What we can learn from George Michael.

“I’ve achieved what every artist wants, which is that some of their work will outlive them.” — George Michael

It’s been widespread breaking news since Christmas Day — George Michael passed away, much too soon, at the age of 53.

Growing up in a household where music was always a staple, this somewhat rocked my world. When I was as young as 3 or 4, I can remember being introduced to various artists, mostly artists that my mother and father grew up listening to and learned to love. The list spanned across a wide aray of genres — anything from Van Halen to Bon Jovi, from The Police to LFO, and to none other than George Michael.

George Michael was someone that was adored by both of my parents; my mother loved him for his looks and charasmatic dance moves, my dad for his unquestionable musical genius. You don’t find artists like George Michael today — ones who write, produce, and perform their own songs. He was a true talent.

He found success during both his career with Wham! and his solo career. After winning 3 Brit Awareds, 4 VMA’s, 3 AMA’s and 2 Grammy’s, having 8 number one hits on the US Billboard Hot 100, and being one of the best-selling British acts of all time, it is almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t know at least one of his songs.

For today’s celebrities, the preferred method of coming out is to be on the cover of a magazine or to formulate an intricate tweet or Facebook post, ensuring they get the proper amount of fame and are talked about on every early-morning network show. Mr. Michael was quite the opposite. He had a quiet aesthetic. He never truly had to come out, as those who knew what to look for, knew. He avoided controversy by being subdued against the provocative queer aesthric given off by many of his peers. The single earring, the tight denim, the coded messages in his songs. He let audiences decide what they had seen or heard.

He was never ashamed of any of his beliefs or actions. Even after his arrest for lewd behavior in a public restroom in Los Angeles, he addressed it with poise. It was after this event, in the infamous CNN interview in which he announced to the world that he was gay. For many years following his coming out, he was open about the thrill public sex gave him, he was open about having non monogamous relationships, he was open about his entire life. Not once did he hide who he truly was. He was an activist for HIV/AIDS before it was “cool,” he was an activist for LGBT rights, he had a positive attitude toward sexuality, and most importantly, he was a role model.

Some important things we all can take away from George Michael are

to always stay true to yourself,

“Be good to yourself ’cause nobody else has the power to make you happy.” — George Michael

to never be ashamed of who you are,

“I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I’m in a relationship with a man right now. … I don’t feel any shame.” — Michael to CNN in April 1998

to work your way to success,

I watch people who are not driven by creativity any more, and I think how dull it must be to produce the same kind of thing. If you don’t feel you’re reaching something new, then don’t do it.” — George Michael

to stay humble,

I believe I have some kind of gift, but I don’t believe in myself as a star. To be happy as a star, you have to believe you’re really removed from people. I’ve never been comfortable with that. I know that deep down I’m the same as everyone else.” — Michael to USA TODAY in September 1990

and most importantly, to listen to your heart.

“You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.” — George Michael

Rest easy, George Michael. You will be missed.

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