Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Seany O'Kane: My Big Brother regret

Secrets and lies

Seany O'Kane: 'Im the sort of person who stands up for what they believe in

Seany O'Kane (25) sparked a wave of headlines during his stay in this year's Big Brother house. Seany, from Londonderry, is single and now lives in Manchester. He reveals all to Gail Walker

WHAT ARE YOU LIKE INA RELATIONSHIP? ARE YOU A GIVER OR A TAKER?

I'm the same way I am in the rest of my life - a giver. I was talking about this very thing last night with some friends, and I was saying that I reckoned that if I had won Big Brother I would more than likely have spent the money on other people. It's just my nature to think of other people.

In fact, my mother often warned me as a young child that my generosity would be my downfall and that has probably been true in relationships that I've had. I have tended to give too much, which has meant that I've compromised myself and left myself too vulnerable.

My last relationship ended less than a year ago, though I'm the sort of person who always tends to keep in touch with ex-partners. So, I still talk every week to my last partner, Stephen, who is a footballer from Hackney. There were just too many differences between us - he's more of a man's man. He also has a son, so it was difficult to juggle his commitments to him, plus the fact that I live in Manchester and he lives in London. But we're still quite close.

I guess I would like to find that special someone and settle down. Then again, I know people who are in relationstionships and they have no end of problems ...

Being on Big Brother could make it more difficult to meet someone. I'm just so busy at the moment. These days I get so much attention - from men and women, but it's important to keep your feet on the ground.



ONLY CHILD OR ONE OF A CROWD?

I'm the eldest of four - I've two sisters, Louise (22) and Carol (21) and a brother, Cahoir (12). I'm close to all of them - family is really important to me.

Right before I was taken into hiding by Big Brother, before going into the house, I sat my mum and sisters down and told them I was going to be on the show. I wanted to talk through with them what would be the consequences of taking part - the benefits and, perhaps, the negative side, too. If mum had asked me not to do it, then I would have pulled out. But she was fine about it.

I didn't tell Cahoir, though. I thought that at just 12 years old, he was too young to be given the responsibility of keeping as big a secret as that.

But I did tell him just before I went into hiding that I was gay. I was pretty fortunate in that the kind of work I was doing, as a community worker, was very multi-cultural and cosmopolitan, so Cahoir already knew I associated with a wide circle of all sorts of different people. He knew I had gay friends, black friends, Asian friends. We went out for something to eat and I said: "Listen, I'm gay." Cahoir looked at me for a minute and then he asked: "Well, who are you gay with?"

It was just such an endearing thing to say, and then he went on to say: " It does not matter, you are my brother. Cahoir is just such an unbelievable guy ... the light of my life." And he understands that if someone is homosexual, then that is the way they are born.

Did I always know I was gay? It was something that was always there but I had not explored it. When I hit my early 20s, I was starting to think that, yes, perhaps I might actually be gay, but I also felt ashamed and thought I did not want to be that way and that hopefully that feeling would go away. But then, as I reached 23 and 24, I realised that I would have to be true to myself.

And then you start to make assumptions that your family know that you are gay; that you don't have to tell them because somehow they have just worked it out. But that certainly wasn't the case with my family. I told mum when I was 24 and she was fine about it, although the first thing she said was: " No you are not." She genuinely believed it was a phase I was going through.

Knowing the type of person I am, mum probably thought that I was just experimenting, and that I would get bored and then move on to the next thing. After all, as a kid I'd always been involved in lots of crazy stuff.

But as the months passed she realised that she did have a gay son and I think she regards it as no different to having a son who likes football or a son who has a dog. She's liberal-minded.

Mum and dad are separated, and I never found the right opportunity to tell dad, so he only found out when I was on Big Brother.

That was a big thing for him to discover in that way. I kind of wanted him to find out like that ... in style. It also meant there was no running away from it.

I suppose the reason I didn't tell dad was because I didn't know what way he was going to react. I didn't get to see him that often and I was afraid of ruining whatever time we did spend together by telling him. There's always that fear of rejection there. But he's been ok about it, too.



ARE YOU CLOSER TO YOUR MUM OR DAD?

I'm close to mum and always have been. But since dad found out I was gay, I've become a lot closer to him, too. That's one thing I can say about Big Brother - it brought me and dad so close in a way I'd never have thought possible.

Of course, being on Big Brother has brought about difficult things for my family, too. As a family we have lost some members in the Troubles and all of that was dredged up by the Press.

(Seany's aunt Moira Duddy was murdered in the Greysteel massacre; a second cousin of his father, Chrisopher 'Cricky' O'Kane, was shot dead by the IRA in a suspected drugs feud).

It is horrifying to lose loved ones in that way.

As I was in the Big Brother house I didn't know about any of that until I got out, and I felt responsible for all that being in the papers. But their deaths were part of the war that plagued our country and many other families on both sides suffered the similar loss.



WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

I'm very proud of the work I have done over the past five years as a black minority worker. I know that I've managed to change the lives of hundreds of people who suffered racism or the effects of racially motivated crime in Liverpool and Manchester.

