WITH G-A-Y PROMOTER JEREMY JOSEPH AND 56 DEAN STREET CLINIC HOPING TO SET A NEW WORLD RECORD FOR ADMINISTERING THE MOST HIV TESTS IN ONE LOCATION IN AN EIGHT HOUR PERIOD AT G-A-Y BAR THIS WORLD AIDS DAY (THURS 1ST DEC), WE SPOKE TO OPENLY GAY WESTLIFE SINGER MARK FEEHILY ABOUT SAFER SEX AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PARTNER KEVIN (AND WHO FROM WESTLIFE WOULD WEAR THE BIGGEST CONDOM!)
When you first came out publicly, how aware were you of safer sex?
I was very aware of it, but I suppose I didn’t feel very connected to it because my sex life – without going into detail – wouldn’t have been very active at the time anyway. I spent a lot of Westlife in the closet and didn’t have many partners before Kevin. I was with girls and stuff before too, but my awareness of it was that it wasn’t an option not to have safer sex. And I still to this day wonder what ways do I have to help people realise, on a more personal level, their connection to it. But unfortunately I don’t think people take it seriously enough. They see it advertised but I think maybe a lot of it goes over their heads.
I think a lot of people think if they get an STI they can just take some pills and it’ll clear up in a week.
Yeah, there’s deffinitely that element. I remember reading a newspaper article about someone who has HIV, and he was saying, ‘OK, maybe I’m not going to die as early as I would have 20 years ago, but it doesn’t mean that I still don’t have to run to the toilet or puke or take medication every day for the rest of my life.’ It’s not as simple as ‘there’s a magic pill out there; let’s do whatever we want.’ But of course there are many others STIs you can get as well. People think that HIV treatment is far better these days, and indeed it is, but from that I believe people think ‘that’s fine, we can do whatever we want now,’ and that piece of information is almost as dangerous in terms of sending out the wrong message. People shouldn’t be any less carefull. Statistics at the moment are something like 25% of poeple out there who have HIV don’t actually know that they have it, so I think the only way to be sure is to be tested.
Have you ever had a HIV test?
Myself and Kevin have been together for seven years and we’ve gone and had tests purely because it’s a good thing to do. You dont have to wait until something may have happened before getting tested. I think it should just be something that’s natural to do, regardless of the situation. There’s nothing to loose by doing it. It’s important for everyone to just do it.
Especially if you’re going into, or what you hope will be, a long-term relationship. It’s about respect for yourself and others.
Yeah, and I think people build up going for a test as this ‘big thing’. And I don’t want to play down the importance of doing it, but actual physical act of going for a test should be something that is worked into your routine.
You’ve mentioned Kevin a few times – how are things with you guys?
Oh, fantastic! Me and Kevin have been together nearly seven years now. We’ve had such an amazing time together and we got engaged not far off two years ago now. I’ve got a few friends who are single and dating, and as fun as it can sometimes look going out dating this person and that person, I count myself really lucky to be where I am right now with Kevin.
Sure. Is soulmate too strong a term?
I think me and Kevin are very much best, best friends. There’s a connection that we have I’ve never had before with anyone else, so I guess that must be a soulmate. I spent years and years in the closet keeping all my feelings to myself, and for a long time I felt very lonely. I didn’t have secret boyfriends or anything like that, so for me I’m just so happy that I have that best friend, that person who’s there all the time.
Jeremy wanted me to ask this quite cheeky question too. JLS have their own condom range; if Westlife had their own range – in size order, from small to large – who in the band would have the largest one?
[laughs] Well I couldn’t be giving away the lads’ secrets, which means of course it would be me.
That’s a good answer! Now for the music side of things – why are Westlife breaking up after this tour?
We’ve been together for 14 years and we’ve released 12 albums. All that alone is a long time to dedicate yourself, and when you dedicate yourself to being in Westlife it’s 110%. There’s nothing else you can really fit in. You can’t do a bit of this, a bit of that and do Westlife – when you’re dedicated and committed to Westlife it’s 100% and it always has been. And after 14 years of that commitment we’re pretty much still at the top of our game. We’ve never wanted Westlife to become something where we’re begging people to come to our gigs, or releasing albums and no one is buying them. We’ve enjoyed amazing statistics during our 14 years so it’s a nice time to celebrate with one last tour, a greatest hits album, and then break away and look for a new challenge. In my mind I’ll always be a member of Westlife, but there’s other stuff out there that we all want to do.
What do you plan on doing once the tour is over?
There are plenty of people out there who I admire because they seem to do a lot of different things and not just one thing. Look at people like Boy George, who I’ve been lucky enough to befriend a little bit. He’s a fashion designer, songwriter, singer, DJ, does a bit of this, a bit of that, a bit of the other. He does some writing for publications now and then he’s done a book, a musical, so I think I would definitely look up to him in terms of how he’s a creative being and how he’s applied that creativeness in various different things. I’ve been approached to write a musical, which I’d love to be involved with – I just need to make sure I’ll be able to give it 1000% dedication. As a singer, of course I’ve been a part of 12 albums with Westlife, but the idea of making an album which is 100% mine, instead of 25% mine, as an ‘artist’, is something I’d also love to do. I’d love to write a book. I want to travel a bit more. Some people have one certain sure answer for that, but for me I’m just a creative person and I want to branch out and do as much as possible.
Would you like to say a final message regarding safer sex?
I want people to work it out of their minds that catching an STI won’t happen to them. Someone doesn’t have to look like they have STI to have one – anyone can get one. You can be fairly promiscuous, and lucky, and be fine, and then someone who has had only two partners in their life might still have an STI. I think the most important thing to do is just go and get a test because otherwise you’ll never know.
Like you say, infections are indiscriminate, so it can be anyone.
Yeah, completely – getting tested is important for anyone who you sleep with in the future. It’s not just about self-respect; it’s about showing respect to other people around you as well. It’s best for everyone.
Credit/Source: boyz.co.uk / Westlife.GR