A modeling shot from here.
Towleroad: When did you first get interested in singing and
Nathaniel: I was pretty young. I saw a production of Peter Pan—I
can’t remember how old I was—and I saw them flying around and I thought from
then on, “Oh, my God, I wanna do this.” I think also being the youngest of four
there were probably some attention-starved aspects that also kinda came with
it. I just have always sung in musicals and acted in plays and all that.
Nathaniel: First play…it was some sort of Easter Bunny play
and I was the Easter Bunny. I started it off right!
Towleroad: Was it considered cool among your friends to be
involved in performing? No teasing?
Nathaniel: I kind of kept it really separate. The
town that I’m from is really small. Once I got pretty serious into it, the town
actually where I did most of the productions—I worked in a professional
theater—it was like 45 minutes away, so where I did a lot of my training and performing
wasn’t even in my town. I never did the high school production of whatever
because I was actually doing stuff and being paid for it.
Towleroad: What was your hometown, Cookeville, Tenn., like?
Nathaniel: Really small. Everyone knows everybody and my
family’s been there forever, my grandparents. I was a pretty good kid, I think,
also because I knew that my parents were gonna find out about things. It was a
pretty strict household…we went to church Sunday night and Wednesday night—that
Towleroad: At what point in your life did you realize you
Nathaniel: I think as long as I can remember. People are always curious about that kind of stuff, girls or what-not that
don’t know any gay people. I remember my roommate in college was like, “Oh, I
didn’t realize until I was a sophomore in high school,” or something and I was
like, “Whoa!” I mean, I just always knew. When you’re that young, you don’t
really put two and two together, but I just…really liked Jem and the Holograms
better than He-Man. [Laughs]
Nathaniel: I definitely struggled for a really long time with how that fits in
with what you’ve been taught in church. I think being gay is so hard growing up
because, like, let’s say you’re a minority that is completely segregated from
anyone else. If you’re living in America and you’re Hispanic or something, more
than likely you have a Hispanic family, obviously, and some sort of culture, but
growing up in the South in a small town, I didn’t know anyone else who was gay.
I didn’t have anything really to base that off of until I started performing
and there were older professionals that would come in that I knew were gay. I
just assumed they were going to hell or something.
"Make me look cute," Nathaniel told me when I asked which photos to use.
Towleroad: Were you aware of seeing any gay representations
in the media?
Nathaniel: When I was older, Will & Grace was on
television. I was embarrassed just to be watching that in my household. I would
watch it in my room with the door closed like it was something dirty.
As Aladdin in Disney's Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular!
Towleroad: Who was the first person you came out to?
Nathaniel: I left high school and then I ended up going
to college. I went to a performing arts college, and I just assumed we would
all continue the charade. But I wound up meeting somebody and had my first
boyfriend and it was kind of like there you were
gay until proven straight. They just assume everybody is gay. It wasn’t,
“Dah-dah-dah-dah…I’m gay!” It was just kind of assumed, and I was dating someone
Towleroad: How did your family react?
Nathaniel: I didn’t actually tell my mom until much later. We don’t talk about
it much. I know that she loves me. My family’s amazing. I know that they
support me no matter what. Even now, they’ve never left this town—I don’t hold
that against them, but I don’t think they fully understand it.
Towleroad: Ever have any really negative reactions to being
Nathaniel: I would say sometimes in high school, yeah,
people were cruel just like for everyone, but I always knew there was a bigger
picture. Sure, that kind of stuff hurts, but I didn’t let it get to me. Like I
said, in college everyone else was gay, too. Now, when I go back to random
cities in the country [on tour], I don’t dress differently or alter anything about myself
and I don’t notice people cracking jokes or anything, but I don’t know if
that’s because I’m not operating on an assumption that someone is gonna think
of me differently or what.
Nathaniel theorizes he doesn't give off the sexual, young-boy energy teen girls want.
Towleroad: How did you first get involved in V Factory?
