independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Singer made it OK to be gay and live in limelight

The fresh face of Stephen Gately back in 1998 when Boyzone launched the two million pound ' Flying Island' ride at American Adventure World in Derbyshire. Photo: PA

STEPHEN Gately paved the way for other gay boyband members to come out and speak openly about their sexuality.

In 1999, the Boyzone singer was still living a lie. The band's manager Louis Walsh often planted stories and rumours of romances the popstar was enjoying with famous women. These included everyone from 'Baby Spice' Emma Bunton to Mandy Smith.

It was a throwback to Brian Epstein and his charge of John Lennon in the early 1960s, when Beatles manager Epstein feared there would be a backlash against the band if fans discovered that John was already married and had a young son.

Louis feared that Boyzone would lose fans if one of their heartthrobs was exposed as gay.

However, the matter was soon taken out of their hands in 1999. A reporter from a British tabloid came forward and said the paper were going to "out" Stephen unless he co-operated with them and admitted his sexuality.

In the end Stephen gave the revealing interview to the tabloid and very soon the whole fuss just faded away.

Last year Boyzone also became the first pop band to feature a gay couple in one of their videos. Stephen was pictured with a male actor for some hot scenes for their single 'Better'. The other members were filmed with female models. At the time Stephen said: "There really is no need to make an issue of the whole thing. For me it's just being natural."

Stephen's actions in 1999 paved the way for Westlife member Mark Feehily to come out a few years ago.

In August of 2005 Sligo-born Mark revealed that he was gay and was in a relationship with Kevin McDaid of boy band V.

And the other three members of Westlife all declared their support for Mark.

Louis Walsh said that he also had no idea about Mark when he first met him.

"I suppose when he said he liked Mariah Carey and the Eurovision Song Contest that alarm bells went off."

These days being gay is no longer an issue for pop stars, with everybody from the Scissor Sisters to Mika revealing their sexuality to fans.

Irish Independent

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