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After several years of hard touring, Chely Wright broke through to become a chart-topping star on the contemporary country scene. Born Richelle Renee Wright in Kansas City in 1970, she grew up in the small town of Wellsville, KS, and fell in love with country music before she'd even started school. She took piano lessons starting at age four and began singing in groups at 11, also playing trumpet in her school band. At 14 she started performing in local clubs with a backing band called County Line, which featured her father on bass. The summer after her junior year of high school she performed in the long-running Ozark Jubilee show, and as a senior she successfully auditioned for a job impersonating female country stars at Nashville's Opryland theme park. She moved there permanently in 1989 and spent the next three years working at Opryland and an assortment of day jobs. Eventually, she landed a publishing deal on the strength of her songwriting, and a record contract with Mercury/Polydor followed.
Wright's debut album, Woman in the Moon, was released in 1994 and attracted positive notice from some critics and the country music community, earning her a Top New Female Vocalist award from the ACM. Unfortunately, neither it nor its follow-up, 1996's Right in the Middle of It, sold very well. Wright asked for her release from Polydor and moved over to MCA, where she had the opportunity to work with the commercially savvy producer Tony Brown. Though it wasn't a smash, Wright's 1997 label debut, Let Me In, did make the country Top 40 and gave the singer her first Top 20 hit in "Shut Up and Drive." Moreover, her constant touring was paying off in the form of a growing fan base, setting the stage for her breakthrough with 1999's Single White Female. The album's title track became Wright's first number one hit, and the following year she and Brad Paisley performed a duet on their co-composition "Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife." Her next album, Never Love You Enough, became her first to break the country Top Ten, and she reached the Top 30 with the title track and "Jezebel." In 2004, after leaving MCA, she released Everything, a collection of leftover session material not included on her previous releases, on her own Painted Red imprint. In 2005 Wright moved over to Dualtone for The Metropolitan Hotel. After a long tour, Wright took an extended break from recording, and finally re-emerged in 2010 with Lifted Off the Ground on Vanguard, as well as the written memoir Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer from Random House. In May of 2010, Ms. Wright came out as gay in a People Magazine profile on her album and autobiography.
Richell Rene "Chely" Wright (pronunciation: /ˈʃɛ ˈaɪ/; born October 25, 1970) is an American country music artist and gay rights activist. On the strength of her debut album in 1994, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) named her Top New Female Vocalist in 1995. Wright's first Top 40 country hit came in 1997 with "Shut Up and Drive". Two years later, her fourth album yielded her first number one single, the title track, "Single White Female". Overall, Wright has released seven studio albums on various labels, and has charted more than fifteen singles on the country charts. As of May 2010, Wright's previous eight albums had sold over 1,000,000 copies in the United States. In May 2010, Wright became the first major country music performer to publicly come out as gay. In television appearances and an autobiography, she cited among her reasons for publicizing her homosexuality a concern with bullying and hate crimes toward gays, particularly gay teenagers, and the damage to her life caused by "lying and hiding".
As a songwriter she has written songs that have been recorded by Brad Paisley, Richard Marx, Indigo Girls, Mindy Smith and Clay Walker, among them Walker's top ten hit, "I Can't Sleep" that won her a BMI award. On May 4, 2010, Wright released both her memoir of being a closeted lesbian, Like Me, and her first album of new songs since 2005, Lifted Off the Ground.
Early years 
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Wright grew up in a musical family in Wellsville, Kansas, a very small town with a population under 2,000. As presented in her autobiography, Like Me, two major factors driving her approach to life were her calling to be a country music performer, which she resolved upon as early as age four, and her realization, as early as age eight, that she was gay.
As a toddler, Wright would sit in a great-grandmother's lap and rest her own hands on the great-grandmother's hands as the woman played piano. Also in these years, she began to seek out adult audiences to sing for. Piano lessons followed. Starting at age 11, she was a professional pianist and singer, and from seventh to twelfth grades, the local branch of the American Legion appointed her the bugler to play taps at the funerals of veterans.
At the beginning of third grade, Wright realized she was in love with her schoolteacher. Although at that young age she lacked sexual awareness, this crush made her realize that she had an attraction to women that she knew to be culturally taboo. Not only did she share the belief that her sexual orientation was immoral, she also believed that it would kill her career hopes for her audiences to know about it. From early childhood, she therefore built up resolve to never confide the secret of her nature to anyone, let alone pursue romantic love with women.