Nathaniel: I knew a girl that was running an audition for
the label that was interested in putting together a music group. I just knew
her from working in L.A.; we had done some jobs together. She called me and
said, “Hey, I don’t know if this
is your thing, but I know you sing, so come on down.” I kind of thought it
seemed a little ghetto, but everybody in L.A. has a record deal or something. It was just down the street from my house so I thought, “Okay, I’ll go down
at the end of the day.” I was the last person to audition, 10 minutes late.
Even with that I was very apprehensive once this all got rolling. I actually
lied about my age! You were supposed to be 21 and I was 24 at the time. She was
like, “Oh, just say you’re 21!” So I put down that I was 21.
It wasn’t for a few weeks into it I was like, “Shit, like,
how do I come out to them? Are they gonna just fire me because I’m gay?” or
whatever. It just kind of organically unrolled. A couple of the other guys,
some of us had mutual friends, so they knew I was gay. I can’t even remember
how it ended up coming up. But it was never an issue—at all. I feel very
fortunate, because a lot of people ask that—that’s one of their first
questions: “So, do you have to be in the closet with this group?” The label,
everyone has been pretty…pretty…pretty good about it.”
The guys of V Factory have always accepted Nathaniel. Photo by Keith Munyan.
Towleroad: Are the members of the group totally fine with
it, too? No issues?
Nathaniel: No, no, not really. Just kidding around and stuff. We all have
nicknames for each other all the time and Wesley affectionately calls me WeHo.
Towleroad: What’s your place in the group?
Nathaniel: There’s the age thing, so I’m older and more mature. I’m a voice of
reason a lot of times. I think most of the time I’m the one calling people,
“Okay, we have to be in the lobby at 9:30.” Things like that. I think from
being gay—I hate to sound stereotypical, but I feel like it brings a queer eye
to the group. They always ask me, “Should I wear this?” There for a while when
we started I was kind of the stylist just because there wasn’t the money to go
around so I would go and buy stuff at Nordstrom and just return it after
our photo shoot.
Nathaniel: We all have different dynamics with how we relate
to each other. I would say maybe Nicky would ask me for advice sometimes. Like,
if he had some issues he wanted to talk to management about he might send me
the e-mail and say, “Hey, do you think this is cool?” We’re supportive that way
with each other for sure.
Towleroad: The old joke is that absolutely every boy band has one gay
Nathaniel: [Laughs] Some have two!
V Factory (L to R): Jared Murillo, Wesley Quinn, Nathaniel Flatt, Nicky Teti & Asher Book. Photo by Joe Magnani. Videos here.
Towleroad: —right, and the most famous one to come out was
Lance Bass, though he came out after the group was over. Did his coming out
have any impact on you?
Nathaniel: I had heard that through the grapevine, really, so
I wasn’t really surprised by it. I guess I thought…I’ve also heard crazy
stories about his record label buying him a girlfriend to just have around at
parties and stuff like that, so I would think, “Wow, that must’ve been so hard
living that persona for years at the height of their career.” Being so
ungenuine like that must have been very difficult and hard…and something I would
have no interest in doing.
I know gay people that are in the public eye that are
uncomfortable with that and by no means do I think that they are cowardly by
not choosing to talk about it, it’s just something that I think should be said
for me personally. When we first started we had a meeting with our publicist,
not just about me, and we addressed the gay thing and even then I wasn’t as
comfortable with it as I am now. I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds about
it. Maybe then, let’s say you approached me with this interview, it would’ve
been, “Oh, no, thanks, that’s not for me.” I just feel like I want other people
to live an authentic lifestyle and to promote change in the country, so I feel like
I need to do that by example. But you know, everybody blossoms in different
ways. I’m sure there’s other things I could be doing that I’m not comfortable
doing yet. But being honest about my sexuality is something I’m definitely
Towleroad: Does this mean you’re against outing?
Nathaniel: I mean, I don’t want to generalize like that. Did you see Outrage? I
saw [the director] interviewed and I definitely see his perspective where he’s
saying that he’s outing hypocrites. So, you know, hey, if you’re voting for
this or standing for something but you’re not leading that lifestyle at home or
behind closed doors, maybe that
deserves to be brought to the attention of the people that are electing you to
office. But I don’t know. Some
people just are private. Where does the line draw? I might
be gay, but does that mean that I feel comfortable talking about my
relationships or how many people I’ve slept with? Being in the public eye, you
expect a certain amount of intrusion, but I don’t know where the line is,
what’s too much.
