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 food writer, glam squad agent and celebrant, Jonathan Phang.

How did your local community and family react during your coming out?
Sadly, my family found it hard to accept my sexuality and it took until I was nearly 40, and the death of both of my parents, for me to fully come out to my extended family. My father read my diary when I was about 17 and it was like a bomb had exploded. After two days of crisis talks about how he was going to cure me (the suggested solutions included a visit to a brothel, finding a discrete psychiatrist and possible conversion therapy) I left home two days later. There was no turning back. It was the early 80s and honestly, I expected to be rejected by my family and community, so their reaction was no surprise to me. In a way I had been preparing for it since I first realised that I was gay, at about eight years old. In certain ways it was a relief that my father found out, as I don’t think that I would have had the strength to confess my true nature to a Chinese Caribbean father. However, I did have empathy for my parents’ ignorance and tried to understand their point of view. I came out during a time of bigotry, hatred and fear (scaremongering that was spread by people in authority) so their rejection was fuelled by love and concern ultimately. It took several years, but I believe that I gained my father’s respect and I think that he would have become fully accepting of my lifestyle eventually. After my father died, I grew very close to my mother, who fully embraced the LGBTQ community and met everybody in my life. I’m immensely proud of the woman that she became, and as result of meeting my diverse friends.

How did you come to be in the public spotlight?
Being a judge on Britain’s Next Top Model opened many doors for me, and as a result of appearing on this show (I did the first three series) I got my cookbook published, which lead to me appearing on shows like Market Kitchen, Missing Top Model, Caribbean Cookbook, Gourmet Trains and Saturdays with James Martin. I now read the LGBTQ news headlines on DIVA Radio and review television for The Gaby Roslin show on BBC London.

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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