Munroe Bergdorf: 'It Doesn't Matter What The World Thinks, It Matters What You Think Of Yourself'

The activist and model shares why Lady Phyll, John Cameron Mitchell and Hunter Schafer are her queer heroes this Pride month.
Luke Nugent/HuffPost

Throughout her time in the public eye, Munroe Bergdorf has worn countless hats – model, activist, educator and TV personality, to name just a few.

In the last few years, she’s become one of Britain’s most recognisable LGBTQ figures, engaging in public discussions around everything from white privilege to transgender equality.

This Pride month, we spoke to Munroe about everything from the queer cinema that shaped her when she was growing up to her modern-day role models, including Edward Enninful, Lady Phyll and Hunter Schafer.

Here’s what she told us as part of her Over The Rainbow interview...

What is your favourite Pride memory?

It would have to be my first Pride, which was Brighton Pride in around 2006. It was just a really magical day. I don’t remember much of it, but I remember how I felt!

I think anyone’s first Pride is always really special, because that’s when you realise you’re part of something much bigger than what you thought originally. It’s really a confirmation for your inner child as well, that you weren’t the only one going through all of that in your early years. We all have an inner dialogue that causes us a lot of shame in those formative years, so the opportunity to be around so many different people celebrating that part of ourselves is something really important.

There’s a shared consciousness at Pride, it’s similar to when you’re at a concert and you’re all celebrating the person that’s on stage. Everybody goes to Pride and really celebrates each other, which is really special.

Munroe Bergdorf
Munroe Bergdorf
Luke Nugent

Who is your LGBTQ hero?

I’m going to go for Lady Phyll, the co-founder of UK Black Pride. She’s just a very resilient person who has given an incredible amount of love and care to queer POC. And to hold that space and create a Pride which is, in my opinion, closer to what Pride should be, she’s incredible.

UK Black Pride is much more community-orientated than it is about the spectacle that we often associate with Pride these days. I feel like it’s much more of a soul experience than it is a visual feast. Obviously it’s astoundingly beautiful to go there and see so many queer people of colour when we are often the minority in so many spaces that we navigate outside of these kind of events. That in itself is enough.

And I feel like that’s the beauty of Pride – seeing each other, not necessarily a thousand rainbow balloons and all of this extra decoration. Whilst that’s great, UK Black Pride is really what it’s about for me.

Lady Phyll
Lady Phyll
Gareth Cattermole via Getty Images

What is your go-to Pride anthem?

Fred Again and The Blessed Madonna’s song Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing). Over this time of lockdown, we’ve essentially lost two Prides and the opportunity to really be with each other on a dance floor.

The moment that I heard this song, I just realised how much dancing and dance floors and night clubs mean to the queer community. Just hearing The Blessed Madonna’s voice speak about human connection and what it means to come together, and how much more beautiful and important dance floors are going to be on the other side of this... when I first heard it, I just cried. I was in the back of a taxi and every single hair on the back of my neck and my arms stood up.

I grew up in the clubs, and I really, really miss that environment – not just for myself but for younger queer people who want to find each other in the real world. So that’s my Pride anthem, because I feel like we have lost dancing. But we’re about to get it back.

What is your favourite LGBTQ film?

Hedwig And The Angry Inch. That film meant so much to me as a young trans girl, who hadn’t really understood their transness. I love the message in that film about understanding that you are a whole person. We may go out looking for our other halves, but we are enough as we are.

And I love that it mixes queerness and punk and get back to the punk aspects of queerness – because being queer is really punk! I mean, it’s as punk as you can get. Yet, it’s not often that you see that cross-section of queerness and punk and rock and roll.

To see all of that in a musical format, when I really, really needed it, and to see how the world worked against Hedwig but in her own mind she’s a star… it helped instil a confidence in me. It taught me that it doesn’t really matter what the world thinks about you, it matters what you think of yourself.

John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig And The Angry Inch
John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig And The Angry Inch
Sophie Giraud/New Line/Kobal/Shutterstock

What was an LGBTQ TV show or TV moment that made you feel represented?

Euphoria has the most dynamic and nuanced representation of a modern-day trans character that I’ve seen on TV. Hunter Schafer’s character is one of the most authentic portrayals of what it feels like to be a young trans person in today’s society. Hunter’s a friend of mine and an incredible person, and to see them grow and bring their own experience into this character, but also allow the character to speak for herself, is so validating and beautiful to witness.

When I see Hunter’s acting of the character of Jules, I just think “oh that’s a real person”. Jules is not a perfect person, but I think we need to get away from this idea of all LGBTQ characters being perfect, because it’s not realistic. It’s more important that we see the multiple layers of a human being.

And also, seeing as many Black trans people in one show as there was on Pose was extremely validating also. So I’d say both of them.

Hunter Schafer as Jules in Euphoria
Hunter Schafer as Jules in Euphoria

Who would be your ultimate queer icon?

I think Edward Enninful is a force of nature. The way that he has revolutionised British Vogue is absolutely incredible. It’s beyond anything that I could have hoped to have seen as a young, queer, Black child.

The way that he has pushed different forms of beauty into a publication that hasn’t always been as inclusive as it is today is incredible. And he’s a lovely, lovely person, every time that I see him is an experience to just be around that kind of energy.

And to see a Black man achieve what he has achieved in the British fashion industry must be so empowering for so many young Black gay men. I mean, Edward is an icon, undoubtedly, and he’s definitely one of my heroes.

I literally gag every time I see a British Vogue cover. Like when he did all of the old school Black hairstyles, with Precious Lee on the cover, I would never have thought that would ever be in the mainstream beauty industry, because Black hair has been so excluded for so long. To see something so unapologetically Black, as well, with hair bobbles and structure... he’s just a visionary.

Edward Enninful
Edward Enninful
David M. Benett via Getty Images

What is your message for young LGBTQ people this Pride month?

I just want young people to know that you have the power to shape the world as you want it to be, rather than feel like it has to shape you.

When I was growing up, I felt like I really had to fit into a box, whatever that was. I felt like in order for me to be successful and to be happy, I had to make other people happy by being successful on other people’s terms.

And I just feel like, you know, you can shape the world in a way that you feel is a better world for you to live in. I really feel like that’s what Gen Z are doing, you know? They’re not buying into the same things that we did when we were younger. They’re refusing and rejecting things that we took as verbatim, and I think it’s really inspiring.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


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