King of Scots
PEOPLE SPECIAL: MARC ANDREWS
He's a lawyer by day, and a fitness-loving actor, singer, activist and LGBT role model too. Winner of Mr Gay Scotland 2017, Steven Whyte tells Q&C’s Marc Andrews why the competition still matters, why he’s a devout kilt-wearer and about the shame of getting stains on his manly sash.
Originally from St Andrews, a historic town on the east cost of Scotland, handsome Steven Whyte, 39, studied Law at Edinburgh University before qualifying as a Commercial and IP Lawyer. He now lives in London and works as a senior lawyer in the fashion industry.
He has used his platform as Mr Gay Scotland to bolster his activism and has spoken out on issues including body fascism in the gay community and is an advocate for inclusive education in schools.
He also dabbles in acting and performance, having trained at the prestigious Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art - notable alumna Angela Lansbury!
It seems there’s no end to Steven’s talents. He is a qualified personal trainer and nutrition coach, and is currently training for next year’s London Marathon. If that wasn't enough, he scrubs up well in a kilt, as Marc Andrews finds out.
MA: Mr Gay Scotland. That’s an impressive title.
SW: I’m really proud and feel really privileged to have been given the title and to represent my home country, but first, it’s not a beauty contest. The role of Mr Gay Scotland forms part of the wider Mr Gay Europe competition, an event which involves representatives from countries all over Europe coming together to share experiences, form friendships, discuss LGBTQ+ issues and learn from each other in order to hopefully become better LGBTQ+ activists, ambassadors and role models. Saying all that, I was actually the next best thing after the original 2017 Mr Gay Scotland pulled out for personal reasons. I’m not complaining though as I got to go on this adventure, but it did mean I had a wee bit less time to organise and plan.
MA: What made you decide to enter the competition?
SW: I sing with the London Gay Men’s Chorus and over the years we have undertaken a lot of LGBTQ+ campaigning including protesting outside the Russian embassy, singing outside the House of Lords for equal marriage, singing for the Prime Minister at No 10 at an event against homophobia in sport, and performing at corporate or charity events or running a singing workshop to kids with learning difficulties. I was keen to do more and had seen the great work Stuart Hatton had done with his Mr Gay World title and his “So What?” anti-bullying campaign. I thought this could be a different and a fun way of trying to make a difference. I also like to challenge myself and people’s perceptions. I turn 40 next year and wanted to challenge the gay community’s obsession with youth and beauty.
MA: You're an actor by trade so was this an easy role to slip into?
SW: Although I did train as an actor I found it hard to pay the bills so I’m actually a lawyer by day, but I dabble in the odd bit of acting like the gold hot pants-clad gym bunny in the Battersea Barge panto Alice in Poundland. I’m a media and marketing lawyer for a well-known fashion company and for years felt like I had to apologise for being a lawyer and this comes from worrying too much about what other people think.
“I want to challenge the gay community’s obsession with youth and beauty.”
MA: What were your best and worst moments of the Mr Gay Europe competition?
SW: It was a week long event in beautiful Stockholm at the end of July. We were actually being judged the whole week, which was intense. There were seminars on LGBTQ+ topics such as PrEP, HIV, mental health and suicide and we were judged on how we contributed and interacted with the speakers and other candidates. There was a debating round which I won. I guess my lawyer skills helped with that and a written exam on LGBTQ+ rights, history and culture. I geeked out and won that too, but there was also an interview, a photography round, a team building competition to create a video and a sports round where we trained with the Stockholm Berserkers rugby team. We also had to put together a campaign we would like to carry out if we won and even if we didn’t and present it to the panel.
MA:What was your finest moment in the competition?
SW: I loved the debate as I felt like I was on a roll and it was exhilarating but the rugby challenge was also brilliant. It was such a giggle and lovely to be out with the rest of the group having fun and doing something physical. Saying that, we did have a few casualties as they pushed us quite hard so that three of the group threw up.
"I ended up doing some random pose behind a tree of rainbow balloons. It was a low point and I scored badly..."
MA: The worst?
SW: The third day was the hardest for me. I even looked at flights out of the city. I had a bad photography round. I asked if I could wear my LGMC t-shirt but there was a miscommunication and it turned out I couldn’t. I ended up doing some random pose behind a tree of rainbow balloons. It was a low point and I scored badly. I then had to go into the interview afterwards and was clearly tired and on the defensive and definitely didn’t show my best self. It was silly and I’m still kicking myself.
MA: Did you think you had a chance of winning?
SW: I’m very competitive at times and I would have loved to have won, but I knew the competition was going to be tough. When we got to Stockholm and met the other guys, it was anybody’s game really. All I wanted to do was do my best, do Scotland proud, and get the most out of the week, but after the bad third day I thought I was a goner and wouldn’t even place.
MA: What went through your head when they announced you as the second runner up winner?
SW: I was shocked. I won the public vote, which blew my mind! It turned out people liked what I had to say. I was delighted to place and really happy for Stephen (Mr Gay Ireland) who placed first runner up and the winner of Mr Gay Europe 2017, Matt (Mr Gay England). They are such top guys with brilliant campaigns and hard working LGBTQ+ role models and ambassadors. What’s also great is both Matt and I are over 35 – he’s 37 and I’m 39!
MA: You represent Scotland but live in London. How does that work?
