Earlier this month, the 23rd season of NBC’s hit singing competition series The Voice launched with a slew of talented new contestants vying for $100K and a record deal with Universal Music.
Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson returned as coaches, with Chance the Rapper and former One Direction member Niall Horan taking their first turn sitting in the show’s infamous big red chairs.
Among the contestants causing a buzz this season is 31-year-old singer EJ Michels from Draper, Utah.
Michels stunned with his rendition of Adele’s “Easy on Me” and soon had both Chance and Blake both wanting him to join their teams. After choosing to become part of Team Blake, Michels shared his journey of coming out as a gay man on the show.
In an emotional segment, Michels disclosed his “inner turmoil” while struggling with his sexuality as a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Watch his coming out segment on The Voice below:
The church opposes same-sex marriage and requires gay followers to abstain from dating and sex.
It wasn’t until after he came back from one of his missions and divorced the wife he had married in the church that he was able to begin to fully accept who he was.
“…This thing I was so afraid of is actually the thing that makes me unique and beautiful. This thing that I’ve been taught my entire life to run away from — by accepting it, I’m actually doing the opposite,” he elaborated in a new interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m stepping into my life of beauty as opposed to into darkness and destruction.”
Since leaving the church, Michels has found love with his boyfriend Michael and feels completely at peace with himself.
“I hate painting anything in a bad light, and I don’t want to do that,” Michels said. “But I also need to tell my story and just say — it was hard growing up because of what I was taught within my family and my religion. I definitely had to eventually step away from all that.”
While many of his family members are still in the church, Michels said they watched the segment on The Voice and “took it with open arms and positivity.”
Since the segment aired he’s also received positive feedback from viewers who have gone through similar experiences and are grateful he shared his story on national television.
“It brought me to tears,” Michels told the outlet. “Just finding that level of connection with other people who’ve been through something similar is a really impactful thing for me.”
While his journey on The Voice continues this week, Michels is set to perform during the NBA halftime show at the Utah Jazz’s Equality in Action night on March 27th, where David Archuleta will sing the National Anthem.
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