Dani Shay and Ali Stroker on their “Glee Project” romance and sexy new video

AE: And when did you know you wanted to use the video to announce it was about Ali?
DS: I knew when I made it I would probably announce it was about her, but it wasn’t until probably like a month after that and then I called her, because we were in separate cities, so I called her and I was like “I have the best idea!” She’s like “Oh no!” I was like “Wait, just give it a chance!” And I told her “We could do a music video and it could be our way to announce our relationship to the public.”
AS: And I was immediately like “Well we can talk about this.” When Dani has a big idea, I know she’s ready to execute the entire thing and I’m like “Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down there!”
DS: She was going to be taking a trip to Florida and I was like “I already have a guy who will shoot it for us!”
AS: And I was like “What!?” The day we started to shoot it, we had a long conversation before the shoot and I was like “I’m just scared. I don’t want this to be something that’s going to limit me.” And then I felt this shift in me that it wasn’t something that was going to be limiting; it was something that was going to pen up so many doors and allow people to see beyond and give people hope. I hope that this does give them hope. We were talking last night, we were at the Ali Forney Center Benefit for the holiday and we were talking about how there weren’t people like us when we were growing up in the media, role models to look up to.
DS: There were some, but not a lot.
AS: There were some, but there weren’t a lot and for me, to be able to be a role model and an example for somebody young who is exploring their sexuality, that feels so good.
DS: When I had the idea for the video and when we had the conversation on the day of the shoot, I reminded Ali that first of all, we’ll make the video and we’ll only release it if you feel comfortable with it, obviously. … But the video, we talked the day of about the idea of fairytales. We were at the beach and I’d be carrying her along the beach and in the water and all of that stuff. We talked about The Notebook and Titanic and these epic romantic films and fairytales that when we were kids watched that went along with that. And I was interested in showing people that no matter what circumstance you’re in or how you look or feel on the outside or how you’re defined, you can have your own version of your fairytale. And when I said that and we were looking at each other before we started shooting that day, it was like “Yes. That’s what this is really all about. It’s bigger than the both of us” and I feel so lucky to be able to share this.

AE: Dani, you’ve never really talked about your personal life before. Was there any hesitation on your part to open yourself up in this way?
DS: Oddly enough, no. With Ali, I never felt any hesitation. It’s been just immediate pride since the beginning. And not pride in just an egotistical way, but unbelievably proud to be with her and proud of her and my only not hesitation but thing i find interesting is when you just posted a new video and you’re reading comments on YouTube and the comments are all so positive and wonderful and you stumble across some that are “Oh I didn’t know that Dani was gay” or “I didn’t know Ali was gay” or “I didn’t know they were lesbians” or “Oh they’re lesbians?” For me it’s so interesting that the mind is automatically has to categorize. Like “I know this about so and so’s life, therefore, now they’re lesbians.” And that’s what I’m seen as. Instead of a person in a relationship and that relationship just so happens to be two people who are the same biological gender. Gender is something I could talk for days about! Because it’s like, honestly, if you’re going to say that Ali’s a lesbian, then that would mean I’m just female. That would mean the term lesbian is a female that loves females. But the way that I feel energetically is a mix of masculine and feminine and however we define those things. But it’s like, it’s not really just this simple to define someone even though we want to make it that simple.

AE: But there are some people that will see the video and might think “Oh, she’s a lesbian” and find a connection with you, so there’s an upside.
DS: Which I really think is awesome and I want and I hope that people do feel a connection with me and they feel like they can relate to me because we have things in common.
AS: I think what’s interesting in the video is there’s these two different sort of storylines, like where Dani hasn’t really talked a lot about her sexuality but people might have already assumed she was with women or something. And for someone to look at me and think I don’t look like someone that would be with someone of the same gender. I think it allows people to connect with us in different ways and I think there are people who share a connection to both of us or have been in both of our situations. Either they have dated women before or they haven’t but it’s sort of giving people different perspectives.
DS: I would say that one of my things I always want to share with people and want to tell people is that you’re not defined by your feelings. Just because you have feelings for a girl or someone in a female body doesn’t automatically mean you have to define yourself as a lesbian. Unless you really want to. I think that’s another thing. I would also see comments, which are a lot of YouTube comments that I get, like “I’m not a lesbian but she’s hot.” “If I was a lesbian, I’d be into her” or “If she was a guy, she’d be hot.” It’s like saying what you’re allowed to based on your gender instead of feeling what you feel and that’s it. I always find it interesting. Like with Ali, she had never dated a female before, but she knew that her feelings met mine. She felt something. But instead of saying “I’m not a lesbian, I’m not going to explore that,” it was “I am into this person very much and I want to know about these feelings.”

AE: You premiered the video with The Ally Coalition. How did you guys get involved with them and what can you tell us about your own organization, Be More Heroic?
AS: I grew up with Jack Antonoff, one of the members of FUN. and his sister, Rachel started the Ally Coalition and when Dani and I were working with the PR company on the video, we thought it’d be a great idea to link up with them because the Ally Coalition and Fun are perfectly aligned with what we’re doing. So I talked to Jack and Rachel and they were excited about sharing it.
DS: And they had just started the Ally Coalition a month prior to the video release so it was really perfect timing to have something new fun relevant content to put on their site. Be More Heroic, it was started before I met Ali. My friend Justin and I and a couple of other friends started it which is a approach to the anti-bullying moment. We want people to be proactive and more compassionate. We want people to be compassionate to everyone, including the bullies, and really inspire kids to take more positive action. And so we travel to schools and perform in schools and then I met Ali and another girl named Joey, I met her also at the Glee Project callbacks and I was sitting at dinner with both of them and I said “Oh my gosh, you guys are so perfect for Be More Heroic. I’d love to talk to you guys about it after this is all over.” At that point I had no idea what was to come for Ali and I, no idea we were going to make it onto the show, I just knew in my heart. We were talking all about bullying and exclusion and things like that that happened when we were in school. And I was like “Guys, I can’t wait to share this with you.” and the moment I told Justin, one of the co-founders about it, he was really excited. Then after The Glee Project was done, we synched up and now they’re both co-founders of the project.

One: The Winter EP is out today and features “One” as well as Ali and Dani’s “Let it Snow” duet.

For more information on Be More Heroic, visit bemoreheroic.com. Dani and Ali will perform together at the EP release party December 20 at Birdland in NYC.

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