Lord Waheed Alli Gaysians cover interview: “We have all faced discrimination in our lives and in our industry”

Gabriel Mokake / Gay Times

In collaboration with Gaysians, meet ten trailblazing figureheads paving the way for queer Asian representation in the mainstream.

“We have a problem with visibility in our community, which makes it harder for us to accept and celebrate ourselves. What better way to challenge this than by putting ten beautiful, successful, out Asian LGBTQ powerhouses on the cover,” writes Gaysian’s CEO Reeta Loi for the November 2018 issue of Gay Times. 

“This cover marks an important moment in the life of each individual and their lifelong dedication to their work whilst being visible, queer and Asian having been recognised – thank you Gay Times. But also, it’s a historic moment for us as a community. A community that is still so young in its forming that perhaps this is what brought out the playfulness that spread across the room at the shoot itself. Looking at each person and seeing a reflection of yourself, of your inner journey and a connection that transcends lifetimes.”

Gaysians cover features Lord Waheed Alli, Rena Brannan, Gok Wan, Luke Pagarani, Dr Ranj Singh, Asifa Lahore, Jonathan Phang, Suki Sandhu, Krishna Omkar and Reeta Loi.

Here, we speak to Entrepreneur and activist Lord Waheed Alli.

How did you come to be in the public spotlight?
I have always been active in politics but never thought I would be in frontline politics. It has never appealed to me. I don’t like public speaking and hate being in the spotlight. I have always been much better behind the scenes. When I went into the House of Lords, I didn’t realise that I would be the first openly gay member of The Lords. It was that fact that determined that I would make gay rights the centre of my work in The Lords. It has been a privilege to have done so and to see the change in The Lords over the last 20 years. An institution that thought being gay was a sickness to a modern positive place. A second chamber that forged the path for gay marriage (led by some exceptional women). I’m incredibly proud to be a member of their Lordships house.

Do we currently see fair and accurate representation for the queer Asian community in the UK?
We don’t see a fair representation of the Asian community generally so it’s unsurprisingly that we don’t see the same for queer Asians. It’s why I am so pleased that Gay Times are doing this – it’s the reason that I wanted to participate. It’s important that we show the range and depth of the community. It’s important that those who are coming to terms with their sexual identity can see that the world is diverse and there are positive role models. There are not enough of us and over the next few years I hope our numbers will grow.

Have you ever faced discrimination or homophobia within your industry?
We have all faced discrimination in our lives and in our industry, you only need to look at the ethnic and gender makeup of management and the boardrooms to see that. I’m lucky because I have been super successful and therefore can point to the media organisation and say without any self interest your boardrooms and management teams are a disgrace in terms of diversity. You should do better than this and do it faster.

How does your intersection allow you to thrive?
I wouldn’t change my race or sexuality for the world. The cultural richness and the gay community I have been part of have made me a better person. I understand how lucky I am and the random nature of luck. To be born now in this society. Never has there been a better time to be Asian, gay (a women, disabled, transgender, etc) although there is still a long long way to go. But the question is will we leave our society a better place for our communities in future generations than we inherited, or will we go backwards? Let’s hope better.

Related: Read Gaysians CEO’s letter for Gay Times: “It’s a historic moment for us as a community”


Photography Gabriel Mokake
Words William J Connolly
Fashion Paul Scott Coombs
Grooming Shamirah Sairally
Hair Tyron Sweeney
Production Assistant Solomon Warner
Location Rosewood Hotel London


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