Photos Courteous of LaMont Wheat
LaMont Wheat is a songwriter, recording artist, publisher and activist. Wheat founded the SKIN project, a community project that supports individuals and organizations in creating unity, acceptance, love in humanity by raising awareness through celebrity exposure and access. The Los Angeles based activist was selected to perform his hit song “Still Standing” at the XIX International Conference on AIDS in Washington, DC next month. Wheat’s influence varies from gospel music greats such as Daryl Coley to pop superstars such as Prince and Michael Jackson. Wheat talked to PrideIndex about his activism, BBINT magazine, an electronic publication for men and what drives him as a performer.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): Where are you from? Do you have any siblings?
LAMONT WHEAT (LW): I am originally from Kilgore, TX, a small pocket just east of Dallas off I-20. Kilgore, in its boon time was one of the oil capitals of the world. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters.
PI: Why did you choose a career in the recorded music industry?
LW: I have been in music all of my life, I knew it was what I wanted to do. Music brings me fulfillment. It took some time but I’ve finally made a commitment to make it part of my livelihood.
PI: Your page on Reverbnation says that you like Jennifer Hudson, Usher and Neo. Name some of your other influences.
LW: Being raised in Texas the Bible belt my influences are in gospel music. I sang gospel music with a group after high school. One of my idols at that time was Daryl Coley. I put him in high regard for his ability to deliver a song and bring people to the father, the creator. Gospel music greats and Texans such as Yolanda Adams, John P. Kee and Kurt Franklin are among some of my early influences. As I evolved as artist I was taken back to some of the old school music that my parents used to listen to such as the Ojays, Bobby Womack, and various Motown icons. Other Influences are artist such as Michael Jackson, Prince and definitely Whitney Houston, I appreciated her power and delivery. There are so many artists out there who I listen to and appreciate from Brandy and Beyonce to Neo; I have a broad scope of influences across many different genres including House music.
PI: When did you release your first song?
LW: I released my first full album in 2004 called “Love Goes On.” It was on the first album that I recorded, fully wrote, co-produced and released on my own label LaMont Music.
PI: Tell us more about your House music background.
LW: House music has always had an influence on me. It’s interesting that while In Europe I went to a lot of festivals in Germany and those festivals had a consistent theme of music – dance/house music. I was inspired by how the crowds were motivated and supportive of the artists that were playing. After coming back from Europe I noticed that while at the gym I heard a lot of top 40 songs that were being played on urban radio stations had been remixed to House. The biggest influence for me to really pursue house music has been producer and friend DJ Almond Brown from Seattle. He encouraged me to give house music a try. We collaborated on several projects together including SKIN which debuted d in the Top 100 new dance releases on iTunes.
PI: And what about “SKIN?”
LW: “SKIN” is a song that I recently released and it supports the SKIN community project that I created in November. The project was founded to create unity, acceptance, love and humanity. I worked with a team of contributors and supports to bring the music project together including Rique Patire, Sidney Woodruff “aka” DJ Almond Brown and drag recording artist Faith Michaels whom all co-wrote the song. We worked with other production teams around the world including a group from Italy called The Style, DJ Joe Crugliano, DJ Scorpio and Jason Jayma of Atlanta to name a few. We’ve released the project to create awareness around the SKIN Project which is set to have launch events in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and in Washington DC where I’ll be there performing for the International Conference on HIV/AIDS in July.
PI: How did you become involved in the International Conference on AIDS?
LW: It started back in December. (SIGHS) It actually goes back a little further than December. I was asked to support Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Diva Foundation, a Los Angeles based organization that raises awareness for women living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. I own a men’s lifestyle magazine called BBINT magazine, one of my business partners and creative director Clark Fairfield works with the Diva Foundation. He thought it would be an opportunity for me to collaborate with Ms Ralph to create some interest for her foundation over the long term. I had an idea to create and sing a song for it. I met with Ms. Ralph and some other music partners and wrote and recording “Still Standing.” Rique Patire and I watched videos and looked back at what the DIVA Foundation had accomplished in 21 years of existence and just caught on fire with ideas. We made a commitment to release “Still Standing” as a tribute to World AIDS Day. It rose to the top 100 new R&B releases on iTunes. I saw that individuals were impacted by this song and the message that it created. I attended the United States AIDS conference in Chicago last year and noticed there was not a theme song and thought about doing something for the next conference I’d attend and submitted my song Still Standing, and was selected to perform it live.
