When Darren Hayes last performed at Mardi Gras in 2009 he had not yet to come out publicly. Making his return to music after 10 years away, with a headline performance at Mardi Gras, as proud gay man, has an added level of significance.
‘Struggling With My Identity’
“The first time I was invited to do this I wasn’t out and I was in one of the lowest points of life. My relationship to my queerness and my sexuality was at an all-time low. I just didn’t feel good about myself and I was really struggling with my identity. So to come back this it’s really emotional for me. I feel very grateful, it’s a huge honour. I honestly think this performance is going to heal a decades-old wound in me.”
With this entire perspective change in his personal life, Hayes is now more aware than ever before of just how vital events such as Mardi Gras are for the LGBTQI community.
“It’s not lost on me how necessary it is for us to come together in a safe way,” said Hayes. “I think that’s going to be really really important for the community, which has taken a lot of blows over the last couple of years with COVID.”
By attending Mardi Gras in 2009, Hayes came to understand that coming to terms with your own sexuality is a process that can really be aided by witnessing the unbridled love within the LGBTQI community at Mardi Gras.
Determined to Make Mardi Gras Incredible for Everyone
“I thought that simply declaring that I was gay to the people in my life would instantly rid me of my own shame, but it didn’t. There’s a process, and I was trying to rush that process. I really thought that fine, ‘I’ll perform at the biggest gay festival in the world and then I’ll be able to love myself and I’ll be happy’, but that wasn’t the case. And that was, that was definitely a sobering moment for me. I remember coming away thinking I have so much work to do.”
Looking in from the outside last year, Darren feels that perhaps the shift to the SCG should be seen as fortuitous.
“I’ve had so much feedback from friends who went last year at the SCG who have all said it was really magical. Having Mardi Gras in a space that is traditionally not considered to be a queer space is really poignant and special. I feel like that’s a huge deal!”
‘We’ve Never Been More Motivated to Put on a Spectacular Show’
Darren was also quick to recognise that the shift to the SCG has also been tough on the smaller community-based Mardi Gras events.
“I feel devastated for a lot of the smaller community events. People plan all year for what they are going to wear, their events and use Mardi Gras as a way to catch up with friends. During COVID Mardi Gas has been that little ray of hope, so just know that everyone is working overtime with many sleepless nights to put together an extraordinary show because we’re aware of how hard the last couple of years have been for everybody. We’ve never been more motivated to put on a spectacular show.”