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Catching up with Blake

Wed 29 Oct 2014 In: Movies View at NDHA

Blake Skjellerup fills us in on the documentary To Russia With Love, which he hopes will reignite conversation about anti-gay discrimination around the world. Plus we briefly catch up on his life in New York, and find out he’s bringing fiancé Saul down to New Zealand for the holidays. While he very narrowly missed an Olympic speed skating berth, the openly-gay New Zealand athlete gained plenty of traction when he spoke out about the Russian anti-gay propaganda law, calling for education rather than a boycott of the games. Blake tells us more about To Russia With Love, a film hosted by ice skater Johnny Weir, which followed athletes and activists in the weeks leading up to, and after, the Sochi Winter Olympics ... Johnny Weir and Blake Skjellerup How did you get involved? The director of the documentary reached out to me, explained the idea behind the film, and I couldn't say no. The film crew came up to Calgary along with Johnny Weir while I was training there. It was interesting to meet and spend some time with Johnny. While you just missed out on the Olympics, how glad are you that you got the chance to speak out at the time? So glad! I couldn't not speak out. The Olympics and my sport helped me become the person I am today; it gave me the confidence to come out and be proud of who I am. Going in to Sochi I was basically being forced to hide all of that, and that did not sit well with me. What do you hope audiences take from the doco? I believe everyone will take something different away from the film. The two strongest parts I believe come from Vlad and Konstantin. They are two Russian nationals, who have very different stories, but share one thing in common, which is being gay in an anti-gay Russia. It is shocking and remarkable to see the trouble they face in fighting to be free and live a life free of persecution. It must be heartening that other athletes, like Belle Brockhoff, are coming out and speaking up? Yes, it is! While it was disappointing no one stood up and made a statement in Sochi during the Olympics, the fact that more and more athletes are coming out in sport is fantastic. Hopefully one day we will see an All Black who identifies as gay, and is still able to actively play. Something like that I believe will really stamp out homophobia in sport. How important is it to keep the conversation about discrimination and hatred in places like Russia going? Very important. We are so lucky in New Zealand that we live in a mainly progressive society, and that we have full equality under the law. I cannot imagine what life would be like for an LGBT teen or adult living in Russia, Uganda, Jamaica, Qatar, and the 75 other countries around the world where homosexuality is illegal. While we cannot change the law in those countries, being visible and speaking up about the issues on a global scale I believe gives power and strength to those who fight every day to be equal, and be them true selves. Blake with fiance Saul And … what are you up to now apart from being all engaged and adorable? Currently living in New York City, which really is a world away from the streets of Christchurch! No one day living here is ever the same. I am getting to visit a lot of high schools here in the New York area and speak with them about my journey and life. It is a lot of fun and everyone loves learning more about New Zealand! Might we see you back in NZ any time? Yes, you will! My fiancé, Saul, and I, will be down in New Zealand for the Christmas/New Year period. I am looking forward to some time on our beautiful beaches, showing Saul our beautiful country, getting my hands on the infamous Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk, and Roast Lamb for Christmas Lunch! To Russia With Love is premiering in the US via multi-platform provider Epix tomorrow. We’ll let you know if/when it becomes available in NZ.  Jacqui Stanford - 29th October 2014    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Wednesday, 29th October 2014 - 10:11am

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