Big Brother runner up Hughie Maughan speaks exclusively to GuysLikeU about getting engaged and the dark times he endured as a teenage
Say what you like about Big Brother, we still reckon this summer’s civilian series was the best in years and a lot more fun than the celebrity version that followed swiftly afterwards.
What made this year’s show so particularly great was that it featured four very different gay guys; cool man about Blackpool Sam Giffen, gobby Ryan Ruckledge, brainy but cute Andy West and handsome but argumentative Hughie Maughan. A gay for every occasion, it turned out.
While we all know what happened to Andy – having now relaunched himself as a showbiz reporter and presenter – we wanted to find out what the series runner up Hughie has been up to. And wow, not only has he been hopping from one TV show to another in his home country of Ireland he has also got engaged with his house boyfriend, Ryan!
Here, the charismatic chap reveals about how life has changed for him since leaving the house, plus opens up about the tough times he endured as a teenager struggling to find the courage to tell his friends and family about his secret gay life…
So life after Big Brother must be pretty mental.
Oh, it has been, but it’s been a lot of fun. When I first left the house, I had strangers come up to me and know who I am. People would recognise me so much, especially in Ireland if I went to a club or walked down the street. At times it was very weird for me. For the first two or three days, in particular, it was the strangest because I’d forgotten that they had been watching me on the telly and there were times when I said, ‘Do I know you?’
What kind of people tend to like you?
I have a lot of middle aged women who are get in touch. Women in their 30s, 40s and 50s. A few weeks ago, I went to see my cousin before he went to his school prom. When I got there the girl who was with him decided to text of all her mates that I was there. All of a sudden about twenty women came tearing around the corner and it took me an hour to get away.
Do you have a lot of gay fans?
When I go to gay clubs, I get a lot of guys coming up to me. And I get a lot of attention from kids, especially the ones from my home town. Kids from the traveller community have been very supportive too and have come up to me to shake my hand. They treat me like I’m the President.
We loved Big Brother this year because there were four very different gay guys in the house. Did you fancy any of them?
I didn’t fancy any of them. Obviously not Andy. Before I met him, I thought we were a similar age. I thought he had a nice personality, but then I discovered he was quite devious. Sam was a nice guy, but there was nothing there between us. When I first met Ryan, I thought that he was putting on a fake personality as an act and was being hyper and over the top just for the cameras. But then I came to realise that that is actually what he’s like. Then as time went on, we grew to become good friends. But there were moments when I really fancied him but I kept it to myself and stopped and said to myself, ‘we’re just mates’.
He’s very big character and of course now you are engaged…
Well, he’s not like anyone I have ever been in my life before. I have never met a man like him. He is such a great person, with such an amazing personality. I think he’s one of those great Big Brother people. In fact I think he’s one of the greatest Big Brother characters ever, along side the likes of Nikki Graham. She’s absolutely bonkers and Ryan is like that! He’s totally different to any guy I have ever been with.
Were you ever worried that what you shared in the house wouldn’t work in the real world?
I never thought about it if I’m honest. But when we got out of the house we realised that we are the same and that everything around us is different. We’re boyfriends and we love each other and we want to live with each other. Ryan is the same guy that he was in the house. So nothing changed that way between us. We’re not always together as I am in Ireland some of the time and he is in Blackpool, but we’re strong because we both know that we love each other and want to be together forever.
And now you’re engaged.
Yes, we are, and we are really happy. We have so many plans but its still early days so far.
You didn’t have a great time with Andy when you were in the house.
Look, I found him to be the type of person to talk behind people’s backs. He was on CBBBOTS one time and he called Ryan and I juvenile idiots. He was asked could ‘you live in a house with Stephen Bear’ and he said he couldn’t live with juvenile idiots – then said ‘Hughie and Ryan’ under his breath. But I think he’s just jealous. I know he fancied me. He got dragged all over twitter by my fans because of that.
After the show he had a very public split from the guy he got engaged to in the house.
