Will Sheridan

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Sheridan shone at Outlander Music Festival during SXSW 2013 as he performed hits from his first full- length album, G.I.A.N.T., an acronym for “going in and never timid.” Sheridan believes if you can be big enough to be who you are, then you’re a giant too. The former Villanova University basketball star was the second Division 1 basketball player to publicly come out.

How did you start in the music industry? I used to freestyle with my friends at parties. I wrote for Source Magazine and had to review a lot of music. I would see a lot of performances and thought, “This is lame. I can do better than this.” So my cousin, who is a DJ in Philadelphia, encouraged me to just rap. I went about making a project of five original songs called “The Will to Win.” From that an indie label, Royal Advisor Records, approached me about buying one of the songs and putting on an EP. So I put together an EP that featured my biggest single to date, “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Your hit, “Welcome to the Jungle,” features a foreign language, doesn’t it? It’s Swahili. I helped found and start up a nonprofit, Rui Ru Rising, in 2010 that funds and facilitates secondary education for orphans and youth in Rui Ru, right outside of Nairobi, Kenya. I go there and the kids love the music. The kids call me “jitu” now, which is Swahili for giant. But I’m inspired by the kids. They really inspired me to make really bass-heavy, more dance-ready music, just for people to enjoy, which really balances me out because I’m super lyrical.

Before your music career, you were a starter for Villanova. When did you begin playing basketball? Has it always been your passion? I started playing basketball in seventh grade. I was about 6’4″ in seventh grade, so once I started playing, I got better and better, and it got to the point where I was one of the best players in the state of Delaware. So I just dove in and I found great passion, energy, and enthusiasm in the sport. I really loved being part of something bigger than myself and being part of a team. I played for Coach Jay Wright at Villanova. He’s like a father figure to me. We were really good. Basketball was something that I did and I didn’t even know I was so passionate about the team aspect. When I went overseas to play basketball, it was very individualized because it’s a job, and that’s where I found that it wasn’t really exactly what I wanted to do for money, for the rest of my life. It really exposed my character and facilitated me traveling and seeing the world and meeting new people.

How did you navigate the heterocentric, masculine world of college sports? Did you suppress your queerness? I’m so gay, I can’t really suppress it. Like when I was in the locker room. I had navy blue toenails, and my teammates were like, “That’s a little different.” But I didn’t invest too much in trying to be something that I wasn’t. I’m 6’8″, I’m black, I’m athletic, I was a celebrated athlete from my state, I was playing one of the most popular sports in the state. I didn’t really have to act straight for people to think I was straight. They wouldn’t even imagine that I had a boyfriend for three years in college. I had a really close-knit group of friends, who, over four years just got bigger, to the point where I felt like Villanova was nurturing who I was. I wasn’t faking it. I was just being who I was.

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