I'm also proud of the fact that I backpacked around Africa and was able to help people who had been severely affected by poverty. I'd buy food for them or help them out in their villages. That experience changed my outlook.

And, back in 1999, I represented Ireland for Peace as part of the Children's Fellowship Project. We went to the States for two months and I gave Hillary Clinton a poem that I had written - I thought that was pretty impressive.

I'm the sort of person who stands up for what they believe in. That's one of the reasons why I supported Michael Jackson during his child abuse trial for. No, I didn't receive any personal message of thanks from Michael, but he did thank all his fans. I also know his nephew, Lee-vone, who lives at Never Never Land.

I'm also a big fan of Bob Marley. My dad always said that you will find the answer to any question in a Bob Marley song.



WHAT ARE YOU MOST ASHAMED OF?

I'm not ashamed of anything other than my really bad dress sense and my big 80s hairdo.



HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A FORTUNE-TELLER?

Yes, I went to one a few years ago and as soon as I went in and sat down she assumed that I was gay. I was still in the closet so that really freaked me out.

She told me I would be in two long-term relationships, both of which would last around 19 years, and also that I would be in a relationship with children but that they would not be mine. I didn't believe what she said, although I do see myself having my own children one day. How? I get a lot of offers from women who would like to be the mother of my child! But, seriously, there are a number of alternative ways to have a baby in 2007.

Do I believe in fortune-telling? I'm probably a cynical, sceptical person by nature ... I have to see things to believe them. I suppose there's always the possibility someone might be able to tell you something ...



HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A LAPDANCING CLUB?

Yes, at a friend's stag party a number of years ago in Liverpool. I can see why some people might say it's degrading, but then I can also see why people argue that it is just some people's way of making money. If guys want to go in and watch this kind of thing then they're not harming anybody. But there's also a bigger picture. What if the dancer is a single mum who feels she has to do this to earn a living? Still, if you constantly magnify every issue, where's the enjoyment in life?



HAVE YOU ANY PHOBIAS?

I have a fear of deep, dark isolated environments, especially if they are underwater. It's such a big thing and there are so many things lurking there - that's my greatest fear.

I also don't like veins; I'm really squeamish about those. I can't even watch Casualty. As a kid, I wasn't bothered by things like that; I loved all those gory movies. But I've definitely got more squeamish in recent years.

But I'm not afraid of heights - if anything I'm an adrenaline junkie. I love bungie jumps - I did the world's highest in Africa - and I'd also love to do a parachute jump.



DO YOU TIP IN RESTAURANTS?

I tip everybody, from toilet attendants to Big Issue sellers. Like I've said, it's just my nature to be generous. In fact, there are times that I have tipped someone in the street and not had enough money left for my bus fare home.



DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?

I'm open to the fact that God could exist but I've managed to have faith in myself and what I can strive to do. Take from that as you will ... I don't frown upon people who do believe in God, although I do have this thing about people who believe in God and yet who are so quick to judge others. I know people who live out their lives according to God's word, but who also make these assumptions about how other people live. I don't think that God would be so quick to judge me; in fact I think if we met He would love my sense of humour.



QUICK DEATH OR TIME TO PREPARE?

If I'm going to go then I would like to do so in style and the only way to do that is in some quick and dramatic way.

I've been reflecting on how I was evicted from the Big Brother house, and the shock that caused to the public. I was the fourth housemate to leave and the second eviction, and no one expected it. My housemates were so convinced that I wasn't going that they wouldn't even let me pack my bags, so all that added to the impact on me when I did have to go. I view death a bit like that - there is no need to prepare because the people around me will look after everything. And if I die in the same shock way that I left Big Brother then the impact will be long-term and I will always be remembered.



REGRETS ... HAVE YOU HAD A FEW?

I'm always bewildered when I hear other celebrities say that they have no regrets. I don't know if that's what they are advised to say by their agents ... ?

Certainly, there are a lot of things that I would have done differently. For example, I was in the movie Bloody Sunday, with James Nesbitt, and I probably wish I had pursued my acting career a bit more vigorously.

I also regret not saving more money and being a live for the minute kind of guy. And I regret being too nice in the Big Brother house and not seeing people for what they are. That has toughened me up and made me a little more wary.

It's probably not that surprising that I ended up in the house given the sort of life I have led. But 100,000 people applied and I'm chuffed that I got chosen. It was the race row on the show earlier this year that really made me want to get into the house. My energy can be tiring but I also know that it leaves a smile on the faces of people, and I wanted to share that with the nation. I wanted to give Big Brother back his sense of humour. I think I will always be remembered as the guy in the house who wanted to have fun and who had that taken away from him. I'd also just like to thank all my fans back home. I've had no negativity at all - in fact one Derry paper said that it was great to have another celeb to write about other than Nadine Coyle.



To book Seany O'Kane, contact Colin Angus PR:, tel: 07778 8754809

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