Beth Ditto – Diamonds Are Forever
Gossip front woman Beth Ditto capped off an amazing year with her very revealing memoir, Coal to Diamonds.
Beth Ditto, one third of the post-punk indie rock band Gossip, is currently sitting on top of the world. The band’s newest album, A Joyful Noise, debuted in Billboard’s top 100 in the U.S. and managed to reach the top five in four European countries. Life wasn’t always so great for the singer, however. Now, on the heels of her new memoir, Coal to Diamonds, Ditto, The Advocate’s December/January cover girl, spoke with the publication’s executive editor, Diane Anderson-Minshall, about poverty, sexual abuse, and finding love.
Because she’s not always in the media’s eye in the U.S., Ditto, who now calls Portland, Ore., home, has managed to maintain a low profile and keep the many trials and tribulations of her personal life private. In her book Ditto opens up about her battle with sarcoidosis, a rare immune-system disorder that attacks the internal organs (and killed comedian Bernie Mac in 2008). Ditto first discovered something was wrong in 2005 when she was losing her voice and couldn’t even swallow; she thought her throat was paralyzed. As this occurred before she found fame and fortune, she wasn’t even able to scrounge up enough money for care.
“I’m so lucky that my disease was so fucking weird and with a really strange version of it,” she tells The Advocate, laughing, “because the doctors were super interested. They would comp things, they would give me a discounted rate because it was so weird that they were intrigued?and thank God for that. I know that sounds totally weird. It was surreal.”
As her health began to improve, Ditto began dealing with a “festering sadness” that plunged her into a deep depression. The singer even hospitalized herself to prevent her own suicide. The depression stemmed from the fact that she had been molested by her uncle as a child and the disappointment that nobody, not even her mother, had stepped in to stop it. “I woke up and I was 24 one day and I was having a really hard time,” she recalls. “I was really sick. And I just called her. I was like, ‘Look, I need to talk to you about something. I need you to listen. I need you to apologize to me. And we’ll never have to talk about it again.’ And I did. And she did. And we got super emotional. We were on the phone for a couple of hours. I could hear it in her voice just how small it made her feel.”
One thing is for sure: Ditto embraces her queerness. At 19, Ditto fell in love with transgender music promoter Freddie Fagula, but she keeps the details of their breakup private. She has found love again, however, with longtime friend Kristin Ogata, and the two are planning to marry next year. Within her queerness, she has also embraced her femmeness, and it was one of life’s biggest revelations for Ditto. “I was like, OK, now I understand,” she says. “I feel like I’m the butchest femme, though, with lots of male energy. I don’t think about how I’m holding myself in a dress, always spread-eagle. But I think after I knew I was femme, it was like anything goes with who I’m attracted to.”
Read The Advocate‘s full Beth Ditto.