Days after coming out of the Celebrity Big Brother house, former Apprentice candidate and all-round heartthrob Andrew Brady has a few questions…
“What do they mean when they say ‘daddy’?” he says on set of his exclusive Gay Times photoshoot in London. “And ‘king’ is another one? ‘Spilling the T’?”
Andrew emerged from the house with an entirely new following – one of the Drag Race persuasion. After three weeks in the UK’s most famous house, the reality star has formed an adorable friendship with one of the most popular queens out there: Courtney Act.
Their friendship has been the talk of the series, throwing up discussions around homophobia, equality and inclusion. The debate has been heated – both in and out of the house – mainly because of former Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe’s ultra conservative views on homosexuality and gender identity.
Courtney – real name Shane Jenek – never shied away from challenging Ann’s archaic beliefs, all the while being supported by his CBB bestie Andrew.
It’s resulted in some much-needed mainstream discussion around LGBTQ issues, while introducing us to a passionate ally in the form of Andrew Brady.
We caught up with Andrew for one of his first big interviews since leaving the house to talk about his friendship with Courtney/Shane J, why he thinks Ann shouldn’t be forgiven, why he thinks equality education should be introduced into schools, why the older generation shouldn’t be excused for their prejudicial views because of their age, and he speaks openly about how his sister’s coming out affected him in a positive way.
Were you aware of Courtney Act before you went into the house?
“No, I was aware of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I tell a lie, two days before I went in there was a rumour that Courtney was going in, so I was sent a picture. Then when I walked in I was like, ‘Wow!’ Best looking girl in there. When he puts the ass on…”
Are you going to watch the season of Drag Race that Courtney was in?
“Hell yeah! That’s one of the next things. I’m going to watch Celebrity Big Brother and then Drag Race season six.”
Season six is the best one.
“That’s what I’ve heard. Was it Del..
Bianca Del Rio?
“Yeah, Bianca Del Rio was on it, and Courtney and… Adore! They’re three of the best ones that have been on the show.”
I’m sure you’ll meet them at some point.
“Well I’m actually looking forward to that. There was a Reddit saying, ‘What’s Andrew Brady going to do next?’ People have said they should take me over to America and around all the drag scene in West Hollywood. It would be amazing to see it.”
Now that you’re out of the house, have you seen any footage from your time in there that has changed your perspective on anything?
“I have not really watched any of the episodes from before I left, because I kind of don’t want it to change my opinion on anyone directly before the wrap party. But after that, when I’ve got time I’ll start trawling through them and watching it. I know when I left, the conversation that got to me was the one between Amanda and Shane J. I thought that was a really poignant moment, and she probably made her bed then. I think people didn’t necessarily have a reason to save her. People were very much Team Amanda from day one, because she’s a national treasure. But when she did that, it stopped people from having a reason to vote for her. Amanda kind of shot herself in the foot with that conversation – I think she would have gone through instead of Shane L to be honest.”
If you had still been in the house when that conversation between Amanda and Shane J took place, how do you think you’d have reacted? It felt like everyone teamed up with Ann and Amanda, and I felt sorry and frustrated for Shane J.
“I did too. On that note, we ‘the boys’ – Daniel, Johnny, Shane J and myself – were Shane’s humour and support network. We didn’t always have to talk about serious subjects. I think that in itself was a disadvantage to Shane J when we left because he didn’t have that fun side with anyone else in the house. So everything then became a serious conversation. Some people got their backs up about such serious conversations. Ann said to him a few days before I left, ‘Shane, why can you never have a lighthearted conversation?’ But he does – he did with us. He couldn’t with them because he doesn’t have that relationship with them. So when I saw that [conversation between Shane J and Amanda], it angered me to start. Wayne and Amanda, who should be – and are in their own way – fighting for LGBT and equality, shouldn’t be arguing against issues that they should be fighting for. I think Wayne and Amanda are lucky in their life to be part of an industry which has been so openly accepting to LGBT. So having them say, ‘Well it’s not affected us,’ that’s the problem we need to face. Yes, something might not affect you, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That’s where I think Amanda went wrong. She almost said, ‘Well I’ve not felt this from Ann,’ because she wasn’t educated in Ann’s ways before Celebrity Big Brother, and rightly so she was evicted. Even though I do think she is an unbelievable human being – she really is nice.”