The summer before her senior year of high school, she worked as a performing musician at the Ozark Jubilee, a long running country music show in Branson, Missouri. In 1989, taking the advice of her grandfather, she auditioned and landed a position in a musical production at Opryland USA, a now defunct theme park in Nashville, Tennessee, starting the job straight out of high school. She would call Nashville home until 2008. For the next several years, she interned and attended writers' nights, while honing her singing and songwriting. She attained her first recording contract in 1993, when Harold Shedd signed her to Mercury/Polygram, and her first album was released in 1994 on the corporation's Polydor label.
Recording career 
As a commercial artist 
After releasing two unsuccessful albums through Mercury/Polygram, Wright asked to be released from her contract and later signed with MCA Nashville. Here, she had her first top twenty country hit in 1997 with the song "Shut Up and Drive," off her third album, Let Me In, which was released by MCA Nashville. In 1999, her fourth album, Single White Female, brought her several hit songs and her first gold album certification. In 2000, during a period of months when she was touring with fellow country artist Brad Paisley, Wright and Paisley cowrote a duet entitled, "Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife", which they performed in their joint shows. Later that year—on her 30th birthday—the two of them performed the song at a televised celebration of Grand Ole Opry's 75th anniversary (televised by CBS). The recording of that song's performance at the Opry was later nominated for Vocal Event Of The Year as part of the 35th Annual CMA Awards. Additionally, Wright joined with Diamond Rio for a song on their One More Day album, as well as Paisley's Part II album, both of which were released in 2001.
Later in 2001, Wright released the first single from her fifth studio album, Never Love You Enough. The album was originally scheduled to be released on September 11, 2001 but due to the World Trade Center attack, the release date was postponed to September 25. Although Never Love You Enough debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, it did not match the success of Single White Female.
In these peak years of her popularity, Wright was promoted as a sex symbol by People magazine and FHM magazine. In 2001, People chose her for inclusion in its annual article, "50 Most Beautiful People". In 2002, she was ranked No. 93 among FHM's "100 Sexiest Women of 2002". and later that year was ranked No. 18 of "The 20 Hottest Women in Music 2002"
She also cowrote Clay Walker's 2003 top 10 single "I Can't Sleep".
As an independent artist 
In 2003, Wright parted ways with MCA Nashville after "Never Love You Enough" failed to meet sales expectations. In January 2004, she signed with a new independent label, Vivaton, and began preparation for a new album. Although a music video was released for a song entitled "The Back of the Bottom Drawer," the album never materialized. Wright announced she was splitting with Vivaton in June 2004. Again without a label, she nevertheless released a single in late 2004, mostly through the Internet and various radio stations. The song, entitled "Bumper of My S.U.V.," was written by Wright in response to an altercation with an irate woman who noticed the United States Marine Corps bumper sticker on the back of Wright's car.
The success of "Bumper of My SUV", released on Wright's own Painted Red Music Group, was followed by the release of an EP, Everything. The record contained "Back of the Bottom Drawer" and "Bumper of My SUV" along with four demos. The album was made exclusively available through Wright's website (where she states she put out the album for her fans) and was later made available in many retail outlets such as Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy. The success of the EP led Wright to be signed with Dualtone Records.
Wright's sixth album, The Metropolitan Hotel, was released in February 2005 on Dualtone Records. The CD included both "The Bumper of My S.U.V." and "Back of the Bottom Drawer," along with ten additional songs, most of which were written or cowritten by Wright. The album itself was produced in conjunction with her own company. Although not a "breakout" commercial hit, it debuted at No. 18 on Billboard's Top Country chart and it reached No. 7 on the Top Independent Albums chart. The fourth single released from The Metropolitan Hotel was "C'est La Vie (You Never Can Tell)", a retitled cover of Chuck Berry's song "You Never Can Tell".
Lifted Off the Ground 
Wright signed to Vanguard Records in 2008. She released her seventh studio album, Lifted Off the Ground, on May 4, 2010. The album is produced by Grammy Award winner Rodney Crowell. All tracks on the album were written by Wright except for "Heavenly Days", co-written with Crowell. The first single from the album is "Broken", which was released to radio in April 2010. In early 2011, Wright released a dance mix for the album's third single, "Damn Liar". The remix was produced by Jared Kuemper and was officially be released to dance radio on March 29, 2011.
