Fierce loyalty, close connections, giggling fits – gay stars and their mums reveal the incredible bonds they share…
Jamie’s Campbell’s campaign to be allowed to wear a dress to his school prom – supported by mum Margaret – was the subject of a BBC Three documentary, Jamie: Drag at 16, and inspired hit West End musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Jamie, 23, has moved from Toronto, County Durham, to London to forge a career as a designer and presenter. His drag persona is Fifi La True and he has a YouTube channel, EverybodyItsJamie. Margaret, 52, works for Samaritans. Jamie is her only child.
I’m not the ‘average son’, but Mum isn’t the ‘average mother’ either. I always loved dressing up and liked tutus, dresses and fairy wings more than boys’ clothes. It wasn’t that Mum encouraged me, she just accepted it. She made me feel that if this was what I wanted – if I wanted to wear hot pants or be Kylie Minogue – then that was absolutely fine.
It wasn’t until I got older that I really reflected on that. I realised that if she’d reacted differently – if she’d told me to stop, to hide it or tone it down – my life would be completely different. I owe everything to her support.
Mum has always been like a lioness defending me, her cub. My very first day at secondary school, I came home and told Mum I was bullied a bit and she went straight up there. Just last year, we were walking down the street in London and some guy made a passing comment. Mum stopped dead: ‘You what? That’s my son you’re talking about!’ He was quaking in his boots – and I was trying to get away as fast as possible.
My dad was a rugby player. In the North East, men are men and women are women. My parents did argue about me. If I wanted a doll, my dad wouldn’t approve, but my mum would get one anyway. She tried to sort it out quietly and keep the tension away from me. They separated when I was seven.
Mum probably knew I was gay before I did. At 14, I worked myself up, sat her down and told her I was bisexual. She said, ‘No you’re not. You’re gay!’
When I’m at home, my grandma, Mum and I go around every charity shop in the North East to find my outfits. If something doesn’t fit, they’ll help alter it and make it into something fabulous.
I’ve been with my partner Blake for two and half years now. He knew from the start that if he didn’t get on with my mum, he’d be gone.
It has always been easy – completely natural – to accept Jamie for who he is. You’ve got to let your child be safe and free, you can’t stifle them. Jamie was always happy, always performing, and just so easy to love.
When he was about seven, Jamie played ‘camp genie of the lamp’ in a local production of Aladdin. At the end, he was granted one wish, and his wish was to be Kylie. He whipped off his cloak and had the gold hot pants and glittery bikini top underneath! Everybody loved him. When Jamie is under the spotlight, he glows. Watching him, I’m still so, so proud. It’s where he’s meant to be.
Jamie was bullied on a daily basis. We talked it through so he knew it wasn’t him who had the issues – it was the bullies. I told him to look at the wider picture: why were they bullying him? It was their insecurities – maybe they didn’t have someone who cares, maybe they didn’t know where they wanted to go in life. Jamie always knew exactly who he wanted to be.
With Jamie, I got a son and daughter in one! What more could a mother ask for? I love helping him devise the outfits. I love drag queens. I think they get a raw deal. The six-inch heels, the make-up, the clothes, the performance. It takes hours and hours of dedication. It’s an art.
I’m hopeless at make-up. I once asked Jamie to do mine. I said, ‘Make me look like you’, but at the end, I looked more like a drag queen than he did.
My hope is that Jamie gets married, has three wonderful kids and a fabulous career. I always knew I’d see his name up in lights. He was never going to have a quiet life stacking shelves.
Duncan James, 39, came out to his mum Fiona during his career in boyband Blue. Now an actor, Duncan plays Hollyoaks villain Ryan Knight. Currently single, he has a daughter, Tianie, 13. Fiona, 62, lives in Surrey.
I’m proud to say I’m a mummy’s boy. My dad left when Mum became pregnant – she was in her early 20s. My mum was adopted. I don’t have cousins or siblings. It’s always been me and Mum. We’re very close.
As a boy, I loved performing. When Mum had dinner parties, I was the entertainment. I was the lead in all the school plays and Mum was always there, fiercely proud. At 19, I joined my first boyband and Mum drove me to London, where the band shared a house. She knew it was my dream. She never said, ‘Get a proper job.’
Hiding my sexuality was lonely and frightening. My head was all over the place. I was on antidepressants.
We were on holiday in Los Angeles when I finally told Mum. I went into her hotel room one night, pacing and crying. She was in her nightie, saying, ‘What? You’re frightening me, tell me.’ Her reaction when I told her was, ‘Oh my God, come here.’ She gave me a big hug, then said, ‘I thought you were going to say you had cancer!’
Three months later, I had to tell Mum that my ex-girlfriend [Claire Grainger] was pregnant. It wasn’t planned. It was almost like my grandparents were up there thinking, ‘We’d better get him a child now.’ Mum was absolutely delighted.
