Attitude presents the November “Awards” issue, featuring the leading names from this year’s Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar. Following a star-studded event at London’s Roundhouse, the awards issue features exclusive interviews with award-winners Sam Smith, Christine and the Queens, Mika, Dame Joan Collins, Dr Ranj Singh, Ava Max, Russell T Davies, Armistead Maupin and activists Ruth Coker Burks and Tree Sequoia.
From the heartbreak that came after the end of their first gay relationship to them coming out as non-binary earlier this year, Sam shares a heartfelt and honest letter to Attitude that charts their journey over the past few years and how they found happiness and peace in their identity.
Sam on the pressure that came with the success of their debut album:
“I did everything humanly possible to control the situation. I almost put on this weird metaphorical hat each morning and would ask myself, “What would Sam Smith do?” It was a very odd and self-involved head-space to be in. As each day went on, slowly and surely, my suits started to feel like straightjackets and my head started to feel more and more like a prison.”
Sam on their first gay relationship:
“Here I am at 25 and I have the same responsibilities as a 50 year old when it comes to career and money. However, when it comes to love I feel like a confused 14 year old. It was really difficult. I was very much in love with my boyfriend at the time but I wasn’t happy. About four months into the tour [of their second album], we broke up.”
Sam on heartbreak:
“Heartbreak fucking kills. I felt as if my chest had been blown up into little bits. Thank God I have the family and friends and team I do, because everyone got around me and cradled me and slowly helped me put the pieces back together. But looking back, I am so incredibly thankful because this heartbreak and genuine pain was almost like pushing the first domino. Self-reflection began.”
Sam on their self-reflection:
“I looked in the mirror and all I saw was a huge disconnection. I didn’t like what I was seeing. I didn’t like myself. And that’s absolutely NOT acceptable. … I started to ask myself some big questions, and it was heavy. Therapy was a huge factor in getting me to this space but even with that support, it was heavy… I’m done feeling shame — something I think the entire queer community struggles with every day because we are born in a world that still believes we are aliens.”
CHRISTINE AND THE QUEENS
The winner of the Artist Award, Chris, aka Christine and the Queens, speaks candidly about a year of change that saw incredible highs, such as headlining Glastonbury and Coachella, and the trauma that came with the death of her mother and the break-up of a relationship after 18 intense months.
Chris on returning to the stage after the death of her mother:
“When I went back on stage, it was actually in the Florence + the Machine tour, and she was super-lovely with me. The first gigs became kind of cathartic. It’s really weird, [one night on the tour] all of a sudden, it started to snow in May. It’s cheesy, but I was like, ‘Mom?’ I was quite emotional. It was a moment where I was quite down and I thought: ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing now. I shouldn’t be back on stage now. It’s too early. I’m broken. It’s too complicated. I can’t handle that shit any more’. Then it started snowing. It may be super-stupid, but it felt like a sign.“
Chris on carrying scars from her youth:
“I’m scarred as fuck. But it’s not holding me back. It used to. When I was young, I used to feel monstrous. I had lots of questions because I couldn’t define myself properly. Was I a young man trapped in a woman’s body? I don’t feel I have body dysmorphia. So, I’m a woman but then I don’t relate to women as they are. I had skin rashes out of stress.”
Chris on the recent end of a corrosive relationship:
“I’m still in love, but it’s just not working. It’s really adult to leave someone when you’re still in love with them though, but it’s not working. … It’s a special kind of heartbreak. I remember being young and having my heart broken, but it was simpler in a way. Now again, there are nuances, but unbearable ones. I have to fight the urge to try again because I tried so much with that person. But it was super-passionate, and I don’t regret it. But it got to a point where it was corrosive. So, I’m still in love with that person, but it cannot work any more.”
DAME JOAN COLLINS
Icon Award winner, Dame Joan Collins speaks to Attitude about the pressure film studios placed on young women to lose weight in the 1950s, stripping off in her comeback film The Stud, and spilling the tea on the resentment she felt from the cast of Dynasty.
Joan on the weight-loss pills she was given by her film studio:
You just accepted the fact that it was a male-dominated society; a patriarchal society. The studios were all led by men in their fifties and sixties. They were all men, like Jack Warner, Harry Cohn, Louis B Mayer, Darryl Zanuck. They were all tough, hard, controlling, domineering men. You were almost scared. Well, just seeing Judy [Garland] and how Mayer treated her. It happened to me, but in a different way. When I went to Hollywood, I was told that I was too fat and I had to lose 8lb. I wasn’t fat; I was curvy. I was about 9st, maybe eight-and-a-half. They said, “Don’t worry, we’ll go to this doctor.” He gave me some green pills, and I took them for almost two years. I had trouble sleeping, but I lost 8lb. Then it was the banana-and-milk diet, the cottage-cheese-and-tomato diet. The studio insisted you had to keep the weight off. My boyfriend, the married man I was having the affair with, saw them and said: “These are poison.” He poured them down the loo, and I stopped taking them. I never took those pills again. But I trained myself not to eat too much. The studio did it to all the female actresses. We had to be a certain size.
Joan on stripping off in her forties in The Stud and its sequel The Bitch:
“I was now approaching my mid-forties and that’s a very tough time for an actress, particularly if she’s a good-looking one and not considered to be one of the... how do I say, a Judi Dench, a Maggie Smith. … It was a breakout movie. They would say, ‘Oh, she’s taking her clothes off.’ I said, ‘So is Glenda Jackson. So is Jane Fonda. So is Helen Mirren, a lot, on the stage’, which is far more difficult because you have to do it every night. At least when I took mine off for a scene, I could get well and truly drunk, then forget about it. Like on that swing, oh God. Yes, that was a bit embarrassing.
Joan on the resentment she felt from the cast of Dynasty:
“There was a lot of resentment. I’ve been asked this question a million times, and when I was doing it, I would poo-poo it. I’d say, ‘Oh, no, no’. But yes. There was. And now I know there was, because many people have come back to me who were around at that time and said, ‘They bloody hated you, Joan’. First of all, the fact that I was English, some didn’t like that. This English woman comes in and saves the show. This is what the media said, because the show was about to be cancelled. … It was great when the English girls came in. Stephanie Beacham, Kate O’Mara, Emma Samms, because we had a connection. Even now, when we get together for Dynasty reunions as we did a few years ago, I see an antipathy towards me. Also, if you look at some of the things that John Forsythe, Gordon Thompson [Adam Carrington], and even Michael Nader [Dex] said about me in interviews, they were not nice. I have never said anything about it before, but now the time has come.”
Interviews with Mika, Dr Ranj Singh, Russell T Davies, Armistead Maupin and activists Ruth Coker Burks and Tree Sequoia are also available.