Willis Austin Chimano has come out as gay in a move that is being praised as a boost to Kenya’s LGBTQ+ community.

Willis, who is more commonly known as Chimano, is one of the stars in Sauti Sol, a vastly popular and famous Kenyan band.

Speaking to Standard, a local newspaper, Chimano said he was tired of living a lie.

He recently released a solo song, Friday Feeling, which he discussed with the outlet, calling it “a true representation of who he is”.

“It is the first time I am expressing myself in a song. You really get to know who Chimano is and that is a heavy crown to carry. It is just a representation of the underground ballroom culture within the queer community… which I am part of,” he explained.

In Kenya, gay sex continues to be punishable by a maxmimum of 14 years in prison after a challenge to this legislation was thwarted in 2019.

Attitudes in the country often result in LGBTQ+ people being cast out by their families, leading them to live in clandestine communities to enjoy a peaceful life.

“Sexuality does not define you,” Chimano continued. “It is just about me putting myself out there, my creativity and living my truth. Figure out what your own happiness is most importantly with yourself. Gather your own life.”

Prosecutions of the aforementioned are rare and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people is seen as better in the country than it is in neighbouring ones such as Uganda.

Speaking to the BBC, gay activisit Kevin Mwachiro said someone as high profile as Chimano coming out is “a good thing”.

He added: “Young people are saluting him and are seeing him as an icon who comes out to celebrate his life and his sexuality. It’s a good thing, it shows our diversity as a country.”

Sauti Sol won Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards and Best Group at the 2016 MTV Africa Music Awards and has released three albums since their formation in 2005.