Rock star Adam Lambert believes everyone is meant to do something with their lives. His purpose? To entertain.
As a child growing up in San Diego, Adam realized at an early age that performance was his passion. After years of musical theater training and touring with the Broadway musical Wicked, Adam says he realized he wanted more out of life. He decided to take the next step and audition for the most-watched reality TV show in the country, American Idol.
"[I used] positive projection. You know, affirmation. Really imagining what my life could be and what I really want out of it," he says. "I wasn't unhappy, but I was a little like: 'Is this it? Really?' I was thirsty."
Adam made his mark early on during Season 8 of American Idol. Fans and judges first noticed his black eyeliner, outrageous hairstyles and bold fashion statements, but this rocker wasn't all style, no substance. Adam's vocal range and unique take on popular songs made him a favorite. Even Idol's toughest judge, Simon Cowell, called him a star.
To the surprise of many, Adam came in second to contestant Kris Allen during the May 2009 finale...but that hasn't stalled his meteoric rise to fame. After the final vote, People magazine voted Adam the sexiest rocker, and he landed the cover of Rolling Stone, where he officially confirmed rumors that he's gay. He also released his highly anticipated debut album, For Your Entertainment.
Then, in November 2009, Adam's fame turned to notoriety.
During his performance at the 2009 American Music Awards, Adam sent shock waves across the country by dancing provocatively and making out with a male guitarist. After his sexually charged debut, many networks canceled his television appearances.
Oprah: If you had to do it over, would you do it?
Adam: Yeah, I [would]. There are no regrets for me. I mean, I would sing it a little better.
Oprah: You would do the kiss?
Adam: I would. I think I would do it during dress rehearsal this time so I would allow ABC to decide whether or not they liked it. To be consistent during rehearsal—it's a professionalism thing. It was an oversight.
Oprah: So after all the controversy, there wasn't one moment where you thought, 'Well, maybe...'
Adam: I definitely sat with it, and in hindsight, I can understand, okay, I understand why people were freaked out. I wasn't trying to upset anybody.
At times, Adam says his theatrical training makes him take song lyrics and tone very seriously, which is what happened at the AMAs. "I got carried away into the lyric. The lyric was risqué and frisky, and I got frisky and risqué."
These days, Adam is open about his sexuality, but he says he didn't want to come out publicly while competing on American Idol.
"There were some pictures that came out right before the competition started, like the top 13 competition, and it was pictures of me and an ex kissing. They were personal pictures that accidentally got leaked out," he says. "The publicist from American Idol pulled me aside and said: 'What do you want to do? It's up to you. We support you no matter what.'"
At the time, Adam says he didn't want to deny the truth, so he chose not to discuss his private life until he was interviewed for Rolling Stone, weeks after the finale.
"I knew that label would be attached to me from there on out, and I think people would jump to conclusions with that label," he says. "I've seen a lot of press where they say, 'openly gay singer Adam Lambert.' It's like the gay part comes before the singer part, and I'm like, 'That doesn't define who I am.'"
Since Adam rocked Idol's stage and released his first album, he says his life has changed in many ways.
"The biggest change between before Idol and now would probably just have to be the level of notoriety. I mean, it changes everything," he says. "I try to go throughout my daily life just as if nothing has changed, but you don't have much anonymity anymore, which feels really good. People come up, and say hi and they enjoy your work."
Adam says the demands of fame began to get to him in early December 2009, but since then he's made a New Year's resolution to live in the moment and have more fun.
"I just kind of got a little stressed out, and I was taking it all very seriously and getting really nitpicky about things. I was really beating myself up about performances and how I looked and this and that," he says. "As the year came to an end, [I realized] this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I need to enjoy this. This is amazing. I got what I wanted."
Don't get Adam wrong...there are definite perks to being a rising star in the music industry. Adam says the best part of newfound fame is doing what he loves and being financially stable. "It was such a struggle for so many years trying to make it, and I've gotten to help my mom out," he says. "She lives here in L.A. now."
Adam says he's also using his money to rent a home. "That brings me a lot of joy," he says. "It's very peaceful."
What else brings Adam joy? Shopping. With the funds he has left, Adam takes every opportunity to add to his eclectic, rock 'n' roll wardrobe. In Los Angeles, Adam loves to look for statement-making pieces at the Congregation of Forgotten Saints, a store on Melrose Avenue.
"I like things that stand out, that are different," he says. "I don't like to look typical. So whatever I can do to steer clear of that, I do."
Adam may be recognized wherever he goes, but he still gets starstruck at times. When he met Madonna, one of his music idols, for the first time, he says his heart started racing. "It was wild," he says. "I've looked up to her as a pop star, as like a creative being, my whole life."
Their first encounter came about when Madonna's guitar teacher, a musician who plays in Adam's band, invited Adam to her New York City home. "[I was] in my best outfit. Put the tie on. Put the jacket on. Looked good," he says. "She came in in like no makeup, yoga wear. Just totally Zen. She walked into the room, and her presence is very powerful. She's very intense."
Struck by nerves, Adam says he was almost speechless. "I said: 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm just really intimidated right now.' And she said, 'Why?'" he says. "'Because I love you.' And she said, 'So love equals intimidation for you?' And I said: 'Yes, pretty much. Most of the time, I think, when I feel love, that's the way it manifests itself at first.'"
Adam says Madonna offered a few words of advice about being a celebrity. "[She said], 'Just keep your eye on the prize and put your blinders up,'" he says. "'Don't get sidetracked with all the extra fuss.'"
As Adam has realized, stardom isn't a quick fix for all your problems. Since high school, Adam says he's struggled with self-esteem issues.
"I think as you get older, you learn to just kind of live with them. You're like, 'Oh, I'm kind of self-conscious about that,'" he says. "[In high school], I was much heavier. I was just awkward. I was in the closet, all sorts of things. I didn't feel attractive at all."
At his heaviest, Adam says he weighed 240 pounds. Today, he says he's down to 175, 15 to 20 pounds lighter than he was during Idol, thanks to a meal-delivery program that helps him control calories and portions.
In January 2010, Simon Cowell announced that Season 9 of American Idol will be his last. Having been a contestant on the show, Adam knows firsthand how much the singers and viewers value Simon's opinion...even if it's harsh.
"I think the audience will definitely miss Simon, and I think the contestants will miss out on, like, really honest criticism," he says. "I think that that's important to making you a better performer—you've got to hear the good and the bad. He makes you step your game up and calls you out when it doesn't work. But I also think he's got a very specific taste. There's certain things he's not into. For example, country music. He doesn't like it."
Adam says no matter what, the show will go on. "I think that ultimately after the first couple weeks of auditions, the audience tunes in every week for the contestants."