Dale Winton should be celebrated for his legacy as a queer icon
When you think of the ’90s, one of the first people that will spring to mind is the face of Dale Winton.
As the host of Supermarket Sweep, Winton spent seven years sorting through foam bananas and errant shopping trolleys on the programme – and became a British icon because of it.
What is less discussed, however, is how Winton influenced and inspired ’90s queers to be themselves.
Unapologetically camp and with a bright Day-Glo tan, Winton at no point tried to shelter how he presented himself under the heat of the spotlight.
Under the derisive mocking of the public eye, Winton decided that he would be the best version of himself – and let the scrutiny of the nation wash over him.
Lambasted for being too cheesy, too tanned and too enthusiastic, at times it felt like the presenter just couldn’t win.
And as writer and trans activist Shon Faye points out, that criticism also came from inside the gay community, too.
Yet in spite of the criticism that he faced, Winton’s 31-year career inspired the LGBT+ community with the knowledge that you can be the best version of yourself and succeed beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations.
And simply knowing that Dale could become one of Britain’s most-loved figures as a camp man inspired other LGBT+ people to be proud of their identity.
Although the presenter did not come out in Supermarket Sweep‘s heyday, he decided to reveal the news just a year later.
Dale said that he hadn’t spoken about being gay in the spotlight for one reason: no-one had ever asked him.
Sharing his sexuality in his autobiography, My Story, the presenter said that he didn’t hide his sexuality – it had been something no-one had ever tried to query.
“The truth – it’s absolutely the truth – is that no one ever asked me. I did countless interviews over the years and I was always waiting for the question. It never came. It became a game, the ambiguity of it all,” the presenter said in a 2008 interview with The Times.
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Although Dale took an apolitical stance in the way that he discussed his sexuality and gay rights, his poignant remark was that he saw his sexuality as a wider picture of himself – and rejected the double standard that his sexuality should define him.
“People never say ‘vehement heterosexual Michael Parkinson,’ but it will say ‘camp gay entertainer Graham Norton’ or ‘Dale Winton’ since I’ve officially come out.”
Dale will be honoured and cherished by the UK as an exuberant, gifted and talented presenter.
I hope that the next generation of queers will be inspired to graze on episodes of Supermarket Sweep so that they also have the chance to appreciate a gay man who won over the UK by simply being himself.