PI: Tell me more about your magazine?
LW: BBINT magazine, (pronounced bent) is a men’s lifestyle magazine that creates unity in men through content and information. We cover topics that are important to all men; it does not matter if you’re gay, straight, bi or whatever the case may be, we have something for you. We talk about everything from how to stay healthy and fit, to entertainment, news, and technology. I worked in corporate America for 15 years; my background was in information technology (IT) marketing and business development. I appreciated my IT experience and when I created BBINT magazine I wanted to create a tool from an emerging technology perspective, really who prints these days? Now keep in mind that technology is always changing, so we had to be sure to create a magazine that was engaging, allowed readers to interact and was constantly changing. We have readers from all over the world and must keep them up to date on what’s going on in their communities and with our community here in Los Angeles.
PI: What was your inspiration for starting BBINT magazine?
LW: Diversity first, and also the Inspiration for starting BBINT magazine came from working in entertainment and seeing hot trends firsthand. There are a lot of publications out there and being an African American male it’s not too often that you see a lot of people who look like us on the covers of magazines and talking about stories related to heath, fitness and wellness that really impact my demographic so I created a magazine that showed diversity in the male populace. The other inspiration was that in the gay male market we wanted to create a vehicle that allowed us to support other individuals regardless if they were politicians, entertainers, people in sports to be bold in who they are so BBINT magazine was created from those two reasons. The name BBINT magazine stands for “Be” BOLD International.
PI: I saw some of your interviews on YouTube. Do you plan on doing more interviews and making them as downloadable podcasts to complement BBINT’s content?
LW: Yes absolutely! We have been developing teams around the world to create and submit content that shows what they’re doing in their own communities and unite men around the world utilizing a common theme of health, fitness and sports.
The videos that you are referring to were related to the BLINK Campaign, a campaign created around HIV/AIDS held here in Los Angeles. It was a star studded event. And BBINT was the feature magazine that was on site covering the event interviewing the celebrities. It was a nice show. I recorded several interviews while at the United States Conference on AIDS from last year. I interviewed Mondo Guerra from Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars. Mondo revealed that he was HIV positive while on the show as contestant on Project Runway and we got to chat about that revelation at the conference. During our interview he encouraged AIDS/HIV patients to be aware of the progress that has been made with medicines to fight the disease.
PI: There’s another YouTube of you making a 7-Up Cake. Did you actually make it from scratch?
LW: It was the holiday season and we had just started working on SKIN. My publicist, agent and other friends who’d worked on the project and understood the impact it could make on humanity were there. I remember back to the days while I was growing up my grandmother used to make a 7-Up Cake for the holidays so I made it as a special treat for all involved in the SKIN.
PI: So does that mean that if I was to make a trip to Los Angeles and I called you upon and said, “Hey LaMont I want a 7-UP Cake, what do you plan on doing about it?”
LW: (LAUGHS) We would go into the kitchen and pull out those pots and pans. I will show you how to make the glaze. I call It a piece of country in LA.
PI: What projects are you working on right now? What can we expect from you next professionally?
LW: I am working on collaborations with other artists and producers. I am constantly writing. I have an R&B Project that will be released this summer. The first single will be called “Anything.” It was a project that inspired by the death of Amy Winehouse. I started to work on a song for her 3 years ago and after her death I had to complete it. It’s being remixed into a house track as well by producers in 6 different countries. I’m supporting my dear friend Andy Sacher who’s spear heading LA’s first LGBT cultural museum though his Lavender Effect Foundation. And I am looking forward to launching the SKIN Project , going on tour and lending my celebrity to other cause. Additionally, we will be releasing a version of Still Standing recorded by the Dream Girl herself, Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Lastly we did a soft launch of a tour called “Music for Love” and my agency is working on booking out dates for that now. We did a live debut of the SKIN project on the East Coast during the Winter Music Conference that was very warmly received so as we release, you will obviously see more tour dates.
The SKIN Project is an open community project where we support individuals groups and organizations in creating unity, acceptance, love and humanity. It is an open project that’s open to anyone from any background and any professional experience who’d like to be a contribution. We’re totally open to how they might contribute and support this movement so go to www.Theskinfoundation.org. We’re going to be to make an impact and hope that people will be able to make the commitment in acceptance
Visit BBINT Magazine here: www.BBINTmagazine.com
SKIN can be downloaded on iTunes here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/s-k-i-n-feat.-faith-michaels-ep/id530734324