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Country Singer Chely Wright Reveals She's Gay

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Unidentified Man #2: Well, whatever it is, she's a really big star and she's gay.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW)

MONTAGNE: Selena Simmons-Duffin has more on the country music star.

SELENA SIMMONS: Chely Wright is 39 years old and has been making albums for nearly two decades. This week she's publishing a new memoir. She's got a new album, a promotional tour and a documentary about her is set to hit theaters in the fall - leaving some asking: Is this a publicity stunt?

CHELY WRIGHT: Well, I can't put a memoir about my coming out out before I come out. Can I? Probably not.

SIMMONS: That's Chely Wright.

HOWARD BRAGMAN: We're very realistic.

SIMMONS: And that's her publicist, Howard Bragman. He's been managing celebrities who want to come out of the closet for about 20 years.

BRAGMAN: If Chely Wright were to sit on "The Today Show" and say, hey, I'm Chely Wright and I'm gay, they'd go, wow, that's great. Who are you? You know...

SIMMONS: Bragman decided to take the opportunity and build the suspense. So instead of saying who are you, audiences would say, oh, you're the mystery gay celebrity.

BRAGMAN: It's a longer runway, if you will.

SIMMONS: But just in case you're still wondering who she is, maybe you remember this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SINGLE WHITE FEMALE")

WRIGHT: (Singing) ...single white female just looking for a man like you.

SIMMONS: In her new album, "Lifted Off the Ground," she's singing, yes, a very different tune.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

WRIGHT: (Singing) And who's going to end up holding your hand? A beautiful woman or a tall handsome man...

SIMMONS: Wright says her experiences with homophobia in the country music world convinced her to stay closeted throughout her career.

WRIGHT: There's a reason no one's ever done this before me. They want you to be anything but gay. They would rather you be a drug addict, a wife beater, anything but this.

SIMMONS: So to the critics that say this is just a stunt, Howard Bragman says get a grip.

BRAGMAN: Gee, that's a real career maker in country music, to come out of the closet and put your fan base at risk.

SIMMONS: Still, he adds...

BRAGMAN: What a lot of the attention we're trying to get will hopefully do is help new people discover Chely and her amazing voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

WRIGHT: (Singing) Dare to different, dare to be true...

SIMMONS: For NPR News, I'm Selena Simmons-Duffin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

WRIGHT: (Singing) ...like we've always done, across from the wreckage and walk in the sun, fanning the flames (unintelligible)...

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.