Words: Thomas Stichbury; photography: Petros Kouiouris
Disney star Joshua Bassett has opened up about how “liberating” it was to publicly address his sexuality - and why he hasn’t looked back since.
In May, the High School Musical: The Musical: The Series favourite was caught in a storm of speculation when a video in which he called Harry Styles “hot” – before adding “I guess this is my coming-out video” – went viral.
Endless chatter about who he may or may not be attracted to led Joshua, 20, to release a statement (part of which read: “It’s OK to still be figuring out who you are”) and this was shortly followed by an interview, where he proudly proclaimed that he is “happy to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, because they embrace all.”
Appearing on the front cover of the Attitude September Style Issue, out now to download and to order globally, the American actor and singer relives not only the drama, but the feeling of a weight being lifted from his shoulders.
"My team were making me aware that [the interview] was blowing up, and they were, like, ‘What are we going to do?’ I said, ‘I’m not worried about it, let’s see what happens… I don’t think I need to say anything about it,’” he recalls.
“But it kept going and growing – I was seeing comments and stuff, and I was, like, this is an important opportunity to say something that I’ve wanted to say for a while, but never felt like I had to, and never felt like I could.
"I wrote the statement in less than five minutes, and there was no part of me that was anxious, no part of me that was hesitant at all. It felt so right. I put it out and I’ve never looked back. It was liberating, it was freeing; it was nothing like I expected it to be.”
The Californian up-and-comer – who has previously been linked to his HSMTMTS co-star and 'Driver's License' chart-topper Olivia Rodrigo – isn’t putting himself under any pressure to wear a label.
Joshua Bassett wears top by Uniqlo; knitwear by Thom Brown; trousers by Linder; necklace by Mulberry; ring, stylist's own (Photography: Petros Kouiouris; Styling: Nicholas MacKinnon)
“I never really questioned it [how I felt]. It just was, if that makes sense. That’s something that I think is really cool about this generation, and the generation to follow; that you don’t need a box, and you don’t need to be put in a box,” he explains.
”But I would say that it definitely took a lot of time to realise that.”
Although not everybody has been supportive in the wake of Joshua’s candid comments, the good far outweighs the bad.
“This was the first time where I was subjected to a lot of homophobia. You know, I seem ‘straight’ to everyone I meet, pretty much, and I have had to see that [homophobia] first-hand. Seeing that put things into perspective, of how far along we aren’t yet; I thought we were a lot further on than we are,” he begins.
“On the flip side of all that are the responses I’ve gotten from people saying, ‘I’ve never had somebody put into words exactly how I feel.’ Or, ‘Thank you so much for helping me be seen.’ Or, ‘I can’t be who I am around my family, but because of you I feel a little bit safer, a little bit more at home.’”
“That makes it all worth it. People can hate me forever and say the nastiest thing possible, but it will not change a thing, because you need to stand tall and face those people as an advocate for all the people without a voice.
Joshua Bassett wears knitwear by Isabel Marant (Photography: Petros Kouiouris; Styling: Nicholas MacKinnon)
"Ultimately, all that garbage melts away from one story, let alone thousands of people telling me I’ve changed their life – which is wild, but a crazy honour.”
Looking to the future, Joshua – whose single 'Feel Something' is out now – would be “super open” for art to imitate life with an LGBTQ+-inspired storyline for his alter-ego Ricky on HSMTMTS, season two of which is currently airing on Disney+.
“I trust the writers, and I trust Disney to do what’s best, and you know what, I would love that,” he says. “I’m down for whatever they choose.
“All of that’s out of my control, I don’t have a say in that, but yeah, that would be great.”
Read the full interview in the Attitude September Style Issue, out now.