Boy George has been spending a lot of time playing himself on the small screen these days. He's served as a mentor on The Voice UK. He's popped up on The New Celebrity Apprentice. And, of course, he's BFFs with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills pal Dorit Kemsley. But long before he made a name for himself on reality TV, Boy George was one of the most recognizable faces and voices of pop music in the '80s as the frontman for Culture Club (who recently reunited again in 2016).
Get to know the legend a little better, below.
1. His Name Really *Is* George
He was born George Alan O'Dowd in 1961 and grew up in the suburbs outside of London. But, being the unique persona that he is, he tweaked his name to fit his personality — and he totally owns his stage name, even as he's gotten older. "I didn’t want to confuse people by becoming The Artist Formerly Known as. Boy George is a brand that I created and is familiar to people. Heaven knows they’ve had enough confusion. I’m not deluded. I know I’m an older man, but I’m a boy at heart. Life is about learning to be yourself, and I think I’ve gone in this interesting full circle. In spirit, I’m very much back to the person I was when I first started my career," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. "There’s a lightness about me; a certain kind of reflectiveness and humor I’ve attained and have been hard won."
2. He Has an Interesting Connection to the Sex Pistols
Boy George with Bow Wow Wow lead singer, Annabella. Photo: Twitter/@KCMANC
Before launching Culture Club, he had a brief tenure in Bow Wow Wow, under the name Lieutenant Lush (clearly the guy loves a stage name). He ended up in the band thanks to Malcolm McLaren, who managed the Sex Pistols. He eventually left the group after clashing with the group's lead singer, Annabella Lwin. So, George moved on, found a new squad, and launched Culture Club after his stint in that first group. Culture Club released their debut album, Kissing to Be Clever, in 1982.
3. He Has Some Prestigious Hardware
Clearly creating Culture Club was a move that paid off. Two years after dropping that first release, Culture Club was the darling of the 1984 awards season, taking home the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and also two Brit Awards that year for Best British Group and Best British Single for "Karma Chameleon." Over the course of the band's tenure, they've also been nominated at the MTV Video Music Awards, the Juno Awards, and the American Music Awards. As a solo artist, Boy George was up for Best Dance Recording at the 1999 Grammys.
4. He's Also Topped the Charts
Thanks to the band's sound, their tracks "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" and "Karma Chameleon" have landed at No. 1 on the charts in the U.K., with the latter also topping the chart in the U.S. Additionally, their breakthrough 1983 album Colour by Numbers shot to the top of the charts in their native U.K. and found success stateside, charting to No. 2 in the U.S.
5. He's Mixed Business with Pleasure
George and Culture Club drummer Jon Moss carried on a secret relationship in the '80s, the singer revealed in his 1995 memoir Take It Like a Man. He later reflected on the current state of their relationship in an interview with THR, sharing, "I would never do Culture Club without him. We’re sufficiently mature enough now to do it. We’ve been writing this year and it’s been very enjoyable. My relationship with Jon is like a mythical beast. We’re really past all that. Jon’s been married; he’s got children. When people say we’ve had a relationship, it’s kind of mad. [Laughs] I know what we did, but let’s pretend we didn’t. With a lot of my ex-partners, I’ve been able to become much better friends than I was as a partner. Some of the people you do have relationships with — men and women — if you’re lucky, you end up being much better friends, and much kinder to each other. I have a lot of ex-partners I’m very close to, and there’s no issue. Not now, or in the future."
In addition to Jon, George also shared in his memoir that he had a secret affair with Kirk Brandon of the punk bands Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny. However, he's quick to point out that his comments about an affair with Prince were meant in jest. “Of course that’s not true. It was a joke,” he told Wendy Williams in 2016. “I’m a massive Prince fan. I met him once in Italy and he was suitably eccentric. He was exactly what you’d expect him to be. He was Prince!”
6. He Isn't Afraid to Feud
The Georges back in the day.
He's gotten into some verbal scuffles with the likes of Liam Payne from One Direction, Morrissey, and fellow British pop icon, the late George Michael, but they apparently settled sometime ago, he revealed in 2010. He also recently butted heads with fellow The New Celebrity Apprentice contestant Jon Lovitz. But, there's still one feud that stands out to him. "I had a pretty fierce one with [singer/TV presenter] Pete Burns, but I’ve kind of grown to love Pete Burns now. He’s such a great Brit eccentric — I just have a lot of affection for him now and we kind of transcended our youthful differences. We were pretty scathing, but it was kind of funny as well," he told Billboard in 2015. "He gave as good as he got."
7. He's a Style Icon Inspired by Style Icons
While many teens in the '80s (and even some celebs to this day) copied Boy George's eccentric, androgynous style, he was equally inspired by a certain rock icon that came before him in particular. "There’s a whole string of people who inspired me. In the ‘80s, we were all Bowie kids, very much influenced by him. The kind of freedoms that he allowed in the ‘70s let us take it even further. I look at it like a daisy chain that goes back to Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp. Each person who puts him or herself on the style chopping block makes it easier for the next generation. Myself, Madonna and Prince allowed for Lady Gaga. Those are great and powerful references. In the same way that Bowie was a touchstone for me, Madonna was for Lady Gaga. And now that’s something to be proud of," he told THR. "I don’t see anybody at the moment who’s doing me. I’m still doing me."
8. He's a Vegan
After battling drugs (and even being arrested for it and going to rehab in 2005), the singer seems to now be living a very healthy life. He's currently a vegan. "I’m in L.A., which is heaven for me. I couldn’t wait to get here. I’ve eaten so much today; it’s been great. You have that great store Erehwon, which is like raw heaven. Obviously, traveling around on tour, it’s difficult finding places to eat," he told THR. "Eating like this is something I’ve been playing around with for a few years, on and off. And I just decided to stick with it, which is difficult when you’re traveling because everyone hates you if you won’t eat what they do."
9. He's Also Buddhist
Boy George practices Buddhism to keep himself centered. "I’m a practicing Buddhist, I chant every day and that definitely helps me to get things in perspective. I approach everything I do now with a lot more joy and satisfaction," he told Billboard. "I get excited about what I do now, whereas I think at the height of all the craziness I wouldn’t say I wasn’t grateful, I just didn’t have to be necessarily because everything just happened. One minute I was a club kid, the next minute I was famous all over the world."
10. Oh, and He Slays. No Explanation Necessary.
Check out another Boy George moment, below.