Frank Ocean is one of GQ's Men of the Year, and he talks about growing up poor, his work ethic and that open letter on Tumblr.
On being raised by a single mother: "We were poor. But my mom never accepted that. She worked hard to become a residential contractor — got her master's with honors at the University of New Orleans. I used to go to every class with her. Her father was my paternal figure. He'd had a really troubled life with crack, heroin, and alcohol and had kids he wasn't an ideal parent to. I was his second chance, and he gave it his best shot. My grandfather was smart and had a whole lot of pride. He didn't speak a terrible amount, but you could tell there was a ton on his mind — like a quiet acceptance of how life had turned out. He was a mentor at AA and NA, and I would go with him to meetings."
On being a perfectionist: "John Mayer and I were talking in rehearsal before SNL, and he was like, 'You love to take the hardest way. You don't always have to.' But I don't know about that. It's like Billy Joel says in that song 'Vienna.' When the truth is told / That you can get what you want or you can just get old. We all know we have a finite period of time. I just feel if I'm going to be alive, I want to be challenged — to be as immortal as possible. The path to that isn't an easy way, but it's a rewarding way."
On coming out in an open letter on Tumblr: "The night I posted it, I cried like a fucking baby. It was like all the frequency just clicked to a change in my head. All the receptors were now receiving a different signal, and I was happy. I hadn't been happy in so long. I've been sad again since, but it's a totally different take on sad. There's just some magic in truth and honesty and openness.
Whatever I said in that letter, before I posted it, seemed so huge. But when you come out the other side, now your brain — instead of receiving fear — sees 'Oh, shit happened and nothing happened.' Brain says, 'Self, I'm fine.' I look around, and I'm touching my fucking limbs, and I'm good. Before anybody called me and said congratulations or anything nice, it had already changed. It wasn't from outside. It was completely in here, in my head."
On fears of coming out ending his career: "I had those fears. In black music, we've got so many leaps and bounds to make with acceptance and tolerance in regard to that issue. It reflects something just ingrained, you know. When I was growing up, there was nobody in my family — not even my mother — who I could look to and be like, 'I know you've never said anything homophobic.' So, you know, you worry about people in the business who you've heard talk that way. Some of my heroes coming up talk recklessly like that. It's tempting to give those views and words — that ignorance — more attention than they deserve. Very tempting.
Some people said, 'He's saying he fell in love with a guy for hype.' As if that's the best hype you can get in hip-hop or black music. So I knew that if I was going to say what I said, it had to be in concert with one of the most brilliant pieces of art that has come out in my generation. And that's what I did. Why can I say that? Why I don't have to affect all this humility and shit is because I worked my ass off. I worked my face off. And the part that you love the most is the easiest part for me. So I'll do it again."