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JustBeingAnthony

Out in Hop Hop and Former Basketball Player: Will Sheridan Opens up About Coming Out and More!

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Dennis Rodman - he was so eclectic I loved him. David Robinson - he was the opposite in my mind of Dennis, and I was somewhere in the middle. I loved Lisa Leslie, and she made me realize you could be beautiful and still hoop! Allen Iverson was so iconic for just being himself, so I always loved him! Magic Johnson looking back was so amazing in my eyes. A 6'11 point guard, and then his HIV status shocked the world. I knew the way he handled it was a class act and that the world was changing when I saw all that happen! - Will Sheridan

I reached out to Will Sheridan last year after discovering that he went from the NBA courts to the touring life as an aspiring rapper. He has opened for the likes of Drake and countless of other rap vets!  Will is an all-around talented guy. His story also delivers a testimony of a man who had it all in the sports world to him rebuilding himself all over again as a striving artist. We spoke about his incredible career playing for the Villanova Wildcats to exposing his sexuality to his teammates and the world. While they often credit other NBA athletics for being the big shock of openly gay sports players, Will Sheridan was one of the first to do it! He has opened many doors for other NBA players to take a chance at exploring other career fields and avenues.

 

You started out playing college basketball for the Villanova Wildcats from 2003 to 2007. What was that experience like for you?

Villanova was like my High School, academically competitive, predominantly white and affluent students -- so I was very prepared for it. Being a student-athlete was a unique experience because of all the obligations both athletically and academically. I thrived in the small nurturing environment (Villanova was 6500 undergrad students). I was so blessed to be a part of Jay Wright's second recruiting class along with a best friend of mine, Mike Nardi. I had a great group of guys on my team, and that really made a difference. Coach Wright was an intricate Paternal figure in my life. He still is. I loved college!

The beginning of your Freshman year in College, you came out to your teammate, Mike Nardi. What made you reveal such a personal matter to him?

We were roommates. So I thought it was important, I am a stand-up type of guy. It worked to my advantage; we are still friends to this day. I felt that if I would build relationships with my teammates; I wanted to be honest and real with them.

I've read online that they kept it as a "wall of silence". Do you think if that particular piece of information would have gotten out about your sexuality in the league, it would have cost you everything?

Ten years ago the world was different. What everyone has to realize is that I was out to plenty of people, not just my teammates. I really didn't have time to develop what I thought about myself and the gay community. I became focused on the bigger picture of doing well in school and excelling in Coach Wright's system. I also didn't want to put myself and my teammates, all young men, in a position where they had to explain my sexuality to the press. I thought it was less of a distraction if I was out to the people who mattered.

Do you feel like most gay athletes end up discriminated against by their teammates and other teams in the league? (Things like contracts not being offered or renewed?)

What league? The NBA -what I will say is that athletics is about being the best. If LGBTQ athletes focused on being great, then everything else would fall into place. I think a lot of LGBTQ athletes use their sexuality as an excuse for not being offered a professional career or tryout. When really it's about talent and building a resume that equates to a professional career plus a little luck.

They fined Kobe Bryant for using a gay slur which Commissioner David Stern called "offensive and inexcusable."  How does it make you feel to know homophobia exist in the Sports Entertainment?

It's a reality. It's not the best situation. Sports are a direct reflection of where the world is sadly. Homophobia is a more significant issue that's not limited to sports.

You came out to your family after your Freshman year in College. What type of response did you get from your family for being gay?

My mom will tell you she supported me from the beginning. In all honesty, it hurt her, and she said hurtful things [thankfully] we have moved on from that. My mom is my biggest supporter and best friend. My dad is a muscular man. He saw his honor student and athlete son grow into a man without fear of being judged for being gay. So as hateful as he was and is - I believe he respects me because I did everything plus more in life. A man wants his son to do with sports, etc. My parent are great people first, and I love them and now they love me.

What age did you discover your attraction for other men?

I became attracted to boys in puberty and acted on those feelings often while also knowing or thinking being gay as "wrong." I'm not sure I've ever said this in an interview, but at a young age, I wanted to be a girl. So there were trans ideas there, but as gender fluid, as I am. I love being a man that loves men.

I don't think many people get asked this question. Have you ever experimented with women before coming out?

I tried hard to be straight, so I dated women from early middle school until six months into college. It never interested me to have sex with women and sex is a weird thing. It's more about having a connection for me. So I've connected with women on many levels as I've connected with men.

After graduation you played as an international basketball player in Italy. What was it like playing overseas vs. here in the states?

