The 29-year old from Long Island, N.Y., turned in a powerful performance of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”
It was a performance that earned chair turns from all four coaches.
It was a performance that drew praise from all four coaches.
But it’s safe to say that acceptance hasn’t always come that easy for Chris.
Chris grew up singing in church. His first job out of college was as a worship leader of a large church in Des Moines, Iowa.
In a May interview, Chris told NBC News that it was also in Des Moines that he finally accepted his sexuality and began hanging out in gay bars.
But his church wasn’t accepting of the gay lifestyle. Chris faced the choice of leaving or undergoing sexual orientation counseling. Chris opted to leave, telling NBC he was uncertain if he’d ever sing in church again.
For Chris, the story has a happy ending. When he returned to New York, a chance encounter with a stranger in the subway led to a new job as worship leader with Zoe Ministries.
“The thing with gay people, a lot of us say we don’t’ believe in God or are atheists,” Chris said in that interview. “They don’t really believe that. Well, some do. But a lot of it is Church hurt. You’re not mad at God, you’re mad at people.”
Chris’ new church even embraced his drag persona. Chris performs weekly as “sassy” Nedra Belle at New York’s West End Lounge. He’s even performed worship music in that role.
In fact, Nedra has more Instagram followers than Chris.
But it was Chris, sans Nedra Belle makeup, who earned the spot on The Voice. And as much as the other coaches wanted him for their teams, they didn’t stand a chance. Not once Jennifer Hudson turned and threw a shoe toward the stage as a compliment to his performance.
You see, the same thing happened two years earlier. Chris shared the story during a conference call with the media earlier this week.
“Actually a friend of mine was in the ‘Color Purple’ with her (Jennifer) and just invited me to this party and didn’t tell me what it was. We’re standing at the bar and the friend says, ‘Turn around, like you’re not going to believe it.’
“I turned around and Jennifer Hudson is standing there and I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ And so she had a lot going on there and my friend said, ‘What do you want to sing?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want to sing. I don’t think I can sing in front of her.’
He did anyway. “Try a Little Tenderness,” in fact. Jennifer threw a shoe then too.
“The response was very much overwhelming,” Chris recalled. “So to be — two years later to be in front of her and be able to sing that, relive that and get the same response, it was amazing.”
Here are Chris’ social media links.