It’s rebellious. It’s straightforward. And it’s love. A love that’s the same for everyone. A love that is Equal as Fuck. That’s the vibe of the new Footshop Proud collection. Because equality either exists for everyone, or it doesn’t exist at all. It’s that simple. The face of this year’s collection, which comes out during Equality Month, is Jan Bendig, a Czech gay singer, and talented Roma boy with an amazing soul through and through, with an ever-positive energy. But this time, he’s portrayed in a slightly more vigorous way.
While shooting the lookbook, we had a few words with Jan about his successful career, which he has built despite many prejudices, and we also stopped to talk about fashion, which this young singer is also close to. So sit back and read this inspiring interview with the man who proves nothing is impossible.)
You’ve had a photoshoot that’s a bit unconventional for you, how did you find the whole process?
It was a bit of a change for me because I’m such a nice guy and I rarely put myself in the role of such a bad boy, but I enjoyed it.
Can you remember a moment or experience where you felt completely down and then conversely a moment where you felt “proud as fuck”?
Yeah, I’ve talked about it openly a few times in various interviews. I have panic attacks and they used to be terrible. About four or five years ago I got to the point where I was standing by the window and I thought I’m just going to jump. I was like, I don’t care about the life I have anymore and it was getting pretty intense. But then something changed. I felt like I’d be leaving my family behind along with people who love me and people who maybe even root for me and I didn’t want to let them down. So it kind of pulled me back in and I took a breath and I’ve been holding on ever since and it’s never happened again. I hope it never happens again.
And I felt proud as fuck when I had sold out Forum Karlín. The moment when I was riding up to the stage in that elevator on that throne and saw all those people, I knew at that moment that I had to do a perfect show with them. And I did it and people enjoyed it. I had a great time, too, and it was great.
We know you’re a very happy and positive person, but we were wondering what can really piss you off? For example, when it comes to interacting with people or fans?
I have great fans who treat me with a lot of respect and I treat them with a lot of respect. My grandfather always said, “Treat your fans the way you want them to treat you.” But I can get annoyed with reckless drivers. They make me angry because I’ve witnessed people who almost got run over so many times, whether it’s older people or kids, and the drivers are these dudes who have these sports cars and think they’re the biggest stars. And they think they own the world but they’re not only endagenring themselves but also someone else.
You’ve lived in the UK for a while, do you see any differences in people there compared to the Czech Republic? Especially in terms of prejudice against admitted homosexuality.
It was perfectly normal over there. I don’t think it’s even been a topic for a long time. If there was any attack towards someone who was homosexual or there was maybe some bullying or the slightest hint of it at school, the school would immediately address it and they wouldn’t allowit or any words hurtful to that person.
I’m not saying it’s worse in the Czech Republic in general, but it’s definitely different in some cities where it’s not as common. It’s like some parents are afraid that their kids are going to infect other people with it, that the person should get treated as if it was a disease and that kind of crap. And yet it’s complete nonsense. There is no cure for this because homosexuality is not a disease and you are just born that way.
But I have to say that the situation is 100% improving, I can tell, because during my coming out, I didn’t experience anything negative towards my person, no one had any problem. Actually, I was attacked once because of that, that’s true, but they were just idiots and you can find those everywhere, even in England.
What’s the craziest fake news you’ve heard about yourself?
There hasn’t been much lately. There was a fake photo of me that came out on a website once, and it was very well done. I was shown completely naked, so I sued those people. And a lot of people believed it was really me and I was so embarrassed and it was crazy. But then I found out what photo it was from and thankfully, everything was explained and the photo was taken down so you won’t find it anywhere. That was probably the biggest fuck up I’ve experienced as fake news.
For obvious reasons, we’re into fashion at Footshop as well as culture, so I’m wondering what role does getting dressed play in your life? What’s your relationship with fashion and where do you get your inspiration from, do you have a favorite celebrity that inspires you?
I love fashion and I can stay in front of the mirror for an hour and a half until I’m ready, but I like to look nice and fresh. I think everyone should take care of themselves. I just don’t want other people to see me as shabby or lazy, like some scumbag.
Do you have a favorite trend or brand that you’re into at the moment? What do you think about the current trend of men wearing women’s fashion such as skirts, crop tops, etc.?
I like second-hand shops, I used to go all the time and fouind great pieces which I still wear and love. I like old denim jackets, the loose and shabby-looking kind. They’re worn out, but they’ll find their place. I’m not really into the expensive brands, even though I have some expensive pieces at home that I style and show off once in a while. Generally, I just buy what I like. And I especially love the simple style when you get a pair of basic Levi’s jeans, pair them with a pair of basic shoes, such as Converse, add a white T-Shirt with no print, messy hair, glasses, some chain, and you’re ready to go. You can never mess anything up with this combination. So simplicity is usually the best.
As far as crop tops go, if I had the figure for them, I’d wear them too. I love them and I know it’s like so in right now so watch me get my body together now. I want to lose weight, I want to shape my belly a little bit, so when I get it, I will get to wear that top.
Last question to finish, what would you say to young people who want to follow their dreams but are afraid of prejudice?
I’ve experienced prejudice, so the only advice I can give you is to ignore it and keep going no matter what. And even if someone taps their forehead, saying you’ll never make it, you still might have to make an ass of yourself sometimes. So you can get away with it, so you can show them one day. That’s how it worked for me.
Now these people who were tapping their foreheads in front of me and telling me I’ll never make it, want to work with me in some way and keep in touch with me. And that’s advice for you. Never give up and keep doing what you enjoy, what makes you happy.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading and there’s only one thing left to do: check out the new Footshop collection and always be Proud as Fuck. It doesn’t matter if you’re LGBTQ+, a supporter of the idea, or just like the pieces in this collection.