Playing international was great - you're a celebrity wherever you play. I didn't really enjoy being alone in a foreign country. I went through intense depression while there because I took all these steps forward in being out and who I was and being confident. Then I took several steps back while there. Also, I had to fight like physically fight teammates on new teams that tried to disrespect me. It was annoying af. There were no smartphones then or apps to link up with other gays, so I was very, very, alone.

On May 16, 2011 you interviewed with Dana O'Neil on ESPN.com, you came out and had just retired from basketball. What was the response like after that official interview?

Well to be clear, mentally, I had retired from basketball years before that. I waited so long to come out with ESPN because I was giving my family time to come to terms with my sexuality. Then I ran out of F's to give, so I did it.

I received so much love for being "brave," and the only people who hated on me were online. Don't forget I'm 6'8 like 240/250 no one is trying me in person. As far as, sports and music - I really intimidate people with my openness so people are afraid to book me - even in the gay community- because of my radical queerness.

If given the opportunity, would you mentor an openly gay sports player?

I'd love that. I'm a harsh critic of talent in athletics so if they can deal with my honesty; then I'd love that.

You're only the second former Division I basketball player to come out of the closet as gay. British former player John Amaechi being the first to come out in February 2007. Do you think you are a pioneer for other league players, who have came out in recent years?

John is European and American black Americans have different pressures, so I feel like a pioneer in sports, music; I feel like a pioneer in life. I feel like a rare breed in this world. My Radical Queerness rooted in being who you are regardless of the expectations of your environment. My natural response to resistance is to turn up, and the highlight was people see as different. This is because of sports. People say sports builds character, but I think sports exposes character - this is who I am. The world has only taught me you have to be who you are or you're a fraud. Sports taught me that what you may perceive as a flaw or something that makes you stand out, may give you an advantage in competition. I believe if I was who I am today, an actualized adult version of me, back then - I would have been an even better athlete.

In recent years there's been a few black gay players in sports who have openly revealed their sexuality to the public. What made you come out?

I came out to my parents because I was in love in college with my boyfriend at the time and wanted to share that with them. Love of self-pushed me to put my story out there and from that, I learned that others enjoy sharing. Now I'm an open book because LGBTQ youth are commuting suicide because they feel alone and they're NOT.

What’s one piece of advice would you give a sports player, who's dealing with their sexuality but scared to come out?

I would say take your time but time is the most valuable thing. You only have one life to live. I also would say the things we worry about in our head RARELY come true in our actual lives.

Do you feel like coming out as a gay man of color in Sports, helps or destroys someone's career?

If I was already a pro athlete, and I was in the top tier of talent in my sport - I wouldn't care what people thought. [TBH] people are enjoying attaching themselves to Queer culture so it may be beneficial. The problem lies with pro athletes that have not lived. Facing yourself and the lies you've lived in is difficult. The people that support you will no matter what.

Why did you end your basketball career? Do you think if you kept playing, you would have became a great representation for the LGBT community in sports?

I wasn't passionate about playing. Now I realized that I am into sports. It pushed me as a child - I never really got to choose whether I was interested. I was a 6'4 7th grader - picture that. I'm glad you think I'm a great representation of the LGBTQ community but not everyone does. For example, my "What's Your Phunktion" music video — I remember reading comments from gay fans like "oh, I thought you were masculine?" My response was ew, what's your idea of masculine. I took it in stride and realized that people project their own insecurities on to other especially in minority communities I'm a part of.

They quoted you in a previous publicized interview saying a powerful statement, "I'm trying to have a voice and I want that voice to reach as many people as it can." What did that statement mean to you at that moment?

I think I have a unique outlook on life that others deserve to hear and read. I want everyone to know I stand-alone as me for me and in that solidarity; I find confidence and integrity just to be who I am. People of all shapes, size, color, and creed could enjoy exercising that thinking.

You left Sports and now you're an Out-Hip Hop Artist. What made you want to become a rapper?

I was always a writer. I was writing for Source Magazine and saw the industry from an insider perspective. I knew I could excel in hip-hop music or at least make a solid case for representing a narrative that wasn't being represented. My poetry became a spoken word. My spoken word became rhymes, and my rhymes became songs, and my songs became paid shows. Now, I'm blessed to have opportunities to move into my art and make money.

You're signed with an indie Label, Royal Advisor Records and you released your first EP released entitled "Ngoma." What was that experience like creating your first project?

Yes, I am also an exec on the label. Ngoma reflected where I was early in my career and life. I had just made my first trip to Kenya. I was full of that energy and music, so I created, Welcome to the Jungle. It felt great I need to perform that song more!

Why the title Ngoma for your EP?

NGOMA is Swahili for Music. I went to Kenya to volunteer at the Ruiru Rehabilitation Centre to work with orphans. That became the initial kids part of my nonprofit Ruiru Rising benefiting secondary education for youth in Kenya. They also called me Jitu, which means Giant in Swahili.

