Thelma Houston Reveals She Almost Gave Away Her Identity on 'The Masked Singer'

Thelma Houston performs unmasked on 'The Masked Singer' Season 11

Thelma Houston has been in the business for almost 60 years, having won a Grammy for her iconic song "Don't Leave Me This Way." So it makes sense that such a timeless performer was put behind the face of "Clock" in The Masked Singer. Throughout Season 11, the judges were wowed by her soulfulness and powerful voice, getting her all the way to the finals and the last celebrity eliminated before the finale.

The day after her reveal, Thelma Houston spoke to Parade about her time on The Masked Singer.

Related: Everything to Know About The Masked Singer Season 11

What was your initial reaction to being asked to do The Masked Singer? Have you been offered it before?
Well, my reaction was, "Yes!" And no, I had not been asked before. I wanted to do because first of all, for me, from the outside,e from me from watching it, it looked like it was so much fun. Plus my favorite holiday is Halloween. So putting on costumes and getting dressed up and that kind of thing, that's fun. However, I've never had to do that with costumes, and perform and dance, and do all that. And, I mean, that was a really a challenge.

Yeah, I would imagine, despite doing so much in your storied career, singing in a giant Clock costume was not one of them. What was your reaction to finding out who you'd be this season?
They came to my house to do a fitting. First they sent me a picture. "This is your identity. This is what we have." And they explain it's because the clock is timeless, so it all made sense to me. Plus, I didn't have any other idea. I never said, "If I could be on Masked Singer, what would I be?" I had never gotten to that part yet. I just wanted to be on the show. So when they had it already picked out, that's great, let's do it.

So then what was it like actually singing with the costume on?
You have this much. [Mimes her hands close together.] This much is what you can see through like that. And then there's no peripheral vision. And you can't see down; you can't see your feet. And it's heavy. The dress was heavy with all those petticoats and things underneath it. It was a workout. [Laughs.] I definitely lost a couple of pounds.

You said on the show that you came onto The Masked Singer to reintroduce yourself to a new generation. Is it safe to say mission accomplished?
Mission accomplished! And the reason is, because I noticed the audience, the very young people in the audience. And then, [in the last episode], when I was asking the people waiting in line, "Who do you think I am?" and they were given the clues. They were all young. So I think that I as far as getting to young people they were clapping for me. So, yeah, I think mission was accomplished.

You had a slew of guesses thrown your way this season, from Roberta Flack to Stephanie Mills to even Janet Jackson. What was your reaction to being compared to them?
Well, first of all, let me say, I love Stephanie Mills' voice. I don't think we sound alike. But I love her voice. I've loved it ever since I saw her when she was a little girl in The Wiz. I went to see the original production. And Roberta Flack, I love her voice. But I couldn't see how they thought that we were similar. And then Debbie Allen, I've heard Debbie sing; our voices aren't alike. And Janet Jackson. I love Janet Jackson. I went to see her at the Hollywood Bowl last year, because she was the opening act. I don't think I sound like her. But it's always fun. It was interesting to me. It's a good thing I had the mask on because I was like...[Makes a surprised, confused face.]

[Laughs.] Oh I'm sure the mask is a great poker face! So then what was your reaction to when Rita starts correctly guessing who you are?
Well, the first time [they guessed me], I wasn't quite sure how it worked. But I thought that if they if they guess who you are, then that's it; you're done. Because I thought the whole point was to not let them guess what you were. So when I did the Billy Joel song, I was trying to sing very straight. And I thought I did pretty good. But when Rita said me, my face was like this. [Tilts her head to the side and opens mouth wide in shock.] And the producer in my ear says, "Raise your shoulders." Because I thought that was it when she said the name. He said, "Raise your shoulders." I went, [Raises shoulders.] He said, "Move you head." I went, [Shakes head.] I was thrown off when she said my name! [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] Well let's talk about another moment when the mask fell. You got a call from your son last week, something that prompted a very emotional moment from you. Talk to me about that.
First of all, I didn't know that was gonna happen. They said, "Phone call for you." And I said, "Phone call?" I'm trying to think, "Who's this call?" And then they said, "This is your son." But I didn't hear that part at first. I just heard this voice. It sounds like Rodney, and I said that. And then by the time he finished, I was like, "That's my baby!" [Laughs.] I was so surprised. To have him come on the show, I had no idea. Nor did he; he didn't even tell me!

Lastly, going back to you introducing yourself to a new generation, I know you are keeping yourself very busy, especially during Pride Month. What would you like to plug?
Well, I have a new single, "Love Train," which was originally recorded by The OJs. And the lyrics for that song is, to me, so relevant to what is going on. We need to join hands and we need to try to come to some place, try to get to that spot called love. Because I believe love is really a true superpower. I really believe that. And so that's my reason for releasing it at this time. And as far as Pride Month, that's my buds out there! This is their time for them to party and so forth. I probably did the first Pride parade ever; I've been out there that long! [Laughs.] I've been Grand Marshal for...I don't know, so many of them. And so this is my party time, to celebrate with my people that I love and who supported me and have been there for me for my entire career. I believe, because my song was so popular at first in the clubs, that I believe the clubs forced radio to put it on. I believe that in my heart. So my allegiance is to them.

Next, check out our interview with Chrissy Metz, who was eliminated in The Masked Singer Season 11 Episode 10.