Andrew Ridgeley, one half of the ’80s pop duo Wham!, opened up in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE about the personal struggles George Michael faced after coming out in 1998.
Ridgeley revealed that Michael’s decision to delay coming out had a significant personal cost for him. He explained that Michael struggled with the aftermath of revealing his sexuality, navigating the complexities and pressures that accompanied being a public figure.
Andrew Ridgeley, the former bandmate of George Michael in Wham!, witnessed firsthand the personal struggles that George Michael faced after coming out. Ridgeley emphasizes the strong bond and close friendship that existed between himself, Michael, and Shirlie, who was Ridgeley’s girlfriend at the time.
When Michael came out to Ridgeley in a hotel room in Ibiza, Ridgeley describes the news as “unremarkable.” He recalls that Shirlie had mentioned Michael’s anxiety about telling him, which surprised Ridgeley. However, upon hearing the revelation, Ridgeley found it to be a non-sensational and understandable explanation for certain aspects of Michael’s life.
When it came to George Michael publicly coming out, Ridgeley admits to being more apprehensive about the potential impact. He thought that their music would continue to be appreciated regardless, and that any initial reaction would eventually subside. However, Ridgeley acknowledges that his assumptions were proven wrong.
Michael, on the other hand, had decided to delay his public coming out due to fear of his father’s reaction, as well as concerns about the press and their record label. In hindsight, Michael admitted that this decision was a mistake and had a personal cost for him. The uncertainties and hesitations surrounding his sexuality ultimately took a toll on him.
Ridgeley found it challenging to witness George Michael’s journey of self-discovery and the difficulties he faced in coming to terms with his sexuality.
In their friendship, Ridgeley was supportive of Michael even before they had the terminology of “allyship.” Michael initially came out as bisexual to Ridgeley, who accepted and embraced him. Later, Michael acknowledged that he was gay. Ridgeley observed Michael’s internal struggle with his identity and the various challenges that accompanied it.
According to Ridgeley, the personal repercussions of George Michael’s coming-out announcement were not fully resolved before his untimely passing in 2016. Ridgeley believes it is indisputable that Michael’s decision to delay coming out had a lasting impact on his life. Michael himself acknowledged that there was a personal cost associated with that decision, and Ridgeley believes that he never fully reconciled with the consequences of that choice.