“Racism and homophobia at drama school deterred me from becoming a West End entertainer”

When Eddie Kaziro was a teenager, he dreamed of becoming a West End star. But when he started drama school, he quickly discovered that “racial hierarchy” and “homophobic relationships” stood in his way.

Growing up in Havering, Eddie trained as a performer from an early age, attending drama school until 2012. It was there that Eddie, now 31, remembers that “the alarm bell has begun to ring”.

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Eddie on stage

“I was the only black in my year and the only black in the college bar with dual heritage,” he told MyLondon. “They tried to categorize me and frame me in classic black personas if it was about acting, or they wanted me to do something that was close to my heritage…whatever that meant.

“It’s ironic because the performing arts are so captivated by gay culture, but I still remember a subtle air of homophobia. It was a toxic environment that eroded my already low self-esteem. Being in the closet is hard, especially since those around me are so certain that you identify with yourself in a certain way.”

Eddie didn’t think much about classification at the time, as he was “young and impressionable”, but he says the experience shook his confidence for the future. The categorization also extended to sex, which, as a closed but very camp teenager, Eddie found difficult.

“I just wanted people to like me, so I did whatever my guardians said,” he recalled. “They wanted men to be men and women to be women and there was no crossover. There was no non-binary gender, or at least that conversation hadn’t come into that yet. environment.”

Eddie said the theater world had shades of homophobia

After stepping out, Eddie recalls feeling like “a weight had been lifted” and celebrating seeing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert with her friends. In 2012, aged 19, Eddie moved to central London, where he worked odd jobs to make ends meet while trying to break into the West End.

But even in the West End, Eddie encountered the same racism and homophobia he had seen at school. He said: “I loved London, but there was this underlying homophobia and racial hierarchy. You had these white male actors, and then there were people you didn’t see as much – people from color who were homosexual.

“In 2013, I remember people were only interested in you based on what they thought was a black man. I remember there was this hyper-masculinity about it. I didn’t want to no longer pursue musical theater – and that was just because my confidence had been ruined.”

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Disappointed with the state of the industry and finding himself less and less free to pursue his passion in the face of the rising cost of living, Eddie abandoned London and moved to York. Later, he took an accounting course to give himself a chance at a more “coherent” career.

He says there has been a “cultural shift” towards acceptance, both in theater and on stage since he gave up acting. But he does not regret his decision. Since completing his master’s degree, he now works for a platform that helps people find jobs in “serious about diversity” organizations.

“Part of me still likes it and goes to shows but it couldn’t be my main source of income,” he says. “There’s a lot of nepotism. When you have a precarious career, you end up spending more time doing side jobs to pay the bills than doing what you love.”

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