Jonathan Phang Food writer, glam squad agent and cel­e­brant

Gay Times Magazine - - CULTURE -

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 sušested 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.

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