It was disappointing to watch.
“It was! Especially because she had the support of the LGBT community because she’s married and openly, and so the people who were voting for her because of that, she almost lost touch with them by having that conversation. Shane J is the more prominent voice of the LGBT community because he’s so well educated and strong in his stance.”
Do you believe people from an older generation should be forgiven their prejudicial views purely for the sake of them coming from a different time?
“Now that’s an interesting question. My best friend is gay and her grandma is a Yorkshire lass born and bred. Somewhat lower educated, who reads The Sun. She could potentially be forgiven for her views from what she’s had in the past. But she is accepting of my friend when she came out. That for me speaks volumes. Whereas someone like Ann has been in the public eye, has been educated, and I don’t think people in that instance can be forgiven. Prejudice is prejudice. It doesn’t matter what shape it comes in, or size, or age – it’s still prejudice. I don’t want to compare the two to an extreme, but if you look at Donald Trump, he’s 71-years-old and we’re not using his age as an excuse as to why he’s getting away with all this stuff. Why are we doing it with everyone else? That’s a really strong message that I’m trying to get out. It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re racist you’re a racist. If you’re homophobic, you’re homophobic. I don’t think age can be used as an excuse.”
Do you find it frustrating that the other housemates seemed to constantly censor themselves around Ann?
“Everyone put Ann on a pedestal. Even I did to some degree. I censored myself in the sense that I wasn’t as forward with my swearing, and if I was, I apologised. That’s about respecting your elders. But someone like Ashley constantly tried to get her acceptance. You just sit there and go, ‘What are you trying to achieve by doing this? What is your ultimate goal?’ Ashley is a nice girl – I’ve never questioned that. Ann didn’t come into the house and say, ‘I’m more important than every single one of you so treat me different’. She didn’t. She had a few stipulations in her contract and little extras and stuff.
“However, when we as a house put her in that league of ‘We shouldn’t swear, we shouldn’t misbehave, we shouldn’t be the people were being because it might offend her,’ we’re putting her on that pedestal. I made a big point about this – I think it was televised – where I said, ‘We’ve put her in this position because of how we’re acting’. So when it all kicked off between Ann and I, I told her I wasn’t going to do that anymore. It was just me taking that filter off when I was around her, because she didn’t deserve it. Malika did the same. We should have made Ann aware that these conversations, these behaviours are putting on are real life. If you censor yourself, what are you achieving? You’re not showing Ann the real people out there. Ann doesn’t hang around with 27-year-old guys who chain smoke outside, but if we act differently then she won’t understand what it’s like to be that. That’s the big difference in politics. I don’t think MPs understand the masses because time have changed so fast in society that they’re lagging behind. Ann should’ve experienced more of a real house.”
But there was a level of hypocrisy also. Especially when Ann would say “I believe in being kind to everyone,” but then would fail to recognise Shane J as Courtney Act because she doesn’t like drag.
“I think it’s important to know that Courtney, from conversations I’ve had with Shane J – and I hope I’m not speaking out of turn here – isn’t just a performance for him. Courtney was an exploration of Shane’s own insecurities about his gender. So for Ann to say, ‘Oh I’m not going to refer to you as Courtney – you’re Shane’ is disrespectful. She basically said that Shane is the sort of boy you’d want your granddaughter to bring home, but Courtney is a tart. It’s amazing how different she treated Courtney and Shane J. But deep down he has the same heart, he has the same muscle fibres, he has the same bone structure, he has the same penis! It might be stuck to his bumhole but it’s still the same one. You have to respect that, and I don’t think Ann did. The hypocrisy there was real. Religion teaches you to love people for being people. It’s the golden rule. Treat everyone as they deserve to be treated. Ann isn’t, so she’s going against her own religion in that respect. I’d like to put that to her if I ever got to see her again.”
