North Carolina! C'mon and raise up, take your shirt off, twist it 'round yah' hand and spin it like a helicopter! But don’t fly too far away, because we’re kicking off our second annual All New issue with Harlemite soul singer Christian Paige! We’ve had our collective eye on this underground upstart since our inaugural issue, and we are overjoyed that we’ve finally got the chance to showcase him as our first Black, Gay & Gifted feature for 2019! Many of you may not be old enough to remember the iconic funk/soul singer Sylvester (do your homework), but we’re beyond certain that everyone can attest to being familiar with “the voice”, Whitney Houston. If you find that your brows are furrowed from curiosity, Christian, “Xtian” Paige considers and presents himself as an amalgamation of the two en vue and dans le son.
The soul stirring, down right sanging blonde songbird was raised alongside his brother and two sisters in Raeford, North Carolina. Christian credits his siblings with having a great deal of influence on his recent success. While it's safe to assume that he didn’t drink from the same coonish wells that fellow Raefordians Diamond and Silk did, he does hail from a rather conservative background. “I had a very strict church upbringing,” says Paige on his upbringing. “I was in church just ‘about every day if my grandmother could make it.” Christian, like most, finds excitement in celebrating the New Year and enjoys the idea of new beginnings and expressed an optimistic attitude about 2019. “I’m looking forward to 2019, [I’m] working on some new projects and music, so I’m super excited.” And while many of us were busy trying to figure out which resolutions we’d make for 2019, Christian was somewhere minding his own business. “ I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, so I don’t have any.”
Xtian is no stranger to the music scene as the two were first acquainted when he was eight years old, and by the time he was eleven he was a featured soloist in his church’s youth choir. While he eventually became the youngest person to join Silver Grove Missionary Baptist Church’s young adult choir, he continued to explore his passion throughout middle and high school where he learned to play the clarinet, trombone, and tenor saxophone. Christian is a talent, to say the least, but there’s more to the Fayetteville State University alum than meets the eye. We could go on and on about his vocal ranges, the work he’s done as a background and studio singer, his exploits in singing for gospel greats Donnie McClurkin, Dorinda Clark Cole, Yolonda Adams and Patti LaBelle, his acting resume and on work he’s doing to attain his third degree in music (a Master’s with concentration on vocal performance), but to doing that would be a disservice to his depth.
In 2014 Patty Chang Anker wrote an article for Psychology Today titled “How to Overcome Fear of Water” where she stated that forty six percent of Americans were afraid of the deep end of a pool and that thirty seven percent of Americans didn’t know how to swim. She also stated that nearly 4,000 people in the United States died from drowning. A fear of water and of drowning may be a common phobias but they can be dealt with pretty easily by acknowledging the fear, putting it into perspective and by identifying the origin of the fear. The reason we’re mentioning any of this is because that forty six percent of Americans who are allegedly afraid of the deep end of the pool and the other thirty seven percent that don’t know how to swim can take a paige (we simply couldn’t resist adding that in) from Xtian’s book because outside of everything else he’s a part of and has committed himself to, he’s somehow found time to work towards dismantling the stereotypes associated with mental health and HIV.
Before we take a swan dive off into the deep end, let’s test the water’s temperature by sharing some of the best advice Christian’s ever received, which, according to him, was that “Life does not come with any instructions, so just live it until you can’t anymore. There are no wrong or right ways to live life. It's yours so just do it!” We can begin our swim there. There’s not a lot of productive discussion about mental illness within SGL communities of color, but Xtian has, in the past, eluded to struggling with it in an Instagram post he made where he referenced his struggles amidst the excitement he felt about getting the keys to his new apartment. “I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety [and] it is hard dealing with it [...] in NYC with very little family support...”. Let’s tread some water here.
No matter how much those suffering from clinical depression may try to hide it, and despite those who don’t suffer from it attempt to deny it as being a thing, depression is very real; it can start during adolescence and, if left unaddressed, can persist throughout adulthood. Homophobia, and familial rejection can be considered as two of the leading contributors to depression and can lead many of our Beaux brothers down the road of substance misuse and in engaging in unprotected sex..and we all know where and what that can lead to. Christian says that he has an amazing support system of friends and social workers, and while they might not all care about what he’s going through, “the ones that do are always there to make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to”.
