UK reality show contestant
Alex Parks was the winner of BBC's Fame Academy in 2003. One of the prizes the winner of this reality show receives is a 12 month recording contract.
Alex is currently in a relationship with Jill Jackson, the lead singer of Speedway.
'The Scotsman', November 10th, 2003: (excerpt from article)
"Put the record straight"
The day we meet Parks gets her first proper - if minor - taste of post-victory tabloid gossip. The Mirror would have us believe that at a party in London thrown by Pink, the American pop star "had to fend off advances from Fame Academy winner Alex Park (sic)". Rejected, Alex eventually "sulked off".
"It was nothing like that," she exclaims. "I got there and was chatting to people at the bar. This woman knew who I was and asked me who I was with. I went on my own because I had two friends up from home and I could only get one more ticket so I couldn't take one and not the other. So she said, come into the VIP area and we'll see if you can meet Pink. I think I said about three words to Pink; I sat and talked to this guy called Andy all night. It was hilarious when I saw the paper next morning. People just don't get ..." She pauses, searching for the right words. "It's like, anyone who's gay must be after someone …"
She is already weary of constant media descriptions of her as "spiky-haired lesbian Alex Parks". "You don't put 'Mariah Carey, American straight singer,' do you?" She sighs. "I don't care. I can't really do anything about it."
She seems more bemused than irritated by the extent to which people focus on her sexuality. She agrees that, even now, there are few openly gay female pop stars, and is happy to be a role model - "It gives people a bit more strength to come out," she says, without much vigour - but would rather not make a big deal of it.
"People have this idea that gay people go around shouting about it and try and change people. I don't want to come across like that because that's not how it is." But she must be aware of the dilemma, I say, that if she evades the subject she'll look … "Ashamed," she nods, finishing the sentence. "Whatever, you know. People know it and they're going to say what they like about it."
Up until now, she claims, her sexuality has never been an issue. She never "came out" to her friends. "It's just something people kind of gathered." She told her parents when she was 14. Asked if she always knew it herself, she shrugs and says: "I just wasn't interested really." It's a fair point; unlikely as it might sound, not all teenagers think of nothing but sex.
'Gay.com UK', November 12th, 2003: (excerpt from article)
"Alex Parks 'glad to be gay role model'"
Alex Parks says she's proud to be a role model for gay young girls but is worried about the responsibility.
The Fame Academy winner said: "I'm a bit worried because it's a massive responsibility to have. But I'm pleased if I've done that for people."
Parks, currently single, says she's "not too bothered" about finding a relationship. "I'm too busy and it wouldn't be very fair on her," she said. "But if I meet somebody, I'll go for it."
'Telegraph', November 24th, 2003: (excerpt from article)
"Not just a 'spiky-haired Cornish lesbian'"
What does she fear most? She takes a deep breath.
"I fear that I am going to go to cheesy pop world," she says, "and that I will never come back.''
"Yes. If you are open about yourself, it gives people the chance to use it against you. People do. They will label you. And since Fame Academy, people always use the same words to try to label me.''
"Spiky-haired Cornish lesbian," she says. And then she laughs at all the absurdities her new-found celebrity has brought.
A botched love affair found her becalmed at home last year, drifting around her Cornish village in a broken-hearted daze. She had discovered her girlfriend of two years in bed with another woman, who just happened to be one of her best friends.
"It happened in quite a brutal way. I found them. I walked in on them. I was confused and it knocked me pretty hard, to be honest. I had never felt like that, never felt so betrayed by someone," she says. "If you fall out of love with someone, then fine. But if you have to fall out of love, it is such a hard thing.''
Trying to shake herself out of her misery, she had a symbolic arrow tattooed on her thumb - "It means forwards, onwards", she says - and did not baulk when her father, a psychotherapist, told her he had sent a video off to Fame Academy. Instead, despite her misgivings, she went to London to audition for the BBC show.
"It all happened one month after the break-up. The thing is, I wouldn't have done it if I was still in that relationship. There is no way I would ever have dreamt of going off and leaving my true love," she says. "So something good did come out of it, after all."
She says that, somewhere deep inside, she always knew she was gay, but went through a lot of adolescent tumult before she was sure. It is one of the reasons why she is against lowering the age of sexual consent to 14.
"I lost my heterosexual virginity when I was 16. The other one came afterwards. But 14 is too young for sex. You are all over the place at the age of 14, you are still a child. Kids grow up too quickly as it is. Kids are doing it really young anyway. I dread to think that they would start even younger.''
For her own part, Parks went out with both boys and girls during her early teens and spent much of her time "chopping and changing" and "spinning out, because I thought that I couldn't be gay.
"I always had boyfriends. I would check. Go back. Think, maybe he is the one. Maybe Mum will like this one. Or whatever.''
When she was about 14, she told her mother, who works as an administrator at Falmouth College of Arts , that she was confused about her sexuality and was suffering "huge inner turmoil about my whole life". She was told not to worry, that everything would sort itself out in the end.
Parks seems to have been treated with admirable tact and love, and has clearly flourished in the kind of liberal atmosphere where sexual matters can be discussed.
"You must be joking," she shrieks, suddenly morphing into a proper teenager in front of my eyes. "I have never talked about sex with my Mum and my Dad. And I never would. Too embarrassing!"