British soap star and actress Alicya Eyo has spoken about coming out and being a lesbian role model.
Probably best known for her lesbian roles as Ruby Haswell in Emmerdale and Denny Blood in the critically acclaimed prison series Bad Girls, Eyo says she struggled with her sexuality when she was growing up.
Speaking to UK-based charity Lesbian and Gay Foundation, she said: ‘I didn’t want to be gay. Back then I thought there was something wrong with gay people. All the gay people I knew were all damaged.
‘There was a whole stereotype around what a lesbian should be and look like. I thought “I don’t fit into that so I can’t be one.”’
Eyo continues: ‘One night when I was 17 it all got too much, me and my mom got into a big row. I swore at her for the first time in my life and she just said, “Say it, say you’re gay!”. And then I said it. The relief was immediate.
‘I always knew I was gay from a very young age and so had my mom. I think once you become sexually aware you just know. I always knew, I just didn’t want to accept it.
The 36-year-old Liverpool-born actress says it’s funny that, while she has played more straight characters, it is the lesbian roles that people most remember.
But while she feels she has some responsibilities as an out lesbian actress, Ayo says ‘it’s just an acting job’.
‘I try to take things as they come,’ she said. ‘Some people will see me as a role model. I feel lucky to be in the position I’m in and can speak out about being gay. I do feel I have a responsibility to do that.’
Eyo is also a patron of the LGBT Youth North West, which aims to provide services and support for young people in the English region.
‘Young people are a lot braver now but it’s sad that so many are scared to be just who they are. There is still a really long way to go,’ she said.