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Christian Wilkins on dating, pronouns and his role at the Melbourne Cup Carnival


Christian Wilkins contacted fashion designers before he could write his latest job offer as an ambassador for the prestigious Melbourne Carnival.

Logistics be damned, his thoughts immediately turned to the wardrobe.

“Victoria Racing Club expressed an interest and I literally went to Gucci the next day and said, ‘Hi, I’m going to be an ambassador, can I borrow something,’” laughs Wilkins. “They didn’t even officially offer me the role, but I was very happy to do it.”

When one imagines the spectacle of a spring carnival, flashes of intricately designed magicians, flower crowns and magnificent dresses come to mind.

But it’s not often that men’s clothing reaches the same whimsical heights as its female counterpart.

Enter Wilkins, a social media superstar with a rich pedigree who is sure to be a highlight among all the punters when the Flemington carnival kicks off at Derby on Saturday.

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The appointment of the 27-year-old as representative marks a major shift in the VRC’s messaging, making the long-running Fashions on the Field competition gender-neutral for the first time.

The partnership is a match made in heaven as Wilkins has been redefining what it means to be a man in Australia for years now.

“I feel that [the cup carnival] was guided by these very strict rules related to gender, and to tear them away and just let people express themselves as they want to be, that’s such a key ethos that I live by,” Wilkins tells news.com.au.

“I definitely think we’re a little slow on the uptake, but to have an institution like VRC that’s so historic, so ingrained in our culture, to recognize these changes is a big step in the right direction, and it makes me very excited to be the face this”.

And yes, for those wondering, given his fascination with women’s fashion, Wilkins identifies as male.

“They ask me [about pronouns] a lot. I believe that any gender is non-binary, and in no way do I look at myself and say, “I’m a man.” But s/he still resonates with me more than they/them,” says Wilkins.

“I would say I’m non-binary, but I also see myself in he/him pronouns.

“I think we’re constantly discovering ourselves. It’s not that I feel so conflicted that I’m constantly looking and thinking, “What do I like?” I’m just living my life, and if at some point something is more reflective of who I am, then of course I’ll say it. But now I feel very comfortable and very happy.”

While Wilkins has been unashamedly outspoken in the public sphere for some time now, that hasn’t always been the case in private.

Son of a today Showbiz veteran Richard Wilkins recalls how he was shocked when, aged 18, a record industry official gave him judgmental advice.

Wilkins was just beginning to dip his toe into the pool of self-discovery, experimenting with eyeliner and makeup.

“I remember one of the first times I went out I met a guy who worked here in the record industry. And as soon as he found out I was daddy’s boy, he said to me, “I’m going to make sure your daddy never finds out about you, and you never come out of the closet, or you’ll never make it.”

“And I didn’t even dress the way I dress now. I always wanted to, but I didn’t necessarily feel confident because I was afraid people would judge me. And hearing that definitely shook me up because I always knew I wanted to get into this industry and I was worried I wouldn’t be accepted.

“It took me a while to get over it.”

“Never felt the need” to come out

Wilkins admits he never properly had the dreaded “coming out” conversation with his parents, including his mother Michelle Burke.

But it had nothing to do with shame.

Wilkins has idolized Disney princesses since childhood. In the beloved animations, he was better seen as a figure in a glittering dress, pursued by Prince Charming.

His parents already knew. In fact, they encouraged his penchant for the theater.

“I definitely knew that my mom and dad accepted who I had become,” Wilkins says. “They encouraged me to do ballet, they encouraged me when I wanted to wear a dress.

“When I was in kindergarten, I did soccer and ballet, and I realized that not all boys want to do both, and that I’m a little different.

“So I never went out with my parents because I never felt the need to. Never expected that “you’re natural until proven otherwise”.

In addition to the support of those close to him, Wilkins credits finding like-minded people in the LGBTQ+ community with giving him the confidence to “turn the haters around” and be his true self.

And then sometime in 2016 or 2017, Wilkins attended a public event with his father when he took the plunge and donned his best outfit to date.

“I wore a black lace shirt and a black skirt, and it was the first time I’d really worn something a little feminine,” he says.

“And my dad just said, ‘Wow, look what we have here.’ And I remember that moment when I thought, “Yes, this is me dressing the way I want to dress now.”

Family is the focus

Having a family member in the public eye for life and counting today co-host Carl Stefanovic, the admitted “second father,” made Wilkins develop a thick skin.

Having said that, he still struggles when two TV legends are in the spotlight, especially when today in late 2019, there was a massive reshuffle that saw Stefanovic and Wilkins lose their breakfast seats.

“Every time I hear people say bad things about my father or Karl, who I’m also very close to, it hurts me because they’re really talented, really hot, sweet people and none of them deserve anything negative “, he says.

“People don’t see the work that goes into what they do. And especially in this day and age, so few people who work in this industry are actually passionate about what they do and it’s not about the fame and they’re one of the few people who, apart from the fame, just love what they do and so it works well.”

He now praises his famous father, but Wilkins admits it took him a hot minute to realize his dad was “cool” – a penny dropped in 2009 at the London premiere of the blockbuster.

“I was such a Harry Potter fan, and at the time Half-Blood Prince The premiere, Daniel Radcliffe gets out of the limo and all the world’s media is lined up, and he skips half the line from the English press and walks up the carpet to my father and says, “Richard, how are you?” Very glad to see you, thank you for coming.”

“And I thought, ‘Does Harry Potter know my father?’ That might have been the first time I was like, “Oh shit, my dad is cool.”

But having a cool dad, a line-up of glitzy gigs and a very public life makes things a little tricky on the dating front.

Wilkins, who is happily single, says that until now he has struggled to find someone who appreciates his feminine side.

“In the gay community, I feel like masculinity is still held up as an ideal, and it’s definitely hard for me to find someone who appreciates the fact that I can still be that and still be feminine,” he says.

“But on the other hand, I’m doing so well right now. My friends say, “Now is the time for you to meet the love of your life.” And I say, “I don’t have time to meet the love of my life.”

“I’m lucky to love what I do”

You’d be forgiven for thinking, on the surface, that Wilkins is a diva. His backless dress at this year’s Logies made Mariah Carey millions.

But any brand, publicist or player who has dealt with him will tell you that he is far from alone.

Wilkins prides herself on her work ethic and commitment, while effortlessly leaving a sprinkling of fairy dust in her wake with her warmth and happy attitude.

“I think [who I am] “It’s a combination of the fact that my father is such a professional, and I’ve always grown up watching his professionalism and appreciating that, with my mom not being in the industry and very private,” he says.

“And really, I’m just lucky enough to love what I do. So few people truly love their jobs, and I appreciate the effort everyone else puts into making it work.

“And isn’t that the best thing? To love what you do and just appreciate it for what it is? I’m glad it makes me.”

And with an exciting yet-to-be-announced project, Wilkins’ tale is just beginning.

Originally published as Christian Wilkins on dating, pronouns and his big role at the Melbourne Cup Carnival


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