Taylor Dayne headlines the entertainment at The Dinah, the largest lesbian festival in the country, set for Sept. 21-25, at Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PETER BARAT
Taylor Dayne burst onto the music scene in 1987 with her first hit single and nothing has stopped her since. After three decades of success and with a new album on the horizon, she’s just getting started. “I have more tenacity than I realized,” Dayne says. “A career isn't just a moment defined by one song.”
The double platinum, Grammy-nominated pop icon has proven that by adding author, film, television, and stage actress to her list of accomplishments. But it’s her upcoming album that Dayne thinks may be her moment in the sun.
Dayne brings her powerful voice and presence to The Dinah, headlining the Sept. 21-25 event and bringing her full band to put on an exclusive show. The largest festival for queer women expects over 15,000 attendees and at a new Palm Springs venue, the Margaritaville Resort (formerly The Riviera). “It’s really bringing home the message of solidarity, like we’re making families and creating a sustainable lifestyle here," Dayne says of the event. “This is what we are, who we are, and we’re proud of it.”
After years of hard work, Dayne shot to ‘overnight’ fame when her groundbreaking debut “Tell It to My Heart” hit the top 10 in the U.S. and the UK. Dayne has remained one of the most popular vocalists, selling a combined 75 million singles and albums worldwide. In her recent autobiography “Tell It to My Heart: How I Lost My S#*T, Conquered My Fear, and Found My Voice,” Dayne recounts not only her rise to stardom but also the mental health challenges she overcome at an early age.
In a conversation with Palm Springs Life, Dayne chats about The Dinah and her connection to the LGBTQ+ community, her struggles overcoming anxiety, and her exciting new album on the way.
How did you connect with The Dinah?
Well, I've been in California now for over 20 years but certainly coming to Palm Springs for White Parties and certain pride events including The Dinah. It was just always something that I got; you know? I think I remember being there about 10 years ago, if not a little longer, maybe 14 the first time I performed there and it's just a great community of people and arts. It’s really bringing home the message of solidarity, like we’re making families and creating a sustainable lifestyle here. This is what we are, who we are, and we’re proud of it.
You have a long history with the gay community. How did that start and what is unique about that connection?
It's not something I started, it's obviously something that the music starts. I think when you're young and you are hearing this music and you're being influenced by it so greatly — it becomes the soundtrack of your life. A lot of young and gay, maybe out and maybe not so out, people gravitated toward my music, my voice, my dynamic personality.
Look, we’re talking 1987 and I was a big, brassy-faced woman looking like I was saying, “Hey! Tell it to My Heart!” Yeah, it started in the clubs and a lot of these kids were like 16,17,18-year olds just trying to find themselves and also finding such a connection with the music and the other people around them. So, I would say a lot of it started in the clubs and a lot of it gravitated through that type of music, pop, and dance.
You wrote in your book that from a very young age you knew you were going to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. Do you remember an early moment or memory that solidified that for you?
A defining moment? There always getting the solos when I was in kindergarten or moving up to the glee club in first grade when it was only for third graders. Those moments are defining and then getting solos and being recognized at such a young age for having some sort of talent or gift. Just saying to yourself well, this feels good; yeah, I'm good. Let me just try this out and this is what I wanna be, this is what I wanna do. Watching and looking at all these superstars in music in the 70s. He looks really happy I wanna be happy, or she looks really glam, Jerry Hall with Mick Jagger. That’s The Rolling Stones for you. We still look at things today and say hat's how I wanna live. It doesn't mean that that's exactly what is behind the pictures on any level, but it looks shiny and beautiful and glamorous, and it was a long way away from Long Island. I said, well if I practice hard enough, I can sing like this and sound like that and that's what I did.
Despite your confidence, did you ever hit a moment early in your career where you thought: I’m not good enough to make it?
There were many moments. All of a sudden it catches fire, so it’s like overnight stardom but you've been putting out stuff for so long. But when something catches you are like, ‘Oh my God, OK now what do I do with it!’
In your recent autobiography you wrote about childhood struggles Reading about your experiences and how you overcame them is empowering to those who have suffered likewise. In light of the growing anxiety/depression crisis, you battled anxiety and agoraphobia as a teenager, just as many young people around the world are struggling now. How were you able to deal with this at such an early age?
You know this really hits home on so many levels. I'm a mom, my kids are 20 and I've watched my own daughter struggle with this. You know you can talk about trauma as a moment in time and, of course, those are defining trauma and you have to go from there. That's PTSD, but we all have these moments in our lives where those kinds of traumatic things were set off. For me I became more what you said, an agoraphobe. There's a lot of tools available to us but often people don't use them. You must take the time to say that I'm worth this and that you understand it’s like any other skill; if you wanna be good, if you wanna look good in the mirror — then you have to work out. If you want to have good arms, then you work the arms out.
It's a muscle and your mind is a muscle. It's what you put into it and how you sell it. And when you put more into it, it’s gonna gain strength.
I learned it, thank God, and I went to an incredible facility during my late teens. There I learned what it was to reprogram myself and practice behavior modification. I did it physically, mentally, and emotionally, on all levels. You know the subject matter is still so personal, daunting, and it's embarrassing on a lot of levels but it’s also crisis. And I think that's why it’s so important to talk about it, especially to talk about getting help. There are many avenues available for everyone. I promise you the one thing: You can heal yourself. You can heal from this — give yourself the opportunity! Give yourself the time but I promise you, you can reprogram your mind and find peace within your own body.
What has your experience in the music industry taught you about yourself?
It’s 34 years later and I've been doing more and more over the last 10 to 20 years. I really look at it and say I want my music to be as relevant now as it was so that's part of the game, so you find this way of saying, ‘Wow, I've become this classic iconic artist, you like my music. Wow, I have 2 million plus listeners monthly. Wow, so this is the game now.’ Staying relevant is, I think, on you as far as your mental, physical, spiritual awareness and ability.
After some time off to raise your family, you came back to the spotlight with your album’s lead single, “Beautiful,” your 17th time cracking the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. As your career has moved on, you have managed to stay relevant. What are some of the bigger challenges you face in staying current?
I don't know if its relevancy or currency. I read this wonderful article years ago. actually, it was in a book and this statement rang true to me; ‘Stand around long enough, you get to sit down.” If you wanna work, then you gotta be out there, you gotta be willing to work and I love the work. I don't love the game of it sometimes, the politics and the nonsense of it. My connection with my audience is real, my connection with music is real. And I've learned over years of my life that this connection is something that can have a reciprocity to it. It can start giving to me as well as you. I can be on stage and give as well as receive. Yes, that's something I had to learn, to process, and reprogram my mind to accept that.
Your voice has such a range. Is there any particular genre that you haven't done that you would like to explore in the future?
I feel like I'm really ready for my moment under the sun; my Tina moment, you know that “What's love got to do with it?” moment, like Private Dancer. I feel like I'm ready for that kind of record. I'm ready for the kind of record that is self-engaged, my voice becomes paramount, and the storytelling is everything! One where people are into every song, you know? I think I did it. I hope I did it with Greg Fields. He and I worked on a wonderful project last year during Covid and now we're ready to find it a home. It was recently just mixed, mastered and it's ready to go now, it’s done, it’s ready!
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