Duncan James and his partner Rodrigo Reis are clearly overjoyed at being reunited after spending the last lockdown apart.
Here – in an interview and video available exclusively for OK! VIPs – the loved-up couple lift the lid on what it's been like spending the past year apart and their exciting plans for a jam-packed future together.
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Kissing and looking longingly at each other throughout our Zoom call before their adorable shoot exclusively for OK! VIPs members, Blue singer Duncan James, 43, says it has been “difficult”.
Brazilian-born Rodrigo Reis, 27, is living in Belgium and coronavirus restrictions mean they have been separated for the past four months.
And being in different countries has put a strain on their two-and-a-half-year relationship, with Duncan telling us he even sought therapy to get through the testing times.
Having travelled to the UK briefly for work, Rodrigo was back in Duncan’s arms following a period of self-isolation for our shoot, where they told us about their plans for the future – which include Rodrigo moving here and even talk of marriage and babies! And the couple were also keen to talk to us about LGBTQ+ awareness.
“It’s important to do this, to stand up and say, ‘It’s fine to be gay. Love is love,’” says Rodrigo. Duncan, who admits he’s a little nervous about the shoot, adds, “There’s a whole community out there who are frightened to come out or talk about their relationship. To see someone they might recognise doing it, it gives them that sense of, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”
When OK! went to press, Rodrigo was back in Belgium. And while visa restrictions mean he is unable to move here for another year, the couple are looking at buying a house in east London – and possibly even a home
Here, they open up about their challenging time, what Duncan’s daughter Tianie-Finn, 16, makes of Rodrigo and the kind of wedding they hope to have…
Hi, both! Duncan, this is your first shoot with a male partner. How do you feel about it?
Duncan: I’ve never really done a lot of these things throughout my career, only with my daughter and the boys [from Blue], so it is a bit nerve-racking. I’m quite a private person and putting myself out there is something I’ve never really done.
Rodrigo: I’m cool and really chilled. I’m very secure about us. Duncan’s more nervous than me.
Duncan: But I am really proud to be doing this shoot with Rodrigo.
So, when did you both meet?
Duncan: Three years ago this November. Me and the boys were in Brussels doing a concert and we went to this after-party at the Radisson Blu hotel. Rodrigo was there with his friends, drinking. We started talking and that was it.
Rodrigo: I didn’t know who you guys were. I just said, “Oh my God, he’s handsome!”
So you’d never heard of Blue, Rodrigo?
Rodrigo: No, because where I come from in Brazil, Blue are not as famous.
How have you coped with the long-distance relationship?
Duncan: It’s been really hard. This last lockdown has been the toughest for us. We got into a rhythm of seeing each other every weekend. And then lockdown came and we didn’t see each other for five months, which was really hard. But we got through that.
Rodrigo: After five months, we met in Germany.
Duncan: Then we had a holiday together. And then we had Christmas together and that was the last time I saw you.
So, you’ve had four months of being apart. Have you talked about Rodrigo moving here?
Duncan: We have definitely had this discussion.
Rodrigo: In July I can apply for my passport, which will give me so much more freedom to be with Duncan. We have plans to live together and we want to.
How much longer have you got to wait until it’s possible to move to the UK?
Rodrigo: One year. It’s not too bad.
Duncan: In eight months, hopefully he’ll be able to have his European passport.
What’s kept you together through this testing time?
Duncan: Rodrigo’s friend in Belgium had an English boyfriend. They were together a year-and-a-half and this last lockdown they broke up, because they could never see each other. I said, “Rodrigo, do you think we’re going to break up?” And he said, “We’re not like them, we’re a lot stronger.”
This pandemic is not just destroying lives through sickness, it’s destroying relationships and businesses. People like us, in long-distance relationships, it’s had such a huge impact on our lives, because it’s taken away our opportunity to see each other, just because we live in different countries. How can you have a relationship with someone when you can’t see them? It’s horrible. But we’re lucky we’re still here and we’ve found a way through.
Was there a part of you that was worried about breaking up?
Duncan: Rodrigo has so much positivity, I’m more the “Negative Nancy”. Being a bit older, I think, “How are we going to get through this? If we never see each other, should we look at breaking up?” And Rodrigo’s always said, “Hey, stop, wake up, stop being negative.”
Rodrigo: You have to be positive in everything you do.
Duncan: I started having therapy during this lockdown as my anxiety was getting worse and I wasn’t able to see Rodrigo. I’ve also been living back with my mum and I haven’t been able to see my daughter, she’s been in isolation in Manchester. I was getting a bit depressed and a bit crazy. Rodrigo said, “Speak to someone.” I started speaking to a therapist online and it really helped. It’s helped with my own anxieties and worries, and it was nice to have someone to talk to. In Britain, we always think, “Oh, you only need a therapist if you’re crazy.” But when you look at people in America, they have therapists for everything. I think it’s been important for us as well.
