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The Advocate looks at Bloc Party's Kele Okereke, offers “181 Reasons to Have Pride”

LOS ANGELES) — Just in time for Pride Festivals across the country, The Advocate offers readers its “181 Reasons to Have Pride.”

The first reason, also the June/July 2012 cover story, is because Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke is just getting started. The lead singer of the breakout British band opens up to Advocate editor in chief Matthew Breen about his fibs to the press, his own coming-out process, and his responsibility as a role model for LGBT youth.

As Bloc Party rose to the top, Okereke found himself with more and more media interviews, and some of the stories he was telling got pick up around the globe. One such story had the Queen of Pop, Madonna, being hauled out of their dressing room in a headlock. Another had Okereke being replaced as the lead singer of the band, and both stories left some confused music watchers and reporters scratching their heads.

“It was completely bull*hit,” Okereke now says. “I was quite proud of it. That was me losing interest in an interview. You can tell when a journalist is trying to lead you down a path…It’s hard to go along with that. That’s why recently I’ve been making lots of stuff up in interviews. It’s got me into lots of trouble, but that’s only when I’m not engaged. Don’t worry. I’m engaged now.”

Okereke acknowledges that navigating fame took some on-the-job training. Reserved when not on stage, he has been described many times as shy or suspicious. “I think maybe in the beginning I was a bit cynical, a bit suspicious about the whole process of interviews and star-making,” he remembers. “I think people mistook my shyness for being a bit disinterested in the whole process.”

His LGBT and queer fans, however, did not mistake his alleged disinterest as shyness. Interviewers and media accounts started to describe him as closeted, which was something, now in the spotlight, Okereke struggled with. “I’ve never had any problems being out and open, but I didn’t like feeling as if I were being pressured into being a role model or spokesperson for people,” he says. “I was just a kid and the decision wasn’t mine. It felt like everybody else had an agenda and that I had to play along. Yeah, in the start of my career I did have a big problem with that, but then you realize it is important to people to share experiences.”

“I have trouble deciding what socks to wear every day, and the idea of being a spokesperson for people, the idea that your words go on and have a life outside of you, it was just a bit intimidating,” Okereke continues. “I’m still working out who I am. I’m still working out what I stand for … Some things will always be private. Some things will only be things that I know. And that’s good for me because I will always own that part of me.”

When Okereke first came out to his parents, Nigerian immigrants living in Liverpool, however, they threw him out of the house and didn’t speak to him at all for a week. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but it was the best period of my life–I say this hand on heart.” He knew he could now live freely, and over the next decade his family situation evolved. “I’m closer now with my parents, and I speak to my mum nearly every day,” he says. “And I miss them when I’m away from them, whereas when I was a teen I couldn’t wait to be away from them.”

Read “Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke Is Just Getting Started” HERE.

Additional content

* 181 Reasons to Have Pride — From major wins to small victories, The Advocate presents 181 reasons to feel proud of not being straight and narrow.

* The Kids Are Not All Right — For the estimated 2 million children of same-sex couples, anti-marriage equality laws have a real impact.

* Five Queer Girl Bands — Hear them roar. Many of today’s lesbian bands are grappling with their riot grrrl legacy.

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