Happy Friday! How has your week been? We've been adjusting to Thomas going part time and being home more and we gotta say, we're absolutely loving it. Thank you for the well wishes regarding Thomas' wreck. He's doing fine, but his car isn't, so we are looking for a new car as we speak!
We took a couple of months off from Feature Friday but FINALLY we are back with a brand new feature and we are so excited to share it with you. Erik talks about the moment he came out to his parents, what he's learned about himself from coming out, and facing your fears head on. Get to know Erik a little more below...
Where are you from? Brandon Manitoba, Canada
Where do you live? Toronto Ontario, Canada
What’s your Instagram handle? @erikmarkewich
Relationship Status: Single… and slowly coming to terms with it. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so it's sometimes a hard thing to come to terms with.
What is your favorite place you have ever travelled to and why? I started overthinking this way too much, thinking I needed to choose a place like Barcelona, Dubai, or Shanghai (I worked on a cruise ship for 7 months) but then I stopped to think: what is the one place that makes my heart beat like none other? It’s easy. NEW YORK CITY. People ask me why, why do I love it so much? It's not a simple one word answer. I could say it's because of my passion and love for theatre, and yes that has a huge part of it, but something happens to me the minute I step foot into NYC. The passion and love that city has in it is like none other. I have visited many times; for long and short periods, and it's now my favourite place to bring friends and family as I believe it's the one place I can truly be myself. I have always said my heart lives in New York, I am just trying to find a way to go and find it.
Who is your favorite artist at the moment? Favorite song? I am such a late comer, I know, but I was just recently introduced to Troye Sivan and I literally cannot stop listening. So at this moment in time Troye is at the top of my most played on my iTunes list (Beyonce you will always be number 1 in my heart).
Something about Troye's style and his openness in all of his songs is so powerful, especially coming from a young gay man. The acoustic version of “Youth” is my go to on my commute to and from work. I connect so much with the truth behind it and I truly feel it hits ‘love’ directly on the head. As a huge lover of love, I find it refreshing to hear a song that just says it like it is.
What is your proudest accomplishment? I think I would have to say when I got hired for my first professional musical theatre show (which was CATS) at Rainbow Stage in Winnipeg, Mantioba. I started dancing at the age of 9, and as you will read a little farther down, it wasn’t easy for me being a male dancer in such a small city, but I never once thought of quitting. I loved it so much. I loved the dedication of the art form, the energy and adrenaline of being on stage. I felt like I was on top of the world whenever I danced. So to work for so many hours and days, to have it finally pay off to book my first professional show, and that show being CATS, was a huge accomplishment for me. Also to be working in a theatre that I grew up going to as a child, and wishing and wanting one day to be on that stage, was a surreal moment for me. I have now gone on to work in 14 professional shows and my heart still tells me never to give up.
How would you describe your home décor style? As a musical theatre performer who travels constantly for work, I long for the day that I can finally call a place home. Currently I am subletting and kind of living out of a suitcase here in Toronto, so my home decor style (at the moment) is either my 3 piece luggage set, or whatever is in my storage locker haha. That being said, I daydream about what my place will look like. It will be clean and modern. I am a big fan of midcentury stylings, and I believe every home should have touches of yourself in it, so I will find a way to bring my love for theatre and film into my home with art.
What is something you wish you would’ve known when you were younger? I know that this may be cliche or sound like a broken record, but the thing my younger self needed to hear was “it gets better”. These three words were circulating at the time of my grade 12 year in high school. Just as I was coming out, the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign was also starting. But at that adolescent time, I didn’t believe it. I am a hands-on person, I needed to know for myself that it was going to be okay. So looking back on those younger years and those feelings of doubt, shame, and fear I had, I wish older me could show a quick 30 second video of how great life is going to be in the years to come. Obviously I am young, and have so many amazing things to come, but I am also so very proud at where I stand today. [I think] that 17 year old me would smile through the pain knowing that only good things, and good people, are on there way!
What is one thing still left on your bucket list? This may come to a surprise to my close family and friends, but one thing I have always wanted is a tattoo. The reason why I don't have one yet is because I don't know what I would get. I believe permanently placing something on your body should have a good reason behind it. So, I will wait until that day comes and when something happens or hits me and says, “place me on your body in writing so you can remember this moment always.”
How old were you when you came out and what was your experience like? I was 17 and living in Brandon, Manitoba, which has a population of 50k. Small town prairie vibes and I was a male dancer. They weren't the easiest teenage years for me, but I was not gonna give up my passion of dance just because it was not the normal thing a guy should do. My coming out experience was beautiful though, and still means a lot to me to this day. I had told a few close friends prior to telling my family, but it was the day I told my parents that I believe I faced the fear that comes with coming out, and it couldn't have been a more life changing moment for me. When people ask me how I knew the moment was right, I say that I really didn’t, it came to me out of no where. I picked myself up, wrapped myself in my childhood blanket, and walked downstairs to my parents sitting in the living room and said I needed to tell them something. It was at that moment when I faced them and said the words “I’m gay”. We talked and cried and laughed for about an hour, hearing stories from them about friends they had that were gay, and how much they love me, and want nothing but the best for me. It was because of my parents that being able to say that I am gay became so easy, because I realized that I am surrounded by so many people that love me for ME, and my sexual orientation doesn't matter, as it doesn't change who I am, just who I love.
What did you learn about yourself in the coming out process? Everything. Simple as that. If I didn’t come out as a gay man, strong and proud, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would be living in fear, back in that closet, wanting and wishing for so much more. I have learned that facing fears can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. It opens so many new doors that you may not have been able to open without looking that fear in the face and concurring it. There are so many people out there that let a fear stand in the way of doing something they’ve always wanted to do, or completely changing their life for the better. I have realized that in order to live and learn, you are going to make mistakes along the way. You are going to be faced with fears and doubts, but facing those fears has truly made me the happiest I have been in my life. I admire those fearless and risk-taking people.
Have you faced any backlash or criticism since coming out? I believe that in some sense, everyone who comes out will face backlash or criticism. For me, I didn’t really face any head-on. I was lucky. I was bullied behind my back in high school, but I had a group of friends that I stuck close with and they helped me through those 4 years. Then after coming out, I moved from small town Brandon, to big city Toronto. It was then I realized I could be whoever I wanted to be. Living in a big city, with so many people living their own lives, being too busy to care about your own, was a huge help for me to truly find myself and be me. Working in the musical theatre industry also allowed me to be with like-minded people, and obviously with more gay people than in any other industry haha. In that business, I am critiqued daily on my eye color, my height, my body type, and so on. I have had to grow a thick skin, so when it comes down to being criticized for being gay, I simply brush it off and keep moving forward. I know that some people don't support me being gay, and that's fine. That is their view. But those people are not a part of my life. The ones that I call friends and family are my true loves, and love me for who I am!
Who is your biggest inspiration and why? My parents. It would be silly for me not to choose them. As I said before, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. From them driving me to and from dance class, all of my school play rehearsals, the amount of money they put into my training, and dealing with the annoying teenager I must have been. On top of it all, they have been and always will be my biggest fans. They have not missed one performance of mine. They are the ones that always pushed me to keep going, to never give up, and to follow my dreams. So yeah, they are my biggest inspiration. The love they show for their 3 children is beyond words, and the amount they have given to us, I could never thank them enough. It wasn’t until this year and becoming an uncle for the first time, that it showed me what a beautiful thing having a child is. I look forward to the day I have my own child, and I can raise them the way my parents did to me. With the love and support, to the moon and back.