Ashley James has reflected on how far LGBTQ+ visibility has come as she admits she had nobody to talk to when she questioned her own sexuality.
The DJ and presenter recently performed at Metro’s 50 Years of Pride party in Soho, describing it as ‘so fun’ as well as ‘so important.’
Now, speaking to Metro.co.uk, the former reality star has reflected on how things have changed since she was a teenager – both good and bad.
‘It’s important for me to support Pride, especially at the moment with what we’re seeing, the constant attack and vitriol aimed against the trans community,’ she said.
‘I wish when I was a teenager that there’d been some more discussion and visibility and pride.’
She explained: ‘I grew up in the Lake District. When I questioned my sexuality I didn’t know anyone or anything.
‘I used Bebo to speak to other girls! So it [the Metro Pride party] was so nice and inspiring.’
She went on: ‘I thought [Metro.co.uk’s Executive Editor, Richard Hartley-Parkinson, who candidly talked about his own experiences during our Pride event] spoke so well and with so much emotion about his own journey.
‘I just think it’s nice to see how much joy it brings but also how important it still is.’
Years later, with a strong career in TV and music and with a one-year-old son, Ashley is still an avid user of social media.
While Bebo may be long in the past, Ashley now uses her platform to be a ‘safe space’ for people to discuss everything from feminism and motherhood to LGBTQ+ issues .
The star is unapologetically open on her platforms, and invites followers to ask questions about anything – but she doesn’t see this as allowing herself to be vulnerable.
‘Being open can often be seen as vulnerable but for me it brings a lot of strength,’ she said.
‘I think I spent so much time in my teens and 20s trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be, and that was very different [to who I was].
‘I’m from a working-class northern family, I won a scholarship to boarding school, and I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in in any space.’
She explained: ‘Trying to navigate being like a young girl with big boobs and all the kind of hypersexualisation and judgement that brought, that shame.
‘So I think now I speak with confidence about issues that affect me, or try to understand issues that don’t affect or impact me.’
‘I feel like being honest and open is actually a superpower and it allows other people to feel that they can be honest around you,’ she went on.
‘I used to think, even not so many years ago, that I had to be strong and come across as being happy and positive. And it probably affected my ability to make really good relationships and friendships and any form of relationship because I always felt like I had to be strong.
‘But actually I think now there’s way more strength in being honest and being open and then you allow a community of people like you to find you.
‘And also your viewers trust they have a safe space to talk about things – I find a lot of strength in being open.’
Elsewhere in the same interview with Metro.co.uk Ashley spoke of her devastation’ after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the landmark ruling that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion.
The overturning means many states are set to ban abortion, with Ashley admitting she worries that it ‘doesn’t feel far away’ in the UK.
‘I think it’s very frightening, and it’s also frightening how close it is to home,’ she admitted.
‘Hopefully we can learn lessons from what’s happened in America and use our votes and protect UK citizens from anything like that happening over here.’
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Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride
This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.
And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, as well as the likes of Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights.
During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict, and youth homelessness charity AKT. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.
For Metro.co.uk‘s latest Pride coverage, click here.