Don Lemon has won multiple Emmys for his primetime news anchor position at CNN, and back in 2011 he startled the world with two powerful announcements on air. One, that he was molested as a child, and two, that he is a gay man. The first news anchor to come out on world-wide television caused a sensation. He tells all in his book Transparent, (written a few years ago), a look at all his adversities and triumphs on his way to becoming one of the most successful African-American men on television. We caught up with the affable Mr. Lemon to discuss his life a few years ago, and here’s a look back at what he had to say about his book and his career.
With not much history behind you yet because you are so young, why did you write your book Transparent?
Don Lemon: “The publisher kept approaching me to write a book, and I kept saying no. Justin Bieber wrote a book for Heaven’s sake! He’s just out of the womb. I thought I would try it and write a little inspirational book.”
After all the terrible things that happened to you in your childhood, you remain so positive.
Don Lemon: “You have to do it. When you’re in this business, you get criticism left and right. But to me it’s like water off a duck’s back.”
Why did you come out when you did? Was it the honest thing to do?
Don Lemon: “In the course of writing a memoir, I just didn’t see how I could write about myself and not include that. It would be completely hypocritical, and I abhor hypocrisy. It’s one of the things I insist upon in my work. If you’re going to come on television, don’t espouse one thing in public and then do another behind closed doors. It happens a lot with American figures. So, why would I omit it? That’s who I am. I have gotten my success, in part, by being who I am, which is a gay man. Why would I lie? Why not just admit it? It’s not like it’s a great coming-out book. It’s not a huge revelation.”
Were you out in your daily working life?
Don Lemon: “In the course of my life, I had moved to New York City (from Baton Rouge). I graduated college. I had worked for the local Fox station and I was able to come out in my daily life with whom I chose. It was sort of organic to do it that way.”
You have a positive outlook on life. Has it helped you in your journalism career?
Don Lemon: “You have to. You have to have a sense of humor, you must. It has helped to have a positive outlook. When I came out on CNN, I had been doing serious interviews all day about being gay. Then I went on Joy Behar’s show and she made me laugh. I thanked her for that! You can’t take yourself that seriously.”
Joy Behar is very pro-gay, and she makes it known.
Don Lemon: “Yes, she is. She’s the most pro-gay person you can be! I love Joy. I think she’s a good journalist because she’s NOT a journalist. She’ll ask human questions that every person at home want to hear the answers to themselves. She does great interviews.”
You once hosted the Joy Behar Show and interviewed three transgenders. That was unusual! It brings it to the forefront of America’s consciousness. (With all that has happened lately with Caitlyn Jenner, Lemon seemed ahead of the curve on that topic at the time of this interview.)
Don Lemon: “What an interesting show, huh? This was history. There were gay and transgender people on the show, Chaz Bono, and me! Chaz said we were doing a ‘Transgender 101’ show. Don’t think everybody in America understands about transgenders. You have to give them a 101 course.”
Are you open to being a gay icon to gay youth, and especially black gay youth?
Don Lemon: “No, I’m not hoping to be a gay icon for anyone. That’s not why I did it. I was just being honest and authentic. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that just by saying the words and owning it, I’m an accidental role model. I accept that. If it means by owning it that it helps other youth, then I’m all for it. I dedicated the book to Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who jumped off a bridge for being bullied.”
Your book is called Transparent, but there was nothing in it about your personal life. We want all the juicy gossip!
Don Lemon: “You mean whether I’m dating someone? The book isn’t about that. I guess I’ll have to write another book. I’ve been dating someone for four years. He said, ‘This is about you, honey. It’s your time and it’s about your platform to help young gay people. It’s not about me.’ I’m not hiding it or ashamed of my personal life.”
I was searching through the book wondering where all the juicy gossip was hidden. I was dying of curiosity to find out something revealing and scandalous.
Don Lemon: “Well, there’s not much gossip. My life is pretty boring.”
What would you like our readers to know about you?
Don Lemon: “I’m just a normal guy. There’s no putting on airs with me. I treat everyone with the same respect, from the gardener to the President. I’m very approachable. That’s how my mamma raised me.”
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