Jaymes Vaughan: All about Life and the White Party
Most people have seen him as one of the finalists on the last season of CBS-TV’s "The Amazing Race"...or perhaps onstage at the Rio in the Las Vegas "Chippendales" show.
We got to know him, in the high desert of all places, at the photo shoot for this issue’s The Rage Monthly cover and White Party 2013 fashion spread. He is easy on the eyes-truly easy-and yet he is one of the most comfortable guys in the world to hang-out with.
I’m not sure how he does it, mixing his high-energy life and still managing to come across so low-key. Being around him was endearing and made a long day in the hot desert sun a moment to remember. I can’t wait to see him again in Palm Springs as the ambassador for Jeffrey Sanker’s White Party 2013!
Tell me a little about living in rural Virginia. Would you call it a normal childhood?
First of all let me just tell you that the word "rural" is really difficult to say for a kid with a speech impediment. Growing up, I couldn’t say words with Rs or Ws in them. Thank god I had four years of speech therapy.
Do I think I had a normal childhood? Absolutely not. I don’t even know if there is a normal childhood anymore. If there is, I’m kind of glad I didn’t have it. I’m from a mixed-race family, which is awesome. Usually when I tell people I have a sister named Reketa, a lot of people, once they get to know me say, "I get you now, I know why your are the way you are."
I have a very cool, eclectic family and I love that about them. We grew-up color blind, which is amazing-how the whole world should be. It was definitely hard in the South growing up in a mixed-race family, you were automatically an outcast. I can’t believe the things people would say to me at such a young age. I would be like, "Why are people picking on me? I don’t understand, for just having a little brother and sister that are a little more tan than I am?"
I think it was kind of a test-run for being gay, because the whole thing came up again, people pointing and saying "you’re different." Where I’m from, being different was a bad thing, now I know being different is a beautiful thing! Different is how you grow; different is how you progress.
How did you end-up in Vegas working for the world famous Chippendales?
I was in New Orleans singing and this windy bitch called Katrina (laughter) came by and messed me up. She turned my world up-side down-I had no idea where to go or what to do. A friend said he was going to Vegas. I had never been and I didn’t know anything about it, but I had nowhere to go right then because everything I knew had just washed away! So I jumped on a plane and went from a hurricane to the desert with no car, no money and one bag
I got real lucky during that first week. I saw a big ad in the newspaper: "country star wanted for a new show on the strip." I thought "let’s go." I have never been so hungry for a job in my life, I went for the interview and it was the worst performance I had ever seen-the show was called Bareback-a topless country show. It was supposed to be sexy but it was the most ridiculous thing you have ever seen, topless girls country dancing with boobs bouncing in the un-sexiest ways. "Chippendales" saw me there and, in short, stole me away.
Thinking it might be hard to fit in, I was really intimidated. But they were also looking for a guitar player and my best friend James (his "Amazing Race" partner) plays, so we did the audition with 400 other dudes. We thought, "Crap, what did we get ourselves into?" Somehow through the three-day audition, he got the guitar job and I got the job as a singer, so off we went.
The "Chippendales" guys couldn’t have been cooler. The best thing about them is that the guys really don’t take themselves too seriously. The job requires that you look a certain way and perform on stage but you can’t have an ego-which is what’s great about these guys-none of them have that. They are like my brothers. James and I are still there and these people are my family.
You have mentioned before there was some kind of turning point for you, that it was time to resign from "Chippendales." But you’re still there. What happened?
"Chippendales" is the "Ultimate Girls Night Out." There was never anything that said, "You can’t be gay," it was just the way it was. There had been a gay guy or two before... I had been searching a lot and I think for me I just felt that I couldn’t do it anymore. People saw me on billboards, on the side of buses, in magazines and would say, "look there’s Jaymes Vaughan pretending to not be gay." That’s how you get "successful," you have got to hide yourself; you can’t be yourself and I thought that was doing more harm than good.
I have a nephew that’s 13-years old and seeing him at that age reminded me of a friend I had who killed himself around that same time. It reminded me just how hard it was at that age for me and how badly we need positive role models. Not that I am saying the "Chippendales" guys are necessarily role models, but being yourself is. The thing I’m pushing is that you have to be yourself; you’ve got to be you and I wasn’t being myself.
I told the "Chippendales" management, "This is the deal, it’s just too heavy on my heart, I feel like I’m wasting an opportunity to inspire others to be themselves." They have been great, they were like "You know what? We fully support you, we have your back."
THE AMAZING RACE
How did you and James end up on "The Amazing Race"?
I was approached on Facebook. I really never had any desire to do a reality show-ever. I kind of thought it was a joke. Then I got a couple of calls from CBS and realized it wasn’t. Originally we turned it down, but my father got sick with cancer and couldn’t work. I thought, what can I do? James said, "we’ve got to call "Amazing Race" back, that’s a million dollars." We called and that night we got a response. We ended up on the show because of my dad. If he hadn’t been sick I would never, ever have taken the chance to go on that show. Even though we didn’t win, I am so glad we did it. it was the most amazing experience and has opened so many doors.
If there is an "Amazing Race All-Stars," would you and James be up for the challenge?
Heck yeah! You kidding me? (laughter) We are both hoping they have one-it was so fun. To have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity twice; absolutely, ridiculously insane...and something we most definitely would like to do!
THE WHITE PARTY
This is your first time in Palm Springs and attending The White Party. What are you looking forward to the most?
The music is number one, because so many big-names are going to be performing there. Hopefully I’ll get to meet them-that would be really cool. Also, I get to be the Ambassador, that just doesn’t feel real to me. I get to host on stage and host events; I am really excited to have the opportunity.
So will you be singing?
No, I won’t be performing. But don’t put it past me (laughter) if the opportunity arises and there’s a microphone in my hand. I’m really not planning on performing; I’m leaving that up to the bigger name artists right now.
What’s going on with your singing?
I have a new single out called "Tonight" on iTunes and Amazon. You name it, it’s everywhere online. It’s a full digital release. I can’t believe I just said that. (laughter) The words "full, digital, release" in the same sentence...sounds like something fun doesn’t it?
PHOTOGRAPHY: corey fox photography
HAIR & MAKE UP: Diego Valle
Andrew Christian: andrewchristian.com