Todrick Hall is not your average Dorothy, content to follow a monotone yellow brick road. The “Straight Outta Oz” YouTube sensation, now gracing Broadway as Lola in Kinky Boots, is paving his own way to success by building from his many skills as an actor, dancer, singer, director, choreographer, and YouTuber.
If you haven’t had the chance to see Hall rocking the red boots on Broadway, you may have seen him in Broadway’s Memphis or in the 2005 cast of The Color Purple. He has also been a contestant on American Idol and a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. He’s even going on a live tour with “Straight Outta Oz,” which will be in New York City on March 30.
Broadway Style Guide chatted with Hall about his time in the boots, growing up as a theatre kid in the Lonestar State, and how to stay true to yourself in fashion and art.
“I dance to the song ‘Bad 4 Us’ by Super Fruit pretty much every single day, and I make the glam squad dance with me. The character that I play is such a free, fun-loving person and I’ve noticed that the more fun I have in the dressing room before the show, the better my performance is onstage.”
“If you had asked me this last year, I would say that I’m like the modern-day Pee-wee Herman meets Willy Wonka. I love the more crazy and colorful things. But now I love the over-sized hoodies that Rihanna wears and the stuff that Justin Bieber wears. I could live in just his tour merchandise. I like things that are oversized and comfortable. And I think that’s probably largely in part to the fact that I have to wear skin-tight dresses and heels everyday!”
Living in the Lonestar State
“Growing up in Texas was amazing. There was no Internet when I was growing up so I wasn’t exposed to the outside world as much, but I remember my first link into theatre was Disney. On the Disney Channel, they would do the behind-the-scenes look at Beauty and the Beast when it was coming to Broadway. I also remember they did ‘Mickey’s Nutcracker’ as a Disney Channel original special and I watched it and learned all of the songs and all of the choreography and that’s basically how I started giving myself dance classes.”
“It’s changed my life. For someone like me who is a gay, out, African-American artist, sometimes there aren’t roles that people think I’m right for or they haven’t written those roles for me or they don’t exist yet. But if you can look past that and see someone as an artist and have them show you who they really are—not who they presented themselves as for five minutes inside an audition room—it can really change things. And for me, it has opened up a lot of doors because people have been able to see what I’m really capable of by watching my YouTube videos. I don’t think I’d be back on Broadway in this leading role if I had not created YouTube videos; I would probably still be dancing in the ensemble, which I absolutely loved but it would have been difficult for me to break out. Now I have my own voice. I don’t have to ask for permission to be an artist.”
Origins of Oz
“I was going through a really rough time in life dealing with racism and homophobia and even sexism (that I wasn’t dealing with but my friends were) in the industry. And The Wizard of Oz has been my favorite story since I was a child. I even have a full-sleeve tattoo dedicated to the story, and I have a tat that says ‘Made in Oz’ on the back of my neck. I wanted to tell the story of my life, but I wanted to tell that story through the story that I know the best. I didn’t even realize how much my life in certain ways—if you twisted this and changed this—completely parallels to the story of The Wizard of Oz and how I was a kid who wanted to go somewhere else because it looked like the grass was greener and it wasn’t necessarily. Dorothy goes searching for all of these things and finds all of these people that are frantically seeking help for something that they never really needed help finding to begin with. They already had it. And we as human beings do that all the time.”
“The audition process [was my favorite off-camera moment]. People always looked at me as just a dancer. I really went on American Idol not thinking I was going to get that far but because I wanted to prove to people that I can be a singer. But also, in my album ‘Straight Outta Oz,’ I write about Gareth, who was the first person I ever fell in love with. Gareth went with me to my audition and because it was a different time and I wasn’t comfortable with who I was and not ready for the world to know I was a gay man I made him wait outside. But he came to all my auditions with me and he gave me this necklace with a cross on it and I wore it in the audition. Every time I watch that audition, I think of him and remember how much he loved me and was supporting me.”
“I would love to work with Beyoncé again. I would say that the other person I would love to work with is…no I think it’s mostly Beyoncé.”
Self-Care in the Resistance
“Honestly, Kinky Boots has helped me a lot. It’s a constant reminder, eight shows a week, that we should love each other and be kind to our neighbors and help people out where we can. In some strange way, I feel like the new political changes have brought the world together unlike it has ever been during my lifetime. I’ve never seen so many people rally up and fight for things that in some cases are not even causes that directly affect them. So many straight people and so many allies fighting for LGBTQ rights, so many white people or Hispanic people fighting for the Black Lives Matter causes, so many men and children fighting for women’s rights. I love that it’s making us have to get up and fight for something.”