In between performing with Rod Stewart at the Hollywood Bowl and taking meetings about Broadway-bound “Working Girl: The Musical,” veteran pop star Cyndi Lauper made time to toast the tenth anniversary of her charity, The True Colors Fund, at the Sunset Marquis this morning (June 28). However, this event was not an informal celebration but rather a call-to-action. Despite her playful mane of cotton candy-colored hair, Lauper meant business: Among an intimate gathering of select media outlets, she was proud to present the True Colors Fund’s newest project, the State Index on Youth Homelessness, which was created in partnership with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C.
“We are so excited about this partnership because the State Index actually is a game-changer. It is the first-of-its-kind resource,” Lauper said of the ranking of all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to how effectively they have addressed the challenge of housing youth. (Washington and Massachusetts achieved the highest scores for assisting an estimated 4.2 million youth and young adults up to age 24 in the U.S., while Alabama and South Carolina were the lowest.) “The purpose is not to demonize states but to empower them to improve how they are addressing youth homelessness,” added Lauper, who is specifically concerned about LGBTQ kids. (After all, they’re 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ youth.) And, now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, they also happen to be the most at risk.
“The guy’s 81! What do you want?” said Lauper, who appeared on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010, of the retirement news. “Honestly, I feel that him retiring now gives people an opportunity to mobilize,” Lauper told Variety. “We still are a country run by the people who vote in people to represent us. Which means you gotta vote. And now is the time to get up off your butt, stop whining about Bernie Sanders, and move forward before you have no rights at all.”
“Justice Kennedy retiring is huge,” said Maria Foscarinis, who founded the National Law Center 29 years ago. “It’s an emergency. And one of the key consequences of the Trump Presidency and Mitch McConnell controlling the Senate is that now we’re at terrible risk. So the Supreme Court makes a big impact on our laws and it’s a dangerous time, but it’s all the more reason in some sense to focus on what states are doing and look at state laws.”
“Listen. This is America,” Lauper said, unintentionally quoting Childish Gambino. “There’s a lot of different points of view. Everybody’s angry and like: ‘F— you!’ And that doesn’t solve the issue. What solves the issue is the humanity of the issue — that we share our stories, that we talk to each other, that we talk about how things affect our lives personally. Because we’re a country of many different people and we have to be able to come together, not pull apart, and the only way to start to mobilize people is to talk to each other, to share your stories.”
“It’s time to wake up, you know?” Lauper added. “In the seventies, we had that song: [briefly belting] ’Wake up, everybody, no more sleeping in bed.’ It’s time. That’s how I feel about it. This is a grass-roots level thing that we’re doing, and I’m so proud.”
Lauper paused to reflect on her own past experience as a young, struggling artist on the streets. “Yeah, I was homeless,” Lauper said, pointing a gold-manicured finger. “I had to leave my state because I couldn’t sign a lease. My parents were poor and they could not, would not, sign a lease for me. They didn’t trust me. I was a loser. I couldn’t keep a job. I was a daydreamer … I had many, many jobs. I was a waitress where a chef from the open kitchen would yell: ‘Lauper! What are you? Some kind of comedian?’ Because I couldn’t get everything done together. And I felt like a failure because I couldn’t even be a good waitress. I still think I probably couldn’t,” she joked, pausing to politely thank the waiter for refilling her water glass.
“But you know, it was the state law that drove me to Vermont. And in Vermont, I wound up in a homeless youth center, a youth hostel that was also a runaway home. I was 18. And because I looked really young, they thought I was underage. So they didn’t believe me.”
“You’ve gotta ask yourself if you give a damn,” Lauper said, returning the conversation to the present moment. “If you don’t give a damn about your own civil rights or your own civil liberties, well, then who the hell will?” she said, then added one editing suggestion. “Maybe leave out the profanity.”
Pictured below: Gregory Lewis, Executive Director and CEO, True Colors Fund, Gregory Lewis, Executive Director and CEO, True Colors Fund, Cyndi Lauper and Maria Foscarinis, Founder & Executive Director, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty