Billie Hall is an African American singer, writer and performer originally from Santa Barbara, California. His musical background is primarily in gospel music, as far as a performing, but his love of music is eclectic to say the least. He is just now starting to perform other music such as blues, pop and country.
Billie grew up in the Baptist church (later Pentecostal) and loved it as a child and his early teens. However, when he realized that he was gay at an early age and found out that the church, his family, and most Black people he knew, didn't approve was when he began to have serious trouble in his life. His family and his church demanded that he change. The church used their interpretation of Scripture to lead him to believe that God didn't approve of his lifestyle either and that he would go to hell if he kept being gay. His family used verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and intimidation tactics to get him to change. His father even attempted to kill him at one time (though years later his father came around and they went on to have a very close relationship until he died).
The Pentecostal/Evangelical church, however, had the most influence on his negative feelings about being gay. After getting "saved" in the Assemblies of God Church (he later joined the, primarily Black, Church of God In Christ) Billie began to agree that he was in sin and should get "delivered" from his homosexuality. Billie fasted, prayed and made every effort to change. He even planned to get married twice, but didn't go through with it, fearing that the "deliverance" didn't take.
Billie was publicly humiliated by preachers from the pulpit, thrown out of churches and ridiculed by fellow "Christians". His dreams for a recording contract with a gospel label were dashed when the church who was going to represent him dropped the plan when they found out that he still "might be gay". Billie's pastor had told the church of his concern, stating that he didn't want them to be humiliated if it came out that Billie actually hadn't been "delivered" from his sin! This same pastor later made a pass at Billie after publicly preaching against his "sin" for years.
Billie endured beatings at home. Was later raped at thirteen. Was repeatedly raped and beaten by a junior high school teacher (not the school he went to) and weekly molested by a high school counselor who used the excuse that he was trying to "help" him realize that he could change! (?) He became sexually promiscuous, confused, and unstable. More than once he considered suicide just to get out of the pain and shame over his life. All this was going on while he was still attending church and trying to be a good heterosexual Christian. Clearly something wasn't working.
The hypocrisy he witnessed in church and among so-called Christians (even being propositioned by the very ministers who publicly humiliated him for being gay) further eroded his self-confidence and self esteem. He often found more Christ like behavior among his bar associates than in the church. Billie says, "I saw everything from ministers stealing money from the church, to deacons going with other men's wives and the opposite. I experienced more unkindness and judgmental attitudes in church than anywhere else. In a lot of ways it was quite dissapointing, damaging and hurtful considering that I was trying to follow their examples of living a good Christian life. Had it not been for the outright humor I often found in the overly emotional antics in church, I might not have survived as long as I did. I actually had more laughs in church than anywhere, as strange as that may sound."
Billie was in and out of the church (and back and forth with being "delivered" from being gay or not) when eventually he found the Metropolitan Community Church, founded by the Rev. Troy Perry. A church for openly gay people? Billie couldn't believe it. One of his Pentecostal ministers warned him not to go because God was going to destroy the place(!), but he went anyway and heard for the first time in his life that God loved him as His gay child and in fact had made him just as he was. That was the turning point. Billie thrived spiritually on the new message.
Eventually Billie cut all ties with his fundamentalist background and beliefs, embracing the beliefs of MCC - that God loves and accepts gays as His children, too. He began to sing up and down the California coast at any MCC who invited him. He later joined Christ Chapel, another gay church, and sang there regularly for a number of years.
However, the scars from the past were too deep. Billie was still acting out sexually, which eventually led to his being arrested a few times for lewd conduct - which only deepened his shame. He did, it seemed, anything to dis-respect himself, like mis-managing his financial affairs (which led to two bankruptcies), drinking too much, etc. He was in one abusive or bad relationship after the other. The jobs he took were often ones that simulated his abusive home life - the worst of those being the one he took with Della Reese as her Executive Assistant. He worked for her and her husband, Franklin Lett, for nine years and what he experienced with them only made matters worse for his already unstable and fragile emotional makeup. Finally, his life was out of control and almost unmanageable because he couldn't come to terms with his abusive past, the destructive way he was living his life and his inability to break away from his oppressive job with Della or other abusive relationship(s). Living in shame and isolation became a way of life. As if all of this weren't enough, his pain over losing so many friends to AIDS also tore him up inside and haunted him daily. It seemed that everything was closing in on him as he spiraled further downward emotionally.
