The “reality” in most TV competitions — “American Idol,” “The X Factor,” “Dancing with the Stars” — is built on manufactured drama and scripted images. It’s ironic, then, that Houston singer Sarah Golden says “The Voice” finally allowed her to show her true self to the world.
“I’ve always been told that although I had talent, my looks were ‘not marketable,’” Golden says. “Years of thinking my talent wasn’t enough because I wasn’t the total package really made me second-guess myself and my performances a lot. I feel revitalized as a performer and more passionate about the music I sing now than I’ve ever been.”
Golden, who is openly gay, has spent several years performing through Houston and was urged to give “The Voice” a shot by fans and friends. (Her brother plays lap steel for Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys.) Despite “zero expectations,” she moved past the cattle calls into a private audition. She then pushed through more than 10 rounds in Los Angeles before impressing with a gritty take on Lady Gaga’s “You and I” during the televised blind auditions. Judges Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton spun their chairs around, and Golden chose Team Cee Lo earlier this year. (She calls him “a hilarious pervert.”)
“Each time I was given the nod, I was fighting the urge to think that this was really it. This was the opportunity I had been waiting for,” she says. “I was really trying not to get my hopes up – until I made it to the blind auditions. It was only at that moment that I felt I was truly being given a fair chance. I was determined to give it all I had from that moment on.”
She auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” a few years ago, making it to the top 150 before getting cut. She then tried “Idol,” and the reality of the music industry hit hard.
“I asked if I could sing one more song, to which they responded, ‘Look, we get that you can sing, but you won’t make it on this show looking like that.’ I hated reality TV shows after that,” she says.
“The Voice” finally gave Golden, well, a voice. She made it to the battle rounds, where she lost to eventual runner-up Juliet Simms. (An honorable defeat.) She’s working on material with Hoja Lopez, a fellow Houstonian (and Pride Superstar 2009 runner-up) who made it to the blind auditions. A new Golden EP, “Sessions,” was recently issued, and her sophomore album is due in the fall. There are also plans for a national tour.
The experience has substantially increased her fanbase, her commercial appeal and her overall confidence.
“It wasn’t necessarily a political agenda, but I explained my past and my desire to just be myself and sing, like I’ve always wanted,” she says. “It isn’t a gay or straight thing, but I was not prepared to change for anyone, and I don’t think anyone else should, either.”
Expect that message to ring loud and clear when Golden takes the stage Saturday at the Pride Houston Festival, another homecoming for a singer who finally, and deservedly, feels at home.
“It’s an honor to play for my community,” she says. “I don’t have to censor myself. I can dress however the hell I’m comfortable. I am accepted for who I am, and I am respected for being myself.
“Sure, I may have to see all of my exes in one place at the same time, but it’s a privilege to perform for my family.”
See a list of Pride week events HERE.
With: Jenna Drey, the Sexual Side Effects and more
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pride Houston Festival, in Montrose, south of Westheimer along Commonwealth and Yoakum
Admission: Free; pridehouston.org