Words: Lee Dalloway; pictures: Markus Bidaux
In today’s cynical age of celebrity, it would be all too easy to dismiss Woody Cook as yet another famous offspring - but the son of Zoe Ball and Fatboy ‘Norman Cook’ Slim is anything but your standard ’sleb kid.
But, as he sees in The Future category, supported by Clifford Chance, in the Attitude 101 issue - out now to download and to order globally - the up-and-coming DJ goes on the record about being openly bisexual, smashing gender stereotypes and the importance of mental health visibility.
Growing up in the liberal oasis of Brighton and in close proximity to that strange, exotic neighbourhood known as Celebland, Woody had access to all kinds of creative, open-minded people of varying genders and sexualities. However, he still struggled with his own.
“Mate, I was so confused for so long,” he remembers. “One day I would think, I really want to get with a guy. I’d kiss a guy, then a few days later, I was, like, why did I do that? What have I done? I was at a party flirting with a girl, I thought we were about to kiss, and she said, ‘It’s a shame you’re not a girl, or I’d be getting with you right now.’ I said to her, ‘Oh, I’m bisexual.’ I woke up thinking, why did I say that? Then it was, like, holy crap… that explains a lot!
Woody wears jacket by Dsquared2 (Photography: Markus Bidaux; Styling Joseph Kocharian; Grooming: Viorela Coman using NARS)
“I feel if I was gay, it would be more clear-cut. I just kept going around and around in my head; some days, I’d feel 100 per cent straight; some days, I’d feel 100 per cent gay. I used to say it was, like, my gay time of the month, as it was affected by the full moon,” he jokes.
In the wake of conversations around ‘bi erasure’, Woody notes that he has encountered a number of people who don’t understand that liking men and women is actually a thing, and has had to convince the public, his peers and, indeed, his mum. “I’ve had people say to me, ‘Oh, you’re just saying you’re bisexual because it’s trendy,’ and I’m, like, ‘No, my sexuality is not a bloody trend!’” he exclaims.
“My mum was, like, ‘You can’t be. You like girls.’ I said, ‘Er… yes, that’s what bisexual is.’ She said, ‘Isn’t bi just gay people before they know they’re gay? I don’t know any bisexuals.’ I pointed out that some of our family friends were probably bisexual, which she didn’t really think about before.”
These days, he is much more comfortable with himself, who he is and what he wants: “I like both, but in terms of the dynamic, I prefer being with a girl. I look for someone to cuddle me, and yes, slightly mother me. It’s not that I wouldn’t get with a guy at all; I’ve kissed many guys. Maybe I just haven’t found the right one.”
Woody does currently have a girlfriend and, by his own admission, is very much in love. “This has led some of my mates to say, ‘Oh, so you’re straight then?’ ‘NO! I’m not straight!” he booms.
“A lot of fans I have on Instagram say I’m a ‘fake bisexual’ because I have a girlfriend, but that’s not how it works. It doesn’t really matter to me. It’s [on] a person-to-person basis. That whole thing about tits or arse, I don’t care. If a person makes me laugh, has a talent, has a better dress sense than me, I fall for it. Male, female; I don’t mind. Love is love; be what you want.”
Woody wears jacket by Pariah Corp (Photography: Markus Bidaux; Styling: Joseph Kocharian; Grooming: Viorela Coman using NARS)
Consideration and empathy shines through with Woody. It would have been easy for him to fall into the trappings of his privileged upbringing – but his folks stopped all notion of that. “From a very young age, my dad was, like, ‘I earned this. I earned this house, it’s not yours. I don’t owe you anything. You could have been born in a poor country in Africa. You didn’t earn this,’” he reveals.
“They’re the coolest parents ever, but they don’t want me to grow up like one of those 19-year-olds driving a BMW. When you get given everything on a platter, you never learn [a] work ethic or get respect. Some of the people who had the most spending money when I was growing up; later on, they were the most depressed.”
Woody is candid about his own battles: After discovering a knack for DJing during lockdown, the 20-year-old started his own record label-cum-social media channel, Truth Tribe, which marries his interests of music, social justice and mental health. He hoped the outlet will encourage more open discussion.
“I have ADHD and dyslexia. I was at this point where I wanted to do well, but I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t write an essay. I had my dad yelling at me to work harder, and I was trying. I would literally cry that I can’t do it. My life was falling apart and the only time I was happy was when I was drunk.”
Woody wears jacket and trousers by Olli Hull, vest by Dsquared2, and stylist's own boots (Photography: Markus Bidaux; Styling; Joseph Kocharian; Grooming: Viorela Coman using NARS)
He goes on: “I think so many people have been there. Through therapy and reading books, I found myself. There are reasons why we get depressed and instead of trying to train our brains and work with them, we kind of ignore it.”
It is encouraging – and refreshing – that Woody has chosen to go down this route rather than run the gamut of reality TV series that could earn him money very quickly. “I don’t want to be Woody from I’m A Celebrity, or Love Island. I’m not saying no, but I’d rather be known for something I’m really good at and something I’m really passionate about that could also help others,” he insists.
“I do enjoy Gogglebox ’cos it’s the only time I bloody see my mum! I get to hang out with Mum and watch TV for seven hours — that’s a pretty good day at work. I count my lucky stars. But first and foremost, I want to make a name for myself based on my skills, not my parents’ or a reality show.”
Check out the full interview and a detailed list in the Attitude 101 issue, which is out now to download and to order globally. The Attitude 101 issue includes the FREE Attitude 2022 calendar, presented in association with Taimi.