I couldn’t believe what happened with his boyfriend after the show. To be honest, I wouldn’t like to see anybody in that position even if I didn’t like them so I hope he is okay and dealing with it well. I’m not a bitter or horrible person. That said, if I were in his shoes, I’d say karma’s bitch. But I wont. I don’t think I’m as bitter as him.
Going back to when you were younger. When did you realise you fancied men.
I have never been the kind of guy to use labels. I dabbled with both sexes, let’s put it that. And I’ve done more than dabble. Ha! I love boys. I m 22 now so I know what I want now. But I don’t think I would never categorise myself as gay. But I have never felt in denial. As long as I can remember I have known I was attracted to men. But when I got older I got confused. Like when you’re in the boys’ locker room and you’re like 12 and you’re seeing all these boys walking around naked – and you find yourself confused because it’d not acceptable to be gay or be attracted to boys. It’s a strange time. You don’t know what you’re feeling and at that age you’re petrified.
So during this time of confusion, how were you feeling?
I had a fear of doing anything, if I’m honest, because at that point I didn’t want to admit even to myself that I might be gay because I was worried about the background I’d grown up in. In the traveller community, being gay is not exactly embraced. I had had no experience with same sex relationships. That said I had grown up very open minded. I myself never minded anyone. I would play with kids from any kind of background.
Had you had a tough upbringing knowing that you were different from other boys?
When I was little I suffered from homophobic abuse and it kind of ruined my childhood. I was bullied horrendously as a child. It was always words but they hurt! And some people didn’t want to be friends with because they thought I was different.
That must have been tough.
I was never timid, I always answered back so I would stand up for myself. But my childhood was ruined by that because I was never happy and it shaped who I became as I got older, as I used to dwell on the things had been said to me.
Really? How long did these dark times take over your life.
To be honest, up until a year and a half ago. I was in a really bad place.
How bad a place.
It’s never been so bad that I wanted to do something bad to myself. Actually, I’ve been in the position where things have been bad enough for that to happen and felt like I might want to hurt myself, but I didn’t, because I have dreams and aspirations and know that I wouldn’t be able to achieve those dreams if I wasn’t around any more, so I stayed strong. When I got to 19, I was in a really bad way. I would find it hard to sleep at night. I would get up at 2am and go for a three mile walk to clear my head
What was bothering you?
I was constantly overthinking things and worrying about where my life was going. I didn’t want to live a particular way because of background but I still wanted to be my own individual. I was also worried about my sexuality, at that point no one in my family or friends circle knew what was going on in my life. I mean, I think they did know, but I never actually spoke to them about it.
So when did you finally admit to people around you that you might be gay?
When I did Big Brother, when I was 21. From the outset I knew that I wanted to go on it and not lie about myself and lie about who I was. I was sick of being bothered about who I was seeing. I no longer wanted to allow others to dominate how my life was going to be anymore. I didn’t want to be in the position of feeling suppressed. I never wanted to be one of those guys who hides their true self away, gets married and be unhappy for the rest of their lives. I didn’t want to go on national TV show and lie about who I am.
So who did you tell first?
I told my sister before I went into BB, who was fine with it. I tried to talk to my parents but I think they were choosing not to hear what I was saying. When I went into hiding before the show actually started, my sister told my parents. They were obviously upset because they felt that they hadn’t listened to me or that we hadn’t had a conversation – and there was a possibility that they wouldn’t see me for eight weeks, which turned out to be the case as I ended up in the final.
How was it when you got out?
When I got home it was all fine. Me mam had come in to the house during the show and that was a big relief to me. I had actually prepared myself that if my parents didn’t approve of me being gay, I didn’t have the strength anymore to keep beating myself about it and had decided that if they weren’t happy for me, I would cut people out of my life if – even if it was my own mother. I just couldn’t go through the pain of people not accepting me for who I was.
Wow, that’s tough.
