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Michael Miguel on getting kicked out of his family home, his recovery, and brand new music

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In true bilingual Gemini fashion, singer Michael Miguel embodies two sides: his Puerto Rican roots and Colombian roots, with playlists that reflect vulnerability and high-spiritedness, blending R&B and hip-hop in English and Spanish.

There’s the outed boy who was unexpectedly kicked out from his homophobic Jehovah’s Witness family home and ended up at the mercy of a sex trafficker. Then there’s the man who survived it all and turned what was less than nothing into a musical career, including a stint on Broadway, opening for Paulina Rubio in concert, and crafting tracks like “Aguardiente,” “Bailalo,” and “Boys and Barbies,” with the latter serenading a feature film. Plus, he’s releasing his new song, “Boys and Barbies Pt 2.”

There’s addiction with recovery. Pain with hope. Obstacles and fight. Of course, there’s only Michael Miguel at the end of each track. So.Gay sat down with the proudly gay 29-year-old Latin artist to get the full scoop. 

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Michael Miguel

So.Gay: What’s your first memory of singing? 

Michael Miguel: At around two years old, my family and I went to a restaurant called Tequila Sunrise in Queens. A mariachi band played an Alejandro Fernandez song that I knew by heart. I ran up to the band, asked for the mic, and started singing.

My dad told my mom we needed to get into this right away. My mother is very religious, and the church doesn’t allow followers to pursue that as a career. You’re not supposed to associate with anyone who isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness. So there were many little inklings of me almost pursuing a talent and not being allowed to do it.

SG: How did you find the freedom to pursue music professionally? 

MM: It wasn’t until I got kicked out of the house for being gay at 19. My family had moved from New York to Miami. 

SG: What made you come out to your parents? 

MM: Well, I was more found out than came out. I’m a terrible liar; I mean, you can just see it on my face. And my sister found the Grindr app while looking through my phone. 

SG: Wait, why didn’t you have a password! 

MM: I wasn’t someone who tried to hide things. I also wasn’t expecting my sister to go through my phone. I was just excited that there was an app showing me other gays.

SG: Were you using it to hook up with other guys or more about self-discovery? 

MM: I met up with a boy, and we didn’t even have sex; I thought it was just an app to meet other gays. And through him, I met another guy renting out a room, and I thought, ‘Oh yeah, maybe one day I’ll leave my house.’ So once my sister went on Grindr and saw those messages and told my mom, they said I needed to leave the house. 

I secretly wanted to get kicked out because I felt so confined. After that, I had to find work and survive without higher education, as it’s frowned upon for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

SG: So this was kind of like how Mormons get excommunicated when not following the rules? I have this in my mind from binging the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City

MM: Exactly! I’m the youngest of thirteen siblings, and my entire family, who I grew up with, disowned me from one day to the next for being gay. At this point, I believed in my singing but didn’t think it was possible. I ended up dating another man who turned out to be a sex trafficker. 

SG: Wait! Stop; you need to bridge these details. How does one end up dating a sex trafficker? 

MM: Well, you don’t look for it, right? I met this really sweet guy. He was a much older white man who knew my story, that I didn’t have anyone. And there would be nobody looking for me. He introduced me to drugs. And it was horrible, and I was stuck in Alabama for a few months.

I was too naive to notice all the details. I was desperate for family and love because I didn’t have that. I almost died, and a lot of horrible things happened in those few months. He didn’t let me have a phone, but I managed to connect with a friend on Facebook, who bought me a plane ticket to get out. I came back to Miami. My father had left when I was really young, but my mom called him when I returned after ten years. They sent me to Jersey, where I saw my dad, and he put me in rehab. He’s like my best friend now.

SG: OK, no words… So, needless to say, your music channels a lot of emotion and experiences. Has being an artist and working on music helped you be so open and vulnerable?  

MM: Yeah, you know, being a queer person of color from a conservative religion… we get shunned, shamed, and guilted. It’s no wonder our communities are suffering from addiction and other insane hardships.  I remember literally, as a child, trying to mimic the footsteps of other men. I’m very grateful for [who I am] and all I have now. 

SG: And we can’t wait for more music to come. 

You can listen to Michael Miguel on Spotify and Apple Music, and follow him on Instagram here.

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Michael Miguel

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