Towleroad: Just kidding, but is it fair to say you’ve
encountered lots of performers whose fans would be shocked to know they’re
Nathaniel: I’m kind of a homebody, so I’m not out
at the parties and I don’t know all these celebrities, but I would say sure,
there’s people I know that people would be surprised.
Towleroad: Do you have any gay role models?
Nathaniel: I really think it’s great how Ellen can be funny
and everyone loves her but she still has a social agenda, too, and doesn’t hide
the fact that she’s gay or that she opposes Proposition 8. I think it’s great
that she has done that kind of stuff in a tasteful manner so it’s not like
she’s cramming it down your throat. I never wanted to be an artist that bases
their identity on their sexuality, you know what I’m saying? But, I mean, that’s
something that is a part of me just like my arm is so I can’t deny it. I know
in this day and age, that’s the kinda stuff that’s gonna sell the magazines,
so that’s what people are interested. Hopefully by one more person coming
out or being gay from the beginning—there doesn’t need to be a coming out—it’s
not really a story. I sleep with men, just like you or whoever sleeps with women.
We all do it. I think that maybe by one more person not bringing attention to
it or making it a big deal, it may be one more gay person in Hollywood that some
kid in Wyoming can see on the television who is gay but is not crazy.
Towleroad: Aside from being a role model, you’ve also done lots of actual modeling—do you consider yourself a model?
Nathaniel: No, I don’t. Models are tall. [Laughs] There’s so many things I’ve missed out on because I’m two inches too short. That’s really just something I’ve done along the way to pay the bills, because it’s not really that fun to me. I don’t enjoy it. It’s really rather boring, and usually the other people aren’t that interesting to talk to. It’s not a safe game to identify yourself with your appearance, the way you look, because that’s fleeting so it’s not going to be around for long. When you go to castings and you’re sitting there and there’s like 30 beautiful people in a room staring at the wall, I feel very uncomfortable. And I also feel like the shortest person there.
Towleroad: Do you follow the gossip blogs?
Nathaniel: I definitely have been a pretty adamant follower
of Perez and it kind of feels like an addiction that I’m trying to kick. I
don’t always agree with what he’s saying. I literally have just gone there for news, for what’s
going on, because I do appreciate a blog that is maybe telling it like it is. I
think in this day and age where the Internet has made things so much more
accessible, I feel like we see through the B.S. of polished news stations—I
don’t believe half the stuff that comes from the mainstream media anyway. Whether
it’s Perez or someone, I definitely think [blogs like his have] a place and I
think that is kind of what the media is coming to. I don’t even know how to
describe it, but I feel like our culture is in transition in so many areas. I
think the media is one.
Towleroad: Is music another?
Nathaniel: Music is one. Record labels haven’t exactly
figured out how they make money on their artists. We’re all just trying to just
figure it out.
Nathaniel said Barbara Walters wasn't knocking down his door for an interview. She should be. Photo from here.
Towleroad: Do you think V Factory’s fans realize you’re gay?
Nathaniel: Wes actually said something like that to me the other day. I can’t
even remember what the situation was, but…I can speak from what I notice. I think that for the most part we have a younger, female fanbase and they are
really interested in young, strapping boys and I don’t think that I give off
that energy so I don’t find them drawn to me. When we’re signing people’s
autographs, they’re always liking Asher and Wesley because I feel like they’re the two that
promote the most, emanate the most sexual, young-boy energy. And so I don’t feel
that, “Oh, wow, I’m ugly!” or “not good!” I think that they can just tell. I
think that they can just tell that I’m not interested. Now the moms—that’s
different. They like me! [Laughs]
I’m perfectly fine with them knowing that. I don’t
think that that hurts our fanbase; if I’m gay and they can’t date me, there’s
four other guys that they can choose from. I feel that that maybe even widens
our audience. It maybe gives us a little more credibility because we’re not the
idea of what people think of as a boy band. We’re not trying to be something
that we’re not. I think that maybe would draw a maybe more adult audience, a
more refined taste. I think our music is great anyway. I wanna have validity
Towleroad: Your fanbase is such that you’re doing lots of
teen-magazine interviews. Are you often asked the dreaded questions about
girls, and how do you react?
