John Legend opens up about masculinity, fertility struggles, and life with Chrissy
"I want her to be happy and to live the fullest, most awesome life she can, and I want us to do it together."
One thing you might not know about John Legend is that he was a wunderkind who started high school at the age of 12, graduated salutatorian of his class, and entered his senior year of college at the University of Pennsylvania when he was 20. Another thing you might not know is that, because he was so ahead of his time at school, he lost his virginity at a very young age.
“Just being around older people that were having sex, it felt like I had to catch up with everybody,” he tells Cosmopolitan.com. “I think a lot pressure when you’re a [cisgender male] teen has to do with losing your virginity and negotiating relationships with women.” He also faced pressure from “jock culture,” he says. “[That] still seems to present in a lot of high schools, particularly in places like where I grew up, where football was so important and top athletes are usually the most popular guys on campus. When you’re not that guy — and I was not that guy — it feels like your value isn’t the same as theirs.”
John’s personal experience as an adolescent growing up in Springfield, Ohio inspired him to partner with AXE on their Find Your Magic Initiative, which seeks to end the perpetuation of toxic masculinity and instead encourage all adolescents to embrace who they are beyond such societal expectations. Here, John gets candid about the insecurities he grappled with as a teen, the key to his relationship with Chrissy Teigen, and why being a good husband and father is cool.
As someone whose teenage years were spent in the company of much older peers, were there parts of yourself that you were afraid to reveal in social situations?
Oh, I’m sure. I think you’re always policing yourself by trying to do what you think would be “cool” and accepted by other people, until you start to figure out who you really want to be. [Growing up] is an ongoing push-and-pull of you being yourself and you performing to what society expects you to be. I think the end product ends up being some kind of composite of these two factors.
Based on personal experience, what are three things that young men are afraid to discuss with their first romantic partners?
Fear. People are afraid of talking about their fears and insecurities. They’re afraid of expressing emotion beyond anger, dominance, or power, and they’re afraid of getting in touch with their feminine side.
How can young women facilitate conversations about these insecurities with male significant others?
I think they can talk to each other more often. It’s hard because women are dealing with the same thing: they’re dealing with expectations about how they’re supposed to look and how they’re supposed to interact with men. I think we’re all trying to figure it all out, especially when we’re teenagers, but I think the key is to listen and empathise with one another.
How do you and Chrissy maintain an open line of communication in your marriage?
There’s no problem with openness in our relationship. You know Chrissy. She doesn’t hold anything back! I’m quite reserved, but being with someone like her inspires me to be open about my emotions. She brings them out of me because she’s so open about hers.
Chrissy recently told one of our reporters that you’re trying for another child in the near future. Has your experience with IVF challenged your relationship?
Having a baby is a big challenge for a couple, and going through that together strengthens your bond because if you make it through [having a child], you know you can make it through anything.
I think it’s especially difficult when you can’t conceive naturally. You want to feel like everything’s working properly and want everything to be perfect, but sometimes it’s not. I wouldn’t say we can’t conceive naturally, but I would say that it’s enough of a challenge where it felt like we needed help. We’re lucky that we’re living in an age where we can conceive in other ways. [IVF] brought us Luna and hopefully it will bring us a few more awesome kids, too.
In the same interview, Chrissy revealed that she’s made a conscious decision to cut back on drinking. Did you and Chrissy have a discussion when she felt that her drinking was getting out of hand? What was that conversation like?
We’re always honest with each other, so we discuss everything that’s on our minds. When she was thinking about how she wanted to drink less, we talked about it. I just want to support her. I want her to be happy and to live the fullest, most awesome life she can, and I want us to do it together. Whenever she sets her mind to anything, I always tell her, “I want to support you and help you do it.”
In a recent episode of Insecure, Lawrence was compared to you in what was intended to be an insulting comment for being a man who’d rather commit to one woman than be a womanizer. How do you feel about that?
I think that’s awesome. I don’t want to present myself as the “perfect spouse” and I don’t want to present our relationship as the “perfect relationship” because I don’t think anybody meets that definition. I think it’s too much pressure to put on anyone. However, I don’t mind being known as somebody who’s devoted to their wife. I am devoted to Chrissy. And when I write about [my commitment to her], it’s me being authentic.
I think it should be cool to be a good partner, a good spouse, a good father, and/or a good parent. If I’m one of the people who helps make that cooler, I think that’s great.
What advice would you give your younger self about embracing your identity?
I would tell myself, “Love yourself and don’t be afraid to take risks.” I was often afraid to take risks, socially, because I was young and a little more shy and still figuring out who I wanted to be. Sometimes I look back and think, “I should have just been bolder and more confident.”
From: ELLE USA