It’s a warm September day from coast to coast but singer Kimberley Locke is feeling a bit under the weather. Stricken with a cough, Locke is feeling a bit frazzled and distracted. Despite her condition, she politely and warmly engages in conversation, courteously making small talk to get things going.

But that’s part of the appeal of this Hartsville, Tenn., native. She’s always been one to push through even during tough times, as evident from her days on the second season of the reality-TV singing competition “American Idol.”

Surviving weeks of eliminations and harsh critiques from judges like the notorious Simon Cowell and wowing fans across the nation, Locke made it all the way to the final three before being beaten out by fellow contestants Clay Aiken and winner Ruben Studdard.

Pride: Kimberley Locke loves the boys

Kimberley Locke
Saturday, Oct. 9, 8:15 p.m.
Coca-Cola Stage, Piedmont Park

“As far as I was concerned I was a winner. Making it to the end of the show, that was amazing for me,” Locke says. “And I don’t think that I have any less of a career because I didn’t win.”

That kind of attitude and perseverance helped Locke to secure a deal with Curb records after the show was wrapped, releasing three albums including “One Love” in 2004 and “Based On A True Story” in 2007. After parting ways with Curb in 2009, Locke was picked to be the first artist to sign to Randy Jackson’s label, Dream Merchant 21, releasing the single “Strobelight” back in April.

Besides music, Locke also ventured into the world of modeling, representing brands such as Lane Bryant and Seven7 Jeans.

“When you come off of ‘American Idol,’ you have to stay open to the possibilities because opportunities are coming from every direction and sometimes they’re coming from every direction except from the music area. So you have to be open to saying, okay if modeling comes along before singing then I’m going to take that because at the end of the day they all ultimately feed the purpose of what you want to do,” she says.

Taking a small break from singing and modeling, Locke made a return to reality TV back in 2007 on season five of “Celebrity Fit Club,” a season that was rife with drama thanks to fellow cast mate Dustin Diamond, and also the place where she met her former boyfriend, Fit Club panelist and trainer, Harvey Walden IV.

“‘Celebrity Fit Club’ was full of drama. But I look at ‘Celebrity Fit Club’ as another show that changed my life. I never really thought about my weight until after ‘Idol.’ Once I got off of ‘Idol’ everybody was talking about it,” she says. “So when I got approached about the show I wanted to make sure that it was something that I was ready to do and that I was doing it for the right reasons.”

From ‘Idol’ to Prides

While conversation of her “Idol” and “Fit Club” days keeps Locke well enough engaged, she instantly perks up once the conversation shifts towards one of her favorite topics; her gay fans.

Locke has happily been at the beck and call of her gay fans ever since she walked off the stage of “American Idol,” regularly appearing at Pride festivals across the country.

“Once the show was over, my first two years of working I did every gay Pride across the country. I was so tired. The gays wore me out,” she says.

“It was the most fun experience of my life going across the country and seeing thousands and thousands of gay men who loved me. It was amazing and I’m still doing it,” Locke gushes.

Having spent so much time showing support for her gay fans, Locke was humbly reminded of just how much her gay fans adore her as well when at this year’s Seattle Pride Festival there was a Kimberley Locke drag show held in her honor.

“Listen, you know you’ve made it when somebody does a drag show and it’s all about you. It was just one of those moments when I was like, wow, the boys love me and I love the boys.

“Anytime I need to be reminded of who loves me, I go straight to the boys and they definitely lift me up and they constantly remind me of why I love doing what I do,” she says.

Locke readily admits that throughout the years her gay male fans have been at the core of her audience as well as the core of her support system.

“The gay community has really directed my career. The gay community has really embraced me and they constantly remind me that they’re supporting me and they’re loyal,” explains Locke. “I have gay friends all across the country and even overseas I have gay friends.”

‘I know what it’s like’

Locke has also shown her support for the gay community by being an avid HIV/AIDS awareness advocate working with charities and organizations such as Camp Heartland, the Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and YouthAIDS.

As Locke explains, her passion for being both a gay advocate and an HIV/AIDS awareness advocate stem from her own childhood struggles with identity and stigma.

“Growing up in the South, my mother is white, my father is black, so even in the ‘80s racial tension was still a big thing,” Locke admits. “I know what it’s like to be called names. I know what it’s like to be judged. I know what it’s like trying to find your identity and where you fit in and that is similar to the gay communities’ experience. “
With such a strong connection to the gay community it comes as no surprise that Locke will be a headlining performer at Piedmont Park during this year’s Atlanta Pride Festival.

“I think the number one way that I can return the favor [of support] is to just show up,” says Locke.

No stranger to the Seach State’s capital, Locke is excited to be returning to a city that may very well be her home, one day.

“I love Atlanta. I could actually see myself moving to Atlanta and living there and thriving there. What I love about Atlanta is that overall it’s an educated city, it’s a professional city, it’s a fun city, it’s an eclectic city, like you see it all.”

Once Atlanta’s Pride festivities are over, what’s next for the young singer? Of course, returning to her roots in music and TV.

“We’re working on a new single right now,” she says. “I’m also working on a couple of television shows right now. So hopefully next year I’ll be on the TV so guys can see me every day.”

The gay boys will no doubt be listening and watching.


Top photo: Kimberley Locke says growing up biracial gave her insight into the struggle gay people often face. ‘I know what it’s like to be judged,’ she says. ‘I know what it’s like trying to find your identity and where you fit in.’ (Publicity photo)