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Gay Times December 11 - Issue 400

Joe McElderry

A number one single and two top three albums; X Factor champ at 18 and out of the closet at 19 – we hooked up with popstar and now operastar Joe McElderry to take stock of his rollercoaster of a few years

Every gay in the country has an opinion on Joe McElderry.
Some of you love him. For his angelic voice, for his handsome face, for out singing George Michael during their duet on The X Factor 2009 final. Some of you, however, do not love him, as one or two Twitter bystanders with nothing better to do have made abundantly clear.
Some dislike his music. Given, his repertoire of Susan Boyle-esque covers isn’t for everyone (although we think its kind of genius). Others take issue with his image: Westlife concentrated, impossibly clean-cut, complete with dimples and an impeccably ironed collar, a good boy, a mummy’s boy. To this end he brought his very lovely mum with him to his GT cover shoot, which will surely tug at as many heartstrings as it will turn stomachs. Hey, we weren’t complaining. She makes a great cup of tea. Besides which, our shots speak for themselves, hinting at a slowly evolving image: penetrating the camera with an icy, sexy stare and dusted with stubble, Joe’s almost unrecognisable.
The rest protest his irrelevance. But they do so, I’ve noticed, with a force that betrays the amount of thought they’ve dedicated to him. For Joe is a fascinating young man, a true one off: for a pop star to be out, proud and in the public eye by the age of 19, a mere teenager, was once inconceivable. What’s more, Joe’s still – yes, still – incredibly famous in this country. And he’s selling by the truckload. His recently released second album Classic went straight in at number two in the UK album charts, shifting 100.000 copies in a matter of weeks.
Indeed, everyone has an opinion on Joe McElderry. And thankfully, he’s not lacking in opinions of his own either. “I don’t think anybody has a responsibility to come out, whether you’re famous or not”, he tells me in between looks the day of his shoot. “It should be down to whether you feel comfortable. At the end of the day it is people’s private lives. People don’t walk down the street and go, ‘I’m straight.’”
I can’t resist but play devil’s advocate, pointing out that many in Joe’s position stay in the closet for financial reasons, because they don’t want to damage their earning power.
“But I think that’s a lot riding on one person,” he sighs. “I know how it feels to have to talk about it publicly. You know, it’s quite a big deal. Everybody that’s came out before can tell you what a big deal it is, even if you just tell your parents. So can you imagine having a million people to tell? By having it splashed on a paper? It’s not really something that you want. That’s not to say anybody should be ashamed about anything.”
It was a Twitter prankster that prompted Joe to come out in July 2010. After someone hacked into his profile and posted tweets that implied his homosexuality, Joe made a knee jerk statement to the contrary – before, only weeks later, setting the record straight as it were. It seems the delay was a result of Joe wanting to tell his family first (“I told me mam and family literally a week before”). The reaction was largely positive. Bar of course some homophobic slurs, not to mention a few gays suspicious at Joe’s evasiveness. This in fact persists to this day, on account of Joe’s being fiercely protective of his private life (“It’s just something that I refuse to talk about”).

Words: Jamie Tabberer

To read the full article, pick up the latest copy of GT, our 400th issue with four different covers, out in all good retailers, available at prowler and downloadable on your iPhone, iPad or Android device. on your iPhone or iPad.

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