David Archuleta talks gay life, TikTok videos, new single ‘Hell Together’

David Archuleta Hell Together

“Growing up Mormon, you’re not supposed to talk about this kind of stuff,” David Archuleta tells Out. “But I don’t have to dance around this anymore.” Photo: YouTube screnshot

David Archuleta becomes an overnight sensation at 16 during his run on “American Idol.” It’s 2008, the early days of reality TV stardom and social media engagement, but one can still feel the intense reaction from fans yelling at their TV screens when host Ryan Seacrest announces that “David… (long, dramatic pause) …Cook” is the winner of the season.

And yet, we never see Archuleta encouraging the idea that he deserved to win over Cook. All we see is Archuleta’s kindness, gratitude, humility, and that signature smile.

When Archuleta comes out in June 2021, he writes about wrestling “between being LGBTQ+ and a person of faith.” 

A year later, in 2022, the singer tells Out that he’s still struggling to balance his religion and his sexuality, and tells PRIDE that he spent the first 30 years of his life being “really good at not entertaining any feelings for guys at all.”

By every possible standard and measure, Archuleta once again tries to keep the peace. To unite, instead of divide. To love and respect all the important people in his life given that being his most authentic self isn’t actually hurting anybody.

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On April 26, Archuleta released the music video for his latest song, “Hell Together,” which marks — at least in the singer’s discography — his official departure from the Mormon Church. To discuss the song, the video, and the meanings behind them, Archuleta sits down for a new interview with Out.

“My family was all Mormon, and the people at church felt like family as well. When I came out of the closet in 2021, I still tried to stay in the religion for about a year, but I started seeing the conflict that was taking place,” Archuleta tells Out. 

“A lot of people in my church were actually really supportive of me. (They) were like, ‘This is the kind of change that we were hoping to see. Thank you for speaking out. But the leaders (had) a different attitude. And when I started seeing it, I was like, ‘Now that I’m able to question their stance on LGBTQ+ matters, I’m starting to question a lot of other matters.’ I thought it was just better for me to step away.”

In the years that followed Archuleta’s coming out, it’s become apparent that he isn’t just catching up on matters related to his sexuality. The truth is, despite being famous for such a long time, Archuleta is still figuring out how much to share in public and how far his words can travel.

“I unintentionally announced that I left the church in an interview,” Archuleta says, unable to stop himself from laughing at the situation. “I started getting all these messages from people (saying they were proud of me). And I’m like, ‘Thanks, but proud for what? I already came out over a year ago…’ I didn’t know this article had come out in People. And then one of my friends sends me the article, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I didn’t hear from my mom for a few days.”

Archuleta surmises that his mother, who’s always been devout to the church, was probably taken aback by his public statement. But when he finally hears back from his mom, she tells him that she’s also decided to step away from the church.

At first, he can’t believe what she’s saying. 

“She’s like, ‘I don’t want to be somewhere that my children, who I love, who are the most important thing   to me in this life, where they don’t feel loved and don’t feel accepted.’

“And then she says, ‘If you’re going to hell, then we’re all going to hell with you’.”

Archuleta goes on to share his mom’s story while working on new music with a friend, which leads to writing a song based on what she told him. The result is “Hell Together.”

But while he holds space to laugh at his past mistakes and create art out of those difficult situations, one would be mistaken to assume that Archuleta feels completely at ease upon returning to those difficult memories.

“I’m actually in the middle of writing a book right now where I really delve into that whole process,” Archuleta says. “Like, after this interview, I’m going to write a little more. I’m on chapter 17 or something… but sometimes it’s hard to write a book. I’m like, ‘Ugh, I don’t want to talk about this stuff. This shit is too… ugh. I’ve moved on from it. Why do I have to go back and talk about it’?”

He adds, “But it’s important so people (can get) the full picture of what makes you who you are, and why you came out, and who you are as just a person. In the meantime, until the book, I feel like the music has been portraying my journey. And ‘Hell Together’ is like a good little chunk of this whole journey.”

Given that his memoir is only scheduled to come out in 2025, Archuleta has been telling this part of his story through music, interviews, and social media posts.

But “headlines are always really dramatic,” he says, noting that his statement about leaving the church wasn’t as dramatic as it might’ve seemed.

Archuleta reaffirms that he still loves the community he grew up in but could no longer be associated with people constantly trying to “fix” him.

“And it’s like… there’s not anything to fix,” he says. “You need to be willing to respect that people see things differently. I hope that you can learn a little more and understand someone else’s point of view a little better, (such as) why this (church) was unhealthy for me, even if you feel like it’s something healthy for you.”

The new way that Archuleta is engaging with social media has also been hilarious and fascinating for people to follow. He only came out a few years ago, after all, so he’s still learning more about himself and the LGBTQ+ community — including terminology, trends, and inside jokes.

Throughout that process, fans have been thirsting over Archuleta’s transformation into a “muscle gym hunk,” laughing when he shuts down a man he’s never gone on a date with, welcoming the start of his “slutty era” after an apparent hickey is spotted on his neck, and losing their minds when he misunderstands a TikTok trend and has to clarify that he’s not a “full-time bottom.

When asked about this series of Instagram and TikTok posts about navigating life as a newly-out queer person, Archuleta laughs and does his best to set the record straight (well…).

“I guess there’s a series, (but) it wasn’t intentional,” he says. “My friend who helps me with my social media (told me about a new] height trend. I’ve done them before because I’m 5-feet 5-inches.

“And he’s like, ‘There’s a ‘short’ trend going around. You should do it.’ So I did it, but it wasn’t a height trend, it was something else.”

“It opened up a can of worms and started a conversation that I never had with people before, which I think is good. Growing up Mormon, you’re not supposed to talk about this kind of stuff. But it’s like, Well, since I’m not a Mormon anymore, I guess I can.

“It was relieving, actually, in a way. I do’’t have to dance around this anymore, or shy away from talking about more mature subject matters, or about your dick or whatever, or sex and things like that.”

Archuleta doesn’t deny that he is putting himself out there, but he’s not rushing anything when it comes to his dating life.

“I’ve been enjoying the process,” he says. “I don’t close the door necessarily on anything. I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and it’s been nice. It’s nice not having to feel controlled by anything.”

He muses.

“I think I’m still controlled by the mindset I grew up with, but I’m being patient with myself. I don’t feel like I’m in a rush for anything. It’s nice to kind of go at my pace, instead of being a Mormon, where you’re always pressured to get married. Now I can just get to know people, interact with them, and see who I have chemistry with and who I don’t. I get to know what my preferences are, what I find attractive in someone, and what I don’t. I’m enjoying it.”

This article originally appeared on Advocate.com, and is shared here as part of an LGBTQ+ community exchange between Q Voice News and Equal Pride.

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Bernardo Sim

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