American country music artist and, starting in 2010, gay rights activist. On the strength of her debut album in
b. Ocober 25, 1970.
In 1994, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) named her Top New Female Vocalist in 1995. Wright became the first major country music performer to publicly come out as gay. In television appearances and an autobiography, she cited among her reasons for publicizing her homosexuality a concern with bullying and hate crimes toward gays, particularly gay teenagers, and the damage to her life caused by "lying and hiding".
Born in Kansas City, Wright grew up in a musical family. As a toddler, Wright would sit in a great-grandmother's lap and rest her own hands on the great-grandmother's hands as the woman played piano. Also in these years, she began to seek out adult audiences to sing for.
The summer before her senior year of high school, she worked as a performing musician at the Ozark Jubilee, a long running country music show in Branson, Missouri. In 1989, taking the advice of her grandfather, she auditioned and landed a position in a musical production at a theme park in Nashville, Tennessee, starting the job straight out of high school. She attained her first recording contract in 1993, when Harold Shedd signed her to Mercury/Polygram, and her first album was released in 1994
Wright's first Top 40 country hit came in 1997 with "Shut Up and Drive". Two years later, her fourth album yielded her first number one single, the title track, "Single White Female". Overall, Wright has released seven studio albums on various labels, and has charted more than fifteen singles on the country charts.
Awareness of her orientation towards women, and the "hiding and lies", came early. At the beginning of third grade, Wright realized she was in love with her schoolteacher. Although at that young age she lacked sexual awareness, this crush made her realize that she had an attraction to women that she knew to be culturally taboo. Not only did she share the belief that her sexual orientation was immoral, she also believed that it would kill her career hopes for her audiences to know about it. From early childhood, she therefore built up resolve to never confide the secret of her nature to anyone, let alone pursue romantic love with women.
Despite her resolution against having sex with women, by her early 30s Wright had had sexual relationships with two women. At age 19, there was an affair with a girl of the same age that lasted the better part of a year. Then from 1993 to about 2004, Wright maintained a committed relationship with a woman she describes as "the love of my life", a woman she met shortly after winning her first recording contract. Even though during their final five years they lived together, they both remained closeted, which contributed to suffered numerous breakups followed by reconciliations.
In the last months of 2000, Wright embarked on an affair with fellow country music singer Brad Paisley. Although she felt no sexual attraction to Paisley, as to all men, she recounts why Paisley was the man she decided to have a relationship with, "I figured if I’m gonna live a less than satisfied life, this is the guy I could live my life with. If I’m gonna be with a boy, this is the boy." Her actions were further fueled by the fact that she held him in high esteem and great affection in every way other than sexual attraction.
In the end, she abandoned the belief that being gay is immoral and deviant:
"I hear the word 'tolerance'—that some people are trying to teach people to be tolerant of gays. I'm not satisfied with that word. I am gay, and I am not seeking to be 'tolerated'. One tolerates a toothache, rush-hour traffic, an annoying neighbor with a cluttered yard. I am not a negative to be tolerated."Between 2004 and 2006, Wright came out to members of her immediate family and to a few of her close friends. It was not until 2007 that she decided to come out publicly, and spent the next three years writing her autobiography and orchestrating the coming out. Among the reasons she has given for wanting to come out to the public are to free herself from the burdens of living a lie, to lend support to gay children and teenagers, and to counter the belief that gays are wicked and defective. On May 3, 2010, People magazine reported that Wright had come out publicly.Wright is the first major country music artist to come out as gay.
On April 6, 2011, Wright's publicist announced that the singer was engaged to LGBT rights advocate Lauren Blitzer. The couple married on August 20 in a private ceremony on a country estate in Connecticut. Wright and Blitzer were married by both a rabbi and a reverend.
Wright is the founder of the charities, "Reading, Writing, and Rhythm" (RW&R), which is devoted to musical education in America's schools and helps supply musical instruments and equipment, and "The Like Me Organization"to provide assistance, resources, and education to LGBT individuals and their family and friends.
In 2001, Wright was given the "Stand Up For Music Award" MENC: The National Association for Music Education.
In 2003, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the American Legion Auxiliary and "Kansan of the Year" for her career achievements, her charity work and her support of the U.S. armed forces.
In 2010, Wright was named the National Spokesperson for the organization GLSEN. Wright was named one of Out magazine's annual 100 People of the Year.