The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, and that includes how we’re all celebrating Pride in 2020.
With huge public gatherings out of the question, we’re asking a range of LGBTQ celebrities and allies for their personal Pride anthems, to help us all get into the Pride spirit from lockdown.
Speaking to us over the phone from his family home in South Africa, Johannes pays homage to the “queen of disco”, reveals why Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive unites us all and shares an iconic encounter he had with a certain Kylie Minogue...
Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
“For my first song, I have to go to the queen of disco. I remember, when I first started dancing internationally, it was my first time out of South Africa, and my small township, and I got to visit a few districts around the world. We were in Australia, and we were going to this club, and Sylvester was on – obviously screeching – and everyone was lost in it, everyone was screaming and singing along and dancing, and I just thought to myself, ‘oh my god, who is this woman?’. And my friend was like, ‘no, no, that’s Sylvester’. And I was like, ‘I’ve missed something’.
“So, I went back and did my research, and of course it’s music that I had heard before, but just learning about that man, the fact that, you know, he is a gay Black man, and understanding his story, and where he comes from, it must have taken a lot for him to be the person that he was. And I hope he died knowing that he impacted many lives. With him being authentically himself. Because he was fluid. You know, those outfits, darling.
“He was a sensation.”
Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out
“That tune. I didn’t understand the meaning of it, because as a young boy, I used to dance the Cha Cha Cha to it – we didn’t have Latin American music, so to shake things up during practise, our coach used to play this song. Obviously, having grown up and understood more about who I am as a person, I’ve come to love this song so much.
“I remember looking at elderly gay gents in my life back in the day, and I just remember how they used to dance around and call this woman ‘our Black queen’. It takes me back to those nostalgic moments, with those people, a lot of whom have passed on because of HIV/AIDS and stuff like that, but those are the people who have shaped my life.
“And I haven’t danced to this song on Strictly yet, but it’s a plan of mine. Believe me.”
Kylie Minogue – All The Lovers
“Oh! Oh! Now, that is a tune. I learned about Kylie when I first started my dancing job professionally here in South Africa. I was a back-up dancer for a girl who was doing a Kylie medley. And, of course, I had to learn the music, and at the time I didn’t even know who Kylie Minogue was, but I just remember falling in love with it.
“I think that All The Lovers has to be my favourite because that video, if you remember, it was all-inclusive. Seeing all those bodies… yep. It was crazy, I just thought ‘who is this woman, pushing boundaries?’. At the time, I didn’t even know she was such a big gay icon, I just fell in love with her music.
“But I’ve actually got a funny story. Last year, at the opening of Strictly Come Dancing, I got to meet her. So before Strictly starts, they usually give us a brief of all the pro numbers and the celebrity guests appearances for the whole season, and tell us who we’re going to be dancing with. And when we heard that Kylie was going to opening the show, you can imagine… I lost it.
“I remember when I first met her, I started singing to her ‘destiny has a funny way…’, and she just looked at me and laughed! I didn’t know what to [expect] but she’s so humble and so down-to-earth. It was the best day of my life.”
Queen – I Want To Break Free
“Freddie Mercury is an idol of mine because of what he stands for, and for the joy he’s brought to so many people. And how bold and strong – because I think he was a very strong person – and how resilient he was, and how much he believed in himself, that for me, is what stands out.
“I chose this song, by the legend Freddie Mercury, for all those repressed individuals. I think this song hits very true to me. The whole being gay and being proud thing came at a very late stage in my life. I’ve always known, of course, but having to accept who I am fully. This song when it played when I was a young boy, I remember those words just somehow resonated with me in ways I can’t tell you.
“So of course, to be walking in the streets where Freddie Mercury has been... I don’t know my whole journey of just being in the United Kingdom, you don’t understand. That song, it’s an anthem for us all, and I’m sure all of us can relate to it.”
Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
“The classic, the disco anthem for us all, against all odds. Gloria Gaynor, mother of all. Darling, it would be a sin to not know the lyrics to this song. It really would be.
“In my clubbing days – not to say I’ve ever had clubbing days, because I’ve always been busy – but whenever I’ve had the opportunity to go out clubbing and that song comes on, I know we are all united in love when that plays. It doesn’t matter who you are or the colour of your skin, we all sing to Gloria’s lyrics and everybody in that moment is talking about their own personal journey and adversities. So yeah, that is now a tune that sets me on fire.
“If I am feeling low, and I feel like life has got to me in ways I can’t control, I put that tune on wherever I am, and I blast it out loud. And it just represents… if you’re still breathing, you should keep on keeping on.”
Lady Gaga – Born This Way
“This song is an affirmation to say, you know, there’s nothing wrong with who you are. ‘You’re on the right track, baby, you were born this way’ – and like music does to many of us, it inspires.
“I think every gay boy sitting in a township somewhere or countryside listening to Lady Gaga saying those words, enforces them to level up. In some kind of way. And it’s a tune, too.”
We’ll be adding each celebrity’s song choices to our bumper My Pride Anthems playlist each day. Take a listen below: