Appearing on the People Every Day podcast for a rare interview, Campbell vividly recounted stories about his remarkable career and coming to terms with being a gay Black man in the entertainment industry.
"I refer to myself as a former child star because that's just what I am," says Campbell, who is now 45. He was discovered by Benny Medina and worked with Quincy Jones, Prince, and Babyface on some of the most classic songs of the 90s.
In 1991, the Grammy-nominated singer was signed to Warner Brothers Music and went on to release his debut album T.E.V.I.N. that same year, He followed it with his multi-platinum album, I'm Ready, in 1993, which featured his signature song “Can We Talk.”
Even as a teenager who was a superstar singer and performer, Campbell fully understood that homophobia was still very much a part of the Black music scene and the entertainment sector as a whole.
"I didn't hide anything about me,” he recalled. “I didn't try to act a certain way or anything. You just couldn't be [gay] back then."
Campbell described coming to terms with his sexuality as a journey of self-discovery. Eventually, he shared his truth with his family and close friends who supported him.
"When I came out to my family and friends [at] about 19 or 20, that was it for me,” he continued. “And then I went on the road of discovering myself. I didn't know who I was," he said.
After leaving the music scene, he starred in the Broadway production of Hairspray, playing Seaweed for several years. He says being surrounded by LGBTQ+ people encouraged him to live his life on his terms.
"Being around people who were like me, LGBTQ+ people that were living normal lives and had partners. I had never seen that," he says. "That was a great time in my life."
Despite years of speculation about his sexuality, Campbell decided to keep his identity a private matter. Earlier this year, in response to a Twitter user's question about famous singers who are rumored to be gay, he tweeted "Tevin is…" posting the rainbow emoji.
"It was a casual thing for me," he continued. "I love my fans, but what they think about my sexuality is of no importance to me."
After being out of the public eye, Campbell is finally getting the flowers that he deserves. He recently performed at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville and was bestowed with the R&B icon award at the Black Music Honors. With all of the accolades that he's received in his career, Campbell considers his greatest accomplishment is that he now loves himself unconditionally.
"What makes me happiest right now is how far I've come in life," he said. "You know, there are a lot of child stars that don't make it. But a lot of us do… and the fact that I've embraced me."