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Singer Raya tells Laura Enfield why playing the first Herts Pride, in Cassiobury Park in Watford, is so important to her
10:40am Sunday 25th August 2013 in News
MY message is about tolerance, unity and understanding,” says singer Raya who will perform at the first ever Herts Pride next week.
The 32-year-old, full name Suzanne Rayappan, came out as bisexual in her 20s and says: “I think the more it’s spoken about the better it is for other people.
“Some might use it as a gimmick but that belittles what other people have gone through.“ The Pride event in Cassiobury Park on August 31 will be a family fun day celebrating LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) life in the county.
Raya will be among a host of performers including Angie Brown, whose has worked with Fatboy Slim and Lisa Stansfield, Australian Queen of Prides, Kelly Wilde, rapper ENV, who is touring with Tim Westwood, teenage band EverYoung, who met at the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London, and Rickmansworth boy band GingerBrown.
“The event is definitely close to my heart,“ says Raya, who performed to 30,000 people at at Newcastle Pride last month.
“Plenty of my friends and family have experience problems and I think it’s great a Pride has now been organised locally.“ She says revealing her sexuality to family and friends was by no means the hardest thing she has done.
The Hitchin resident had a promising future as a professional badminton player before osteoarthritis robbed her of the chance to compete at the Commonwealth Games and the 2012 Olympics.
She underwent a hip operation in June 2009 and spent months learning how to walk again.
She says: “It was really shocking at first because I had played from the age of nine and it was what I always wanted to do.
“It took a lot of time to deal with, but that’s why I started focussing on music.
“It was a good outlet and helped me to keep positive.“ She juggles her music alongside a full-time job as a fashion merchandiser and works as ambassador of badminton charity Solibad.
She has already recorded a five-track EP and is working on her debut album with producer Matt Foster (credits include M.I.A, and Pixie Lott), Rymez (Tinie Tempah, G-Unit, Wiley) and DJ Limelight from the BBC Radio 1 Asian network.
The striking brunette, who grew up in Stevenage, says: “I’m hoping Herts Pride will boost my fan base.
“People have been really positive so far and music, like sport, is a language everyone can understand.“
- Cassiobury Park, Watford, Saturday, August 31, 11am to 9pm. Details: hertspride.co.uk or facebook.com/hertspride