As soon as I got into Blue, I was determined to look after Mum. She didn’t come from a family with money: she worked nights as a nurse when I was little and did everything for me with no man to help. I took her on holidays and bought her a house. The worst part of being made bankrupt years later was having to sell it. My goal is to buy her another one.
We’re two peas in a pod. Sometimes, when Duncan is ill, I’m feeling poorly, too. Quite often, I’ve got my phone out to call him and he calls me. We text one another at the same time. We’re so connected, it can be quite spooky.
When Duncan was 16, I asked him if he was gay. I think a friend had asked me and planted the seed in my mind. Duncan said he wasn’t – and he was always surrounded by girls – so I put the thought to bed.
The Blue days [2001 to 2005] were amazing, an absolute whirlwind. Duncan bought me a house, and when I wanted to come to London, he’d send a driver to take me shopping!
Neither of us is conventional. When Duncan told me his ex-girlfriend was expecting his child, months after telling me he was gay, it didn’t surprise me. Tianie was a gift from God. We were both there for the birth.
We both love musical theatre. When Duncan was a teenager, I took him to London to see Chicago. I never thought that the next time I saw it in the West End, I would be on the front row and Duncan would be on stage as Billy Flynn. In his first performance, I cried my eyes out.
Duncan is very generous. For Mother’s Day, I’ll get a big bouquet delivered to my door. For my birthday, I’m going to stay with Duncan for a long weekend and he has arranged a lovely massage, facial and infrared sauna session. He knows what I like.
In many ways, I’m lucky Duncan is gay. I believe fate played a hand. He phones every single day to ask, ‘Are you OK?’ I try to take care of him – he says I’m his rock – and he really takes care of me.
Hollyoaks airs on weekdays at 6.30pm on Channel 4 and at 7pm on E4
CHRISTIAN JESSEN, 41, is a doctor at a Harley Street practice, as well as the presenter of programmes including Embarrassing Bodies and Undercover Doctor: Cure me, I’m Gay. His mother Lee, 70, is a linguist and translator.
My mum made no secret of the fact that she didn’t want children. My dad did, though, so Mum said, ‘Right, you can have one.’ I was a compromise. It sounds mean but it wasn’t. She was fully committed but she also wanted her own life. That was a powerful statement for a woman to make.
As a child, we had a very close relationship. My dad [Peter, who is a scientist] worked a lot so it was often just the two of us. We’d have ‘reading lunches’ where we’d sit eating with our piles of books. We both love our own space and silence. Those long periods of quiet show a very comfortable relationship.
I was allowed to do anything from an ‘exploring’ point of view. I could let off fireworks in the cellar, do experiments, eat dirt…
Mum has spooky insight into what I’m thinking. It’s like a psychic link – though as a scientist I do not believe that for one second.
She knew instinctively when I broke my arm at boarding school. I was whisked off to hospital and Mum rang the headmaster unprovoked, asking, ‘What’s happened to him?’ That’s the sort of relationship we have.
I can make Mum laugh uncontrollably. I know exactly what is going to set her off.
Being gay makes our relationship more intense, in a good way. I shouldn’t stereotype, but gay men tend to have a different skillset. Mum likes big jewels so we go to splendid auction viewings at Sotheby’s.
The best lesson from Mum was her fierce independence. She won’t pander to trends or care two hoots about what everybody else thinks. She never subscribed to how a woman should be or dress or behave; I used to dread what she’d be wearing when she came to collect me from school! Ultimately, that was a powerful lesson. It requires guts to be yourself.
Christian loved books as a child. I remember taking him to the library after he’d been given a real Amazonian blow pipe. He surprised the librarian by saying, ‘I need to know everything about poison.’
In his teen years, Christian had this scarlet streak in his hair and a spike through his eyebrow. It was amazing and so attractive. I remember walking through New York with him and people were looking. I thought, ‘New York isn’t ready for Christian!’ I did admire him.
There never needed to be a big discussion about ‘being gay’. It was never a problem for us. It was just there, part of Christian – like the fact that he’s left-handed.
People come up to him all the time when we’re out together. This week, we were at the theatre and he was cornered by someone for the entire interval. I’m amazed by how gracious he is; how polite, how tolerant.
At first, I was upset by the nasty things people said about Christian. I remember some ignorant comments appearing at the end of a press article. I used a pseudonym and replied. Now I don’t bother reading them.
We’re often on the telephone, giggling about things. We’re both there for each other when we need to vent. I like going to exhibitions with him and to auction houses, where I can try on diamonds I could never afford by hiding behind his aura.
It’s hard to explain the link between us. We have a cottage in Yorkshire and the two of us go there together on the train with his dog. We go on walks, potter in the garden; I get Christian to do the heavy work. It’s the comfort of being in someone else’s presence when you both feel at ease. It’s somehow special.
Dr Christian Will See You Now is on Really, Sundays at 10pm
Interviews by Anna Moore