I’m originally from St Andrews, an historic town on the east coast of Scotland. It’s a wonderful bubble of town; it has just 17,000 people but has a very international and cosmopolitan vibe as it has the oldest university in Scotland and of course St Andrews is the Home of Golf (yes, I play – badly).
I’m very proud of my hometown – I think it is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with it’s gorgeous beaches, dramatic vistas, ancient buildings, all surrounded by sprawling green golf courses and farmland. I fully understand why people flock to St Andrews from all over the world. Oh and don’t get me started on the fudge doughnuts from Fisher & Donaldson bakery…
After finishing secondary school at Madras College (in St Andrews, not Madras – it’s a long story), I went to Edinburgh University where I studied Law.
It’s all tied up with coming out, but I applied and managed to get a training contract with a law firm based in England which meant I had to move to London to study postgraduate law after graduation.
Despite coming out in my second year of university, I had been a bit rubbish at being gay and found it easier to surround myself with straight friends.
But when I moved to London to study, I felt it was time to embrace who I was. I had to get a job to help fund my studies so in my first couple of days I headed straight to the centre of gay-everything, Old Compton Street. I saw that Mamma Mia! was playing at the Prince Edward theatre and asked if they had any jobs going. And they did! For the next 18 months, I worked front of house and in the box office, selling tickets, ripping tickets, selling CDs and showing people to their seats. To this day when I hear the opening bars to Voulez-Vous, part of me thinks it’s almost time for the interval and I should man the auditorium doors – Pavolv’s dog and all that!
It was one of the most fun jobs I have ever had. I worked with a wonderful bunch of people and after a few months I ended up moving in with three of them (all actors), into their tiny boxroom in their house in Palmers Green with a broken bed that was propped up with old newspapers. It didn’t matter, we had such a giggle and threw the best parties.
Living with Simon, Craig and Emma inspired me. I had always loved acting and had dabbled as a professional actor in my teens and they encouraged me to apply to drama schools. It wasn't all plain sailing - I fell over in the dance audition for Arts Ed and failed miserably to be "a fox on the way to a wedding" in my LAMDA audition but I was very chuffed to get to the third round of the RADA auditions. Sadly RADA wasn’t meant to be, but I did manage to secure a place on the postgrad course at the prestigious Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art – well, if it was good enough for Angela Lansbury!
My time at Webber is one of the hardest but most rewarding things I have ever done; physically, emotionally and intellectually. You hear stories of drama schools breaking you down and building you up again, and it’s true. At university I could always study more, but at drama school it was incredibly personal – it was all about who I was as a person inside and out, how I looked and behaved, how I tapped into my emotions and my own truth.
When we finished, we were all exhausted. It was also a bit of a crazy time as there weren’t many acting jobs. It seemed that more and more film actors were doing TV roles, and TV actors were moving into theatre roles. Agents didn’t seem to be taking people on (just a handful come to our showcase) and ultimately, I had to find a way to make some money, so back to the law I went (thankfully my law firm had kept my job open for me).
I didn’t and don’t regret going to Webber at all. I learned so much about me as a person, how to use my body and voice, and the discipline and preparation required of performers. Acting was something I could do later in life as I knew that I still had a lot of growing to do and it is something I have luckily been able to go back to from time to time, including being the "Gym Bunny" in the Battersea Barge Christmas Pants "Alice in Poundland".
Speaking of growing, at that time I was also very heavy – I had an unhealthy relationship with food and was a very emotional eater. My weight would yo-yo from 14 stone to 18 stone and back. Looking back I think this was because of some inner struggles I may have had with my sexuality. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be gay – I loved it, I loved men, but I had this feeling that I was a disappointment to my family, I wasn’t good looking enough, I wasn’t worthy of men’s attention and then when I would go out with my gay friends from the Edward, I felt invisible as a fat, gay man. And so to compensate I ate more, which just made the whole thing worse.
In some ways I retreated back in the closet and threw myself into my training contract and qualifying as a Commercial and IP lawyer in the City.
Gradually I found my way back out, I met a lovely man at G-A-Y at the Astoria (I miss the Astoria). We moved in together and I started embracing being gay once again. We had a number of very happy years together but eventually we grew apart; we wanted different things. However, during our relationship, I tipped the scales at around 20 stone – the heaviest I have ever been. Something had to change and I embarked on a fitness journey. In the space of nine months I managed to lose over seven stone and even ran the London Marathon in 2009 in a very respectable 3 hours and 38 minutes!
After the breakup, I moved out, bought a little one-bed flat in Greenwich, South East London where I still live today. I love Greenwich; being by the water and the greenery of the park reminds me of home.
This all happened at the tail end of 2009, and so 2010 was a year of, erm, let’s say, “discovery” – I was 32 and I really started living life like I should have been living in my 20s. My ex seemed to get most of our gay friends in the breakup so I put myself out there and found myself a network of gay friends in Greenwich – my lovely “Greenwich Gays”.
I had a lot of fun that year and it was an incredibly hot and sunny summer. I went with some of my new friends to Glastonbury, partied at Lovebox Sunday, went to Puglia on holiday with some others and just had an absolute ball. I was really happy but I missed performing. Through my new friends, I met my friend Richard who was a member of the London Gay Men’s Chorus and he persuaded me to audition the following week. I did and I have never looked back. Joining the LGMC is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
On one of the very last days of summer 2010, I also met my boyfriend, who was having drinks with a mutual friend at the BFI on the South Bank. We’ve been together ever since.
Career wise, I’m still a lawyer, but I decided against a career in the City very early on and have worked in-house in the music and magazine publishing industries and now work as a senior lawyer for a well know fashion company.
It’s so important for me to have a good work-life balance and I’ve been fortunate that my career choices have allowed me a degree of flexibility to progress my career as a lawyer but to also live life to the max outside of work.
I’m 40 next year, but I’m definitely more comfortable in my own skin now and I try not to take anything for granted. However, age shouldn’t define us and age should never limit us.
I was out in Newcastle recently with Mr Gay Wales and Mr Gay England and we were all wearing our Mr Gay t-shirts. A young guy of around 20 came up to me and said in a mocking tone “You’re Mr Gay Scotland? What year was that?” implying that I was too old to use the title. That’s simply made me more determined than ever!
I feel very privileged to have good health (despite my rubbish asthma), a wonderful and supportive family and partner, crazy and beautiful friends, a decent job, great colleagues and I feel incredibly lucky to be part of Mr Gay Europe 2017 and undertaking the Mr Gay Scotland adventure.
And that's me - an out and proud gay, Scottish, singing, performing, fitness-loving, Madonna-worshiping lawyer.