Too often, says Puerto Rican singer Ivy Queen, Latin artists overlook their LGBT fans. To show her support of this fan base frequently forgotten by her contemporaries, last week the "Queen of Reggaeton" embarked on an eleven-city Ivy Queen: Viva Puerto Rico tour of U.S. gay clubs.
"The love I receive from the [LGBT] community has been incredible," says the singer, who has released eight studio albums during her two decades as a recording artist. "I want this tour to show my appreciation."
Kicking off January 30 in Miami, Bay Area-based Latin promotion Club Papi Productions takes Queen coast-to-coast through February 21. On Saturday February 1, RuPaul's Drag Race Season 2 star Jessica Wild joined Queen in front of an enthusiastic San Francisco audience. The superstar hits Chicago February 6, followed by San Diego the following day.
According to Queen, LGBT fans started to emerge early in her career. By the release of aptly titled CDs such as Diva (2003) and Drama Queen (2010), known for songs of female empowerment and liberation, the singer had a core following within the gay community.
"My closest friends, my make up artists, my stylists, all the people who make me 'Ivy Queen,' are gay, and we love to go to the clubs together," the 41-year-old entertainer shared during a recent telephone interview. "I remember the first time I saw the [drag performers] doing my songs. It was amazing!
Often noted for her outrageous imagery, outspoken lyrics and larger-than-life personality, Queen says she is grateful drag performers and gay fans alike can relate. She also notes experiencing prejudice, a feeling which might also help her connect with gay fans.
"The music industry is very male-dominated," Queen points out, "Throughout my career, I have faced prejudice because I refused to be the kind of artist I was told women must be to be successful. I had to fight to be myself."
And, just as she went against the grain in that way, she now does so again during a gay club tour many other Latin artists would find unthinkable. Queen does not blame homophobia inherent among Latinos for this decision among artists, though.
"There is homophobia in every community," she asserts, "Whether that is the Latin community or in America."
Still, Queen is optimistic things are changing, even among Latin artists. Look no further than global superstar Ricky Martin, she says, who came out publicly in 2010.
"Ricky Martin is honest about who he is and is a wonderful father to two beautiful children," Queen notes. "People love him."
Queen continues her Club Papi tour throughout February. Stops include Seattle (February 9), Atlanta (February 14), Sacramento (February 15) and Los Angeles (February 16) before concluding in New York (February 21). The singer says she hopes fans attending receive one message.
"Whether I am onstage or off, I am always real," she shares. "I am always myself, and that is the message I want to give my fans: Live your life and be happy."