Your onscreen friendship with Courtney Act became the talk of the series. Why do you think the most conservative members of the household had such an issue with it?
“I think if it had been in any other series, it wouldn’t been the talk of the show necessarily. Because it was such an eclectic array for people in there from all beliefs, backgrounds and countries – and not to mention the fact that everyone was fucking boring in there and we were the only ones making fun for ourselves – it was not well received by the more conservative housemates because we didn’t care. We didn’t care that the cameras were there. We didn’t care that people were being negative towards us. After hours, we were hysterical. We were always laughing. Play fighting, waxing, bathing and shaving. Sometimes we let that slip through to the day. Some of them were just hypocrites.
“The reason the scissoring thing came up was because Jess went, ‘Grab my hand and leg and spin me around.’ So I did and I put her down nicely. It looked dubious at the time because it looked like I dropped her. Then Shane put his arm and leg up and I was just about to do it and Big Brother came over the tannoy saying ‘Could Andrew please not do that..’ because they didn’t have a word for it. So we were on our backs laughing so hard on the floor, and we fell into this scissor-type position. So then we were like, ‘Right, let’s just do it’. Then Ann saw us and she used it as an excuse to nominate us because she thought it was disgusting. Now that is almost an insight into her prejudices against homosexuality. She’s very intelligent and very smart, so she doesn’t delve into the depth where people can get properly offended. She didn’t go ‘That’s queer. That’s gay,’ whatever you want to say as an offensive word. So people can’t get offended. You kind of have to be impartial until the day she says that – and then you can tear her [homophobia] to shreds.”
Have you spoken to John Barnes since leaving the house after he threatened to ‘kick you out of the boys club’ if you did anything sexual with Courtney?
“I have so much respect for John because of who he was. He was a Liverpool footballer – a legend. I support Liverpool because of John Barnes. To being in a bed with him and being in the house with him, it was amazing. But he had an old-school laddish side to him – like that guy you’d meet down the pub. I used to work in a pub and people used to think I was gay. It was just me – I enjoy being flamboyant. People always used to make snide-y comments, and I’d just rise above them. So in the house I just rose above it, because there’s no point in issuing him with a statement because, quite frankly, he’s making his bed. And he did. I’d like to talk to him. I’d like to say, ‘How has it been received?’ Get his point of view on it first. I know he didn’t mean any real offence by it. The fact he said it is offensive, but I don’t think he meant it to be like, ‘I’m homophobic’. I don’t think he is. I think it’s important to know that John knows about intention, he preaches intention, and I don’t think he intended that to be offensive.”
Do you think there will ever be a time when a heterosexual man and a homosexual man can be friends without facing the endless ‘will they, won’t they’ dialogue?
“Hopefully, because that is the issue. Statistically speaking, 15% of the UK are LGBT, so in a group of 10 mates you’ve got one who is probably gay. But the fact he’s not coming out is testimony to that point – it’s because people are going to be like, ‘I ain’t going around to Phil’s house anymore because he might try to bum me in the shower.’ While people like Shane J and I have a friendship, people questioning the morality of that and asking ‘Will they, won’t they?’ that’s highlighting the issue that we should be kicking out of our minds as a society. It’s just two guys who are friends. They’re playing like they’re eight years old. You don’t question two eight year olds playing together, why question us? We’re just having fun. Shane J was as aware of it as I was. I’m really passionate about how it has been perceived in a good way and, as you say, it’s been perceived as a ‘will they, won’t they’. That was never my intention. I didn’t care how it was going to be perceived, but I think that’s an issue that needs to be kicked out of life.”
How were your lad friends’ reactions to your friendship with Shane J when you came out of the house?
