Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won big at Sunday night’s VMAs, taking home two moon men, one for the song “Same Love,” which features a stirring vocal hook from singer Mary Lambert. After winning the award, Lambert took to the stage with Macklemore and surprise guest Jennifer Hudson to sing the track and pretty much brought down the house. We were moved by Lambert’s performance, and wanted to know more about the 24-year-old Seattle, Washington-based singer. After the jump, five things you should know about the vocal powerhouse that is Mary Lambert. 1. She grew up in a strict Pentecostal household. ”I grew up in a very homophobic community,” admits Lambert, who says that her very-religious father was well-respected in the church but “was a terrible person.” Her family was eventually expellled from the church after her mother — also a singer — came out as a lesbian. After falling out with her Pentecostal faith, Lambert joined an evangelical church. “They were on fire for God, and I wanted so badly to be that way, too,” she said. “I came out when I was 17, I was in the church, I was crying every Sunday for about a year. I came to terms with the fact with this is who I was, I wasn’t going to be able to be a different person. … When you’re 17 you feel like a freak already, and so to have that fire and brimstone against your attraction is just screwed up!”
Lambert has been with her girlfriend Rachel for several years, and the two live together in Seattle. She wrote the hook for “Same Love” in two hours, about her partner, but says people often don’t peg her for gay. “It’s an interesting thing about being a ‘femme,’” she said. “People automatically assume that I’m straight.”
2. She openly talks about being bipolar and dealing with sexual abuse in her songs. Lambert considers herself a poet as much of a singer (she’s won national poetry slam competitions), and touches on her experiences with sexual abuse and mental health issues. “I think I’ve always operated with the idea that vulnerability is what connect us to humanity, and to other people in our communities,” she said in a Huffington Post interview. “When I do shows, I’m talking about my abuse and being bipolar, I’m talking about rape … There’s definitely a lot of darkness in my writing, and sadness and grief. But i think those are all important forms of expression.”
Earlier this year she published a book titled 500 Tips For Fat Girls, a book of poetry about body image, abuse and her struggles with bipolar disorder. “The collection spans a variety of my experiences: being bipolar, heartbreak, rape, incest and falling in love with women,” she said. “I try to be as real as possible. Being vulnerable is kind of a huge part of what I do. We can’t have a real connection with each other if we’re constantly being guarded. I think being vulnerable is the key to human connection. I think that navigation of vulnerability to reach self-love and love for each other is universal. This book is a collection of poetry exploring that.” You can buy it here.
3. She recently expanded the hook of “Same Love” into a full-length song called “She Keeps Me Warm.”
4. As famous as “Same Love” has made her, Lambert’s actual favorite track is called “I Know Girls (Body Love).”
Of the song, she’s said, “It’s a song/poem that I wish I would’ve heard when I was 18, hated my body and needed everyone to be in love with me in order to feel whole.” She wrote “Girls” when she was just 20. “It was in a time in my life when I was really reckless and destructive — all those things were what I was thinking.”
5. She loves bartending. And laundry! “I love bartending!” she told Autostraddle. “I love it. I love fancy cocktails, and infusing spirits, and egg whites in my whiskey sours. And then drinking 5 of them in a row. I also love folding laundry. Towels fresh out of the dryer?! So warm and soft!”