In an era of social media, relatability and self-branding, Todrick Hall just wants us to be ourselves.
Hall is a musician, actor, dancer, director and choreographer who visited Pomona College March 12 to promote his newest album “Forbidden” and discuss his place in the crosshairs of art and the internet.
Hall is well-known for his eponymous YouTube channel (which currently boasts three million subscribers), his appearance as a finalist on the ninth season of American Idol and his role as a judge on television game show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
The Pomona event, titled “Todrick Hall: Behind the Curtain,” began with a performance by Hall and his backup dancers. It included a medley of remixed Disney classics — like “Tale As Old As Time” and “A Whole New World” — over throwback 90s hits by artists like Mariah Carey, Ginuwine and Montell Jordan. Hall also performed singles off his newest albums “Straight Outta Oz” and “Forbidden.”
Students were animated during the show, cheering and clapping along to Hall’s intricate beats and high energy.
“I respect him so much as a performer,” said Yan Ru Tan, a Pomona exchange student from Singapore. “He has so much energy and so much positivity; he just exudes it and it becomes contagious.”
Following the performance, Hall answered questions and facilitated a discussion about his career, his thoughts on the future and his advice for students. His thoughts were underscored by a common theme — accepting oneself and resisting the urge to compare oneself to others.
When an attendee asked him about self-comparison, Hall said, “I think that is such an important thing to talk about, because you see people on Instagram, at the mall, at your church, at your job and you feel like they have all these things — happiness, love, money. But everyone has skeletons in their closet, and people are going to close that closet and present the best versions of themselves.”
Hall continued his discussion of envy, delving into his personal history. Growing up in Plainview, Texas, Hall said he lacked accessibility to the arts. He said his theatrical videos create accessibility for people who might yearn for artistic exposure.
“Sometimes you can only do what you’re exposed to,” Hall said. “I grew up in a small town. We didn’t have theater, there was no dance studio, nothing toured through there, and this was before the internet. I had to clutch at straws to find anything that was even close to musical theater.”
Hall said he thinks exposing children and young people to classic musicals is important.
“For kids who are sitting at home and who don’t have a theater program, who don’t have a music program, that can’t go to a Broadway show, it’s really important for them to know that [theater] exists,” he said. “They can have it, too.”
He said he would have done anything to get to Broadway earlier in his life, but now he’s gained perspective on “making it.”
“[A Broadway performer’s] passion isn’t any more than someone who’s giving all they’ve got on their local community stage,” he said. “That’s true of any profession, art or craft.”
Students appreciated Hall’s positivity.
“He only has nice things to say about people. He doesn’t try to tear anybody down,” Tan said.
Olivia Silva SC ’21 agreed.
“He’s just so confident and happy with himself,” she said. “That’s important for people to see, especially in this world we live in now, where it’s easy to compare and judge yourself. He sends a positive message I wish everyone could hear.”