We’ve always been huge fans of the Russian Gay Icon that is Pavel Petel. Whether he’s putting his own spin on Mrs. Carter’s H&M ads, fulfilling our suit fetish and dressing as a dapper gentleman or getting naked on the streets of Moscow with a man dressed as a cow - it all werks for us.
But what with the current political climate in Putin’s Russia, we wanted to know how he was coping, whether he was going to leave and what advice he has for Russia’s LGBT community. Here’s our exclusive with our political correspondent, Pavel Petel…
So Pavel, what’s it like in Russia right now?
I am very disappointed. You know that I don’t have anything in Russia besides the love of my fans. Previously, I was not allowed on television due to censorship, and magazines were afraid of publishing me…I became famous only because of the internet.
To tell the truth, Russian gays are able to adjust quite well. The majority of them have nice jobs.
A lot of pop-stars, movie- and TV-stars, as well as politicians – all hide their homosexuality. Everyone is on their own with their own interests. People are afraid of losing what they have. People are just afraid.
I am also worried about my life and I don’t have enough strength to openly express my opinion. Because there is no one to protect…no one will help.
I know when we spoke before you loved living in Russia. Do you still want to stay there?
Well, I am a citizen of Ukraine. Russia is a rich country and I can exist here and earn money. I have no right to criticize the people who give me the opportunity to exist. Don’t you think so? There are only two options for me to choose from - I can either return to poor Ukraine and you will never hear about me again…or stay in Russia.
Visas to the EU countries or America are terribly hard to receive! You feel sorry for us while being so far away. But you can’t really help. Am I right? I dream of moving to New York – this city is perfect for me.
Do you feel safe in Moscow?
No, sometimes people threaten me and sometimes they even attack. That’s why I started changing my appearance in Russia. I am worried about my life and health. Nevertheless, everybody recognizes me out on the streets and wants to take pictures with me. Of course, society now is more aggressive towards people like me. Sometimes I am really scared, but, as I have said before, I don’t have an opportunity to move to the States at the moment. This process requires a lot of documents, and more importantly – money.
A lot of your art is you cross-dressing and being naked in public. Do you worry how this will be perceived in respect to the new laws?
Yes, I will censor and change my style. But I will do this not only because of the new laws. I want to become more famous, and I want my materials to meet the Youtube standards and the standards of other social networks.
What do you think the LGBT community can do from outside Russia to help the cause?
Well, Russia is of course really concerned with everything that is going on in the Western world. Here in Russia everybody is looking forward to the news about legalization of gay marriage in various parts of the world or the new quotes from the Pope. We really hope that you will have more rights and freedoms and that one day Russia will follow your great example, I truly believe this will happen!
Definitely, boycotts are powerful tools for change, but I don’t believe in their efficiency. It would be really cool if the next US president was gay! Ahahaha…
British gay bars are beginning to boycott Russian vodka as a sign of protest. What do you think of this?
I don’t drink vodka, but I’ve stopped drinking Coca-Cola because it sponsors the winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Drinking vodka and Coke is bad for you! Drink water!
Do you think the Winter Olympics and World Cup should continue to be held there?
You know that money decides everything in this world. And no one will ever cancel Winter Olympics in Russia. I want to say that I do not support ineffective boycotts. It would be so much better if America helped people like me, instead of using its energy in a negative way. Boycotts cause aggression, and Russian authorities would have more reasons to close the borders and internet.
But when famous artists and politicians will give speeches about their positive attitude towards gays, when Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Same Love” will be on top of the music charts, when there will be gay love shown in Hollywood movies, and when the Nobel Price will be awarded to a person who is fighting for gay equality – progress will be noticed.
Do you have a message for Putin?
I want to wish him good health and thank him for being accepted in Russia, because it is the country where I found my private happiness.
And I’d also like to send a message to Barak Obama asking him to invite me over to the US, where I have never been and where I dream of living! :)
Do you have any words of encouragement for the LGBT community in Russia?
I know that everything will be alright. Crying and fighting will not help you change anything. You need to try and stay strong! Everything can be changed only if you study, become politicians, achieve power and make the country not only rich, but also free!