George Michael on why Wham! partner advised him against coming out
(Credit: Netflix)

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George Michael on why Wham! partner advised him against coming out

In Netflix’s new Wham! documentary, the late singer George Michael revealed that his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley dissuaded him from coming out. The new one-off documentary follows the pair from humble beginnings to the height of their popularity in the mid-1980s using archive footage and interview snippets. 

Around 20 minutes into the documentary, Michael is heard discussing his sexuality, which he kept under wraps until 1998. Although he withheld his sexual orientation from the public for so many years, Michael revealed that he “really wanted to come out” back in 1984 shortly after what he deemed a “terrible” Top of the Pops performance of ‘Young Guns’. 

Elsewhere, Ridgeley recalls a conversation he had with Michael and Wham! choreographer Shirlie Kemp, in which the former came out to them. “He said to me, ‘Didn’t know how to tell you this, but I’m gay – if not gay, you know, bisexual,” Ridgeley said. 

It’s later documented that Michael realised he was gay or bisexual six months earlier following an encounter with a man while shooting the classic poolside music video for ‘Club Tropicana’ in 1984.

“Once I realised this was a part of my sexuality I couldn’t ignore, I went to come out to Andrew,” Michael said in an archival interview. After Michael revealed his secret, Ridgeley and Kemp advised that he keep his sexuality from the public. Michael explained that this made him “lose his nerve” about exposing his true orientation. 

“I said I was gonna talk to my mum and dad and was persuaded, in no uncertain terms, that it really wasn’t the best idea,” Michael said. “I don’t think they were trying to protect my career or their careers – I think they were literally just thinking of my dad.”

“We felt, you know, that he just couldn’t tell his dad,” Ridgeley commented in the documentary. 

Michael continued to opine that, in retrospect, his friends may have been “the wrong people to ask” for advice on such a “pivotal” moment in his life. “The three of us were so close at the time, but the point being I’d really, really asked the wrong people,” he said. 

Ridgeley added that the group’s age at the time didn’t help them in navigating the difficult situation. “I mean, we were 19, 20 years old. Our perspective was a little narrower.”

“At that point in time, I really wanted to come out, [but] I lost my nerve completely,” Michael said. The singer, who died on Christmas Day in 2016, added that instead of opening up to the public, he “forged an identity through” his “success” as an artist. 

The documentary, titled Wham!, is available on Netflix now. See the trailer below.