Man Crush Monday: Tituss Burgess
In the process of bingeing season 2 of Netflix’s laugh-out-loud standout Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, we were reminded how much we love Tituss Burgess, who portrays the hilarious Titus Andromedon, Kimmy’s roommate and friend. This week, we’re crushing on Burgess because of his strength of character, talent, humanity, and inspiration– he empowers his fans by letting them know it’s okay to be themselves.
Burgess grew up in Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia, where he earned a degree in music. After college, Burgess fled what he considered to be the oppressive culture of the South and headed to New York City, that oasis for so many talented and idealistic young men and women. As he recounted in an interview with The Daily Beast, “Literally it was like, ‘Oh my god, my people!’ I just understood them. And understood it, and her, and how New York works. Outside of the oppressive nature that the South offered to the black people, black gay people, black gay people who happened to be Christian, who wouldn’t want to leave? I couldn’t wait to get out of there.” Burgess was unwilling to let Southern culture stifle him, so he left, always following his passions on his path to be true to himself.
After heading north, Burgess cut his professional teeth on Broadway, appearing in such productions as Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid, and Guys and Dolls. In fact, musical theatre seems to be in Burgess’ soul (we feel you, Tituss.) Check out this recent duet he did with Tina Fey at MCC’s annual Miscast event:
But, where does Tituss Burgess end and Titus Andromedon begin? That line between fact and fiction was blurred this spring when Burgess launched his own pinot noir, Pino by Tituss Burgess, which is an on-point and hilarious homage to Titus Andromedon’s most memorable moment from season 1: his “Peeno Noir” music video. Guys, this is for real: you can click here to find out where to purchase Pino by Tituss in the New York City area. He even shared a bottle with Seth Meyers.
Make no mistake, though: Burgess isn’t just a funny man. He is also a thoughtful and articulate human being who eloquently shows his support for LGBT issues. His brilliant portrayal of a gay character and his LGBT advocacy earned him the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award last year. Yes, Burgess’ Titus is self-obsessed and ridiculous; but he’s also complex, talented, unashamed about who he is, and in possession of a rich inner world. Indeed, as told to The Daily Beast, Burgess describes Titus in very human terms, and that’s part of what makes his character so lovable, authentic, and meaningful: “I don’t think of him as a movement or a political statement. But what I do appreciate is that he exists, and that he exists so boldly and unabashedly himself. […] Titus is much more the Everyman than not. He’s out of work. He’s in pursuit of a dream that might or might not happen. He is overweight. He can’t pay his rent. There’s so many things that I can see in him that is representative of a lot of America.” Watch his heartfelt and candid acceptance speech below– and be sure to have tissues nearby.
Burgess’ social consciousness doesn’t stop there. Like many men and women in the Broadway community, he has been an active ally for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for people living with AIDS and for the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative. In 2013, Burgess performed at Broadway Backwards in support of Broadway Cares. His performance song? The Dreamgirls standard “And I Am Telling You.” YAS.
We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Tituss Burgess. Based on what’s he’s already accomplished, we are sure of one thing: it’ll be a bright future, indeed.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Netfilx.
Photo Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times