This emotional new George Michael documentary needs to be on your radar

Written by Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

George Michael: Outed tells the story of how a potentially career-ending exposé about the musician became a defining moment of gay liberation. 

The late and great George Michael tragically passed away on Christmas Day 2016, but we doubt he will ever be forgotten. After all, his songs – from Careless Whisper to Faith to Flawless – touched the hearts of many over the years, earning Michael three Brit Awards (he won Best British Male twice), four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards and two Grammy Awards.

Unsurprisingly, he was ranked as one of the bestselling British artists of all time. But to so many people, Michael was so much more than just a musician: he was an undisputed gay icon, too, whose homosexuality was central to his identity and his music. He was a proud campaigner for LGBTQ+ and HIV rights. He was brilliant, defiant and endlessly kind – and thoroughly determined to do everything within his power to make the world a better place for everyone. 

It was only after Michael’s death that the world learned exactly how generous the musician had been, working undercover at homeless shelters, gifting concert tickets to NHS nurses and donating royalties from his biggest hits to charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support and the Terrence Higgins Trust.

“To be honest with you, I really don’t like to talk about the amount I’ve given to charity over the years,” he told Daily Express in 1999.

“I know it’s very substantial. I don’t exactly know what it is and I don’t really like to linger on it.”

Michael’s journey to becoming the radically kind and queer-positive superstar we know and love, though, wasn’t an easy one. 

Indeed, the world didn’t find out he was gay until 1998 – some two decades into his career – when the tabloids descended upon his home after he was arrested for masturbating in an LA public bathroom during an undercover police sting operation.

Watch the trailer for George Michael: Outed below

Rather than allow himself to be broken by the experience, Michael instead made the momentous decision to reclaim his story and transform it into a defining moment of gay liberation. That same year, he released the hit song Outside, which not only satirised his arrest (the music video was set in a men’s bathroom, with Michael dressed as an LAPD police officer) but also delivered a fierce message to anybody who dared think he might retreat back into the closet.

“I’d service the community, but I already have, you see,” he sang on the track, referencing the punishment that was meted out to him by the courts.

Now, Channel 4’s new documentary, George Michael: Outed, is set to tell the thrilling inside story of all of the above, and more.

Featuring never-before broadcast audio of the musician, along with new interviews with his inner circle – including his then-partner Kenny Goss, former manager Simon Napier-Bell, and cousin and business partner Andros Georgiou – the emotional two-parter looks set to reveal how Michael took on the tabloids… and won.

“It was about admitting: yes. I’m a gay man. And I cruise. I’ve been doing it for years. What’s the problem?” recalls Georgiou.

Or, as Michael himself put it during his courageous live interview with CNN in 1998: “I’m a very proud man. I want people to know that I have not been exposed as a gay man.”

He added powerfully: “I feel stupid and I feel reckless and weak for having allowed my sexuality to be exposed this way, but I don’t feel any shame whatsoever. And neither do I think I should.”

George Michael: Outed is on Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 March, 9pm, Channel 4

Images: Getty

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