“They are absolutely overjoyed. I’ve not had one negative comment from anyone that I know, which is amazing. I have got mates who are like your Daves down the pub, and not one of them has gone, ‘I thought you were gonna fuck her.’ It was nice to be well received by my friends. I do have gay male friends, but most of my closest gay friends are women. It’s so nice for them to just go, ‘Y’know what, you actually did such a fantastic job and you two were just yourselves’. If you’re black, if you’re Chinese, if you’re gay, straight, I do not care. If you’ve got a good heart, you’ve got a good heart.”
As a straight man, how do you define being a true ally to the LGBTQ community?
“An ally is a nice word. People have tried to say I’m an ambassador, and I don’t like that word because I’m not. I wouldn’t pretend I was. We should all be allies. If religion didn’t exist, if these strong views didn’t exist, we’d all be friends. There wouldn’t be hate or any sort of prejudice. Why can’t we start now? The earlier we start, the sooner it can be that openly gay men and straight men can be best friends without people questioning them. We’d just be a fucking happier nation, wouldn’t we? I know I would be. There would be less hate crime.”
You’d hope suicide rates among young people would go down too.
“Suicide rates in young teenagers is going to increase so much because of social media. Why aren’t we educating kids and saying, ‘Listen, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a million Instagram followers.’ Jesus only had 12. Maybe use that as an excuse. Look where he is: the most famous geezer ever. We celebrate his birthday two thousand years later! This is the kind of thing we need to discuss in regards to the education system. LGBT issues are something that we need to really address, because with social media and all the other pressures kids are going through, having people tell them they can’t be something, that’s just the nail in the coffin for me.”
Am I right in thinking that your sister is gay?
“Yes, my sister is gay.”
When arguing with Ann and she throws the comment “Your mother and your grandmother would be ashamed…” in regards to your friendship with Shane J, did you ever mention your sister’s sexuality?
“Maybe I could’ve handled it that way. I think I was almost selfish in my approach to that. I’m not bothered that I used the C word. What I regret about that is what you’ve pretty much just said. I was very selfish in the way that I thought it was all about me. That it was impacting my mum and dad not necessarily from a gay point of view, but from just being an embarrassment really.”
“Speaking about my sister, I’ve had quite a lot of comments from people saying ‘Andrew’s just using his five minutes of fame to jump on a bandwagon and try and support a community that he isn’t a part of.’ Now, I think that is a huge issue in this world. So what they’re saying is, 85% of people haven’t been affected by LGBT. Okay, so directly as an individual, no. I probably haven’t. I’m not gay. I’m not transgender. And I’m a heterosexual white male, so out of everyone I’m probably the most privileged in society. However, my sister came out when I was 17 and she came out in a way in which she expected me to be shocked. She expected my family to be shocked, to be embarrassed and to be ashamed. We weren’t. She sat me down and was like, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’ I kind of knew what was coming, and she was like ‘I’m gay’. I was like, ‘Oh cool.’ That was it. But seeing how much it affected her for years really impacted our relationship. If she’d only been more open from an earlier age, we would have been closer. It was only after she came out that we actually became friends. So it does run in my blood. It riles me up when people go, ‘You don’t deserve a voice.’ Maybe we should just be fucking nice to each other? Maybe people should just say, ‘Listen, this is wrong. We need to stop this attitude where people in life say if it doesn’t impact you, you can’t have a say.’ Maybe more people would come forward and be supportive of the LGBT community if people weren’t making comments like that.
“The scale [of sexuality] really hit home for me. From asexual to completely out there homosexual, and there are so many identities in between. This is the sort of stuff we should be teaching in schools. Maybe that awareness is what we need to start doing as a ‘heterosexual community’ to help the youth in the LGBT community. We’re teaching sex education, so why aren’t we teaching equality education? Why aren’t we teaching ‘just don’t be a dick’ education? We should be. Instead of teaching people about Henry the fucking eighth which happened centuries ago, let’s teach kids about the issues we face today.”
Make sure to vote for Shane J in tonight’s Celebrity Big Brother final!
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Styling // Darkwah Kyei-Darkwah
Photographer // Jack Alexander
Grooming // Charlotte Kraftman