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MUSIC Trent Crews on his new song, coming out and Jennifer Lopez
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Trent Crews is a singer with several tunes to his credit—but some may know him best from reality TV.

Crews made history when he appeared on season eight of Love & Hip Hop: New York, in which he was the boyfriend of make-up artist ( and cast member ) Jonathan Fernandez. However, that relationship ended on a tempestuous note that involved allegations of cheating and the presentation of proof that one of them was married to someone else.

Crews is focused on being a musician ( and has been one for more than two decades ). He recently talked with Windy City Times about his newest release, "Papi" ( which features transgender rapper/actress Precious, and which samples Jennifer Lopez's "If You Had My Love" )—but the conversation started with Crews being reflective about what he said are the hardships he's endured by coming out of the closet.

Windy City Times: How are you handling the quarantining?

Trent Crews: I just woke up to find out that our order has been extended to May 15. I'm so over it!

WCT: I saw you on a YouTube interview saying that you came out in 2017. What has been the general reaction to you coming out?

TC: Wow—that's a really hard question, to be honest with you. It's a question I don't want to answer anymore because it causes so much controversy? To be honest, I almost wish I never came out.

WCT: Why?

TC: Because my life is so terrible and miserable. What a lot of people don't quite understand is that for people who choose to be artists, it is our lives; you eat, breathe and sleep music. It's a non-stop hustle. The reason I came out in 2017 is because I had so many managers and labels I went through; labels kept asking, "What are we going to do if people find out you're gay?"

When I first started in the industry, when I was super-young, my generation of artists were supposed to be seen and not heard. You're just supposed to look amazing, sing your song and go home; you had no opinion. I was raised that way; I got my first deal when I was 11, and I've been in the studio with Beyonce, Chris Brown, Cher, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears. You were also told that if you're into certain things, you hide them—like being gay. So I played straight in my personal and professional lives.

Then labels told me I wasn't Black enough—and they could see I was gay. So after being turned down by so many labels ( with them saying if I had a gay audience, they would push me ). So then I decided to officially come out as gay—but then I lost the support I thought I was going to get because, unfortunately, gay men don't support each other. I wasn't going to gay parties and clubs, but I was under the impression that the gay community would look out for me.

WCT: I take it that hasn't been the case.

TC: Are you kidding me? I have to fight tooth-and-nail just to get them to look my way. And this is where the conversation really gets complicated because, from my experience, the only gay boys who win are those who are truly a mess or who are drag queens. And if you're not a drag queen or "Yesss, queen" or "Work!," then there's no lane for you.

I spent the first 20 years of my professional life being straight. I almost wish I didn't come out; I can't go back because I was gay on TV. I was recently booked for an event, but I was notified before it happened that I [was being pulled]; I was told, "Right now you're not poppin' and no one knows you." This happens to me all the time—and I was replaced by a drag queen.

When I wasn't out, things were moving much faster. I thought my brothers would come out and support me when I did. I'm just going to keep hoping.

WCT: Let's talk a little bit about Love & Hip Hop: New York. It seems like that experience was more of a minus than a plus for you.

TC: Yeah, it was definitely a minus. Again, it was the same thing. Unfortunately, so many people were expecting me to turn up, act a fool or be saucy.

What I thought was a blessing in my life ended up being a curse because I got in the industry so early. Again, I was trained to shut up, do your thing and look amazing—I didn't know how to act a fool. When I was in the studio with Mariah, it wasn't "What's up, bitch?" I was let go [from the reality show] because I wasn't "gay" enough. I don't have a problem with overly effeminate gay men, but that's not who I am.

We're so much more than drag queens and effeminate men. I don't want to be a character—I just want to be Trent.

WCT: Also, I understand you went from Columbus, Ohio, to New York City with only $12.

TC: I had just moved back in with my mom, after a boy band I was in failed. My birthday was coming up and she gave me $100. So I bought a Greyhound bus ticket that was, like, $76 and I got a meal from McDonald's. With that [remaining] $12, I went to New York City.

My mother screamed and cried; she was scared, of course. I stayed with a friend I had met on MySpace—and I never went back.

WCT: And you were homeless at one point?

TC: Oh, yeah—that's a rough one. I went to Atlanta, thinking it would be my big break. I was working with a production company called Songbook Entertainment; their first hit was [sings Tyrese's "Sweet Lady"] and they also signed Trey Songz. Basically, they had an issue with me being gay, and there was the whole conversation of "You sound too white." [Note: Windy City Times asked Songbook for a response to Crews' allegation, but no reply has been received.]

So I left New York City for Atlanta, and it ended up being one of the worst decisions of my life. It ruined me; they were so mean and nasty to me because they made me doubt my talent. When I returned to NYC, I had no home and no job, and I wasn't going back to Columbus and look like a failure. So I slept on friends' couches and even a men's shelter; I was homeless for about a year.

WCT: Let's move on to your music. I saw your video for the song "Blow" [available on YouTube]. It's a cool song, but you also catch attention for what you wear.

TC: The pink coat? You know what's funny? I have so many horror stories about that coat.

I saw a girl on with a long coat, and I said, "I want a pink coat." My friend made it for me. I got a coat from H&M for $40, and then we got the pink "fur" to add to it. When we released the video, I got so much hate for the coat; people said, "It looks tacky!" But [a few] months later, that coat is everywhere. Lil Wayne wore a pink, furry coat and—of course, because they're straight men—they got praise for it.

WCT: Where is that song available?

TC: It's everywhere, like iTunes. Love & Hip Hop turned down that song, though. It wasn't "urban" enough.

WCT: And on "Papi," you sample Jennifer Lopez.

TC: Yes. It's funny—she's one of those artists I really, really love because she's old-school and she fought for her career. I love someone who's fighting for their career. She's been told "no" her whole career, and she kept fighting. We all have to fight in this industry. This shit is not easy and it's not fun.

WCT: And how did the collaboration with Precious come about?

TC: So I was on Instagram when this friend of mine sent her [Precious'] page. I thought it was so dope and asked, "Who is she?" We talked on the phone for about two hours about what it means to be [and LGBT] artist in this world. We literally became friends. I recorded this song and thought, "This is the perfect song for her." I sent it to her and she had it back the next morning, in less than eight hours. She killed it.

WCT: Going back to the quarantine, we're all fighting on some level. What have you learned about yourself through this?

TC: That I'm mentally stronger than I give myself credit for, because music can drive you crazy if you let it. I feel like I've had this mental toughness. I've been the positive one for my friends, which I hadn't [envisioned]. Even if you can't work on your craft or see loved ones, you can work on your game plan.

The single "Papi" is available on many platforms. Crews can be found on Facebook and Instagram ( @trentcrews ).

More about Trent Crews:

—Favorite snack: Candy, "like Gummy Bears, Now & Later and Starburst"

—First crush: Aaliyah

—First guy crush: "My eighth-grade math teacher, Mr. Brown"

—Favorite person on reality TV: NeNe Leakes

—Dream collaborator: Britney Spears

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