THE ICON: Raymond A. Myles Sr.
THE LEGACY: Life wasn’t easy for young Raymond Myles. He just wanted to praise the Lord through gospel music. Instead, as a gay man, he was bullied and ostracized for his flamboyance. Rather than buckling, he sang louder, drowning out his tormentors and winning a legion of fans in the process. As a regular performer at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and as a public school teacher who both coached and counseled New Orleans youth, he became adored among local audiences for his exuberant, uplifting shows and what The Times-Picayune in 1995 described as a voice that “blows through the Richter scale like Stevie Wonder’s.” Then, with Billboard magazine declaring him on the brink of mainstream success, Myles was gunned down in 1998 in an apparent carjacking. His memory and influence live on, however, as his work continues to live up to the inscription on his gravestone: “Maestro.”
THE ARTIST: Jessica Strahan
THE INSPIRATION: “Whatever makes you happy, do it. Damn what somebody thinks about it. I have spent years of my life trying to make people like me, trying to make people accept me. And no matter what I did, somebody found fault. So I’m at the point in my life where I don’t give a damn. Life is too valuable to live it in pain and agony.” — Raymond A. Myles Sr.