BEAUTY / Spectrum

Michael Keyes shot by Brian Teeling

How was it for you growing up in Ireland?

I grew up in a small town in the middle of the country where I had some awesome friends. My primary school was run by Franciscan Monks which meant it was massively religious - we had to go to church at least 2 times a week, say prayers at the start of class and fundraise for Catholic charities. Funny enough my two best friends turned out to be gay also. We were so rebellious, while all the other boys were out playing gaelic football we were up the field making daisy chains for our teacher. Looking back on it, we were fierce as fuck.

As a teenager I skateboarded, done martial arts and played in bands. I wasn’t super good at skating and I won the under 18’s european karate championship in London when I was 17. I come out when I was 17 too. My family were really supportive and to be honest I never had it hard with being a gay man. I got odd homophobic remarks but nothing I couldn’t handle.

Do you travel much within the EU and/or abroad?

Traveling is my favourite thing to do, so much so I work as a UX designer for a travel agency here in Dublin. Last year I was lucky enough to visit to Lisbon, London and Edinburgh. This year I’ve booked Manchester, Sitges and Albufeira -- then I wonder why I’ve no money left to buy a house. 

I can see myself going back to Thailand for a few months. The people there are very much like the Irish -- we add extra letters to our names so they can be hard to pronounce, we’re not the best at time keeping, we’re super pass-remarkable and my god do we have the gift of talkin’ shite. 

On my bucket list is South America, New York, Toronto, Japan and Iceland.  

What do you do like to do for fun in Dublin?

I love getting out into nature. Ireland can be really very magical and has a history of sacred sites such as New Grange, the Hill of Tara and Skellig Michael. Just being around these places gives me all the positive vibes. As a thick dude I have a love hate relationship with hiking; I love to hike but hate the chub rub. 

Ireland has some unreal homegrown talent - Enya and The Corrs. There’s a great music scene in Dublin, loads of awesome bands come over to play, they’re usually blown away by the opening acts from here. In the past few months I’ve seen PUP, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Deftones and HECK. 

We also have some of the best drag queens in Europe like Panti, the official queen of Ireland, and Angelina Lovelace who makes me question my sexuality. 

How was it meeting Alyssa Edwards?

Alyssa Edwards is probably the most hilarious person on the planet. Even just her basic gestures are golden. 

My partner and I saw her the day before paddy's day so she was very excited to be in the county for it. From the second she stepped out I was in the hysterics laughing. She spilled so much tea about her time on all stars - a lot of it didn’t air. 

The sound guy gave her such a hard time as she didn’t show up for rehearsal that day. He called her out in the middle of her show and she said “Baby I’m a professional I don’t need to practice”. The whole audience was dead. 

She was so humble and so lovely. She gave time afterwards to take pictures, especially with all the younger kids. If she’s in your town please do go and see her. 

Are young people there involved in politics the way they are right now in the US?

Absolutely. Ireland has a strong history of politics. There’s been a divide since the 1920’s and we’ve constantly strived to make life easy on both sides of the border. 

In 2015 Ireland was the first country in the world to pass a referendum on marriage equality. So many young people were out campaigning, having conversations, making posters and pushing hard on this issue. 

I remember the day so clearly, I was in my hometown and my Mother came to vote with me in my primary school. It was like coming full circle. Honestly, I didn’t know what way it was going to swing. There are more Irish people living abroad than there is in Ireland -- there was one picture on twitter that turned me into an emotional wreck. It showed how busy Dublin airport was as so many people came home to vote yes to marriage equality. It was a huge day for Ireland and I do believe that our little Island has inspired the rest of the world. 

One of the most controversial referendums is about to happen in May this year. This will ask the country if you are for or against a woman's right to have an abortion. I believe that it’s controversial as it’s going to be the last piece of control that the catholic church is going to have over people in this country. 

It’s very inspiring to see all of the young men and women who are out fighting for women's rights. I hope when we win this fight we can move onto solving other issues in Ireland like homelessness and mental health.

Do you feel connected to a community with a sense of body pride?

It took me years to get comfortable with my body and there’s days still that I look at my belly and wish I was more in shape. But from making friends online and on nights out with those who identify as bears or cubs or otters, it really helped me gain a better sense of being happy with what I got. I like going to bear nights here in Dublin and Europe. It’s lovely to be around guys who celebrate being thick. So yeah, I guess I am connected to the bear community. 

How was it for you being photographed by Brian?

Brian is an absolute sweetheart. I had never met him before but I had followed him on Instagram.

I went over to his house on a wet Monday evening which meant we had to shoot inside. Straight away he set me up with a drink and made me super comfortable. We have a lot of the same friends and social circles so it was strange that we never met before as Dublin is pretty small. 

We bonded over moody punk bands, our weirdest sexual encounters and cute pictures of the greyhound that also lives in his house. The two of us would talk to the wall if it talked back so I didn’t even notice him taking pictures. 

Like a lot of big guys I’ve found it hard to be comfortable with my body and he made me feel so at ease while shooting. I’d defo shoot with him again.