Confex keynote: Will Young on sexuality and mental health

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Confex keynote: Will Young on sexuality and mental health

Former Pop Idol winner and actor Will Young was the headline keynote speaker of day one at International Confex.

He delivered a talk primarily focused on sexuality and mental health to a packed out crowd on the main stage.

Young spoke about how managers and producers were worried about his coming out during Pop Idol 18 years ago, and reflected on how much society has changed since.

Nowadays, he said, people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a major artist coming out, and pointed to Sam Smith as a recent example.

He also touched upon some icons of previous eras who he says paved the way for today’s more open-minded music industry – people such as Bowie and Grace Jones.

“The music industry is quite ahead of the curve with sexuality,” he said, “Music always goes hand in hand with the socio-political landscape, from the 60s all the way to now. We’ve come a long way.”

Young also spoke about growing up in a school which he described as “abusive”, and very restrictive upon people’s self-expression.

He also touched upon a book he is currently in the process of writing, which focuses on the topic of gay shame. The opening chapter, he says, saw him speak to some people behind gay conversion therapy in the US.

When asked what areas of society he felt most needed to change with regards to LGBT acceptance, he pointed to language – being inclusive in how we refer to people, not making assumptions about sexuality, and correct use of pronuons.

Finally, Young ended by comparing nerves before a big performance to that which Confex attendees must feel on a day to day basis – the events industry was, after all, recently ranked among the top ten most stressful professions.

He highlighted the importance of mindfulness, and taking a moment to relax and step away from high-pressure environments. Maybe once Confex is finished, Will…

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.

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