For the last 10 years, Cyndi Lauper has made it her mission to educate and entertain the masses for the holidays. With Home for the Holidays, Lauper brings together her superstar friends to help raise money to eradicate homelessness among LGBTQ youth.
But this year, for the show’s 10th anniversary, the annual concert almost didn’t come to pass. With the COVID-19 pandemic making live performance impossible, Lauper and her team were forced to improvise. Luckily, with some help from directors, producers and TikTok, the show will go on.
On Friday, Dec. 11, the 10th annual Home for the Holidays concert is taking place live on Lauper’s TikTok page, and she brought along some big names: Cher, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Dolly Parton, Adam Lambert, Bette Midler and Billy Porter are just a few of the stars set to appear during the show.
Porter tells Billboard that getting involved in Lauper’s annual show, which he has for the past few years, is never a difficult choice. “I am so very lucky to have had a supportive mother, sister and chosen family throughout my journey. But I am acutely aware that far too many young people do not have that and experience homelessness because of it,” he says. “I am always happy to lend my time and my voice to Home for the Holidays and to Miss Cyndi!”
Lambert agrees, saying it was an honor to be asked to join the lineup for this annual event. “We have a little history of collaborating now, so this was a no brainer,” he says. “I’m very flattered to share a bill with such iconic women, and for such a great cause!”
But for Lauper, having a community of artists willing to come together and rally behind a cause as important as LGBTQ youth homelessness is the real treasure of Home for the Holidays. “The people that stepped up, God bless them — or Goddess, you know, whatever you think,” she says, laughing. “I think it’s fantastic.”
Billboard chatted with Lauper ahead of her annual benefit show about how Home for the Holidays went digital this year, the continued issue of homelessness in the LGBTQ community, and her role as a queer ally.
This is the 10th anniversary of Home for the Holidays. What does that mean to you, to have this massive benefit concert go on for 10 years and raise millions of dollars for this extremely important cause?
I can’t even believe that 10 years went by and we’ve been doing it. It’s really important, especially now when so much has been cut from HUD, and 40% of those 4.2 million youth experiencing homelessness in America are LGBTQ. We are sure that … LGBTQ+ kids or youth [are 120% more likely to] wind up homeless. They’ve made these cuts, and I just think that we need this money more than ever this year to help them through winter. Anybody that helps that’s great. This year, at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a place where you could donate, and anything you can donate would be great. We need your help.
When you look back on that first concert that you guys put on, what do you think was your initial goal? How do you think that’s evolved since then?
Well, I love Christmas and I love the holidays, and when it was suggested to me that we do a concert called Home for the Holidays, I thought, ‘OK, I could raise money and awareness and you know, and it’s a good show. This’ll be really great.’ I figured you could feature up-and-coming people and people who’ve been around and who have these long careers, and we can celebrate them with music, and you help inform people about what’s going on. It was like, ‘Let’s get rock ‘n’ roll, let’s get Broadway, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just get people, you know?’ I can’t believe what we’ve done. We just said, ‘OK, let’s do this.’
I think it’s fantastic, you know, just to even be a part of this. And to be able to see how True Colors United has grown and done so much, I am so extremely proud of everyone for how hard they work. I mean, I’m in front of you … but there were so many people that are working behind the camera and offer their services for free. It’s extraordinary.
The pandemic has obviously had an impact on how the show is being done this year. How did you go about retranslating this show so that we can still get this message out?
You know, in the summer I did some live stuff with President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and some stuff for Speaker Pelosi. And we started to watch all of these different live things — my manager was watching this one thing for Covenant House that was spectacular.
So between us, we found a company and a director that could help us. They stepped up and I think that without them, I don’t know how we could do this. So I’m very grateful to [director] Jeff Calhoun, who brought them to us, and this idea of what we could do. And TikTok! TikTok has been so great, such a great partner for True Colors United. Let me tell you, they’re incredible.
As you mentioned earlier, homelessness among LGBTQ youth is still an extremely pressing problem. What do you hope to see the incoming presidential administration do to tackle this issue?
Yes, it’s still very bad out there, especially with these organizations who take federal money and still impose their religious beliefs on a place that takes in homeless youth. We’re not a religious state! The pilgrims came here — not that I’m saying that they were so fabulous — but they came here for religious freedom! The whole idea of separation of church and state was that we would be governed by laws, not religion. So when you take federal money and you impose your religious beliefs on the people that are coming to really get help, then that should not be legal. Either you are, or you are not, helping everyone. If you’re only helping some people, then you got to go to your parish or whoever and get money from them.
Now, I believe in my heart that most Americans are fair-minded. It’s easy for some people to point fingers at other people and say, “It’s all their fault! Or it’s this one! And it’s that one!” But that’s never a good idea, because you never know when you’re going to be on the other side of the finger-pointing. We’ve got to work together to make change and help each other. And if we include everyone, we just increase our odds of success.
Over the years, you have garnered a reputation as an extremely outspoken ally for the LGBTQ community — to any artist, or frankly any other person — trying to be a better ally to the community. What advice would you offer to them?
First, let me say that I am a friend and family member of this community. Where I grew up, you don’t stand by while your family is mistreated and have their civil rights stripped. I just grew up in the Civil Rights era. We have a long history of civil rights issues in our country that’s supposed to be a country of free-minded Americans. If it doesn’t apply to all people, it’s got to.
Here’s what I’m saying: Share your story. A lot of times you’ll be working next to somebody, you don’t even know what their story is at home. You don’t even know how some law you’re voting for is going to affect your buddy. Unless we can talk to each other, then how are you going to know? The best thing in any civil rights movement is to go get straight people, and then go get gay people, lesbian people, trans people, get as many different people as you can, put them up in front of people and say, “I give a damn. Do you?”
Cyndi Lauper’s Home for the Holidays benefit concert will take place live on TikTok Friday, Dec. 11, at 8 p.m. ET, with a second stream of the event taking place on YouTube and Facebook on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. ET.