Entertainment » Culture

James "Duke" Mason :: not your typical Hollywood teen

by Gus Klein
Thursday Sep 24, 2009

Back in 1991 former Go-Go Belinda Carlisle announced that she was pregnant on the Arsenio Hall Show (remember the Arsenio Hall Show?) The following April Carlisle gave birth to James "Duke" Mason. If his name has a famous ring it is because he’s named for his grandfather - the great British actor James Mason. His dad, Morgan Mason, had married Carlisle in 1986 during his tenure as a political operative in Washington. He also worked in show business in independent film development and television.

Inspired by his father’s work in government, the younger Mason took an active role in politics at a very young age. He’s also - at the age of 17 - an out writer contributing to the LA-based magazine Frontiers. Here’s a bit from his bio from the magazine: "After working as a volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and being appointed to serve as a page in the U.S. Congress, Mason decided he should turn his energy and enthusiasm to spreading a message of pride within the LGBT community."

And while you will not catch him on a VH1 special on the antics of bratty Hollywood teens, you can find him on YouTube (Visit his YouTube page). In fact you would be more than likely find the sharp and articulate teenager opining on MSNBC than on a reality show.

EDGE’s Gus Klein spoke with Mason recently about growing up in Hollywood, working as a page in Washington, his commitment to LGBT issues and coming out to his parents at the age of 14.

Sense of urgency

Gus Klein: You’ve spent some time growing up overseas, do you feel a sense of home or loyalty to any one place you live?

James "Duke" Mason: I was born in Los Angeles, and I’ve had the great experience of living in the UK, France and Austria. We’ve seen a lot of different places in the world, but America has always been my home. My love for America stems from the fact that the opportunities that I’ve had would simply not have been possible without it. My mother’s success, my father’s success, and my grandfather’s success, all thanks to the unique opportunities that America presents. Everyone has an equal shot. I think some of my international peers lack the "dare to dream big dreams" mindset that so many Americans have. It’s a privilege to be an American.

Gus Klein: What has your education been like?

James "Duke" Mason: I have always had an English-speaking education. I’ve been at the same international school now for the last 10 years, where there are students from 33 different nationalities. Meeting people my age of many different backgrounds has certainly been a beneficial experience for me. I speak French pretty well, and I did Spanish for 2 years.

Gus Klein: What experiences or exposures of life lessons have you had that lead you to begin to speak out the way you’re learning to do now in terms of LGBT rights?

James "Duke" Mason: I think there is a sense of urgency and fear about the state of the gay community. I think a lot of the problems that exist within the community are rooted in self-loathing and shame. Until recently I had thought that every gay person was as passionate, proud and informed about their community as I was. As I’ve started to grow, I’ve noticed the solidarity and unity that was seen during the days of Harvey Milk and during the days of ACT UP no longer exists.

A recent YouTube video posted by Mason about the upcoming National Equality March


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