Adam，Leila mom，Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Lambert's No. 1 fan, his mom, gives the backstory on 'Idol' runner-up
－By PAM KRAGEN - firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, July 15, 2009 8:11 AM PDT －
This season's "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert
outside the "Idol" television studio in May 2009 with his mother,
Leila Lambert. (Photo courtesy of Leila Lambert)
In this magazine cover image released by Rolling Stone,
"American Idol," runner-up Adam Lambert is shown on the cover
of the June 25, 2009, issue. (AP Photo/Rolling Stone)
When Lambert put on a suit midway through
the "American Idol" competition, it changed the judges'
and public's perception about his versatility.
Lambert's latest publicity shot.
If you want to know how much Adam Lambert's life has changed since the "American Idol" finale two months ago, just ask his mom, Leila, who is moving to L.A. this summer to help her son manage his rapidly expanding career.
Adam Lambert ---- who grew up in Rancho Penasquitos and graduated from Mt. Carmel High School ---- is headlining the "American Idols Live!" tour, which arrives in San Diego on Saturday for a concert at the San Diego Sports Arena. The tour kicked off July 5 in Portland, Ore., and although this season's "Idol" winner, Kris Allen, closes each concert with an acoustic set, it is runner-up Lambert who is stopping the show each night, and whom music critics are proclaiming a superstar-in-the-making.
Leila Lambert ---- who took time out last week for a telephone interview while fielding offers on her Bay Area home ---- said she's flabbergasted by her 27-year-old son's rapid rise to fame. All she ever wanted was for her son to be able to support himself financially. But with a Rolling Stone cover story, the tour, an album in production and a fast-growing global fan base already under his belt, the former North County resident said she thinks her days of mailing Trader Joe's and Whole Food gift cards to her son, to ensure he's not starving, are over.
As open, friendly and humble as her glam-rocker son, the onetime dental hygienist-turned-interior decorator shared some of her insights on a wide range of subjects including Adam's childhood, his "Idol" journey, his homosexuality and flamboyant style, his ardent female fans, his oversharing in Rolling Stone, the tour and more.
Q: You got to see some of the tour's first concerts over the weekend in the Bay area. What were they like?
A: The show is so great. Every "Idol" is in their own element and it is apparent they're having the time of their lives. I had the opportunity to speak with each one of them and ... they're a bit tired but definitely having fun. I spoke with Adam about it and he said it's tough but worthwhile. He loves being up onstage and so much appreciates the amazing response that he's receiving from the audience.
Q: Several reviews I've read say about three-quarters of the audience appear to be there to see Adam, and they go crazy when he comes onstage. Is that true?
A: Just before Adam was to appear onstage,the crowd went wild. The energy was so powerful. I was asked last night by one of the fans "What was your favorite part?" and I would definitely say that as I stood there it appeared that everyone was on their feet. Watching Adam perform, I took a moment to do a 360-degree turn to take in the crowd and realized at that moment that Adam's dream had come true. He was singing "Starlight" and I just started to cry. That was my favorite moment.
Q: Tell me about your move to L.A.
A: I'm moving because of Adam. He thought it would be great for me to start a new life in L.A. I will be working for him. I'm not sure what I'll do. I'll help with the fan mail, I think, and we'll play it by ear. I think I'll just be a mom; that's always been the best job in the world.
Q: Won't that be strange working for your son?
A: No, it'll be easy. We're very close, but we won't live together. He doesn't need his mommy living with him, I'm quite sure. But there are a lot of things I could help him with because he's not going to be around a lot. The hardest part for me is moving. I love my house and it's hard to give it up, but I'm totally amazed that he wants me there. He wants me to be a part of it, and to meet the people he's meeting. There aren't a lot of kids out there who would want that. I'm so blessed. He's got a really big heart.
Q: I've heard he wants to buy a house?
A: Yes, the poor kid has been living in a hotel for so long and he'll be on the road all summer. What I'd love to do is help him find a place and get it ready, so as soon as the tour is over he'll have a real home when he gets back.
Q: How has Adam's life changed since the finale?
A: It's been wonderful for him with so many opportunities. But he's just so busy now. I hardly hear from him except a text or two here and there. He'll have to give up a good deal of his privacy, but that goes with the territory.
Q: What was the 'Idol' experience like for you?
A: It was so fun for all of us to be together and enjoy the ride (the family includes Adam's dad and Leila's ex-husband, Eber Lambert of San Diego, and brother Neil Lambert, a 24-year-old aspiring journalist in New York). I was there every week, traveling back and forth. That was a little tough, but I wouldn't have missed it for a minute. Also, the notoriety of it is kind of fun. I've been recognized a few times and I consider that an honor and a compliment.
Q: What was the best part of the experience?