Personal life 
Despite her resolution against having sex with women, by her early 30s Wright had had sexual relationships with two women (as recounted in her autobiography). At age 19, for the first time a girl came on to her — "it was the first time I'd ever had a girl's body pressed against mine"—and this initiation into sex (by a girl of the same age) became an affair that lasted the better part of a year. From 1993 to about 2004, Wright maintained a committed relationship with a woman she describes as "the love of my life", a woman she met shortly after winning her first recording contract. The era of their relationship overlaps Wright's rise to chart-topping stardom. They maintained their union even though her partner subsequently got married to a man for many of those years and even though after the end of that marriage each woman briefly had heterosexual relationships. During their final five years they lived together. The relationship suffered numerous breakups followed by reconciliations, being as it was under continuous strain from several factors: the fact that both women were closeted, the fact that, at least in the early part of their years together, "neither one of us thought it was acceptable to be in a gay relationship", and Wright's prolonged absences while performing on tour nationally and internationally.
In the last months of 2000, Wright embarked on an affair with fellow country music singer Brad Paisley. Even though Wright and her female lover had moved together into a new home earlier in the year, tension mounted between the two. Wright was touring together with Paisley, with whom she had co-written one song the previous year, and he had been enamored of her ever since. Although she felt no sexual attraction to Paisley (or any man) she recounts why Paisley was the man she decided to have a relationship with, "he’s wickedly smart, which is one of the reasons why I made the decision to spend time with him. I loved Brad. I never had the capacity to fall in love with him, but I figured if I’m gonna live a less than satisfied life, this is the guy I could live my life with. If I’m gonna be with a boy, this is the boy." She held him in high esteem and great affection in every way other than sexual attraction. In her autobiography she expresses remorse for how she treated him. She also addressed this point in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, stating, "I have a lot of regret for how that [relationship] began and had a middle and ended. I had no business being in a relationship with him".
In the end, she abandoned the belief that being gay is immoral and deviant:
"I hear the word 'tolerance'—that some people are trying to teach people to be tolerant of gays. I'm not satisfied with that word. I am gay, and I am not seeking to be 'tolerated'. One tolerates a toothache, rush-hour traffic, an annoying neighbor with a cluttered yard. I am not a negative to be tolerated."
Between 2004 and 2006, Wright came out to members of her immediate family and to a few of her close friends. It was not until 2007 (as she stated on Oprah) that she decided to come out publicly. She spent the next three years writing her autobiography and orchestrating the coming out. Among the reasons she has given for wanting to come out to the public are to free herself from the burdens of living a lie, to lend support to gay children and teenagers, and to counter the belief that gays are wicked and defective. On May 3, 2010, People magazine reported that Wright had come out publicly. Wright is the first major country music artist to come out as gay (former country artist k.d. lang came out in 1992 but had abandoned the country music genre by then and Kristen Hall, formerly of Sugarland, was already known as being out in the folk music genre).
On April 6, 2011, Wright's publicist announced that the singer was engaged to LGBT rights advocate Lauren Blitzer. The couple married on August 20 in a private ceremony on a country estate in Connecticut. Wright and Blitzer were married by both a rabbi and a reverend. On January 23, 2013, the couple announced that Chely was expecting identical twins. . Wright gave birth to George Samuel and Everett Joseph on May 18, 2013.
A documentary film about Wright's extended coming out was released in 2011. Titled Wish Me Away, the film shares its title with one of the tracks on her 2010 album, Lifted Off the Ground. The film premiered at the 35th annual Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco on June 22, 2011. It was filmed over three years.
Wright is the founder of the charity, Reading, Writing, and Rhythm (RW&R), which is devoted to musical education in America's schools and helps supply musical instruments and equipment. It holds a fundraiser each June in Nashville, just before CMA Music Festival. In 2002 Wright received the MENC's "FAME Award" in honor of the accomplishments of RW&R.
In 2010 Wright founded her second charity, The Like Me Organization. Wright brought together friends, family, fans, and supporters of the LGBT community to build an organization to provide assistance, resources, and education to LGBT individuals and their family and friends. Wright will serve as spokesperson for the Like Me Organization, which will work to prevent LGBT bullying and teen suicide.
Miscellaneous recognitions 
In 2001, Wright was given the "Stand Up For Music Award" MENC: The National Association for Music Education.
In 2003, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the American Legion Auxiliary and "Kansan of the Year" for her career achievements, her charity work and her support of the U.S. armed forces.
In 2010, Wright was named the National Spokesperson for the organization GLSEN. Wright was named one of Out magazine's annual 100 People of the Year. Metro Source New York Magazine named her as one of the 20 people We Love in 2010.
Wright made her acting debut in the Disney film, Max Keeble's Big Move. She plays Mrs. Styles, Max's homeroom teacher.