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Gold, Ari (b. 1977)  
 
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"I'm having a blast being a full time Homofessional Gaylebrity," Ari Gold wrote in The Advocate in 2006. Indeed, the award-winning, openly gay, independent recording artist has fashioned a high-octane career that shows no signs of slowing down.

An Orthodox Jew who was a successful child vocalist, Gold has struggled with his gay identity both within the Jewish community and in the music industry.

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Unusual for his openness in a business hat has not exactly welcomed openly gay performers, Gold has declared, "Labels don't have to define us. They simply describe us--they shouldn't confine us. I for one am proud to be known as a gay artist . . . . I am done with hiding and done with shame in any form."

Born and raised in the Bronx in New York City, Gold's parents both taught in New York City public schools, and both loved show business. Gold calls his parents "show Jews." When Gold was born on February 11, 1977, his birth announcement read like a show bill:

METRO GOLD WINNING PRODUCTIONS

Proudly Present

"Another Smash Hit"

OUR THREE SONS

With the brilliant new star

ARI GOLD

Gold's singing ability was discovered at the age of five when he performed at his brother's bar-mitzvah. In 1983, Gold and his two brothers won first prize in the First Annual Jewish Children's Song Festival, described by Gold as "sort of an 'American Idol' for Orthodox Jews."

At age six, Gold's first job was playing the lead role in a CBS children's record called "Pot Belly Bear," which eventually went platinum. When the record was released, a red-headed boy with freckles smiled on the cover. Gold's agents told him he was "too ethnic" to be on camera. The only on-camera commercial he was cast in came about when an advertising agency wanted an "old world" type for Muller's Egg Noodles.

In 1984, Gold sang back-up for Diana Ross when she needed a children's choir for her Swept Away album. The same year he sang in the "My Buddy" jingle for Jell-O Pudding Pops with Bill Cosby. As a child, he sang over 400 jingles.

When he was eight, Gold did girls' voices for the syndicated cartoon series Jem and the Holograms, which ran from 1985 to 1988. He also recorded a girl's voice for the talking Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. You could dial the Cabbage Patch Kids talking telephone and hear Gold say, "Hi, I'm Sybil Sadie. Want to come play with me?"

Gold attended Yeshiva High School in Manhattan where he tried to downplay his music career. While he knew that girls might think his career interesting, he was afraid that boys might make fun of him, especially for voicing girls.

He tried not to talk about his work at school, and when he went to work he hid his yarmulke. It seemed ironic to Gold even then that he was hiding two essential aspects of his identity in an effort to be as "all-American" as he could at work and in school.

Perhaps presaging his desire to have a career as a solo singer, Gold recorded his first demo at age 12. By age 14, he was writing his own songs. One of the first songs he wrote is called "Experienced Girl," about an ex-girlfriend, who recently asked Gold to sing another of his songs, "Bashert (Meant to Be)," from his 2004 album, Space Under Sun, at her traditional Jewish wedding to another woman. "That's right," Gold says. "My first girlfriend turned out to be a lesbian."

In high school, Gold had two girlfriends, which he thought kept him safe from being outed as a "homo." He had a lot to deal with for a teenager: his status as a minor celebrity, the complexities of Orthodox Judaism, and his closeted sexuality. Gold says, "I can joke about it now, but at the time I felt quite tortured and felt that if anyone found out my secret of being gay I would be ex-communicated from my friends, my school, my community, and my family."

Gold came out to his best friend at Yeshiva High School when he was sixteen. Two years later, he came out to his family in an 18-page letter. Gold says his family's reaction was "fairly accepting," but along with coming out he stopped being observant. "My Mom was proud of me because she thought it wasn't healthy to keep a secret like that," Gold says, "but when I stopped being religious, that was a lot more difficult for them."

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Ari Gold in 2007. Photograph by David Shankbone.
  
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