A: All of it, but I guess it was after it was over and "20/20" was doing a story on Adam. We were riding in a car somewhere and Neil and Adam were on the phone together, and when they were ready to hang up, they said "I love you" to each other. They hadn't been unbelievably close because of distance, but this whole experience brought them closer together. For a mom to hear that, it was really amazing.
Q: What was the worst part of the experience?
A: There wasn't really a bad part. It's all been pretty great.
Q: But what about when the racy photos (of him in drag and kissing another man) flooded the Internet a few weeks into the competition?
A: I have a ritual of "Googling" Adam every morning when I get up and every night before I go to bed. I'd seen those photos before and I'd told him to get the stuff off the Internet after he made it through the auditions. But there was one place he forgot (a social networking page for fans of the free-spirited Burning Man festival). I remember going on the Internet one morning and seeing these photos and saying to myself there's no way this is ever going to be able to fly. He's history. I remember I couldn't reach him so I called his dad, and then when I finally got Adam on the phone, he wasn't upset at all. He said, "You know, Mom, it is what it is. Whatever happens, happens. I don't care." The "Idol" people said, "Do what you want to do and we'll support it." And Adam just said, "I'm not going to give a dissertation on it, we'll just go with the flow."
Q: Surprisingly, the photos and the questions about his sexuality didn't seem to slow him down at all.
A: No, in fact Adam thought it was funny that there were pictures of him online kissing girls, too, so there was some mystery that he enjoyed.
Q: Were you nervous every time he sang on "Idol"?
A: Not that he wouldn't perform well, because he has that gift and ability to do that well. But there were times I was worried that he'd picked the wrong song. Like when he did "Ring of Fire" (performed during "Country Week" in a sitar-heavy psychedelic style). That was risky. I didn't like it because it was eerie and strange.
Q: I remember the horrified look on Randy Travis's face.
A: You should've seen his wife's face. It was 10 times worse.
Q: Did you think he went too far with the provocative nature of his performances?
A: Yes, I definitely thought he was pushing the envelope. I told him he needed to appeal to middle America, and he said, "I'm not going to do the Cheez Whiz and compromise."
Q: But he did switch gears after "Ring of Fire," putting on a suit, combing back his hair and singing "Tracks of My Tears" like Frank Sinatra during "Rat Pack" week.
A: When I saw him come out in that suit, I couldn't believe it. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was mixing things up and showing people another side.
Q: Was there a point in the competition where you thought your son just might win this thing?
A: No, I just took it week by week and didn't think beyond that. In fact, I had been coming down only on Tuesdays for the competition, but as time went by I started staying down through Wednesdays because if he got voted off, I wanted to be there to console him.
Q: There were rumors of a rift or rivalry between Adam and third-place finisher Danny Gokey. Any truth to that?
A: Absolutely not. That's a myth. They're good friends.
Q: When it came down to the finale between Adam and Kris, was there any sense of competition between them?
A: No, they have developed an amazing friendship. Adam and Kris will be friends forever. Neither one of them has a mean bone in his body, and they are so supportive of each other.
Q: And I've read that you and Kris' mom have become friends.
A: I was so happy that our families got along so well. The night after the finale was my birthday and the Allens came to my birthday party, not just Kris and his wife, but his brother and his parents. We're also planning to meet up at one of the tour stops this summer and go see the concert together. When the Rolling Stone article came out (featuring Lambert lying on his back with a large python coiled near his crotch), she called me and said, "I love your son but I don't like the Rolling Stone cover, only because I don't like snakes."
Q: Landing the Rolling Stone cover was quite a coup.
A: Adam was blown away that they came to him with that, because he didn't win the competition and he didn't have a hit record out. He thought it was amazingly cool. It was his idea to pose with the snake. At first he wanted to have an apple and a snake but he thought that would offend people, so he just went with the snake. What was really neat about it was that after it came out, you couldn't find a copy anywhere because it was mostly sold out.
Q: The Rolling Stone article was very in-depth, and Adam didn't hold a lot back on his drug and sexual experiences. Was that hard for you to read as a mom?
A: That was extremely hard. Everything in the article that was negative jumped out at me. I wanted him to be a little more discreet. Ever since he was 17, I've been telling him to be discreet. Not everyone needs to know your business. But he is very honest and open, and that's just Adam being Adam.
Q: It was in the Rolling Stone article when Adam confirmed to the world that he's gay and that he came out to you first.
A: When he was 17, I went to a gay and lesbian center in Hillcrest to talk to a counselor and find out how to approach the subject with Adam, and they told me not to do it. One man there said he was 27 and still hadn't told his parents. I couldn't imagine that because Adam and I talked about everything, so I decided that I had to broach the subject, and it turned out to be the right decision. I've read on blogs and have read his fan letters where mothers have said "I have a son like your son, I think he's gay, and I'm so amazed at how close you are to Adam." Maybe the Rolling Stone article will open doors for parents to talk to their kids about the subject.
