With both a top 10 album and single under his belt, Marcus Collins has more than proved his right as an X Factor finalist.
His thousands of adoring fans, dubbed Colinators, may sound sinister, but have carried the former hairdresser from the salon to national stardom, voting him into second place on the UK version of Simon Cowell's TV singing contest.
Now the Liverpool-born singer is returning home, headlining the city's pride festival on Saturday (4 August).
The out and proud artist will perform a mixture of tracks from his self-titled album, including his latest single Mercy, as well as songs he performed on the X Factor.
Gay Star News caught up with the cheeky Liverpudlian to chat about his homecoming.
How important is it to you to be playing at pride in your home city?
Pride in general is one of my favorite events of the year. I adore it and it’s fantastic. To be performing in Liverpool as well, especially gay pride being so fresh and new, it’s really important to me. I can’t wait to perform in Liverpool. And to perform to the gay scene as well is going to be fantastic.
What was it like growing up as a gay black man in Liverpool?
I didn’t know many gay people anyway. I had no-one to discuss it with. Coming out was hard enough and I grew up in a predominantly white area. For me to be one of the only black guys, there were only about three others, I couldn’t get away with anything.
It was difficult but as I was growing up I realized that it didn’t matter if you were different. When I’ve come to London I’ve been to various gay events, there’s one called Bootilicious, which is held once a month, and it’s fantastic. There’s all different types, young, gay, bi, trans, whatever, in the same environment but without the prejudice.
Your debut album was released very soon after The X Factor. Other artists from the show have waited longer. Were you worried it was too rushed?
I wasn’t particularly worried about that. I wanted it out quite quickly. For me it was important to get on with it and get straight into the studio. My mentor Gary Barlow was behind me as well. It was quite good to have everyone on side with it.
I’m a fast worker anyway. I don’t like having time off and I’m not very good slacking. I’m a workaholic I think and I wanted to show everyone.
The only bit of negativity that’s come from it is asking the question, has the quality of the music been jeapodized for the speed of it coming out? But there’s a lot of different sounds on the album, I’m really happy with it and I stand by it.
I’ve been in the studio the past few weeks and I’m really excited because I’m moving into a new sound.
What can fans expect from your new sound?
The new songs which I’m going to be releasing are a lot more contemporary, current and up to date.
Were you nervous about the reception to your first album from both fans and critics?
I’m always nervous about anything being released. But I think it’s good to have a bit of nerves.
Your first single was a cover version of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. You got a fair bit of flack from fans of the original. Did you expect that reaction?
Not particularly, but I don’t really care what White Stripes fans think about it. I stand by my version and if you don’t like it then don’t listen to it. It shouldn’t have come as a shock. I’ve come from a show where I sing covers for 15 weeks and then people were surprised that I did another cover.
Was there any pressure on you to hide your sexuality when you were on The X Factor?
It was talked about, but it wasn’t something I was prepared to do. It wasn’t going to happen so there was no point even talking about it.
The Olympics opened in London on Friday. Are there any athletes you have a crush on? Tom Daley?
[Laughs] There’s a few that I’ve got my eye on, and one in particular who’s very cute, but I’m not looking at the moment.
You’ve got a lot of tattoos. Which is your favorite and why?
The tattoo across my chest is in honor of my cousin who committed suicide. It says ‘Life’s too short to live with regret’.
When that happened it was a really big shock to the whole family and he meant a lot to me. I learnt a valuable lesson from his suicide. It kind of gave me to impetus to do the X Factor and to take a chance. I took a chance and I’m a recording artist with an album out. I don’t regret any of it.
Any more tattoos in the future?
Yes, I’m so excited because I’m getting a sleeve from the same artist who did JLS. I’m getting a pair of scissors which is a reference to me being a hairdresser and a photo of the Liver Birds [a British sit-com from the 1970s].
They represent where I’m from, where I came from and what I stand for. Just basically my life up until now on one arm.
You mentioned being a hairdresser. Do you still cut the odd bob or two in your spare time? And if you could cut anyone’s hair, whose would it be?
I’m still a very passionate about hairdressing. I love it and still do as much as I can, cutting friends and family at home. I would love to cut Rihanna’s hair.
Liverpool Pride started just two years ago and has grown to be one of the biggest free gay festivals in the country, after London.
The inaugural event attracted over 20,000 people and doubled to over 44,000 last year.
Liverpool Pride 2012 will take place at the city's iconic pier-head and throughout the Stanley Street Gay Quarter.
There will also be a weekend of cultural events taking place at some of Liverpool’s most influential arts and cultural establishments.
If you want to take part in the pride march, register online at www.liverpoolpride.co.uk/march before 31 July.