Nathaniel: I never wanted to lie about it, so when I tell my
first-date story or my favorite place to take someone on a date, it’s the same
regardless. No teen magazine has ever asked me, “Do you date boys?” so I never
felt obligated to bring it up. But that’s why I was really excited that you
even asked me to do this because, I mean, I would love to talk about it but I
don’t feel that [teen magazines are] the platform to bring it up.
Towleroad: What do you think of the teen purity-ring craze?
Nathaniel: I’m not a teen, so I don’t know what the vibe is
among them, but…the Jonas Brothers have them, right? If they feel socially compelled to bring that up, I feel like
that’s not really different than the things I’m wanting to spread. I just want
people to accept me and appreciate my beliefs whether they’re different from
theirs. I respect them for whatever they wanna do.
Beach boy. Photo by Joe Magnani.
Towleroad: You said girls naturally assume you’re not
available to them. Is it getting to the point where teen girls can idolize a
performer who’s openly gay and fantasize about them in the same way they do
with straight or supposedly straight stars?
Nathaniel: I mean, maybe? I definitely know girls that have
approached me, that being gay doesn’t matter to them; that was a barrier they
were interested in crossing. [Laughs] I would like to think that they respect
the artist. I’m sure everyone knew Boy George was gay or Freddie Mercury, but
you saw the music or the performance or the personality.
Nathaniel: Oh, exactly! I know him, actually. He’s like the most freaking
talented singer I’ve ever met in my entire life. I saw something today that Gene Simmons said it was the
biggest mistake he could ever make and I feel like that is just an old-school
mentality. He’s operating on the assumption that people aren’t gonna respect
that or relate to it in Milwaukee. I think Adam is such an unbelievable talent
that that’s not really why you’re buying his record; it’s because of his
Towleroad: And Adam was a person who has been himself almost
from the very beginning. He was a little reticent to acknowledge he is gay while he was still on
American Idol, but immediately afterward he put the pink elephant in the room
out of its misery.
Nathaniel: I followed the show with him in it. I didn’t talk
to him about it, but I knew that he’s comfortable with himself and I knew that
was something we would not not address.
Towleroad: How did you celebrate Pride?
Nathaniel: For Los Angeles Pride we were not in town; I was
somewhere performing. But actually we just performed at San Franciso Pride. I was really excited to do that. We performed for 92.7, their radio station in San Francisco that plays a lot of
dance music and that's actually playing “Lovestruck.” We performed on their
stage on 16th and Market. That was a lot of fun! And I actually knew three or
four random people that happened to be in the city at the same time, so I just
hung out with them afterwards.
Working it on 92.7's stage at San Francisco Pride. Image from here.
Towleroad: I noticed you Tweeted, “Pornstars are not my
style.” What, pray tell, was that all about?
Nathaniel: [Laughs] Oh! I met my first pornstar that night.
I’d never really met one or talked to one and he was rather interesting…at the
beginning. And then it got a little strange. I was like, “Now I understand why
you’re a pornstar.” [Laughs]
V Factory at San Francisco Pride.
Towleroad: Are you seeing anyone?
Nathaniel: I am, yes.
Nathaniel: He…doesn’t understand it. [Laughs] At all. I don’t
think. It’s good to have that separation from the industry and then be home
with someone who doesn’t really get it and has no interest in anyone famous or
anything in that kind of lifestyle. So it’s great. [To boyfriend] He’s asking
me about you. Did you want to promote anything? [Laughs] See? He can’t even
Towleroad: It’s probably good not to have someone who’s a
huge fan as your boyfriend.
Towleroad: But I have to break out a teen-mag question here:
Would you ever date a fan?
Nathaniel: [Laughs] You’re asking it in a completely
different way this time! You know what, I don’t know just because I don’t want
to rule out anything, but I think that would be a little strange to come home
and your picture’s on the wall. But hopefully we’re gonna be big enough
anyway that everyone will be a fan of ours anyway, so I won't be able to avoid it.