Courtney Michael.
Courtney Michael.
Image: Steve Tanchel for Wanted.

This June, Wanted explores the complex world of masculinity through conversations, personal essays and interviews.

Courtney Michael is an actor, voice actor and model best known for Netflix’s Red Sea Diving Resort and Ridley Scott’s Raised by Wolves. Born in Antigua in the Caribbean, Michael is now based in Cape Town with his family.

Who are you?

I'm from the Caribbean, born in Antigua and my family moved to Florida in the US when I about five or six years old. So even though I have Caribbean heritage, I had my formative years in the US, where I went to elementary, junior, and high school in Tampa, Florida. I [then] chased my girlfriend to Miami, went to college, and then got into showbiz. When you're starting off as a model in the US agents send you to foreign markets to build up your book or your portfolio. SA has always been that kind of Mecca for developing artists.

How would you identify within the spectrum of masculinity?

I see myself as a very strong type, a silver Fox, an alpha male with an acutely developed gravitas that conjures, carries, and imparts powerful, universal, and instantly recognisable masculine sentiments and traits, haha.

How would you define masculinity?

Masculinity is something that is in flux, especially nowadays, especially with the fact that us, as human beings, are at a stage in our evolution where we have to keep redefining ourselves. We must keep up with the fact that we are becoming more and more informed, not only about ourselves and our world, but we're becoming more and more aware of our impact on our world.

What have been your experiences with masculinity?

I think I've largely been unscathed. I haven't had to seek any personal redevelopment. There have been many circumstances, I think within the past 15, 20 years where certain aspects of masculinity have had to be restated, to become not just current, but relevant to the times.

Courtney Michael.
Courtney Michael.
Image: Steve Tanchel for Wanted.

Masculinity has always been equated with rough and aggressive and, boys don't cry and be tough, hubris and all those sorts of things; that has had to change, of course. I think men have had to learn how to get in touch with not just their feminine side, but their inner animals, to be relevant and to be as ideally interactive with an evolving world.

I have a 22-year-old daughter and I've had many speeches from [her]. I've had to deal with toxic masculinity and addressing it. Not that I was toxically masculine, I needed direction and I needed to be called out on certain trains of thought and behaviour that I have been conditioned as a man to believe all my life. Ingrained behaviours that I've had to unlearn and untangle myself from.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Maintain your aura of confidence, seek collegiate friendships with everyone on the same level. Do not prejudge a human being based on their sex, whether it's a woman or a man, do not prejudge someone's humanity based on their sexuality or sexual orientation; that is something that I have had to seek personal redress of my character. I've never been prejudicial or judgmental, so it wasn't hard for me, but what was difficult for me was to unravel the train of thinking and the conditioning that I received growing up in my generation. That was what the challenge was to unravel that way of thinking.

Our world is little, it gets a little smaller every day and it gets a little more vulnerable every day

I feel very solid in my personal masculinity. I'm grateful for that, being trained as an actor has helped immensely, character development has developed my personal empathy to a point where every human being that I encounter is an adventure. Interactional circumstances for me are a pleasure as opposed to a bore or a chore.

How do you think the future, like your daughter's generation, will change in regard to identity and gendered binaries?

The jury's still out on that one because while I see that there is a lot more openness and acceptance of variations of thought, I think that this information age still has yet a few curve balls to throw to the human race. I think that we are going to be challenged more and more as we realise that our world is not as giant. Our world is little, it gets a little smaller every day and it gets a little more vulnerable every day; it needs our positive interaction and care a little bit more every day.

I think that we are going to need to step out of ourselves and start taking care of a planet that we assumed would take care of us.

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