Singer David Hernandez Talks Getting Naked in Vegas (in a Musical)

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday September 19, 2021
Originally published on September 14, 2021

David Hernandez
David Hernandez  

Singer David Hernandez had a rocky journey on "American Idol" in 2008. Early on he was favored by many to take it to the finals, but he was the first of the final twelve to be cut. Why he was cut so quickly didn't have that much to do with his vocal abilities, but with the news that broke that he had worked as a stripper at a gay club in Phoenix, Arizona before auditioning for the series. Today such news would be likely shrugged off, but 13 years ago it led to Hernandez's very public shaming.

Hernandez moved on from the experience and, as ScreenRant points out, "David's loss on the reality series was only the beginning of his path toward owning his identity and finding success in the music industry."

That road has seen him touring in numerous concert tours and creating his own music. He also looked inward to find ways to express his identity in his music. In 2011 he released an EP titled "I Am Who I Am." Then, in 2016, David released a new song, "Beautiful," which was utilized as a vehicle for the star to come out as a gay man. He continued to release new music, including an album, "Kingdom: A Mixtape," in 2018, and additional singles.

David Hernandez in a publicity photo for "Naked Boys Singing"
David Hernandez in a publicity photo for "Naked Boys Singing"  (Source: Instagram)

He is also joined in the Vegas edition of "Naked Boys Singing" by actor Chris Salvatore (from "Eating Out"), and "America's Got Talent" finalist Marcus Terell, Vegas headliner Louis D'Aprile, and "Going Down in LA-LA Land's" Matthew Ludwinski.

"In the vein of vaudeville and high-camp musical theater, 'Naked Boys Singing!' features a cast of five handsome 'boys' with gorgeous voices, hilarious comedic timing, and no clothing!" reads a press release. The show was created in 1998 by Robert Schrock and a team of 12 writers. It premiered in Los Angeles before New York and the world. The musical was initially marketed to gay men, but its fan base grew to a wide and diverse audience. It opened in New York City in 2000, where it continues its record-breaking off-Broadway run. The New York Daily News calls "Naked Boys Singing!" "a hit with gays, straights and everyone in between". The film adaptation of "Naked Boys Singing!" was released in 2007.

The Las Vegas production of "Naked Boys Singing!," starring David Hernandez and Chris Salvatore, begins its 11-week residency on Wednesday, September 15th, with performances running through November 28th, 2021. For more information, follow this link.

"I'm really stoked to be in the show and back in my birthday suit," Hernadez said in a release. " 'Naked Boys Singing!' is hilarious, empowering and incorporates my favorite aspects of life: music and nudity!"

EDGE spoke to Hernandez about his "Naked Boys Singing!" stage debut.

David Hernandez
David Hernandez  

EDGE: Had you heard of the show before being asked to be a part of it?

David Hernandez: Actually, I had heard of the show. I saw it in Puerto Vallarta a few years ago. I loved it and it was hilarious. I remember the owner of the club saying to me, "You should come and do this show." Great offer, but I live in Los Angeles, and so it just didn't make sense for me at the time. I am very happy that the opportunity knocked on my door again.

EDGE: Tell us about the show?

David Hernandez: I think what people will be surprised at learning is that it's really less sexual and more comedic. It's really about empowerment and just being comfortable in your own skin, but we are naked and singing. It's just hilarious. I was surprised that it was just funny, super funny.

EDGE: How did you feel performing naked?

David Hernandez: I am definitely more comfortable now than ever in my own skin. Back in the day, when I was a male stripper, I really had no qualms about being naked. That was before I felt shamed for being a male dancer or for being gay. I didn't really have any kind of shame associated with it until after I was on "American Idol" The media dragged me for being a male dancer and shamed me for all those things that I did. It took several years to really build up my confidence again. Finally, I'm at that point where I really just don't mind being naked. It's my body, and I love it. I feel super comfortable and empowered by being able to stand up and say, "This is me and I am nude. Guess what? You shamed me for being a stripper and for being gay — now I'm all those things, and I'm on stage, and I'm getting paid to do it."

David Hernandez
David Hernandez  (Source: Instagram)

EDGE: What advice do you have for those who do have body image issues?

David Hernandez: Therapy! I would suggest for anyone to go to therapy and iron out their issue. We all feel self-conscious about our bodies in some way, but it's always for different reasons. The only advice I could really give is that you need to be happy with yourself and not compare your body to other people. Your body is so unique and beautiful.

