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Gay Brother Raised Me, Says 'GLEE Project' Star Emily Vasquez

By Pollo Del Mar

“This might sound funny, but I don’t just ‘like’ the gay community,” says Emily Vasquez. “I live for it.”


Only hours after her debut single “Slow Motion” hit YouTube, Vasquez is sitting, discussing her career and life-long connection to the LGBT community. For many, the new song is a first glimpse at The GLEE Project star since she wowed judges with a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” – only to be cut from the Oxygen Network’s search for the next star of TV’s GLEE.

For the New York native, though, events leading to the song’s official video release provide an opportunity to reflect on just how involved she is with the gay community.


“I realized today, I don’t even have many female friends,” says Vasquez, who headlines an Oct. 1 fundraiser for LGBTQ youth at San Francisco’s Mission High School. “I have a whole bunch of gay friends, and my brother, who practically raised me, is gay. I just love the community.”


And, of course, the director of her new video – Sage Rivera, stage name “Vivika Westwood Mugler” – just happens to be a drag queen. “She got it all together for me,” says Vasquez, laughing. “Vivika was like, ‘Dahling, I can do this for you! Let me help!’ She turned it out!”


Vasquez relates having connections to the gay community from an early age. She attended the performing arts high school which inspired the film and TV show FAME, where she says LGBT students were common and open about their sexuality. Her older brother, whose coming out was kept secret from her for many years, has also been instrumental in her life.


“Without him, I don’t even think I would have been on [The GLEE Project],” Vasquez says of her 31-year-old sibling. “He’s so brave and out there, so funny. I kind of copy him.”


The teen admits there was a time when she did not admire her brother’s decision to live openly. When he first came out, it put a tremendous strain on her family. A Latino with strong Catholic roots, she says her father stopped speaking to her brother for a while.


“My brother had it rough,” she recalls. Being young, Emily felt stuck in the middle and occasionally resented him for creating an uncomfortable dynamic. “It was really hard, and sad,” she admits.


Now many years later, Vasquez says her brother and father are patching things up. Meanwhile, her relationship with her brother is stronger than ever.


“I spend so much time with him, it’s crazy!” she says. It wasn’t until she went on national television that Vasquez says her eyes were opened to how different her life experience is from others’, especially where gay issues are concerned.


“Being from New York, I thought everyone was more open,” she admits, “Then being on [The GLEE Project], I realized there are still people who aren’t aware. There are kids that need help.”


That’s why Vasquez signed on so quickly when upstart Bay Area nonprofit Queens of the Castro – – contacted her regarding an upcoming benefit called High School’s a Drag - But It Doesn’t Have to Be. She joins RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2 star Jessica Wild, a plethora of San Francisco’s drag favorites and the faculty of Mission High School in raising money and awareness for LGBTQ youth. Afterward, she is scheduled to perform two songs at The Café.


“I love my brother. I love all my friends. Gay people are the most amazing, talented people I know, because they’re always thinking outside the box,” Vasquez shares. “That’s what makes them so special.”


“I need to do my part,” she says of giving back to the community she feels such a part of. “Whatever I can do, I will.”


High School’s a Drag – But Doesn’t Have to Be Featuring The GLEE Project’s Emily Vasquez and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Jessica Wild, Sat., Oct. 1, Mission High School Auditorium, 3750 18th St., 7:30 pm. $15.


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