SW: I’m Scottish, so I represent Scotland. I was born there, grew up there, went to school and university there. When I left university, I was going to work for a traditional Edinburgh law firm, but at the time it just didn’t feel right. I had to find myself and find out who I was as a gay man and circumstances meant that it wasn’t easy for me to do in Edinburgh or Scotland. I was also in my brother’s shadow a bit as he’s a very successful lawyer so I needed to find my own path. I also wanted to go to drama school and I had to go where the work was too. I love living in London and the opportunities it has given me.. For me it’s about showing young LGBTQ+ people in Scotland and beyond that you can be a successful gay man and that it does get better.
MA: Scotland wisely voted against Brexit. How about you?
SW: And so did London. I voted to stay in the EU and would again. The feeling that Brexit has given legitimacy to dangerous elements on the far right here in the UK and across Europe also worries me. It’s as if we have not learned from history. The rights LGBTQ+ people have obtained in recent years are so very fragile and should not be taken for granted.
"Brexit has given legitimacy to dangerous elements on the far right here in the UK and across Europe...It's as if we have not learned from history."
MA: On a personal note, are you currently attached?
SW: Yes, I have a boyfriend. We’ve been together just over seven years. He’s a successful contemporary dancer/choreographer and based mostly in Wales, but we make it work.
MA: What’s your workout regime?
SW: It’s all changing at the moment as I’ve got a place in April’s London Marathon so I’m needing to rethink everything. It’s hard as I love the gym. It will be the fourth time I’ve run it but the last time was in 2010 and since then I’ve focused on building muscle and changing my body shape. I used to be really fat and was 20 stone at one point, so diet and fitness are really important to me. I even qualified as a Personal Trainer, and recently as a Nutrition Coach, so I’m in the process of starting a business to help other people achieve their fitness potential.
MA: What issues are closest to your heart?
SW: A big one for me, having been on the larger side, is the body fascism that exists in the gay community. When I was at my biggest it really knocked my confidence and I felt invisible to the gay community. We need to challenge this and allow people to be who they are. It can lead to eating disorders and depression and I’ve been in touch with organisations to see how and if I can help. Another area is helping promote TIE Campaign (www.tiecampaign.co.uk) based in Scotland. They have campaigned hard to increase visibility of LGBTQ+ issues and people in Scottish school curriculums.
MA: What are your plans after you give up your crown?
SW: I have to give it back (laughs)? I’m not letting go of it! Just kidding, as there is no crown and it’s not about being King of the Scottish Gays or anything like that. I want to continue doing what I can and become the best LGBTQ+ role model I can be.
MA: Is it as sexy as the sash suggests being Mr Gay Scotland for a year?
SW: (Laughs) No, not really. It’s great and I’m proud to have the title but it comes with a bit of responsibility and pressure, which is a challenge. I did get a sash for being second runner up at Mr Gay Europe but within half an hour I’d spilt burger sauce on it – I think I lose any sexy sash points for that. The stain did come out thankfully.
"How did we get through all of that without mentioning my love for all things Madonna!"
MA: What advice would you give someone entering a competition like this?
SW: Mr Gay Europe – do it! It’s an adventure and a great learning experience, but be clear about your intentions and what you want to get out of it. Think through your campaign and how you can best achieve it. I came to the party a bit late and it was quite overwhelming and other candidates had more established campaigns. Saying that, if it’s just fame and celebrity you’re after, it’s not right for you.
MA: Where’s the best place for people to find out more about you and get in touch?
SW: I’d love to hear from people so please get in touch via Instagram: @mrgayscotland_mrstevenwhyte, Twitter: @mrstevenwhyte and @mrgayscotland and I have a website (www.stevenwhyte.com). Or come and see me sing with the LGMC (www.lgmc.org.uk).
MA: Anything else important we missed?
SW: How did we get through all of that without mentioning my love for all things Madonna (laughs)!
GET YOUR KIT ON!
Mr Gay Scotland’s guide to the fine lost art of wearing a kilt
WEARING A KILT IN COMPETITIONS
“I have a couple of kilts. One is more traditional in the family tartan, Modern Lamont, and the other is a more modern take on the kilt and all black with some paisley and leather detailing made at 21st Century Kilts in Edinburgh. I was wearing the black kilt when I heard the Mr Gay Europe result along with a Scotland rugby vest as we had just finished the Stockholm Pride march”.
MIX & MATCH YOUR KIT
“I have the Prince Charlie jacket and waistcoat for more traditional occasions, but have a black jacket and waistcoat to go with my black kilt as an alternative. Both can be worn as alternatives to a tux for black tie events. It’s nice to wear something that means something to me and is different to everyone else, especially outside of Scotland.”
DAY & EVENING WEAR IN ONE
“What is great about my black kilt is it looks great with a white, grey or black T and a pair of black boots and can easily be worn as normal day wear. I don’t think anyone would bat an eyelid at my work if I turned up wearing that. Actually, I have a lovely wool jumper which will go nicely with it for when it gets cooler.”
THE SPURIOUS ROLE OF THE “SPORRAN”
“It’s just the furry pouch that sits over the top of the kilt. It’s really handy for keys, phone and credit cards and I often see my Sassenach male friends regarding it with envy as their wallets and keys spoil the line of their trousers or jackets. There’s usually room for a hip flask if you fancy a wee dram at some point.”
…AND WHAT HE WEARS UNDERNEATH HIS KILT
“Definitely underwear. I’ve been scarred by the number of times people, men and women, think it’s hilarious to lift up your kilt to see what you’re wearing or not wearing. I’m also not very good with wool (laughs).”