The first music video from the EP was "Welcome to the Jungle," what made you put that single out?

I had a lot of fun making it, and everyone around me liked it, so we went with it. Welcome to the Jungle is Welcome to Life! It was my celebration of living the life I wanted and created. DJ MORSY sent me the beat, and it was a rap. So funny, I'm such a better artist, rapper, writer and performer now.

What are you currently working on and when can the fans expect to hear new music from you?

I'm not sure you're aware, but Ngoma was my second project - in just released my 7th project, G2R a remix album available on Tidal, iTunes and everywhere else. I prefer to release music for free and make my money from touring and performing. A lot of my music is available on my SOUNDCLOUD: SoundCloud.com/willsheridanmusic. I'm working on my third #GIANT project to follow up "G2" my second G.I.A.N.T album released in January 2016. The third album will round out the series titled: ALLEGIANT scheduled to hit iTunes, and all music platforms in late 2017, early 2018. I will also slay a few industries beats and freestyles to keep my fans happy. 2017 is all about releasing visuals and more remixes.

I've read online somewhere that you once opened for Drake?

I opened for Drake at Villanova's Hoops Mania concert. It was a learning experience. My first time was performing in an arena, and we also made an original song the night before. Again a learning experience. I didn't get to meet Drake - I had another gig that night in Philly, so I had to run. Oops, but it was fun.

You got the chance to perform all over New York City. Everybody knows a New York audience is difficult to win over. What were some of your most highlighted and lowest memories back then?

I love to perform. The only tough experience I've had performing was on a bill with all straight rappers in 2009, where I got booked for a 30-minute set. When I rapped more openly gay lyrics to only win them over with my closing number. Highlights in NYC would include headlining Folsom East festival, Everybody at Brooklyn Art Museum, Kyle Abraham's Counter Culture Concert in Harlem. I also performed at the Queer Music Festival, WestGay, Bushwig Drag and Music festival and slaying my borough of Brooklyn on the regular.

You released your first full-length album "G.I.A.N.T." in 2012. What's the message behind GIANT?

Going In And Never Timid-if you're big enough to be who you are, you're a GIANT! The audacity of a queer rapper to put out an 18 track full-length album!

They featured you on AllHipHop.com. What were some of your thoughts getting the news? That's a major online publication for main steam Hip Hop.

I was the first gay rapper featured, without labeling it "gay" or "alternative" and my team at the time was so proud of me for that.

Why do you think other gay artists in Hip Hop often not supported by the LGBT community?

I don't think most LGBTQ people like rap overall. Then if you're direct in your lyrics as an artist that happens to be gay the delivery or lyrics sometimes make LGBTQ people uncomfortable. I also think a majority of rappers are lame and the same statistics hold in the LGBTQ community of hip-hop artists. Most are whack or don't get the bigger picture, so the NOT only the LGBTQ community but the world doesn't embrace them.

In your honest opinion, do you think the mainstream music scene will ever support Queer Rap?

Yes. It's already a movement.

Pick 5 LGBT musicians you would love to collaborate with?

I learned a while back that mentioning other gay rappers, don't really help my movement and they are not mentioning other artists in their interviews. I am grateful to all the Queer artists that came before me and paved the way.

You're also an Activist and Philanthropist. What motivated you to branch off into those avenues?

It felt natural. I have a huge #GIANT HEART. I'll do more especially when I have more!

You're also a manager in a fashion company. What does fashion mean to you?

I've done some style work in fashion for a production company. And I'm a brand ambassador for BCalla and Ben Copperwheat prints. As a large person, clothes are so important because growing up there weren't many options for clothes that were fun. Now, most of my clothes are custom made for me or customized which feels great. I love fashion it's the looks we live in that matter most. I believe if you look good, you'll feel good and perform/ produce better!

What do you see happening next for your career?

I'll continue to create and tour the world. I continue to cultivate my craft while curating and programming showcases and parties. I'd love to write for other artists more. I'll most likely manage other artists as I already do just because I have an eye for talent and resources to help.

How can the fans and the readers reach out to you?

Facebook: will Sheridan/ willsheridanmusic

IG: Willsheridanworld

Twitter: WillSheridan

 

There my contacts are available, and I'm on scruff and other social media outlets. I'm easy to find.

 

What inspires you as a gay man of color?

I chase the success. Haters and naysayers motivate me. The future inspires me - I've always wanted to have a hand-on impact of the world. The way I'm going - I think people will remember Will Sheridan AKA #GIANT When I'm done and gone.


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it’s a vibe it’s a mood 😛😜

 

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