Q: Do you think him talking about experimenting with drugs sends the wrong message to kids?
A: Yes, I was upset about that. I told him "You have these 13-year-old fans and their parents want you to be a role model. How is that going to look to them?" And he said: "I didn't say I DO drugs, I said I DID drugs." And maybe it's a good avenue for parents to talk about drugs with their kids.
Q: Although he's openly gay, much of his fan base is women who call themselves "glamberts" and are romantically obsessed with him. What does he think of that?
A: He finds it very flattering. He says "I like to flirt, and I flirt with women all the time." I think the attraction is that he's so likable. He's got fans from 8 to 80, from little girls to grandmas. I've read the fan letters. They're so sincere. It's endearing how they reach out and how they love him and can't get enough of him.
Q: Going back to his childhood, Adam said in an interview that when he was growing up in Rancho Penasquitos that he was a "hyper kid" who got into musical theater to channel his energy.
A: No, he wasn't hyperactive, but during a checkup when he was little, I did ask his doctor about Adam's behavior because he was just nonstop. The doctor said "No, he's not hyper, he's precocious. He's just very aware of everything around him."
Q: When Adam's singing voice began to develop, was there ever a point where you thought, "Oh my gosh, my son is going to be a star some day"?
A: No, I never took anything for granted. I would compare him to the other kids and I could see that he could sing better than some others, but I never looked at him as being so unique. There was never a point where I thought, "He's going to make it and he'll never have any worries."
Q: One of his musical theater teachers described you as the perfect theater parent, but not a stage mom.
A: I supported him and his brother Neil (who also performed when he was young) 101 percent, so did their father, but I didn't get overly involved. I did fundraising dinners and helped out behind the scenes, but I didn't sneak into rehearsals like some of the other parents.
Q: He started performing when he was 10 years old. Was it a good foundation for where he is today?
A: It was unbelievably competitive, and his teacher was so tough on the kids. It broke my heart hearing some of the brutal things he would say to the boys, but both of my boys say it helped them in so many ways.
Q: After Adam graduated from Mt. Carmel, he went away to Cal State Fullerton, but that didn't last long ...
A: He was in college for three weeks, but he didn't even go to class. He called me and said, "Mom, college is not for me," and that he'd gotten a job as a lead singer on a cruise ship for a year. I wasn't sure about it, but he was the youngest person to ever get a lead role on Holland America and it would allow him to see the world in a structured environment. When he came home from that, he was 19 years old and he said, "I'm moving to L.A."
Q: His musical theater years in "Wicked," "The Ten Commandments" and other shows have been well-documented, but were there some pretty lean times for Adam?
A: When he first moved up there, he found this apartment and it was so awful. We went up to help him move and there were bugs everywhere. I opened a curtain and the window was completely cracked. I remember I cried all the way home that day because it was a very scary place.
Q: Did he ever get depressed or say he wanted to throw in the towel?
A: He was always committed. I never heard him say, "I can't do this anymore." He just kept saying that maybe he hadn't been in the right place at the right time, or maybe he needed to move to New York.
Q: Adam's "guyliner" and glam-rock look gets a lot of attention. When did he start experimenting with his look?
A: He was always experimented with his hair. I remember one time he came down the stairs after a bad home dye job and his hair was carrot orange. We had to call his friend Danielle's mother, who's a hairstylist, for a hair emergency. When he first dyed his hair black several years ago I thought it was too dark, but now I can't imagine him any different.
Q: What about the nail polish?
A: He's been wearing nail polish for several years. I remember one time at Thanksgiving my stepdad and his wife were coming over for dinner and I asked Adam if maybe he could take it off, but he wouldn't do it.
Q: One thing that is new is the tattoo on his wrist.
A: Yes, it's the eye of Horus and he says it means protection. When he was 16 he wanted a tattoo. He wanted to have the Cantonese word for "creative" tattooed on him. I told him, you don't need to label yourself to be creative. Instead, I got a canvas and got a neighbor to spell out the word in Cantonese, and I painted it for him and gave it to him for his 17th birthday. He still has it in his bedroom.
Q: Will there be more tattoos?
A: Yes, he wants more.
Q: Looking back on the past seven months, what's the one thing about Adam that you're most proud of?
A: I'm so blown away by how well he conducts himself in interviews. He always seems to say the right thing. And a mom always loves to hear people say how impressed they are with his ability to be a true, real person and how sincere he is when he talks to people. He doesn't love TMZ or the paparazzi, but he loves his fans.
Q: Did Adam's fans recognize you at the concert last weekend?
A: I was surprised how many people actually recognized me, congratulated me and asked to have their picture taken with me during intermission. I loved how genuine and supportive they all were. I could really feel the love for Adam, and it was heartwarming. I am a very lucky mom, and so proud. Adam has found his place.