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After a lifetime of hiding, Chely Wright becomes the first commercial country music singer to come out as gay, shattering cultural stereotypes within Nashville, her conservative heartland family and, most importantly, within herself. With unprecedented access over a two-year period, including her private video diaries, the film layers Chely's rise to fame while hiding in the late 90's with the execution of her coming out plan, culminating in the exciting moment when she steps into the media glare to reveal she is gay. The film shows both the devastation of internalized homophobia and the transformational power of living an authentic life. The film also documents the conflicting responses from Nashville, the heartland and the LGBT community as Chely Wright prepares for an unknown future. Written by
My musical tastes include Country music. I purchased a couple of Chely Wright's CDs years ago, long before this documentary was produced. She is a talented, beautiful woman with a strong instrument.
This documentary, Wish Me Away, besides showing us Chely's roots, counts down the days until her big reveal on NBC's Today Show. She is the first major Country star to say he/she is gay. The film explains her obvious concerns about coming out to friends, relatives, and Country Music fans.
We hear, with heart-wrenching honesty, about the unhappiness and even self-destructive thoughts she had to deal with for years and years. The irony, of course, is that all of her self-flagellation and sadness stemmed from religion, yet she still longs for acceptance from a god figure that cannot tell her she's accepted. Just as she still desires acceptance by her mother, the one who personifies the hatred and abuse of her religious upbringing.
The story is punctuated with discussions about sin, but those discussing it cannot even agree on what sin is. It was a nebulous tormenter that made her question her own self-worth.
Eventually Chely felt that she had to come out, because the promise of self-actualization was stronger than the fear of rejection by others. In the film, we see how distraught she is as the coming out day approaches. She even has to contend with a gay book editor who condemns her for a sexy photograph she posed for, as if all lipstick lesbians are liars. The journey was not simple, though Chely had a circle of close friends who never wavered in their support of her.
Today Chely is a campaigner for equality and understanding in the arena of sexual orientation rights. She is an activist who seems to cherish that role, in part perhaps as compensation for the Country Music fans who abandoned her.
Her story is touching and even tearjerking. More than that, it is important. It is a story of courage that should be viewed by many of the people who would be afraid to view it.
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