Adam Lambert first captivated the world with his rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at his “American Idol” audition, impressing the judges with his incredible vocals and range. The show catapulted Lambert to fame, but his path to stardom was not always smooth.

Lambert grew up in a happy family, telling Us Weekly that he had a “great, easy upbringing.” While the singer claimed that he did not face many obstacles on his way to becoming an entertainer, things were very different once he became famous. His sexuality — Lambert is the first openly gay artist to have an album chart at No. 1 — was questioned early in his career, to the point where he told Time that he wondered if his career was even making him happy anymore.

Lambert persevered in his passion in the face of adversity, and he is stronger for it. From his early days on stage to his current status as an iconic rock star in control of his career, here’s a look at how Adam Lambert has evolved over the years.

As a child, Adam Lambert learned to sing the classics

Lambert began taking acting lessons with a reputable youth theatre network at the age of eight and continued for eight years. He soon began taking voice lessons as well. Lambert told Variety that his childhood voice teacher was “like a mentor” to him, teaching him classics by Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Cher, and others. Lambert, while obviously going the rocker route, is well-versed. “She [my teacher] cut my teeth on […] the quintessential gay icons,” he told Variety. It can never hurt!

Meanwhile, Lambert was reportedly a “loner” in school, telling HuffPost Live (via PressParty) that he didn’t have many friends growing up. He wasn’t bullied, but he “avoided a lot of social contacts” because he was afraid of being bullied, as he put it. Aw. Fortunately, Lambert’s situation improved in high school, when he met “people with shared interests.” And it didn’t matter because Adam Lambert was just practicing!

He came out when he was a teenager

Adam Lambert has long been comfortable with his sexuality, and he came out as gay to his friends and family when he was 18 years old, according to The Guardian. He told People that it was his mother, Leila, who encouraged him to come out, adding that “she kind of initiated” the conversation, “which was hilarious.” He went on to say that while he was “kind of an out-there kid,” he was never made to feel bad about his sexuality and that his family was completely supportive of him.

Adam Lambert skipped college to pursue fame

Adam Lambert hadn’t yet developed his signature goth-glam look by high school, but he had developed his killer pipes. (He even displayed them during his graduation ceremony.) Then he did something different. According to The Guardian, Lambert came out as gay when he was 18 years old, with the encouragement of… his mother! Lambert told People that she “kind of initiated” the conversation, which was “hilarious.” He went on to say that despite being “kind of an out-there kid,” he was always accepted and supported at home. Aw!

Adam Lambert appeared to be more confident than ever after coming out. In 2009, he told Rolling Stone, “I’m proud of my sexuality,” she says, adding, “and I embrace it.” It’s just another aspect of myself.” He moved to Los Angeles after high school, skipping college to pursue a career in show business. Although his early jobs included a ten-month stint on a cruise ship, he quickly moved on to more serious roles, such as a leading role in The Ten Commandments: The Musical in 2004 alongside Val Kilmer at the Kodak Theater (now the Dolby Theater) and the Wicked national tour. He did, however, leave Wicked for his next job… a TV job, if you get our drift.

Adam Lambert wasn’t publicly out as gay on American Idol

Adam Lambert auditioned for Season 8 of American Idol in 2009, and the rest, as they say, is history! While he blazed a path to the finale, Simon Cowell gave the singer a hard time even at his first audition. “I believe your voice is a little… theatrical,” he observed. Hmm. It became clear that, while Adam Lambert was prepared for America, America was perhaps not prepared for Adam Lambert.

When the singer lost to Kris Allen, fans reacted with homophobia. In 2009, HuffPost headlined, “Adam Lambert Loses, Homophobia Wins.” Meanwhile, Lambert told The Guardian that his rumored sexuality “was becoming bigger” than his singing, which he described as “fundamentally […] f*cked up” as the competition progressed. Preach! One thing is certain: America chose the more appealing candidate. (At the time, Allen was married to his high school sweetheart.)

Lambert did come out after the finale, but the struggle went on. His debut album received a different cover because his label believed the original (more provocative) cover would harm sales. “The powers that be released a second cover for retailers who felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the original,” the star wrote in 2017 on Instagram. “Seems so funny now… but it was a very different climate just 8 years ago.”

Adam Lambert is now more accepted by the public

Years later, both the pop culture landscape and Adam Lambert’s appearance have clearly evolved. For one thing, the star gained popularity after succeeding Freddy Mercury in Queen. According to his book, Queen in 3-D, Brian May was inundated with messages following the star’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” audition, and Lambert was “the natural successor to Freddie [Mercury].” He has indeed toured the world in Freddy’s shoes since!

And, thankfully, American Idol has softened its stance, with two openly LGBTQIA+ singers (one in drag) reaching the top ten in 2018. Since the late 2000s, there has also been a much-needed and noticeable shift in the industry’s acceptance of LGBTQIA+ artists, with more queer artists on the charts than ever before. “It’s a completely different landscape,” Lambert explained to Variety. “When I first arrived on the scene, almost everyone I met in the music industry was very supportive of me personally, but they were all a little concerned about how it would work publicly. It has now been established that there is a market and an audience.” Lambert is partly to blame for this!

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