It’s been a whirlwind, empowering 12 months for singer Sam Smith, and last night they were named Person of the Year at the Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards 2019, powered by Jaguar.
The hit songmaker, who accepted their award during Wednesday night's star-studded event at London's Roundhouse, is one of six stars appearing on the cover of the Attitude Awards issue, available to download and to order globally now.
To mark the occasion, Sam, who came out as non-binary in March and last month announced they would be using gender-neutral they/them pronouns, has penned an exclusive letter in which they open up about the struggles they have faced during their ongoing journey towards self-acceptance.
“When I made my first album, I was a nobody and I felt free to be whoever, and express however, I wanted, but that follow-up album was different," Sam says.
“I didn’t want to disappoint my fans, my record label, or my family. But most importantly myself.
“I almost put on this weird metaphorical hat each morning and would ask myself, ‘What would Sam Smith do?’
“As each day went on, slowly and surely, my suits started to feel like straitjackets and my head started to feel more and more like a prison.”
They add: “It was time for me to set myself free once again.”
As inner turmoil about their gender identity and heartbreak over the end of their first queer relationship led Sam to breaking point, they sought solace and inspiration in artists such as Britney, Whitney, Joni Mitchell and George Michael as they began to embark on a new musical era as their true self.
“I stood up and I thought: ‘Fuck this. It is time. I don’t care if I never sell another record. I can’t do this any more. I miss feeling completely free to be myself’,” Sam explains.
But to find that freedom, Sam needed to find a way to love themself again, to regain control of their narrative and not give the media or other detractors power over.
“I looked in the mirror and all I saw was a huge disconnection,” they recall. “I didn’t like what I was seeing. I didn’t like myself. And that’s absolutely not acceptable.
“As I became more confident and happy in my skin, the war with this 'character' I had created was still very much a war.
“And it still is to this day. But nothing good happens easily.”
Read Sam's exclusive letter in Attitude's Awards issue, out now.