Asher HaVon, the first openly queer ‘Voice’ Champ, and coach Reba McEntire talk historic win: ‘I pray other LGBTQIA people can find their Reba’

Published On May 22, 2024 » By »
'The Voice' Season 25 champ Asher HaVon and his coach, Reba McEntire, share a sweet moment after their historic win.
(Photo : Lyndsey Parker) ‘The Voice’ Season 25 champ Asher HaVon and his coach, Reba McEntire, share a sweet moment after their historic win.

Team Reba’s Asher HaVon made history Tuesday on The Voice Season 25 finale, when he became the first openly queer singer to win the show. While a couple of past champs have come out after competing on The Voice (notably Season 8′s Sawyer Fredericks, who in 2022 announced that he’s bisexual), and the GLAAD Award-winning series has featured dozens of LGBTQ+ contestants ever since Season 1′s Nakia, Beverly McClellan, and Vicci Martinez, it was Asher who blazed a new Voice trail this season… all the way to the winner’s circle.

Shortly before Carson Daly announced the finale’s results, a grateful Asher — who during this season’s Battle Rounds had first discussed his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality — told Reba that she had given him a “safe space” to be himself. After the finale, when the pair did their victory lap on the red carpet, they opened up about their bond and the significance of this moment.

“It meant everything, growing up in a culture where people just don’t make you feel safe,” Asher, who had a very religious upbringing in Selma, Ala., said as he reflected on his Voice experience and his coach’s unwavering support. “The moment I felt safe, I wanted to stay there. And I just pray that other LGBTQIA people can find their Reba McEntire, so they can feel safe and they can come out and be whoever they want to be.”

Asher confessed that before he met Reba, he was “broken” and “healing on TV,” and he questioned whether he “belonged” on the show at all. “I tried to leave a couple times! When I got here, I thought I wasn’t supposed to be here. I cried to so many producers. … I practiced for my Blind [Audition] and I was like, ‘I can’t set fire to the rain! I’m just so hurt and broken!’ But when she turned, I was like, ‘OK, let’s see. Let’s just see.’”

Gospel belter Asher, 31, only recently came out as a member of the LBGTQ+ community, hadn’t sung for two and a half years before appearing on The Voice, and didn’t even watch television or listen to secular music until he was “27 or 28.” (He sheepishly admitted that the first secular song he ever heard, “Bump & Grind” by the now-problematic R. Kelly, had him “fangirling out” at the time.) So, it’s understandable that when he found himself competing against seasoned pros like Team Reba’s Josh Sanders, Team Legend’s Bryan Olesen and Nathan Chester, and Team Dan + Shay’s Karen Waldrup (who respectively placed second, third, fourth, and fifth Tuesday), he felt insecure — even though John Legend, Reba’s rival, had repeatedly declared Asher the best vocalist of Season 25.

“But when I met [Reba] and I found my safe place, I felt unstoppable,” Asher smilingly told Music Times. “And so, if it wasn’t for this lady standing beside me, I don’t know…”

The enthusiastically voting LGBTQ+ fanbases of both Reba (whose “Fancy” has inspired countless drag-queen lip syncs) and Asher helped surely helped make this landmark victory possible — something that ally Reba said “means everything. I have had [LGBTQ+] fans all my career. … I love them. I respect them. God created every snowflake different. Why wouldn’t he create us different? And if we are different, it’s a challenge: What we’re supposed to do is love each other, love our God with all our hearts, and love each other as we love Him. Even though we look different, and have different beliefs, we agree to disagree and go on. Go play a game. Go have a cheeseburger together. Let’s just get along and be nice. It’s not that hard.”

“I want to give a shout-out to the LGBTQIA+ community,” Asher added, wearing his natural short hair but otherwise lavishly decked out in brocade and lace, piles of jewels and gold, and an opera cape, looking like a newly crowned member of Voice royalty. “Another part of why I wear wigs and makeup on this show is because I just represent my culture. I’m a part of this beautiful [queer] culture, and I want them to know that you can be authentically yourself and gifted and stand on a stage like this and sing your heart out. You don’t have to change. And so, thank you to NBC and The Voice for allowing me to have a platform where I can wear wigs and makeup. … I love my people, honey.”

And so, Asher seems well on his way to being healed, on and off TV. “Anything is possible if you just believe,” he declared. “I’m telling you, doubt is the poisoning to faith. All it took was me to believe. And sometimes I didn’t have the verbiage for myself, so I had to lean on somebody else’s [Reba's] verbiage for me. And thank God this woman loves God so much. Until I was able to stand on her foundation, I didn’t feel like I had my own.

“I feel like I know exactly who I am,” Asher summed up, looking to his bright future. “I know my sound. I know my voice. I trust my gift, and I’m ready for the next chapter in my life. I’m ready.”

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