JRP Lives the Dream with His Boyhood Crush, Singer Tom Goss
By Mike Bahr
J.R. Price admits he’s had a hard time connecting with Cupid’s arrow in his life. “Growing up poor, with no friends and a family who didn’t love me enough, left me feeling unworthy of love,” he reflects. “I was gay, overweight, and never felt like I was the prettiest…”
He explores many of his early challenges in “Daydream”, his upcoming album that he refers to as pages from his younger self’s diary. “All of the songs are windows into very personal experiences but I don’t tell them in a sad way. The album is mostly fun Top 40 ear candy.”
In “Dance with Me”, the fourth release from the album, JRP (as fans call him) teams up with his boyhood idol, singer Tom Goss, for an impassioned love song that he hopes will inspire the next generation.
Is the young JRP dying right now? I can’t imagine what it would be like to sing a duet with my childhood crush.
J.R. Price: I’m literally dead! Tom Goss is on my album! I never thought I would get to this level, where I’m working with people I respect, but here we are, a duet with Tom and produced by Freddy Freeman, another one of my childhood heroes. Life is a daydream.
Does Tom have any clue what his song, “Bears,” meant to you?
JRP: I’m not sure if Tom is aware what “Bears” means to any of us! I mean every time I talk to him, I’m too starstruck to say anything about it. I mean without his video for “Bears,” there wouldn’t have been my debut video, “Body Positive.” That’s just fact. I look up to so many gay artists from my youth: The Gay Pimp Jonny McGovern, Cazwell, Adam Joseph, Colton Ford… sooo many, but Tom was the one who showed big men being sexy. Tom showed me I could be sexy. I credit a lot of my confidence to him. I don’t think anyone gives pop music the credit it deserves! There is no way for Tom to know his true impact, but it is indeed great and I am so grateful.
What was it like to grow up as JRP?
JRP: I was bullied for a lot of things. I was very feminine, we were poor, I was too passionate about school, and, of course, I was big. Deep down, I knew what I was doing when I ate junk food for comfort, or when I would hide bread under my bed to snack on at night. It was a choice. I was more upset about the things I couldn’t control, like what I was wearing or how feminine I was, or who I had crushes on. Looking back, I know that kids are kids. We all make mistakes. Their hateful words gave me a really thick skin.
Did your parents try to help you to lose the weight?
JRP: They definitely let me know that my weight was a problem, if that’s what you mean. My father made cute nicknames for me like “Stubby” or “Haus” which was referring to an overweight character on a show he watched. My mother was worse though. She is very vain. I remember her locking the fridge up to keep me away from food. I think things would be different if I felt like their constant comments about my weight came from a place of love or care, but it was always clear that it was judgement and disappointment, which of course made me want to eat more. I think it’s important that any parents reading this know the impact of everything they say. Even a slight “are you sure you want another roll?” can haunt someone for the rest of their life. Instead of judging, encourage healthy eating, and lead by example! “Maybe we should all cut bread out, let’s try cauliflower rolls maybe? Together? It will be fun!” There can be a scoreboard with gold star stickers for healthy treats. Think positive!
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
JRP: It sounds so cliche, but I really wish I knew all of the things that made me different were what made me special. I know everyone says it, but you don’t believe it until those bullies are still where you left them behind while you’re thriving and chasing your dreams. I wish I knew that family means more than blood. It is the people who are standing beside you through every obstacle. Mostly, I wish I could go back to that ten-year-old baby JRP, the one with Britney Spears magazine cut outs covering his wall, and Cosmo’s Hunk of the Month issues hiding under his bed… I would tell him that one day you are going to be in magazines just like these, and it’s only because of what makes you different. If you were the same, well, that would be a very boring headline.
Has it gotten easier as an adult?
JRP: It has gotten easier as an adult, but only because I absolutely do not care what anyone thinks of me anymore. I have learned that the only opinion that matters is the one you dream with. I never go to bed without reminding myself that this is all temporary, so only hold on to the good daydreams, never the bad nightmares!
How are bears treated in the gay community today?
JRP: The “community” is changing every day. There is so much progress to celebrate! Praise gen z, yo, for real! That being said, the way gay people talk to each other is absolutely unacceptable. I’ve personally heard deplorable things from skinny people in the queer community, but I’ve also heard hurtful comments from fellow bears. I do not think the hate is just coming from twinks, or otters, or bears, or even straights, or skinny, or fat… forget all of that. The judgement is actually coming from within. Any time someone says anything, just remember they are only speaking out of insecurity. Own your body, it doesn’t matter how people treat you. It matters how you treat them, and more importantly, how you treat yourself! We are all in the alphabet mafia together.
What are your thoughts on those who fetishize bears?
JRP: If you listen to my album, you will hear that I don’t mind if things get a little N.A.U.G.H.T.Y.! I am never one to kink shame. If you fetishize bears, cool, that’s you bro. There is nothing wrong with appreciating a beautiful man for their girth. I think that twinks are just as fetishized, or any body type, ethnicity, gender identity, anything that classifies someone can be fetishized. That’s fact. I think that it’s actually empowering. I know everyone doesn’t feel that way, but hear me out. A fetish is really just owning a specific thing that makes you special and letting yourself admit it’s sexy! I’ve had some Chubb lovers make me feel very special and I’m not mad at it. Of course, now that I’m healthy and lost weight, they lost my number, but that’s the game we are all playing. It just usually goes the other way. If a skinny person got fat and someone stopped texting them, we wouldn’t be questioning if they were fetishized when they were skinny, would we? That being said, there isn’t a negative connotation to the word fetish! It’s a yaaaaasssss, I’m fetishized, yay, from me!
What was the big a-ha moment that made you realize you are beautiful just the way you are?
JRP: I mean, I know I sing “Body Positive” and I’m supposed to have some big inspiring answer here but the truth is, every day is a struggle to see my beauty. You always hear those voices from your past: “fatty fatty two by four…” “Stubby, do you really need another roll?” “You know pop stars are supposed to be skinny.” Also, every time I look in the mirror, I see that wrinkle, I notice I’m losing my hair and the extra skin from weight loss…. Even being healthy and losing weight makes me ugly! But those are all surface flaws. I’m beautiful just the way I am because I treat people with respect when they deserve it. I help anyone I can when I am capable of helping them. I support people, I’m loyal, I’m honest, I’m funny and I make people smile.
What is your message to fans this Valentine’s Day?
JRP: Love has so many beautiful meanings, it can be applied to all kinds of relationships. I am single, so very single, but I use V Day to spread love to all of the special people in my life. Make it your mission to make someone smile today. Pick a total stranger and show them love. I know a great gift idea: my album!
Visit jrprice.org. Follow on Instagram @joshuarandalprice.