The first time NYC singers Adam Bastien and Jerome Bell performed in public together, they were seen by millions and brought Kelly Clarkson to tears.
“The response has been more than we ever could have imagined,” says Bastien, 35. The Washington Heights resident and his boyfriend, Bell, made it past the blind auditions of “The Voice” last week after Clarkson snatched them up for her team. They were eliminated from "The Voice" during Tuesday’s battle round.
Performing The Spinners’ "Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” under the group name OneUp, Bastien and Bell saw the competition series as a platform to do more than show off their talent.
“Our mission is to present a picture of a love that America hasn’t embraced yet — not only are we a gay couple, but we’re interracial,” says Bell, 36.
The duo says they received an outpouring of support from viewers who’ve described their audition, which aired last week, as a “remarkable moment” for the LGBTQ community. A YouTube video of their performance is nearing 1.5 million views.
“I think there are a lot of kids in America that are still scared to be honest about this part of themselves because they think if they come out they have to be a stereotype,” he adds. “We wanted to show something different.”
Bell and Bastien met on the set of a music video about a year ago, where they were cast as love interests. Both had a similar likes — singing, each other, etc. — and neither pictured the television fast-track to fame in their future.
Singing casually together and, at times, sharing videos to their Instagram page helped chart their course to “The Voice.” They were approached by NBC talent scouts and passed on the opportunity to try out twice before finally taking the network up on an offer to fast-track them to auditions.
“We wanted to show up not only singing the music we love to sing and but to make sure there’s more to it than here’s a gay couple singing together. We wanted to make it deeper than that,” Bell says.
As Bastien and Bell struggled to find acceptance from their own families, they hoped that showing the strength of their relationship publicly might help sway reluctant relatives.
“It was an opportunity to get up on the stage unapologetically and say this is the love that I have and here we are together,” explains Bell, who says his sisters’ opposition had strained their relationship. “You have an opportunity now to accept it or just ignore this huge gesture.”
During their blind audition, Bastien and Bell had the support of dozens of their family members who stepped onto the stage to help them choose from potential mentors Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Blake Shelton, who all turned their chairs.
The duo says they’ve already received fan mail from at least five parents of children who identify as members of the LGBTQ community, thanking them for showing “that families have gone through this and can get through this.”
“That has been the most moving thing,” adds Bell.