WHO IS THE MONA LISA MAN?

“Homophobia has so many layers , from extreme hate to subtle prejudice.
I wrote “So Gay” as my personal story against homophobia”
– says musical artist, fashion designer, performer and activist Hunter. Born in Dar Es Salaam and now currently living in Cape Town, Hunter is the epitomy of creative expression and testament to the fact that this always comes with a knowledge of pain and suffering, that ultimately leads to a greater sense of self worth and power. Hunter’s So Gay has been touted as a Gay anthem and received huge respect and accolades from some of the top UK press. His brand new single, following ‘So Gay’ – Mona Lisa Man is out now. We asked Hunter some personal questions about his journey back to the colour.

Your new single Mona Lisa man – you sing about being addicted to pain? Can you elaborate for us?


‘Mona Lisa Man’ was written as a way of my healing and understanding of my addiction to suffering. I believe what happens on the outside in life is a mirror reflection of ones inner belief system and mindset. I realised I keep repeating unhealthy relationships and I was the common factor in these scenarios. I had a low self esteem and believed I did not deserve love. This had become reality in my relationships where I would chase and suffer for love . The pain , like joy , became a feeling I got used to expect and became the norm . Through many years of self discovery , I now know what is self love and what I truly deserve. It’s a daily practice to remember who I am via meditation and my commitment to love myself and knowing I deserve all that I wish .

What was it like growing up in a country where it is essentially illegal to be who you are and love who you love? Do you think you have overcome this past hurt and if so how did you overcome it? Did you have to hide from your friends and family and what sort of toll did that take on you?

I was born in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania , and left when I was 2.5 years to be brought up in London. In those days, as a teenager, it was not easy to be gay . I grew up as a teenager thinking something was wrong with me and remained in the closet until I was forced out by my uncle to tell my dad at 21.  I had no gay friends , all my friends were straight. Growing up in london I had my share of verbal abuse harassment for expressing myself in my clothing choices.  I would be shouted at  and chased, with abusive gay slurs .When my father became ill I moved back to Dar es Salaam where it is illegal to be gay. I led a non gay life for 9 years . There have been many hate crimes against gays there, as there have been around the world. I never took a stand , but when I moved from Dar es Salaam, returning to London I wrote “So Gay . I never had planned to write a song like this , it was the right time for me to finally stand up for myself .Homophobia has so many layers, from extreme hate to subtle prejudice.  
I wrote “So gay” as my personal story against homophobia I am no less of a man because I choose to love another man. I never expected it to be received so well by the music press and named a gay anthem. My life’s journey has been to uncover who I am as an artist, a man, a gay man and stand tall.

So Gay’ was your debut single and anthem and a big F you to Homophobes. Tell us about that – did you receive any backlash from this?
I wrote ‘So Gay’ as my affirmation of strength against homophobia. Every time I sing it I am empowered. I chose to create a video that highlights the present day injustice towards homosexuals globally. Some countries still uphold the death sentence for being homosexual. The video caused many right wing and conservative bodies to be upset . I was left many comments when the video was released and we had over 3,6K Views on you tube . I believe if you are authentic and showcase injustice, you will have reactions from people who feel they need to defend themselves. These were many homophobes in this case. I have only just begun this journey with “ So Gay” and am sure I will  hear from many upset people .. but I ask .. why are you upset ? Let’s look at how you think, and if I am given a chance to change one person’s mind , that love is love , then all the negative comments have been worth it .Gays rule the world after all .


Besides being a musician, you express yourself in other ways by fashion design, dance, etc. How do you keep the creativity going? Are there some days when you feel artists block and if not, how do you constantly strive to be creative?

I believe creativity is a blessing from the divine and I have been given a gift. I believe you must work at cultivating your gift and respecting it . I love fashion and dance. I was a hyper kid that would dance for hours as a release wearing my mum’s flowing nightgowns. I always knew, age 7, I wanted to be a singer and dancer and as I grew up my gift of creativity and imagination has been my super power. Yes.. there are days where I feel blocked and then I close my eyes and seek advise from my higher guides and all of a sudden a new idea appears, or I ll go for a walk and I ll see something that inspires me. I believe “inspiration“ is being a vessel for the universe to shine through my thoughts. I see my world in full Technicolor and with soundtrack . When I wake up I give thanks for another day to see the colours of life. Life is hard , life throws things that are out of your control, unfair, tragic and I am human with all my emotions and limits but I am blessed that I can express my world through songs, dance and fashion ..I surround myself with creative happy people and keep a balance of mind , body and spirit. Keeping a healthy mind is a daily practice of journaling and letting go of the negative self talk that our ego keeps to protect us. I refer to it as my mad monkey mind. I believe living a dream come true has brought many tests and set backs but during this whole journey I have been blessed with a cloak of rainbow jewels that keeps me protected and reflects joy and fun .

