September 2017 Web Exclusive.
Energetic. Dynamic. Electrifying. These are just a few words used to describe LGBTQ dance/pop musician Joey Suarez. A resident of San Antonio, Texas, Suarez spends most of his time juggling his ventures which range from a new fashion line, Ravers Fantasy to acting – and, of course, his music.
Although his future is bright, the road he traveled had some dark points. And Suarez has stepped forward to share his story of abuse and success.
A Bleak Beginning
Despite coming from a family of 12 siblings, Suarez was a sex slave to his grandfather for six years in his own home. This occurred shortly after his biological father was convicted of raping his two older sisters.
“It’s sad to start with, but outside myself, 9 out of the 12 of us have experienced some sort of sexual abuse in our past,” Suarez said. “You’d think a family so large would be distant but we’re actually closer than most small families. It’s no mystery what has brought my abnormally large family together.”
Suarez was 15-years-old when he opened up about being abused. This abuse contributed greatly towards his coming out as a gay man.
“To my surprise, this experience helped heal my future relationship with my mother who did not agree with my gay lifestyle, believing it was residual of my abuse,” he explained. “It gave us a common ground of experience to build off of. In my mom’s words, she believes God gave us the chance to heal one another.”
These experiences could have derailed his dreams and ambitions, but instead, Suarez recalls more highs than lows in his childhood.
Stepping into the Spotlight
“I was very fixated on the arts, and as a child, my rehearsals and performances gave me refuge. It was like being ‘high’ on life or ‘high’ on music,” he said. “In hindsight, I know it was the few times I felt safe.”
It was about that time that Suarez began to dabble in acting. He obtained his first paid role at Six Flags Fiesta Texas which was quickly followed by multiple paid roles at community theatres.
“Upon continuing my professional stage career, I stumbled into some photographers who shot the shows. By the time I was 18, I had a beautiful portfolio which I was able to use to book modeling gigs in Los Angeles and New York.”
Due to the social media success of these photoshoots, Suarez went on to work with major clients including Sony, Marvel, Dreamworks, The Next Gay Thing, HorniUnderwear and TaniUSA. Although modeling and acting play an important role in Suarez’s life, his heart lies in creating music.
“I wrote my first song when I was 6 and have not heard the last of it from my family, who to this day sing it to annoy me,” he admits.
The first real song that Suarez remembers writing was composed shortly after experiencing the loss of his beloved grandmother, who passed away from stomach cancer.
“The experience of watching such a beautiful, strong, Hispanic woman just crumble under her cancer was heartbreaking. I didn’t want to remember her that way,” he said. “So I wrote a song called ‘Memories.’ It talks about how we should remember each other for the love and memories we’ve created together. I know it’s how she would have wanted me to remember her rather than in a hospital. That’s truly when I began writing music.”
Today, Suarez draws influence from his family, all of whom are blessed with musical gifts. As with most large families, they are very competitive, so each family member plays a different instrument as a means of limiting that rivalry.
“By the time it fell to me to choose an instrument, the only thing left with singing,” he said. “Which, for a Mormon child, means you’re to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Unfortunately my voice wasn’t meant to blend with others.”
To the surprise of his fans, Suarez is a classically-trained opera/choir singer with more than 10 years of classical vocal training by age 16.
Finding His Voice
“I was so sick of getting criticized in choirs for being ‘too loud’ or ‘not blending’ that I decided to try musical theatre,” he said. “I fell in love. Suddenly all the boring ass rules and criticisms went out the window and I could freely explore my inner urges and talents.”
Suarez didn’t begin to explore pop music until he was 21 years old. Drawing from a wide range of musical influences including Linkin Park, Miley Cyrus and Daft Punk, he has crafted a style of music truly unique to what we currently hear on the radio.
“Personally, I think I learned to operate in crisis for too long. My music was driven by the secrecy of my abuse. Since I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was experiencing, I bottled it up and expressed myself through music,” he said. “More often than not I would ignore my school work, and focus solely on my music. I am sure it seemed impulsive and slightly odd to some people, but for me this was life. It was relief, and it fueled the person and artist I am today.”
And while most musicians tend to hide their sexuality at the beginning of their career for fear of rejection, Suarez consciously decided to flaunt it.
“I lived a life of secrecy from a very young age [and] I was about 14 when I decided secrets weren’t worth it,” he explained. “From then on, I vowed never to lie and never to hide who I was from anyone and most of all, myself.”
The Healing Process
His first two singles, “High in the Sky” and “Love Me Back” have generated almost 135,000 streams collectively on Spotify – not an easy achievement for an independent LGBTQ musician. In the meantime, Suarez is in the studio writing and recording more songs that may become part of a larger project.
However, Suarez maintains that the songwriting process is not easy.
“It’s nothing short of self-mutilation and torture to ones emotions,” he said. “I usually start with the beat, and shy away from words as I am not a very confident lyricist.”
Once he finds a beat that makes him want to dance, he inserts whatever words come to mind until a theme emerges.
“Themes are the worst part, because it’s the moment where you have to be real about where the music is coming from,” he said. “More often than not, I find myself in a dark place where repressed emotions exist. So, I will use this chance to take the music’s dance beat and use it to help me reshape those images, or memories.”
As the music comes to life, the lyrics tend to change from a more negative perspective to a positive one.
“For me this is a part of my healing process as an artist,” he said. “By the time it’s done, I no longer feel pain and those memories now have a new meaning. Something positive or even inspiring.”
In recent months, Suarez has performed at New York City Pride as well as gay pride his hometown of San Antonio. He is scheduled to perform in Coming Out with Pride in Orlando this October.
“Performing in NYC Pride for two years in a row was an absolutely dream come true,” he said. “As a member of the LGBTQ community, I find it important to stand up and speak out loud about what it means to be proud. I do this through my music. Pride has given life to my career by supporting and introducing me to a community that gives me confidence in who I am.”