Voices: I used to love Blue – but Lee Ryan proves that stars always let you down

Voices: I used to love Blue – but Lee Ryan proves that stars always let you down

So, Blue star Lee Ryan has been found guilty of racially aggravated assault after drunkenly telling a Black flight attendant “I want your chocolate children”. What a disappointment for teenage Nadine.

During my childhood years, I was a big fan of Blue and Ryan – the lead singer. I enjoyed classics like “All Rise” and “If You Come Back”, which had 13-year-old me crooning along. Reading about this case, though, I immediately thought, “oh dear, not Lee; this changes everything about the music”.

Many will have enjoyed him playing the role of Woody in BBC soap Eastenders. But to the OG fans like me, he was always, “Lee from Blue”.

Yet now, after reading about how Ryan reacted on being refused more alcohol aboard a plane journey from Glasgow to London on 31 July last year, making comments about flight attendant Leah Gordon’s looks – calling her a “chocolate cookie” before grabbing her wrists, attempting to kiss her and saying things like “you’re my chocolate darling” – I know that the saying about “stars always letting you down” is, sadly, true.

In his defence, a reportedly tearful Ryan told Ealing Magistrates Court on Thursday: “My band member is Black, I’m not racist, I’ve had Black girlfriends, mixed-race girlfriends. It was banter, just drunk banter I suppose, there was no malice or intention to upset anyone.”

My initial response was, “Lee, you leave Simon Webbe (band mate) out of this! This is about your actions.”

Boasting about proximity to Black people as a means to serve their own interests and avoid taking accountability for abusive behaviour is something that we see people accused of racism do far too often.

Though Ryan was drunk – he claimed to have consumed a whole bottle of port wine with some cheese prior to the BA flight – it’s a widely held belief that when someone is under the influence of alcohol, their true self comes to light. Hence the saying, “in vino veritas”.

It’s worth noting, though, that several Black public figures – many of them friends and colleagues of Ryan – have been jumping to his defence, saying that he’s not racist. But does that matter? The fact is that he was found guilty of racially aggravated assault in a court of law where his language was condemned as “derogatory”. (I was somewhat surprised at this outcome; after all, courts are often accused of failing Black victims of crime.)

It’s always disappointing when stars misbehave and end up letting us down. That’s the thing about admiring exalted public figures from afar though, isn’t it? You receive a rude awakening when their flaws are exposed, be it through the press or during personal interactions.

Perhaps this should serve as a reminder of the importance of being mindful of our humanity; and resisting the urge to “stan” anyone, particularly those you don’t personally know. To take people as you find them, without the assumption that their status – or, indeed your own – equals perfection.

Me? I don’t go hard for a soul, really. Guilty by Blue will likely sound a little different moving forward because I think it’s often difficult to separate the artist from their music... despite polarised opinions about the extent to which that’s true.

“He was making comments about my complexion, you’re my chocolate darling, my chocolate cookie, and I’m going to have your chocolate children,” his victim Leah told the court.

“It felt like he was saying I was beautiful for a Black person because of the way he was describing my colour. To get comments about my colour whether intentional or not, was just unacceptable and so derogatory. (...) I don’t go to work to be assaulted or harassed.”

It’s right that, in this case, the voice of a victim in this situation was heard.

But something still doesn’t sit right with me: Ryan will be sentenced on 24 February and will be touring, in the meantime, raking in cash – as Leah comes to terms with how his behaviour left her feeling. He’ll be alright. Will she?