Coming out on The X-Factor - Harry Abu of Brunei
1.18 million Australians watched 36-year-old Harry Abu come out to the judges on the first episode of The X-Factor last night before stunning them with his powerful voice.
But the Brunei-born Sydney waiter says he risks cutting ties with family as he reveals his male partner on the show.
“I’m living a double life back home,” we saw Harry nervously tell the judging panel on last night’s episode. “My family doesn’t know I’m gay.
“I ended up at the X-Factor because my partner is pushing me to do this,” he admitted. “But I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
Huge applause from the studio audience followed his rendition of This is the Moment, and the visibly impressed judges waved him through to appear on future episodes as Australia finds its first X-Factor victor.
There were big hugs waiting for Harry backstage from his proud partner Mark (pictured at right). An emotional scene followed as the singer spoke of his belief that his dad would disown him if he knew he was gay.
Success on the talent-finding show would mean so much. “It’ll be a big moment for me just to go back home, and show my dad that you can achieve anything if you go for it.”
Harry’s message to his father: “I definitely need to let you know I’m gay. I love you, and you’re always going to be my dad.”
Watch Harry Abu’s X-Factor moment here.
“I didn’t know my scene would be playing in the first episode,” laughed Harry when Same Same rang him at home this afternoon to check how he was handling all the attention.
“I was playing badminton last night, like I always do on Monday nights. But my phone started buzzing, and it hasn’t stopped since.”
He’d filmed his X-Factor audition last month. “It was an overwhelming feeling standing on stage with the audience and face-to-face with the judges I’d seen on television. An amazing moment I couldn’t forget for the rest of my life.
How nervous was he? “I had to walk slowly because my legs were shaking so much. I was trying not to cry, but I let it all out backstage later.
“People were rushing to meet me and wanted their photo taken with me, like I was already famous.”
Harry says he just loves to sing, but never really considered ‘making it big’. “It’s great to put a smile on people’s faces though. When I met my partner (he met Mark online when still living in Brunei, then traveled Australia to be with him four years ago) he wanted me to progress. He would be in tears when I sang – he didn’t want me to just sing behind closed doors. He wanted me to show people.”
Harry last saw his family when he went back to Brunei for his nephew’s wedding, he explains. “The most difficult thing is when they ask me when I’m going to settle down. I’m speechless… I just say that I’m not ready.
“I wish I had the courage to say that I’m gay. But I can’t. It’s a shame – I don’t want regrets,” he considers. “My mum would probably have an idea. But when I go home, I’m such an actor. Trying to be butch, to behave like a bloke.”
Brunei’s small population means he has to be “quiet and careful,” Harry explains. “Everyone knows everything.
“My Aunties ask me ‘who’s going to look after you when you’re old?’ I wish I could tell them that it doesn’t have to be a girl. That it could be a man.”
Harry sighs. “It feels bad to lie… but that’s what I have to do.”
Next stop – Boot Camp
Harry laughs when we ask what’s coming up next as he moves forward on The X-Factor. “It’s Boot Camp!?! I don’t know what that means. How will it go?” Same Same suggests he’ll be forced to sing 24/7 and complete awkward assault courses. Harry plays along – “Will I have to bring a toothbrush so I can scrub the floors with it?”
You can tell Harry’s being groomed as one of the show’s stars, so the best thing he can do as just be himself. It’s an idea he likes: “Moving to Sydney was the best move I ever made, as here people accept you for who you are.
“I will just try to be myself, and be honest, but also never forget where I have come from.”
The X-Factor continues on channel 7 weeknights at 7:30pm.
Source: Matt Akersten, Coming out on The X-Factor, Same-same, 31 August 2010.