How This Star Search Champion Hid His Sexuality

Season 4 Episode 415
Aired on 11/02/2014 | CC tv-14
Decades before The Voice and American Idol had their debuts, aspiring singers showcased their talent on Star Search. Some of today's top artists—Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Beyoncé—took the stage and lost. But, during the show's premiere season, a powerhouse vocalist named Sam Harris won week after week, becoming the first grand champion.

After winning the $100,000 prize, Sam landed a record deal, appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show alongside the host of Star Search, Ed McMahon, and released chart-topping songs. Sam says that all the while he was hiding a secret. "The great irony of that period around Star Search for me was that interviewers were always told, 'Don't ask him about his personal life,'" Sam says. "Which was code for, 'He's gay, and we don't talk about it.'"

Throughout his rise to fame, Sam felt the pressure to maintain a heterosexual public image. "When I would go to the Grammys or I'd go to an event, then I would have a girl on my arm," he says. "It was a lie. It was messed up."

In the above video, Sam opens up about living a lie, growing up gay and the dark day he tried to take his own life.

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