Exclusive: Great LezBritain Interview with Shabby Katchadourian

“Great LezBritian” is a fortnightly stroll through the very best of British lesbo-centric entertainment and culture. Plus there will be some jolly good interviews with the top ladies who are waving the flag for gay UK.

Last year’s final airing of Big Brother UK might have been won by Queen Josie, but in truth it was lesbian contestant Shabby Katchadourian (25) who initially grabbed all of the headlines with her love confession to Caoimhe, frustrating hissy fits and endearing charm. Chances are, this is how the series would have continued if Shabby hadn’t thrown one final mother of a tantrum and hot-stepped it out of the diary room door just a few weeks in.

Since leaving the house, she’s been a busy girl. Like Anna Nolan a decade before her – who Shabby admits was the person on TV that helped her come out – she struck a chord with a whole generation of young lesbians and within weeks in the real world she had a growing Twitter following of tens of thousands. She reformed Voodoo Hussy, her gay-girl band (plus male drummer), she’s become a sought after DJ and she’s also become a business woman, designing and running her own T-Shirt company RCOD (Rainclouds Of Doom).

When we meet her in a Camden boozer just after Christmas, we find her self-aware, incredibly articulate and disarmingly honest. Over drinks that end up spanning five hours long she speaks passionately about her fans, her band and her feelings towards Caoimhe. She also reveals exclusively to us that she is once again about to foray into the world of reality television in a Real L Word-esque Channel Five show.

AfterEllen.com: So your face first became known because you were a Big Brother contestant last year, what possesses someone to go on a show such as this?
SK: I didn’t go onto Big Brother via the normal route. A friend who works for Channel 4 sent me an application form, which is very different to the open auditions, and she told me they were looking for a squatter so I should apply. At first I thought, “no way” but then I got very wasted one night and applied. In fact, most of the housemates from last year’s Big Brother came from private auditions and not open auditions.

AE: So it was very much a hand picked “cast” on Big Brother?
SK: Well there were a couple that did queue in the freezing cold but there were a lot that got in like me, then there were a few that had queued in previous years and had just been called back in.

I was so not up for doing it and I’d never watched it before, but they made the whole audition process so exciting. They would just call you up randomly in character as Big Brother  – you never knew anyone’s name – and they would tell you to meet someone with say a red umbrella, you then tell this person a password you’ve been given and then they take you to a random location. It was all very cloak and dagger and I got very wrapped up in the whole process.

AE: Did you tell anyone that you might be entering the Big Brother house?
SK: Because we still didn’t know if we were definitely going in we only went into hiding for 2 days and we weren’t supposed to tell anyone. I told everyone though and didn’t give a f–k if they found out. I had a plan that when I got to the steps that I would hold a banner that said, “F–K Reality Television”

AE: Which didn’t happen? [all laugh]
SK: Well you get frisked everywhere before you go in so I had no chance.

AE: When we were scanning the selection of contestants who were possibly going in, we thought surely the people selected are not just chance choices, and when we saw you we thought surely they’ll put her in – a decent looking lesbian?
SK: So you knew I was a lesbian from that moment! [all laugh] We did have to stand there for hours and we genuinely had no idea who was going in.

I did feel very out of place during that point but whilst we were in hiding for those two days I met Caoimhe and I liked being there more.  She didn’t mention to me that she had a boyfriend until we went into the house.

AE: How much of the show did you watch when you came out?
SK: Not too much but I did see the episode when I told Caoimhe that I fancied her and that makes me cringe even months down the line because it was so high school.

AE: Did you not think that when you were going in that you had been cast in the role of “a lesbian having a crush”?
SK: I was aware going in that I had been chosen because of a role they wanted me to play, but once you’re in you genuinely forget about it because you’re just living your day-to-day life. It just feels like you’re convicts.

AE: The fact that you actually told Caoimhe that you liked her resonated with a lot of young lesbians – did you realise that because you were so comfortable and honest with your sexuality that this would have an impact on people watching the show?
SK: It wasn’t until afterward that I realised I’d had an impact on so many young girls. At the time I was just acting on how I felt. I now talk to a lot of people through Twitter and often it’s about coming out at school and having a crush on a straight best friend. I do feel privileged but I do worry about giving bad advice.

Being turned down by Caoimhe taught me a valuable lesson – don’t be a cocky s–t and it’s completely changed how I now treat women. I now appreciate women and relationships and falling in love with Caoimhe made me see what it’s like to be on the other side because even after I left I really struggled with my feelings. I haven’t had a relationship since Big Brother because I’m not looking to f–k about anymore.

AE: Do you still have feelings for her?
SK: I still have feelings for her and I still would like to be her friend but we didn’t end that well – seeing her in Dublin in her real life made me very aware that she’s very much a cool girl there and I am very much a geek. I connected with the geek side of her that she showed me in Big Brother. It actually feels nice to say that as I’ve never said so much about it before.