers and 1.7 million streams. 

We sat down with Korte to discuss his art, why he creates, the importance of diversity, and the amalgam of influences that come together to make a viral hit.

PRIDE: What do you do and why?

Michael Korte: I’m an artist. I create. I create what I want to see. I create what I crave. I create for my 10-year-old self. 

P: A mashup of Beyoncé songs with the Hamilton soundtrack was your first viral video smash, quickly followed by #GAGA4Rent, a Dear Evan Hansen tribute, and most recently a cover of "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman. How did you come up with the ideas? 

MK: Many of these videos were born from revelations. I stan for Beyoncé and stan for Lin-Manuel and greedily knew there had to be a way to mesh them both. I fund every video I make completely independently with my own pennies. I still work at a pizza restaurant 5 nights a week to pay my rent and pay for these videos.

It’s magic, it’s exhausting and I wouldn’t trade it. Concerning arrangements and choreography, I’ve been insanely lucky to partner with some of the most outrageously talented independent artists. Creating is a team sport. These artists have carried me and providing them a platform to express themselves is the gift of gifts. 

I’ve been incredibly blessed that a handful of my videos have reached throughout the world. It’s a privilege to have someone dedicate a moment of their day to pressing play on something I created. 

P: Clearly R&B and musical theater are important influences in your life. What initiated your love of both?

MK: I wore out my Sister Act 2 VHS as a kid. The movie is the most soulful blend of Gospel/R&B and theatricality. I wanted to be sitting next to Lauryn Hill at the piano dueting on "His Eye Is On The Sparrow." To this day, my aesthetic is 'your teacher said take off your robes.'

Fast forward to digging through YouTube in the early 2000s hearing goddesses Shoshana Bean & Saycon Sengbloh sing "Defying Gravity" in Wicked but infusing it with some soul, adding a few runs & riffs. Their voices, their interpretation, made so much sense to me. Today, it’s where I am most comfortable, finding the sweet spot between Broadway and R&B music. 

P: Many of your videos feature people of color and/or members of the LGBT community. Why is diversity important to you?

MK: There has never been anything accidental about casting the most talented singer/dancers in my videos. After the release of #HAM4BEY I received a lot of messages from friends and strangers noting how important and moving it was for them to see themselves represented on the screen. Now, I’m very aware of it. 

I’m not a product of Hollywood. I’m a product of a middle-class family from Dayton, Ohio. I owe nothing to the old white men in suits that have ran things long enough. Their time has expired. 

What I do, or aim to do, is create for all of us. I want to see my LGBT family soar. I want to see my friends of color win. And you’ll find me working non-stop to make sure that continues to happen. 

P: Several of your recent videos have gone viral, but early videos on your channel consist of celebrity interviews.  The first video I saw on your channel was an acoustic Rebecca Black song over a year ago. How did your YouTube channel get started? How has it transitioned?

MK: I grew up watching talk tv and wanted to recreate that joy and intimacy of a compelling celebrity interview. I moved to LA three years ago in search of a creative renaissance. I immediately started my YouTube channel, with the assistance of my dear friend Baxter, living my best Oprah/Rosie O’Donnell fantasy.

I had no connection to anyone I interviewed on my channel, those relationships were all built through sending hundreds of emails, getting my fingernails dirty and pleading with publicists to give me a shot. Kindness and gratitude have carried me thus far. 

After two seasons of my interview show, City Of Michael, I felt the need to show more of myself, flaunt more of my creative side. That’s when I decided to start introducing music/video projects to the channel. The transition has had it’s ups and downs as now I want to attempt to blend both...keep your fingers crossed for me!

P: You got to interview MYA? Did you fangirl?

MK: Mya is a goddess.  It was the first time I’d ever met someone that carried such a glow that my breath was taken away. A kind of 'je ne sais quoi' star power emanated from her. I used to watch her on TRL and there she was sitting next to me. To this day, I have never met anyone that works harder than she does. She’s a fierce advocate for the LBGT community and she has recently inspired me to go vegan! My love for he is like...wo! 

P: Who would you like to work with in the future?

MK: That list is longggggggg. I worship at the Church of Cynthia Erivo. Brandy is a dream. I'd also love to have some part in a Dixie Chick's reunion. And a Danity Kane reunion! To share oxygen with Missy Elliot would also be a game changer. Most importantly, though, I am excited to continue purporting fresh faces. It's been an honor providing a spotlight to new voices. 

P: What was the first album you owned?

MK: The soundtrack to Sister Act. I do recall a Kriss Kross cassette tape on heavy rotation, though. 

Follow Michael Korte on YouTube and Instagram.

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