Robin Thicke’s 2007 single “Lost Without U” made him the first male Caucasian artist to top Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop chart since George Michael’s “One More Try” in 1988, but that’s just the tip of Thicke’s tight connection with the gay community. Currently promoting his fourth album, Sex Therapy, as the opening act on Alicia Keys’s Freedom Tour, the 33-year-old neo-soul singer-songwriter explains why he’ll happily ruin dinner to defend his gay friends — even those hip-hop chest-thumpers still in the closet.
By Brandon Voss
Advocate.com: How conscious are you of your gay fan base? Because although babies aren’t technically made during our process, we also enjoy baby-making music.
Robin Thicke: Well, maybe I’m inspiring some adoptions. [Laughs] As long as my music promotes love and intimacy, it’s all good. You never really know who likes you until someone comes up and says they like your music, but I’m always surprised when anyone likes it.
You’ve previously toured with Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé, both artists with huge gay followings. Are we a good audience?
Oh, absolutely. Who dances with more love and passion than the gay audience? They’re so much fun.
Gay blogs can be vicious, but they generally have very sweet things to say about you.
I know, and I’m very thankful, honored, and blessed. Every once in a while I’ll hear that Perez has said nice things about me, but I don’t think my people would send it to me if he ever said anything bad.
How does it feel to be an object of lust for some gay men?
It’s absolutely flattering, without question. I’m very vain, so I’ll take lust from wherever it comes.
Your father, Alan Thicke, is an actor best known as Jason Seaver on Growing Pains, and your mother, Gloria Loring, is an actress-singer best known as Liz Chandler on Days of Our Lives. Growing up with both parents in the entertainment industry, what was your earliest exposure to gay people?
My father’s agent was gay, and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Probably from the time I was 7 or 8 years old, he was there every day, hanging out at the house and on my dad’s set. He was a wonderful man, so that was a great influence for me right from the beginning. Some of my mom’s best friends were also gay. When the AIDS epidemic hit in the ’80s, my mom lost one of her very best friends, who was also a close friend of the family. Even though I was very young, I had to understand what that was all about and why he passed. It’s a lot for a 10-year-old boy to try to figure out, but I have a very open heart because of those circumstances.
Your first son is due this May. How do you plan to instill in him those same values of love and acceptance?
That’s easy. Love is easy to instill; it’s just hard to practice. We can all lose our tempers and our focus when our insecurities get the best of us, but it’s easy to preach and teach love and open-mindedness.
Who’s your best gay friend?
Probably somebody who won’t admit it. [Laughs] That’s the catch-22 of the hip-hop and R&B music world: There’s so much bravado and chest-thumping, you can’t help but be afraid to come out and be yourself. I actually have a couple friends in that world I’m wondering about right now.
How can the homophobia in that world be diminished?
I really don’t know. It’s this religion thing that’s so mind-boggling. Religion is an epidemic, you know what I mean? How do you justify what people have in their minds because of a book that they read — that your life has to be a certain way or you’re damned? It’s very difficult to understand how some people can be so open-minded in some realms but so closed off in others.
How do you personally handle the homophobia you encounter?
I’ve always been the guy at the table who will fight these people until the bitter end. I’m a fighter — maybe too much sometimes. Sometimes I ruin dinner.
You’re married to black actress Paula Patton, which would’ve also been illegal in many states not all that long ago. What are your thoughts on gay marriage?
When I was growing up and had my first apartment, my very next-door neighbors were a gay couple named Stan and Wayne. They were two of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life, and they’re still friends of mine to this day. I think of them not being able to get married because of some law — and they’ve been together for 25-plus years — and there’s just nothing right about that. Why can’t they profess their love to the world? Why can’t they have the same legal tax credits and all those other things that everybody else gets to have? There’s a lot about all that that doesn’t make sense to me, but it’s hard to reason with people who get all caught up in their Bibles.
Thanks to her role as lesbian teacher Ms. Rain in Precious — not to mention her next film, Just Wright, with Queen Latifah and Pam Grier — Paula is quickly becoming an icon in the lesbian community. Are you loving it?
Oh, yes, and we’re both so grateful. My wife has been my teacher of open-mindedness since I met her. If I hadn’t met her, I would probably be more of a cocky jerk, but she’s always reminded me of the struggles that other people are going through, which has made me a better person. She’s got an enormous heart.
Your current single, “Sex Therapy,” samples “It’s My Party” by out lesbian Lesley Gore. Are you trying to cultivate more lesbian fans yourself?
She’s a lesbian? Oh, I had no idea! How cool is that? Well, there you go. See, subliminally I’m tapping into my lesbian side. I was born a lesbian, so all that makes sense.
With which openly gay artist would you most like to collaborate?
I love Adam Lambert — he’s great, man, and really exciting. But I don’t really reach out for too many collaborations except with producers, rappers, or soul singers like Faith Evans or Mary J. Blige.
You made an exception, of course, when you collaborated with Leighton Meester on her debut single, “Somebody to Love.” Are you a Gossip Girl fan?
I enjoyed the show once I checked it out, but I actually liked her from the Entourage episodes she was on a few years ago. I thought she was very fiery, sexy, and cool.
Your dad was on the cover of Playgirl in 1987. Would you ever consider a beefcake photo shoot?
Oh, well, I’m going to have to hit the gym a little more before I get back to my beefcake days. I was more cakey when I was younger. Besides, my dad didn’t do the layout; he just did the interview.
Maybe it’s time to one-up him.
Right? No, I’m not ready for all that. A little mystery is a good thing.
Advocate.com, March 2010.