Boy George talks Culture Club, reality TV, meeting Arnie, and cookery tweets

At 54, singer, DJ, reality TV star and all round ‘creative-type person’ Boy George says he’s grown into himself. He waxes lyrical about his music, meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger, navigating social media and his ‘wonderful’ life

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 8:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 8:01pm

Fresh off a seven-day run of concerts with fellow ’80s icon Cyndi Lauper, Boy George is taking on the world with Culture Club.

The band kicked off a 50-city world tour in Australia last week, but that’s not all that’s keeping Boy George busy. The 54-year-old entertainer just wrapped his first season as a coach on The Voice UK and will appear on the rebooted Celebrity Apprentice with Arnold Schwarzenegger later this year. George is also keeping up with his healthy lifestyle and 22.6kg weight loss, making vegetarian meals and considering a possible Boy George cookbook. Plus Culture Club is finishing its first album of new music in more than 15 years, Tribes.

Wearing immaculate eye make-up and a natty suit, George sat down to talk about finding fulfilment onstage and off.

How do you balance introducing new music with playing the hits people want to hear?

Everything I think in life is about context and intention. So when you go onstage, you go on there to have a good time, and you smile and you engage with the audience and you invite them in. For me, I’ve gotten better at that since I’ve gotten older. I never was good at that when I was younger.

What changed?

It’s experience but it’s also changing your mindset. I think for me one of the big things was realising that being Boy George is my job. It’s what I do. When I go onstage, I’m going to work ... I feel like my performance is about an emotional connection. I want to connect with people, whether it’s a romantic song or a happy song.

How enjoyable is the reality-TV dimension of Boy George?

I think these days, as an artist, you have to be slightly entrepreneurial. ... Nobody really sells records any more. I mean, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, I think the young kids sell a lot of records. But for an older kind of artist, more of a sort of heritage, vintage type of artist, you have to think outside the box. ... So for me with The Apprentice, it kind of blew out my business brain. I don’t really think of myself as a business person. I think of myself more as a creative-type person, but it’s quite nice to be challenged physically and mentally.

How did you get along with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

He is funny. Some great one-liners, some great banter between him and the contestants. And he’s good. I think people are going to be really surprised. He’s really good at it. Totally different energy to our potential president, but he’s cool.

You’ve had an incredible career and also gone through your struggles. What do you say to young people who might be going through difficult times?

I don’t know whether when I was 20 years old or 25 years old if somebody would have come along with incredible wisdom whether I would have really listened. Because I think we grow into ourselves. And unfortunately we do it in the spotlight, so when we make mistakes, everybody knows about it. So you’re lucky if you reach the point where you go, “OK, I have a wonderful life ... I fly around the world, stay in beautiful places, people are generally quite sweet to me, what’s to complain about?” But I think you have to get there ... And it’s taken me the best part of 54 years to reach that point where I’m like, “I’m very lucky, I’m lucky, I’m blessed” – all of those things. I wish I could impart that to other people but I think when you’re young, you just don’t listen.

How do you navigate social media?

I find that most people just want me to say “happy birthday” to their mum or wish them good luck with their exams. You get the odd person who will write something nasty and the trick is not to engage with them on any level. ... Don’t talk about things you don’t like. Talk about music that you love, books that you’ve read. I put a lot of recipes online. I’m always tweeting about food and things that I’ve made.

Could there be a Boy George cookbook?

There possibly could, yeah, if we find the right deal.