What was your trigger for getting therapy, Duncan?
Duncan: It was just a build-up of things. We’ve all struggled with our mental health, especially this
last lockdown. It’s been tough. I got to a point where I said to Rodrigo, “I feel I have no one to talk to. I can’t escape, I can’t do anything. It’s awful.”
Sounds like it’s been a hard road to get to this point…
Duncan: It took me a long time to come out as gay. I was frightened to be me. I felt ashamed. I’ve never done anything like this with a male partner before because I always felt scared. It took me a while to finally admit that I was gay. It’s taken 10 years since I first came out to feel really comfortable in my skin, and now I’m trying to get involved and do different things for charities, and I go to a lot of LGBTQ+ events.
Now, coming forward and doing a shoot with another man, I feel so confident and happy that I can do that and say, “I don’t care what you think. If you don’t like gay people, that’s your problem!” A lot of my fans in the UK have been really supportive, but I’ve got a lot of international fans who still find it hard to accept I’m gay. Rodrigo and I posted a picture and there were a few bad comments, like, “It’s disgusting – look at you two. You’re going to go to hell.” We’re very lucky in the UK that we’re such an open country, we’re very diverse and encouraging. But there are a lot of countries that are anti-gay.
What does your daughter Tianie-Finn make of Rodrigo, Duncan?
Duncan: [To Rodrigo] You’ve only met her a couple of times, haven’t you? She understands I’m in a relationship with Rodrigo and she’s always liked him and got on with him.
Rodrigo: She’s lovely. Very smart and very good at what she does [ballet].
Duncan: I’m happy that she likes Rodrigo.
Would you like to have children of your own?
Duncan: I’m 43 and Rodrigo’s 27. There’s quite an age gap and I’ve had a child. [To Rodrigo] But you’ve always wanted children, haven’t you?
Rodrigo: It’s my dream to have children but I live my life step by step. I want to get my passport first and then I can think about having a child.
Would you be open to having children then, Duncan?
Duncan: Yeah, we’ve talked about it. Once Rodrigo is in the UK, finding a place to live together would be the next thing. We can’t raise a child living in different countries. Down the line, it’s something we’d talk about – but right now it’s not on the horizon.
And what about getting married?
Duncan: Yeah, we’ve talked about that. But we have to wait and see how this crazy world pans out. It’s difficult – Rodrigo’s very close to his mother and she lives in Brazil. With the way of the world at the moment… we’d never get married without our mothers being there. Right now, our plan is to get some stability and get a house together.
Rodrigo: I want to marry you and be with you forever but it’s time to get ourselves together.
Duncan: The pandemic has really slowed us down. We were going at a very fast pace to start, we were inseparable.
You’ve faced everything in your relationship so far!
Duncan: We have and we’re still together. And we’re finding ways of staying together.
EXCLUSIVE TO OK! VIP CLUB
What kind of wedding do you want?
Duncan: Somewhere on a nice beach, with a little church. Somewhere quiet with just a handful of family and friends. I wouldn’t want a big thing. We’re quite private and we both love the sea.
What do you love most about each other?
Duncan: I love Rodrigo’s positivity and his smile – he has a very cute smile. He’s just a lovely person and has so much warmth.
Rodrigo: He always makes me laugh. The way he loves me, the way he treats me. And it’s amazing the way he treats his family.
What do the Blue boys make of Rodrigo?
Duncan: They all love Rodrigo. We’re [Duncan and bandmates Antony Costa, Lee Ryan and Simon Webbe] still the best of friends and they are my brothers and my family. I’m happy Rodrigo’s had a chance to meet them.
There was a story saying you’re helping Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding as she battles breast cancer, Duncan. Is that true?
Duncan: Yeah, I’m really good friends with Sarah. When I heard about her cancer, I reached out to her straight away and I’ve put her in touch with what I call “a miracle worker”, who helps people with alternative therapies. I said, “Sarah, speak to this person, he’s amazing.” I really wanted Sarah to get as much help as possible. I was so sad to hear about her being diagnosed with cancer and I hope and pray she’s going to be OK. She’s written this book [Hear Me Out] and I think she’s really been blown away by all the support she’s had.
It’s great to see that you’ll be appearing on the next series of Celebrity MasterChef, Duncan. Did you know any of the other celebs in the line-up beforehand?
Duncan: [Former EastEnders actress] Rita Simons is my best friend and we have known each other 23 years, so I was thrilled when she told me she was doing MasterChef as well. We were in a band together before Blue and lived together when I first moved to London. We’ve wanted to work together for years but just haven’t had the chance with her other jobs and EastEnders. It was amazing to connect and work with her, and especially on this iconic show.
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