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Quote Unquote: “The Voice” Competitor Esera Tuaolo is a Big Voice for Equality

Esera Tuaolo pursued football with a passion that took him from Waimānalo to the NFL, where he played for the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons, among others, and made it to a Super Bowl—where he was the last man to tackle John Elway. In 2002, after retiring, he came out as a gay man. His latest competition? Singing on “The Voice,” at 49, having won a blind audition thanks to thumbs-ups from Jennifer Hudson and Blake Shelton.


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Esera Tuaolo
Photo: courtesy of nbc/the voice

DID I GET ANY TRAINING FOR SINGING, growing up? No. But living in Hawai‘i, music is everywhere. People are playing ‘ukulele if you’re walking down the street.

 

SEE ALSO: See If This Gay Former NFL Star from Waimānalo Makes the Cut on The Voice

 

I AM A WAIMĀNALO BOY, went to Waimānalo Elementary, then to Kailua High School. My family always had get-togethers at Waimānalo Beach Park, Sandy Beach barbecues.

 

I BELIEVE I WAS BORN THIS WAY. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to be gay. I knew ever since I could remember. You know when your first crush is on a boy, not a girl. But you don’t understand what it means. Then there comes a time when you see the hatred and you start pulling back on everything.

 

IN THE POLYNESIAN CULTURE, it is more acceptable to be a fa‘afafine, because the word means someone is feminine and not tough. If you’re masculine like myself and you come out, people seem to have a more difficult time with it. They think it’s threatening the masculinity of our Polynesian culture.

 

MY FAMILY TOOK IT GREAT, ACTUALLY. My mom, she cried for an hour, because she automatically associated it with the stereotypical stigma of homosexuality: AIDS, not finding someone to love, not having any kids. But when we talked it was a beautiful conversation and she saw the smile on my face and the joy in my voice.

 

“We are your dad, your mom, your doctors, your lawyers, your football players, your military.”

 

I’VE LIVED THE PAST 28 YEARS IN MINNEAPOLIS. I lived there when I played with the Vikings and really enjoyed it. It’s a great community, with great education, a great place to raise the kids. I have twins, a boy and a girl, 16. They’re really cool, knock on wood and thank the man upstairs.

 

AFTER FOOTBALL, I TOLD PEOPLE, I was doing everything I’m passionate about. I did a CD and am also a chef, donating my time to big galas and nonprofits. Then one day I got an email from The Voice asking me if I wanted to audition. I thought it was a joke. But after I got the confirmation I was set for a tryout in Chicago.

 

THEY SAW ONE OF MY VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE—you can find a lot of amazing singers from around the world on YouTube. It’s one of the best ways to get yourself out there as an artist. My YouTube was recorded as professionally as you can using an iPhone.

 

STANDING THERE FOR THE BLIND AUDITION was amazing.

 

Watch episodes of The Voice on Monday and Tuesday, on KHNL at 7 p.m., Hawai‘i time.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY DON WALLACE 

 

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Honolulu Magazine December 2017
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