Ian Watkins, a former member of Steps, has revealed that he is gay. The 30-year-old Welshman, better known as H, is taking part in this year’s Celebrity Big Brother, which begins tonight on Channel 4.
Watkins, a former Butlins redcoat, also revealed that he had a ten-year relationship with the band’s manager, Tim Byrne, which ended recently.
Steps were a manufactured pop act, popular with children and some gay men in the late 1990s. Along with bandmates Claire Richards, Lee Latchford Evans, Lisa Scott-Lee and Faye Tozer, Watkins had a string of hits.
They first came to prominence with their 1997 ‘techno line-dancing’ hit 5,6,7,8 and went on to have 14 consecutive top 5 hits, mostly cover versions. The band split in December 2001.
Watkins revealed that he came out to his bandmates and family when he was 21, but was fearful of the reaction of fans and local people in his home village of Cwmparc in the Rhondda Valley.
“I’ve always felt a bit different, even as a very small child. At school people would tease me and call me names — ‘queer’ and that — and I started to question whether that was right. I can’t really pinpoint when exactly I knew I was gay.
“People get married at 21 where I come from and if you don’t do that, you are questioned. You certainly don’t come to London and become a pop tart. I was very different,” he said.
Watkins said that coming out has been a relief for him. “You don’t just wake up one morning and have a lightbulb moment and think, ‘I’m gay’. That’s why I never said anything earlier — I didn’t know what I was.
“These days my friends’ kids are openly gay at 16 or 17 and I think that’s great. I wish I could have done but I never had the courage.”
Watkin’s own career since leaving Steps has been chequered. With Claire Richards he formed ‘H & Claire.’ They released three top 10 UK singles and a badly received album, and split within a year.
In 2003 Watkins landed lead role in the West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat after starring in reality programme H Side Story on T4.