A new Wham! Documentary has explained why George Michael didn’t come out as gay during his time in the band.
The new one-off special tracks the rise of the 1980s pop group via archive interviews with Michael as well as his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley.
Approximately 20 minutes into the film, which is available to stream on Netflix, Michael can be heard talking about his sexuality, which he kept hidden from the public until 1998.
However, the singer, who died on Christmas Day 2016, revealed that he “really wanted to come out” shortly after Wham! hit the big time in 1983 following what he called a “terrible” Top of the Pops performance of the song “Young Guns”.
In the documentary, Ridgeley recalled a conversation he had with Michael and Wham! dancer Shirlie Kemp, who was one part of the dancing duo Pepsi & Shirlie, which saw Michael 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. In the documentary, Michael said that he had realized he was gay six months earlier after an encounter with a man while shooting the music video for “Club Tropicana” in 1984.
“Once I realized this was a part of my sexuality I couldn’t ignore, I went to come out to Andrew,” Michael said. However, after he did so, Ridgeley and Kemp suggested he keep his sexuality a secret, which made the singer “lose his nerve”.
He explained: “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. I don’t think they were trying to proect my career or their careers – I think they were literally just thinking of my dad.”
Ridgeley confirmed: “We felt, you know, that he just couldn’t tell his dad.”
Michael, who described it as a “pivotal” time in his life, acknowledged that his close friends might have been “the wrong people to ask” for advice on the subject, stating: “The three of us were so close at the time, but the point being I’d really, really asked the wrong people.”
Ridgeley attributed this to their age at the time, adding: “I mean we were 10, 20 years old. Our perspective was a little narrower.”
Michael added that “at that point in time, I really wanted to come out, but said: “I lost my nerve completely.” The singer said that instead of embracing his sexuality, he instead “forged an identity through” his “success” as a pop star.
The documentary, titled wham!is available to stream on Netflix now.
Find The Independent‘s two-star review here.