When I was in the house I totally forgot about the outside world, but Ryan was worrying about the way we were being perceived and was worried that his mum would be upset by what we getting up to in the house. But I think I felt as though I had gone through so much in my life that I didn’t care anymore. When my mum came in and told me she was fine with me and that everyone was fine at home, it was great to know that! It was an added bonus.
When you came out was there any one who was weird with you?
No, not at all. I had prepared myself for that possibility, but everyone was happy and said to me they’d always thought I might be gay but were always too worried to ask me in case I was offended. I have now been told that loads of boys and girls in the travelling community have felt strong enough to come out because of watching me, which is amazing.
Well, it’s nice to have these positive stories, that’s why GuysLikeU exists – to show other young gay guys and girls that not everything about being gay is negative.
But it’s the negative stories that sell. You read about people having their throats getting cut or being stoned to death but you never hear about the stories where the parent are incredibly proud of their children. That won’t make the newspapers. The bottom line is we should be encouraging people to love themselves. There’s nothing wrong with loving yourself, it doesn’t mean that pride is a horrible thing. Be proud of who you are and have self worth. I don’t think there are many girls and boys who value themselves enough, they give in to the negative sides of what society dictates.
You say Ryan is your first proper relationship – what were they like before?
The first time I slept with anyone, I was fifteen and it was with a girl and then I slept with a boy shortly afterwards. At the time, sleeping with the guy felt a lot more natural to me. That said, sleeping with the girl was fine, I didn’t feel forced to do it . I was just a young lad experimenting. The boy I slept with was a traveller boy, like me. But then I had a relationship with a girl when I was 20. It wasn’t serious, I wasn’t in love. It was at a stage where I wasn’t in the place for a relationship with boy or girl.
Was there ever anyone you thought was ‘the one’?
I had one relationship which almost became a proper relationship when I was 19 but because I hadn’t told my family about being gay, I was scared of falling in love with him. It was when I was in a bad place. Back then, I used to go out to clubs with my mates an then half way through the night, I’d say I was tired and say I was off home, but would really head to a gay club, get with a guy and take him back to their house. I look back now and think it’s quite sad that I was hiding it from my mates. But I am happy now though. I am still only young I am 22, my life has only started. I mean a few years go I wasn’t even legal, not that that stopped me.
Were you insecure about your looks?
Male insecurities are not talked about as much as girls’ body insecurities, but guys worry just as much. When I was little, I was aware of how I looked. I was slim and as I got older I started to do boxing for eight years so stayed in shape. I have insecurities now but I am proud of who I am. If I wanted to change something that couldn’t be altered by exercise – ie like having different teeth – I’d have no problem in having it done. People always say natural beauty is better and there’s a stigma surrounding surgery, but I believe if you are responsible enough and you know what you’re doing, there’s nothing wrong with that. there’s nothing wrong with looking after yourself.
You have a very glowing skin tone. Is that a natural colour?
My tan? I’ve always been very tanned. I do a lot of sunbeds, especially when I was 17 or 18. But I’ve been using a lot of fake tan recently, bit it’s ruining everything, so I wanted to keep my natural tan. I’m not naturally pale. I tan easily. I can go on a sunbed for ten minutes and it looks like I’ve been on a beach for two weeks.
Do you wax or shave?
Ryan wants me to keep chest hair. I am constantly having to shave and my wax. I Veet down my chest, stomach, back and bum, and then I have a beard trimmer to legs with. I have my eyebrows threaded. The amount of body hair that I grow is beyond a joke.
Have you ever worried about the size of your manhood?
I never worried about it. I guess you always compare yourself with guys around you. Men are always more concerned about that! I have always been happy with it. I have never had any complaints. I’ve never been told it’s too small.
Well, that’s good. Have you ever been confronted by a monster in your time?
You mean like a massive willy? Obviously I have slept with guys of different sizes but you take them as they come. When you’re 17 and you get one there in front of you, you get scared, but now I’m older it’s not so bad.