For me, I've got to work a little bit harder to stay in shape. I'm in my 30s now, and while I feel like I look great, like there's certain things that I just can't do anymore, like bingeing on carbs or drink a lot of alcohol and expect to bounce back in my training session the next morning. It takes a little bit longer now. It also takes more of a conscious effort to maintain what I feel my body should look like. I can only recommend just do what makes you feel good.

EDGE: You are already in great shape, so does your workout regime and eating habits change knowing that you will be performing naked?

David Hernandez: I was talking to my trainer today, and I'm being put in touch with a nutritionist that lives in Vegas. I need to figure out if I want to do intermittent fasting, or how I want to do my meals during the day. I know it's not healthy mentally or physically for me to starve myself. I absolutely refuse to do that. I'm trying to figure the right plan for me, and how it will work for the next three months of the show. I think it's really important for me to be of healthy mind, body, and spirit while still looking my best.

David Hernandez
David Hernandez  

EDGE: Do you have a favorite song to sing from the show?

David Hernandez: I do! It's "Nothing on but the Radio." It is a cool song because it really goes with my backstory about being a stripper. When the news broke about me being a former stripper, everyone thought it was going to ruin my career. "Nothing on but the Radio" talks about Marilyn Monroe and a few other celebrities that had exposed themselves or been close to it. Many initially thought it was going to tank their careers, when it actually catapulted their careers.

So, it's definitely a song that I can relate to. In the beginning of the song, there's these voicemails from the character's friends and family asking them, "What are you doing? You're ruining your career. Why would you not tell me this was going to come out?" I remember getting those similar phone calls, text messages, and DMs. I don't know anybody else that has that has come out of the ashes and risen like a phoenix the way that I have, because if there was a poster child for shame back then, before shame was even a word, it was me. I was literally dragged through the mud by Perez Hilton, Entertainment Weekly, and All Access Hollywood. They went to my home town, Phoenix, Arizona, and interviewed the manager at the strip club that I danced at and paid him $250 to spill the tea about me. It was devastating, because I was still on "American Idol." I was literally at the top of the headlines. Imagine being 24 years old and having a major opportunity, and then, when the news breaks, I was sent home the next week. Literally nobody voted for me, because they don't want their "American Idol" to be a gay stripper.

EDGE: Since there will also be some dancing involved in the show, do you consider yourself a dancer too?

David Hernandez: I just shot a music video with my good friend, Benji Schwimmer, who was the winner of "So You Think You Can Dance." He taught me the choreography for the video in a couple of days. He told me that I am a dancer, and I can move. I don't consider myself a dancer. A dancer is someone who has trained for years. I supposed if I trained to dance like I've trained to sing, then only would I consider myself a dancer. With that said, I can move, but that's all.

David Hernandez
David Hernandez  (Source: Instagram)

EDGE: As an artist, what do you expect to take away from this experience?

David Hernandez: Well, it's a highly reputable show. It's been around for 20-plus years. The score is amazing. My good friend, Bruce Vilanch, had a part in writing it. I just think that it's a way for me to express myself and take back the narrative that was created for me 14 years ago. I needed to take back my story, and just basically empower myself again. I also think it's important to for gay men, specifically, that get so much crap from the rest of the world for showing our asses or being naked in pictures. Meanwhile, you have people like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion scissoring on camera and talking about their wet vajs, and we can't post an ass shot without getting shamed for it. Both Chris Salvatore and Marcus Terell talked about received a lot of shame for being part of this show. So, while some things have changed, there is still so much work to be done.

EDGE: Back in May, you released your new single "ily." Does this mean there is a new album in the works?

David Hernandez: I am working on it right now. I think it's going to be released probably after this contract with "Naked Boys." I'm thinking sometime in the Spring. I really need to focus my time and attention on this show, and I may have another Vegas residency happening soon. That's still in the works. Plus, I'm not done with the album, and I would like to take my time on it. It will be my first big release since 2018. I'm really, really stoked about it. I'm working with my good friend, Trent Park, and I am writing and recording all the music on my own, for the first time ever.

EDGE: What's next for you?

David Hernandez: I hope this will lead to more theater opportunities. My favorite show is "Hamilton." I've been trying to manifest that for several years. My friend Darnell is currently in the touring cast now. I've had so many people reach out since I booked "Naked Boys" to say, "You'd be amazing in 'Hamilton,' and also we didn't know you did theater." Most people don't know I started off in musical theater when I was a kid. I just hope that this leads to more opportunities, and maybe an extension with "Naked Boys" in Vegas.

The Las Vegas edition of "Naked Boys Singing!" runs Wednesday, September 15th through November 28th 2021. For more information, follow this link.

Watch David Hernandez's video for "ily":