In terms of LGBT artists who have laid the groundwork for artists today like Sam Smith and Troye Sivan, Ari Gold is one of the artists who have helped pave that path. From dance floors everywhere to the screens of Logo (when the network first launched), Gold combined his smooth vocals with smoldering looks in videos like “Love Will Take Over” to be one of the most prolific LGBT artists in the business today. Recently, Gold has entered one of the most challenging phases of his life, battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and most recently, receiving a bone marrow transplant from his brother. On the day that he received the transplant, Gold was feeling even more gratitude than usual, and sat down to talk with me about his latest album, the Remix To Freedom package, launching a podcast (A Kiki From The Cancer Ward) as he went through one of the biggest battles of his life, and how positivity is crucial in all aspects of his life right now.
Michael Cook: Ari, right now you are truly in a place of gratitude and prayer. You are waiting for a bone marrow transplant, while still creating amazing content on several platforms. Tell me, what is your state of mind right now and how are you holding up?
Ari Gold: I actually had the transplant today! So far I’m feeling really good. There are at least few more markers that will tell us how I am doing with my brother’s cells now in my body. I’m feeling very grateful and yes, I have a renewed sense in the power of personal prayer and even communal prayer. I’ve received so many messages from people who told me they were praying for me with their congregation or church.
MC: You have decided to keep your spirits high and your attitude positive by promoting your music and creating new material while receiving treatment; how are you able to stay so positive?
AG: I developed a pretty strong meditation practice after doing a week of silent meditation and then studying TM. I also have a strong recovery community. My family, friends, and therapy. It’s a multi-prong approach and I am quite diligent in my own self-care these days.
MC: Your podcast “A Kiki From The Cancer Ward” is a stroke of absolute genius. What made you want to create this unique style of podcast? What can fans expect from it?
AG: Thank you! I just knew that as an artist, I feel dead if I’m not creating and working on something. Making sure I feel a strong will to live was crucial to this process of healing, so I thought-what can I do while I’m stuck in a hospital bed? Well, I can have conversations, or a kiki, if you will, with the various friends and artists that come to visit. The debut episode is with my dear friend Coleman Domingo who’s been a star on film, TV and Broadway as an actor, writer and director. In the second episode, I interview one of my oldest best friends in the world Kevin Aviance who’s a drag and dance music legend. In that same episode is Dwayne Cooper, who aside from his gigs on Broadway is also Milan from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4. In future episodes I have other Drag Race alum like runner up Peppermint from Season 9, as well as the icon that is Laverne Cox. I have other ideas for future episodes with family members, but it’s up to them how personal they wanna get, cause I tend to always want to spill all the tea at all times!
MC: In addition, you have recently released your remix album Remix To Freedom. What is it like hearing your material get a brand new life on the dance floors?
AG: Making the finishing touches on the GoldNation Remix To Freedom (which was a remixed version of 2015’s “Soundtrack To Freedom) was a dream come true after releasing a remix every month for a year, leading up to the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall. I just so happen to have gotten out of the hospital in time to finish it and release it. Even though I ended up back in the hospital for World Pride in NYC, I still got the album out in time and even got named “New Yorker Of The Week” by Spectrum Cable NY1! I literally watched the segment they did from my hospital bed. I guess there has always been lots of good things coming out of my bed—including openly gay love songs since the 90’s!
MC: Take me back; when did you know that performing would be the road you would take in your life?
AG: I think when I got the lead role on a CBS Children’s Record when I was five years old. I sang “Love Songs To A Bear”; and I never stopped singing love songs to bears, otters, cubs, chubs, twinks, jocks, daddies and the like! Singing for Jem and the Holograms when I was 12 also certainly contributed to the trajectory of my pop star life!
MC: Your were one of the leading LGBT performers when networks like Logo first launched; what it is like to be what many would consider to be a “trailblazer”?
AG: It was definitely a small break when Logo started playing “Wave Of You” during the commercial breaks and then my second video “Love Will Take Over” bumped Madonna out of the top spot. I’m honored and grateful to be called a trailblazer. Since I came out of closet and accepted myself, I’ve always felt it was my responsibility to be the kind of artist I didn’t have growing up. Thankfully, we have many more openly gay artists to choose from now, but my work will not be done until we see us represented in all our multiplicity. My voice is unique. And now with what I’ve been going through in more recent years, there is even more intersectionality in my work, which is something I have always valued.
MC: RuPaul and so many drag queens have always been almost the “angels” of your career? When did that relationship start?
AG: That’s a beautiful idea and many of my drag and trans sisters have been like angels of support to me. Of course, they are also human beings with a full humanity that needs continued recognition, representation and protection under the law! Ru is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a mentor and I’m very grateful for his friendship over the years. It’s definitely been awesome to see so many of these beloved members of our community rise and shine as they have been in the last few years. When I first started collaborating with trans men and women and drag queens, they were not considered mainstream but I always felt a deep connection with them. My gender identity was nothing like normative growing up and just because I chose later to project a kind of masculinity on stage, does not mean that I didn’t still feel a strong connection to my own femininity and the femininity of the people around me. I love all women, really.
MC: Your version of George Michael’s “Too Funky” video with a number of Drag Race girls was breathtaking. What was that experience like?
AG: Thank you! I owe that all to Peppermint who I of course knew very well in the New York City scene before she became a star on Drag Race. For me, it was Peppermint recognizing that there haven’t been too many people who have walked in the path George Michael left, and being such a huge fan, having Peppermint ask me to do it, was a very humbling experience.
MC: What would the Ari Gold now tell the Ari Gold from just a few years ago? So much has truly changed?
AG: I’d say the two things I’ve learned most in recent years is, one, about accepting cognitive dissonance—that two conflicting things can be happening, even inside me, simultaneously. And two, which is an Oprahism, is that, like all human beings, “I am worthy because I was born.”
Check out AKiki From The Cancer Ward here: http:// https://podbay.fm/podcast/1481523398
Check out Sir Ari Gold on Spotify: http:// https://open.spotify.com/artist/0sFsIuHq1x3yAmBMgMIwab
Select Photos By Andrew Werner (indicated)
(Remaining Photos Courtesy of Sir Ari Gold-Facebook)