To quote you – “On the Inside are hidden stories ..my heart break , my soul journey to heal my brokenness. My song describes how I repeat my patterns and my addiction to pain. And my resolution that I am worthy of love, I am worth more than even I can imagine” 
Can you elaborate on this for us. We live in troubled times, how do you recognize your patterns and over come them?
Life brings you lessons to learn and I believe if the lesson has not been learnt it will come back until you have learnt it. I believed I was non deserving of love, I believed I was not good enough to live the life I dreamed of . These beliefs would materialize in experiences and relationships. I have had my share of heartbreak and devastation and through living through the pain and understanding why I allow it I found Me. I think you can tell I am into self development , awareness of one self is my life’s journey . I have light and dark thoughts within me .. and understanding them  without judgement is where I have uncovered my patterns of self sabotage.
Often , I find, it’s easier to hide rather than show up and be all you can be. There’s a risk in putting yourself out there .. but then I have an energy, a life force that pushes me to show up and take those scary risks. I hope I may inspire others to be themselves and believe they can live the life they love

You are currently living in Cape Town, SA. Why the move to South Africa and what are your plans?

I love Cape Town, it’s so beautiful . I am here because of creativity . I have amazing friends here and I am able to produce my music and design here . It’s a gay city and to have that freedom of being oneself is unlike any other place I have lived in. I do travel a lot also , my record label is in London and family is there, I am a global citizen. My creativity does take me all round the world, but for now .. and for Mona Lisa man .. it’s a song that was born in Cape Town, where I fell in love and out of love, discovering more of me My plans are to create globally, travel globally and live globally ..Being Indian,  born in Africa and raised in London, I’ll always have my suitcases by my door. I love to travel and my dream is to be performing around the globe .


Give us a few negatives and positives about the gay scene in SA and your previous home bases. Do you have absolute support for each other or are there pockets of negativity that can bring each other down?
I am only aware of the gay scene in Cape Town . My gay Cape Town is fabulous! I am a dancer. I love to Dance at Zero21 where the music and vibe is fantastic. Cape Town is a smaller gay community than London, so I have made friends easily because you see the same faces on the dance floor. The other night I went to a bar and the bar man knew my drink order. I believe in being open and loving and I have received that in return . The drag queens in Cape  town are next level, athletes! Cape Town pride was the best pride I’ve ever been to as everyone was smiling and happy. People are people , some will support each other, some won’t , we are all on our own journeys but for me .. I have been accepted and supported and I love it !

You had 2 UK chart successes with So Gay and Bamboo – Has this increased your fan base and how do you interact with your fans?

I still can’t believe that my first 2 record releases were received so well Social media and my web site is where I am lucky to interact with  the beautiful people who felt something when they heard my music . In an instant world where everything is on line , I find there’s no separation when connecting with people. I am always thankful when someone out there in this world took a moment to write to me, to ask me something or share something . A huge thank you for all those that believe in my music . For you , give me , more energy to create .

Where would you say you find your soul inspiration? The place you go to to make you inspired?
For me it’s not a place , it’s a feeling from within. I feel so in tune in nature or within epic architecture, when I am smaller than the surroundings. feel humbled and honoured to be part of this epic world. In Cape Town .. when I stroll down seapoint promenade  I feel the force of crashing waves it reminds me of all the oceans in the world and that I am part of the universe where we are  all energy .. and I tune into those vibrations which elevates my being and I feel my soul shine bright.


Describe a day in the life of Hunter.
I pray, I meditate , I workout , I laugh and cry, make love, I remind myself to love myself more, I eat, I dance , I sing , I write , I chat to my family and friends non Stop, I breathe and light candles. I get excited in clothes shops and see colours everywhere . I hold my best friends  hand and make sure my mascara is on point. I try multiple outfits before I feel one and I never have enough outfits or shoes. I obsess about having a small puppy and then think how will I go on tour with a small puppy? I read positive quotes and smell flowers and I always say thank you and my best deep philosophical conversations are with uber drivers.


Breakfast? Banana or chocolate
Lunch? Salad .. (or chips and pizza) depends on my mood –

Dinner?
Always out with friends.  stir fry Indian food Chinese Pizza 
Favourite song of the moment – Fela In Versace by AKA

Favourite Fashion designer? so many!!!! But if I have to choose today ..Gucci

Favourite book/s? The secret ..

Biggest Dream?
Be on stage with lady Gaga  I’m dressed in a crystal body suit ! 
Favourite destination? – Bali .. my sister and niece took me there ..But I got a whole wide world still to discover. Let the adventure begin.