It’s difficult to find an example of a previous artist who has had the same sort of career trajectory as MNEK. In just a few short years he’s gone from teen musical prodigy writing hits for The Saturdays to a Grammy-nominated international star who’s contributed to Beyoncé’s earth-shattering album Lemonade. It’s no understatement to say that the London-born maestro’s talent and ambition has taken him where few in the business dare to dream of.
His success and visibility has been of incredible importance to young LGBT people – particularly those who straddle both LGBT and black identities. A prodigious musician, a vital role model and a lifeline for those who feel overlooked within the community – all of that is what makes him our Breakout Artist of the year.
“I think the mentality around black gay men or women is still very much taboo. It’s not even a feeling thing, it is a factual thing. It’s one thing being a black person and experiencing racism, but then it is also another thing being gay and experiencing homophobia. Then having those things together as one big thing to be scared of,” he explained.
“I want to be what I didn’t see on TV. Not to say that it means you have to have this pristine image. I’m a mess and I enjoy being a mess, and I enjoy being publicly a mess, too, so I don’t want to have to be this role model but rather, if you see yourself in me then that’s really great because I never saw myself in anyone.”
MNEK was presented with his award by Fearne Cotton at tonight’s star-studded Attitude Awards ceremony at London’s 8 Northumberland Avenue, hosted by Alan Cumming.
Read more about MNEK and the rest of winners from the Attitude Awards 2016, presented in association with Virgin Holidays, in our special November issue, which comes with six different covers featuring the night’s biggest winners.
It’s available to download from 11pm tonight at pocketmags.com/attitude and available in shops from Wednesday (October 12). You can order the cover of your choice from 10am on Tuesday (October 11) at newsstand.co.uk.
MNEK wears jacket by Sutterheim, t-shirt by ASOS
Shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren, shorts by River Island
Photographs: Leigh Kiely
Styling: Joseph Kocharian