Support systems are important in almost every aspect of life, but it can be a challenge to develop one when you’re dealing with something as stigmatized as depression. However, there are some ways in which we can all identify who to include within our support systems as we consider how we feel when talking to our family and friends about our issues, whether or not they take our feelings and needs into account, and if their advice, no matter how tough it may be, is based on our well being.
Another challenge that comes with suffering from depression is finding coping mechanisms that keep us out of harm’s way. Some may resort to keeping themselves busy by making subtle lifestyle changes, engaging a therapist, or embracing their spiritual side. Paige has explored similar paths in his coping. “I honestly cope by staying busy, and constantly looking for work, or creating something new to do as an artistic soul. Plus I became a Buddhist, and it has helped keep me centered a lot lately.”
Christian is body rolling through the waves of depression and is creating quite a portfolio for himself. “I’m Googleable!” he says and its true. A simple C. PAIGE Google search will instantly direct you to his social media. On his Facebook , you’ll find “As the PAIGE Turns”, which “Chronicles my life, and how I’m coping with my mental illness, while trying to navigate NYC from a shelter into my new apartment.” His Youtube profile hosts videos of past shows and you can find Soundcloud features his new single “Nobody Knows”, which he anticipates will be uploaded to iTunes later this year.
“Nobody Knows” is a movement and is focused on the sexual abuse Paige experienced at the hands of the preachers from his hometown. “The name of the movement comes from my only gospel track which samples an old song by Pastor T. L. Barrett. I wrote the song when I had no one else I could turn to but GOD.” Xtian says that if there were any song he would consider as being his theme song, “Nobody Knows” would be it. “It is a short song but it packs a powerful message. There are many times that we want to quit and give up but it is by the grace of GOD, that we survive and keep going.”
Paige currently has a few projects in the works and, along with his rapper / emcee friend, Tony Banks, is a member of a group called Well Beyond. “We are currently working on some new music. I have a new mixtape I’m going to drop on Soundcloud in January, called “Unrealesed, Untouched, & Unmastered”, which will feature a bunch of my music that I have never finished or released, but I think the world and some people may like it and can relate to the rawness and realness of it.” Christian has an EP titled “Based on a True Story…” which will be released in the spring and a gospel and Christmas EP that will be released later on this year.
Paige, like many of us, has encountered a challenging time or two. When questioned about what he considered to be the lowest time in his life, Christian says that it, without a doubt was 2018. “ 2018 was one of the hardest years of my life. Living in a shelter, singing on the streets, digging in trash cans for food, and sometimes for clothes. Even though.” And while he’s currently on the rebound, the struggle is still very real. As he works to perfect his craft and to establish his brand while battling depression and eluding homelessness, Xtian is also dedicating time to fighting a personal battle with HIV and a public one as an HIV advocate.
HIV made a very hard entry into Paige’s life when he was 18 and he credits it as changing his life for the better. “I grew up quick. I had to start taking medications almost immediately. I've learned over the years to just live with it, and to not be ashamed of it. So I’ve since moved on with life. I hardly think about it until I get sick.” With the passing of 2018, and the arrival of 2019, HIV is just as, if not more, stigmatized than depression and other issues existing within the realm of mental health. “We still have stigma attached to it, but I don’t feel the need to combat it now”, he says. “ In today’s society there is no reason for anyone not to be educated on this type of stuff. If people are spreading ignorance, then that is because they want to, not because they don’t know”.
Christian may not have been a part of Anker’s 2014 survey, but it's safe to say that he’s not afraid of the deep end. He’s acknowledged his fears by putting them into perspective and has dolphin kicked them into submission. He’s coping with his depression, focusing on his craft and, through his work as an HIV advocate, is working to create a better life for himself and for those who he’ll probably never meet. His story is similar to the stories of many of our readers. We’re thankful that he’s chosen our small section of the internet to share his truth, as Black, Gay and Gifted is about more than notoriety, it’s about a willingness to share talent and experiences with the community at large, and to provide readers with a lifeboat amidst the undertows and slipstreams that aim to draw us into the violent waters of life’s unforgiving oceans. And if you’ve learned anything from his feature it should be that the depths of life’s challenges can be weathered with perception. Perception.