After being laid off from the job with Della Reese, the realization of what he had endured with her for nine years, the secrets he was keeping for her (including being investigated and interrogated by the DEA for unknowlingly sending marijuana to her c/o the set of Touched By An Angel in Salt Lake City, for which she made Billie's co-worker take the fall) caused guilt to overtake him. With shock he realized that for nine years he had stood by saying and doing nothing as she and her husband emotionally or mentally abused other employees or church members; mis-handled church funds; express their true negative feelings about gays (including having one church employee fired because, according to her husband, they didn't want to become known as a gay church); and appearing to be kind, loving Christians when everyday he experienced the painful opposite. To make matters worse for him, he perpetuated the myth of Della's Earth Mother persona in fan mail that he answered and to people he spoke to daily (even to people he knew she disliked intensely for whatever the reason). When he realized that by remaining silent and in her employ, he was, in a sense, an accomplance and it, coupled with his unresolved broken past, caused him to snap.
Finally the break came. Billie had an emotional (or nervous) and mental breakdown. He was diagnosed with clinical depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, rather than this being an ending, it was a beginning for healing and starting to live his life as he chooses. Billie continues to work hard in recovery using therapy and medication as part of the process. His show, "Confessions of a Vintage Black Queen" is part of his therapy and he tells his story with humor, music and unflinching truth about what happened to him. Also, telling some of his experiences with Della Reese and her church, Understanding Principles for Better Living Church, to the National Enquire increased his emotional healing and self respect. Billie says: "At first I thought going to Della's church and working for her were the best things that ever happened to me. I was very open about my painful past with her and it seemed for a time that through her ministry and "caring" I would find complete healing. However, when I began to see who she really was and experience abuse from her, which was worse for me because of who she pretends to be as a minister and because I had truly believed in and loved her, it nearly killed me. I just couldn't deal with the way I had seen her destroy people , saying nothing; and when she turned tables on me, it was too much. Nonetheless, my experience with them, according to my therapist, was the straw that broke the camel's emotional back,so to speak. And because of the healing it eventually brought, I almost feel like I should thank them. Almost!"
While still in recovery, Billie no longer has conflicts about where he stands with God. At present he chooses not to attend church, but knows that He is loved by God whether he attends or not. His faith is solid. He is no longer working at destroying his life in various ways like acting out sexually ("the public sex days and promiscuity are a thing of the past", says Billie). He chooses also to work at handling his finacial affairs better because he believes it's part of his healing("I so regret borrowing money from so many people when I was out of control and I am working hard at paying every one of them back because it's the right thing to do and because I want to have integrity," he says). Billie now shares his story of abuse, shame and survival to encourage others - especially to those who are gay, lesbian and transgendered. He tells them bluntly: "Accept Yourself; Be Yourself; and Love Yourself because God does!"
Billie's story is one of true survival and hope. He survived by using God, music, laughter, the love of friends (who are his real family to him), his partner, Aaron, and sheer determination to have a better life. Now that he is starting to have that life, he has no intentions of turning back. He actively practices at being his true, unique self and makes no apologies to those who judge or don't (won't) understand.
"Confessions of a Vintage Black Queen" is told by Billie and three of his other "personalities", or his "girls". The Committee. They are Miss Champagne, the forties-like, overly dramatic show girl; Miss Fannie, the proper, conservative, spiritually wise lady; and KOKO who is a no-nonsense, don't mess with me kind of gal. Koko would sooner have a drink and sing the blues than be bothered with people's shit. She's the tough one of the group and if you get up in her face you'd better be ready to roll. Together they tell the hilarious and sometimes sad, truth about real survival and fighting to be who you really are.
If you've ever been told by anyone (or any religious organization) that you should not be who you are because God doesn't approve - this is the show for you. If you've ever doubted that you'll make it through one more day because of abuse or that you're less than everyone else - this is the show for you. If you've ever considered yourself unworthy of God's love or if you don't even love yourself - this is the show for you. Or, if you just want to understand what happens to people who are abused, you need to see this show. Together we will heal!
Gospel singer? Blues singer? Preacher? Drag queen? Barfly? What?!? That's Billie Hall. Come and hear how humor, music and facing the truth can really set you free.