Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mark Feehily of Ireland's Westlife

Mark Feehily, one of the lead singers of the Irish boy band phenomenon Westlife, came out as gay in a British tabloid interview in which he announced his long-term relationship with Kevin McDaid, a member of the British boy band V (disbanded in 2005). Mark said, "My life has gotten umpteen times better. My sexuality doesn't define me as a person, but it's a huge part of anyone to be open about it. It's changed my life totally, as I feel much happier and more at ease. It's the best thing I've ever done." Unlike his Westlife band mates, for years Feehily did not discuss his private life. Westlife is HUGE in Europe, but virtually unheard of in the United States; their stock in trade is ballads.

The pair have dated since January 2005, after having met at a concert in Ireland. In yet another interview, Feehily (in plaid shirt in photo at left; Kevin in light blue shirt) told The Sydney Morning Herald that despite the fact that the majority of Westlife's fans are female, there has been no real negative reaction. "I am so much happier now, and I think our fans can see that," he said. "Through the years of getting to the point where I wanted to come out, I had to go through every kind of emotion, but I can honestly say that the day before I came out, I didn't care what the reaction was going to be."

Feehily said that while he did not intend on getting married right away, he is happy to know he could form a civil partnership in Britain with the recent passing of the Civil Partnership Act. The musicians say that when the time is right, they will look into having a civil partnership ceremony. Mark and Kevin, who now works as a photographer, got engaged on 28 January 2010, and Feehily confirmed the news via Twitter. Asked about his future plans with McDaid, Feehily replied, "We're best friends, we live together and we're going to get married soon. I can't wait, but we haven't finalized the date." Kevin did the still photography for Westlife’s album “Gravity,” their eleventh studio album.

Mark sings lead at the beginning of this Westlife video of “Smile,” before Shane takes over. Incidentally, the music for “Smile” was written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film “Modern Times.” Lyrics were added in 1954 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. Recordings of this perennial favorite have been made by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson (apparently his all-time favorite song), Michael Bublé, Lyle Lovett and scores of others.

In this acoustic video of their early super #1 hit (1999), Flying Without Wings, Westlife’s Mark Feehily takes over lead vocals from Shane at the 53 second mark. Note: don’t get your hopes up about Shane – he is married to his childhood sweetheart and became the father of his third child in January, 2010. In fact, all the other members of Westlife are married straight men.

From a 2004 tribute album to Frank Sinatra:

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