Photographer Thomas Knights is once again showcasing the heat that red-head guys can generate.
For the 2019 calendar, Knights has teamed up with art director Elliott James Frieze and twelve hand-picked guys to create Red Hot American Boys.
As we count down to the launch of the calendar, we caught up with Sean-James Murphy who features as Mr March.
What made you want to be part of the Red Hot calendar?
From the very first calendar back in 2014, I wanted to be part of the project. I thought its mission to re-brand the ginger male stereotype was desperately needed!
Being an actor, I’m used to a certain level of rejection, but shortly after the first calendar came out, I was rejected from a big role because of my colouring. One producer loudly proclaimed mid-way through a callback audition — “Yeah but, a redhead love interest, well, that’s just is not believable…” to which the room nodded in earnest agreement.
Does being a red-head help you to stand out in a crowd?
Absolutely! Being a very tall red head, with glowing pale skin, I’m always easy to find — be it a crowded music festival or a low light environment. I tend to stand out.
There is one exception — when I am back in Ireland with my aggressively ginger family. The ginger gene runs very strong in the Murphy family. I’m tiny next to the strong ginger women of the Murphy family.
Ever been picked on or made fun of because of your red hair?
Being teased about my hair and freckles was the one constant of my childhood! I recently posted on my Instagram a story about repeatedly being called Fanta Pants — which was particularly hurtful at the time.
Eventually I learned to laugh it off, and then later I learned to defend myself with witty comebacks. Every redhead I know has a good sense of humour. I think, in part, it’s because we look different growing up, and often takes some time for us to mature into our looks. We tend to not take ourselves too seriously.
The risk is those insults or ‘fun’ people have over our appearance, leaves us with a lot of internalised shame about those things that make us different. I know I used to hate the way I looked, but thanks to some of Hollywood’s most patient therapists, I now know that there’s a big difference between being part of the joke, and actually feeling like I am a joke.
Proceeds from the calendar will support the work of Athlete Ally — why do you feel that it’s important to have LGBTQ athletes as role models?
Representation matters, in all professions. Particularly in the often aggressively hetero-normative world of professional sports, where LGBTQ people can get pushed out of pursuing their dreams due to a very real fear that they won’t be accepted. Or, they simply don’t even consider such endeavours, because they’ve never seen anyone like them do it before. That’s why Athlete Ally is so important, it champions these athletes and makes them visible. That means it’s going to be easier for the next person, and the next person.
Supporting Athlete Ally is also deeply personal to me. Two years ago I travelled to Nashville to see my brother compete in and win the Bingham Cup — the international gay rugby tournament named after Mark Bingham. My brother built the team from the ground up. He both coached and played in the team, even when they got kicked out of training grounds and told they couldn’t play in the straight leagues. Their team is made up of LGBTQ athletes and their straight allies. I think stories like that go a long way to improving the culture in sport, to finally be more inclusive and accepting.
What was the shoot like for the calendar? It looks like it was a sunny day? Did you have plenty of sun-block?
Honestly, I was so nervous I could barely sleep for days, so it’s all a blur. I do remember a bus load of tourists taking photos of me getting baby oil rubbed on me, which made me laugh.
In the end I decided to relax and enjoy it. I also saw it as a ‘Fuck you!’ to all the haters who called me Fanta Pants growing up. Sadly, in all the excitement of the shoot, I did forget to wear sunscreen. So yeah, I looked like a lobster for about five days after.
You’re Mr March in the 2019 calendar — are you happy being Mr March?
I am Mr March, and darn proud of it!
My siblings all have their birthdays in March, so I’m deeply grateful that next year, this calendar will focus some attention back on me.
What do you want people to feel when they look at your photo for the month of March?
Other than wildly aroused? I’d love it if people look at my photo and see that behind the apparent confidence is a man who let negative comments define him for too long. You don’t need to look a certain way, to feel a certain way.
Launch event for Red Hot American Boys