We were bummed when Dani Shay didn’t make it to the finale on The Glee Project, but it seems there was a pretty good consolation prize. Before the reality show even aired on Oxygen, Dani had started a relationship with fellow contestant Ali Stroker. If you were an avid watcher of the series and had no idea, you didn’t miss anything — they kept the whole thing a secret until just this past week, when they released a music video to announce their relationship to the world.
In the video for Dani’s new song “One,” it’s clear that she’s singing about a woman. The romantic video has her paired with a blonde-haired lover in bed, on the beach, at dinner, and it’s not until the very end it’s revealed that the song about her “tiny shiny star” is Ali.
Fan reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, and why shouldn’t they be? The couple are adorable and seem to be very much in love. The fact they kept their relationship a secret while on a reality show and throughout their work together since as part of Dani’s charity Be More Heroic has proven even more intriguing. While Dani has been out throughout the past few years of her public music career, she hasn’t really discussed her sexuality or any part of her personal life at length, and Ali was assumed to be straight by the TV-viewing public, which has made the video for “One” revealing in more than a few ways.
We talked with Dani and Ali about how their romance began, why they kept it secret until now and their new duet on One: The Winter EP, out today.
AfterEllen.com: You have had such a great response to the video. It must be exciting to have it out there now.
DS: Yes, so happy. Beyond thrilled. We’ve been sitting on this video for a couple of months, like planning out the release and finishing the final touches and everything. We’re both so excited we finally got to release it.
Ali: I’m so excited because I didn’t really know — I knew people would be surprised, but I never really expected so much positive support and love. It’s been absolutely amazing.
AE: Ali, how did you decide that you wanted to reveal your sexuality in the context of a music video?
AS: Well, you know it’s interesting. When Dani and I were you know talking about creating this video and what we wanted it to say and do, it was so much more than talking about my sexuality. In fact, that was sort of the last thing that I was interested in with the video. What I was more excited about was sharing that two people you may not expect to be together, to be together. Or these roles of a leading man and a leading lady are supposed to look like, how they could be portrayed on someone who you wouldn’t expect, then to be able to share our connection. That’s really exciting to me. Of course the thought about my sexuality was a part of what I thought about a little bit, but it definitely wasn’t the leading concern of the video.
DS: I remember when I first brought it up to her, she was nervous to go to here. She loved the idea, she wanted to do it, she was really excited, but then the only reservation was the fear that people would box her in. They’d start to categorize her as a lesbian or whatever and, in fact, even though I’ve been in multiple relationships with different women, I too feel like I don’t want to be categorized in one way the other, just because I feel like people are so many different ways. It’s not just you’re this or you’re this or you’re this. I feel like with Ali, I never expected I’d be with someone in a wheelchair, but when I met her, it was immediate. I guess the point I’m trying to make is the body doesn’t matter. It goes beyond that.
AE: When did you first recognize that you were interested in each other romantically?
DS: Like I say in the song, the first five days of knowing her, it was when we were at callbacks together. Within the first five days it grew from being immediate connection and friendship, laughing hysterically together to talking deeply and understanding each other in a way that felt like — it literally felt like meeting someone you had known for so long.
AS: I would say like, you know, we were at callbacks and we all had to share what our character would be on the show. And Dani told me she wanted to play this character that sort of made people question how they felt about gender like maybe a guy was interested in her and a girl was interested in her and she said something like “You could play opposite me,” or something.
DS: I said something like, jokingly, “You could be my love interest.” And then she laughed…
AS: And I was like, I was sort of surprised she said that and then I sort of was like really kind of, so intrigued.
DS: Oh come on! She’s totally playing it down. She was totally flirting with me.
AS: I was like “OK, that would be really fun!” So we sort of started playing these roles and flirting with each other.And then we realized “Oh my god, these aren’t just roles we would want to play. These are actual real feelings.”
DS: She was flirting it up with me.
AS: She started it for sure!
DS: Absolutely not!
AS: No way!
AE: Who was the first one to acknowledge that something was between you two?
DS: That would be the question “What is this?” We don’t need to go into detail about it, but it was a nice moment where we were both like “What is this, really?” We’ve been laughing all week but at the end, it’s like “What is this?”
AS: I was holding her hand and she gently asked me “What is this?” And I was like “I have no idea. I have never felt this way ever.” I had no idea what was happening.
DS: I said “I don’t know either, what this is. All I know is I want to take care of it.” From that moment was like, we stayed in touch and the rest is history.
AE: How did you keep your relationship a secret from fans?
Ali: It’s hard!
DS: Whenever we would post pictures together, we’d say “No that looks too coupley. We gotta delete that and try again.”
AS: On the show, you know, both of us decided we didn’t want it to be on the show.
DS: We didn’t want the show to be about that.
Ali: Because it was also something so new and it was something so real and felt like something we wanted to take care of and we weren’t ready to share with the public yet.
DS: … dive into a new relationship and be trying to focus on the show. I needed to sort things out with myself and everything. So we knew, both of us knew, instinctively that the show wasn’t the right time to be exploring our relationship and publicizing it all at the same time.
AS: And also the reality of reality TV is that, you know, there’s gonna be parts where one person’s being interviewed and another person’s in another room being interviewed and they can do whatever they want-
DS: And we wanted to put the message out there and announcement on there in the way that we wanted to do it.
AE: When you like someone, it can be so overwhelming. How were you able to keep your heads in the game when it came to the show when you’re in such close quarters with each other?
DS: It was so overwhelming. It was overwhelming, completely. And when cameras are on, it was hard to not stare at her. But we held it together and before I left that was when I told her to stay focused and kick ass on the show and we would have our time. And we both knew, I think, intuitively I think we both knew that that wasn’t the time but we could feel that it wasn’t the end of it at all.
AS: For me it was crazy because I was in a situation where I wanted Glee for so long and really wanted to do my best and then I so badly wanted a connection and a relationship like this so badly for so long as well, so it was really — I felt very, very split because both things felt so right.
AE: Dani, it was such a bummer when you left the show in the second week. Did you take any of what Ryan Murphy said to heart about your possibly not being right for Glee but better as a performer on your own accord?
DS: When I left the show, I was at first really bummed out, obviously, I went through the whole bummed out phase. But that only lasted like a week. Then I was like, I’m going to better myself in every way that I can. I knew I’d be going back for the finale and not only did i want to look and feel amazing for when I saw Ali again, I really wanted to just improve every aspect of myself that I could. My performance quality, I started doing PI Dance — I don’t know if you know what PI dance is but it’s an intense workout. It’s like an hour, hour and a half a day. It was awesome. Then I started playing music with some really experienced musicians and bettering myself that way. I knew in my heart when i was leaving — in fact before I left the show, I told Ali, “You know, if I go, I know that this is what I want to do, like for my life. This isn’t ending here. This is just one step I’m so glad I got to take. But I don’t feel like it brought me down.”
AE: When did you write “One” and how long did it take for you to write, record and then put together the video?
DS: It was actually after it was done filming and everything. It was actually after Ali and I got to be together in real life. It wasn’t while she was still on the show or anything. It was when we got together in real life and spent actual time together, outside of the reality show setting. We were apart one night and I wrote that song. And then we Skyped and I sang it to her over Skype. I hadn’t written the guitar part yet, I had only written the rhythm. I was tapping the rhythm on my knee and I sang it to her over Skype.