The coming-out process can range from mass announcements, to the “imply strongly, then confirm upon request” technique, to confiding only in a select circle of intimates. When country music singer Chely Wright decided in 2010 it was time to reveal her lesbianism after years of secrecy, her modus operandi would be a revelatory autobiography, Like Me. Cameras were allowed to record much of the personal and professional planning leading up to the book’s release, resulting in the excellent documentary Chely Wright: Wish Me Away.
Via interviews with Wright and selected family members, friends, and advisors, we watch her official “reveal” take shape, culminating with Like Me, in which she chronicles her small-town-Kansas upbringing, her early feelings for women, how she hid her personal life (including a long-term relationship) from Nashville’s perceivably homophobic country music establishment, and her almost-attempted suicide. Wright’s “hiding” over the years would also include an intimate relationship with fellow performer Brad Paisley, whom she left abruptly when the pretense became too overwhelming.
Leading up to her announcement, Wright is strongly supported by her sister and father, various managers, and a spiritual advisor who engages her in frank conversation as D-Day draws near. We also share Wright’s video diaries detailing her still-lingering doubts, and witness a “media consultant” challenging her with practice tabloid-esque questions sure to be in her future. Wright knows that her coming out could signal the end, or at least a diminution, of her recording career (as it apparently has), but the torment of her long-term denial, and sincere wish to help other GLBT people in similar straits, propel her forward.
I was not familiar with Chely Wright before 2010, but this film introduced me to a remarkable woman. When she holds a hot-off-the-presses copy of Like Me for the first time, her tears are real, and viewers will likely cheer as well. Chely Wright: Wish Me Away offers excellent viewing.
Catherine Ritchie, writing for Dallas Library Pride