Anselmo Feleppa was the lover of 1980s pop icon George Michael, whose death shattered the anguished singer, who memorialized his partner in the song, “Jesus to a Child.”
Feleppa died of AIDS, leaving behind a heartbroken George Michael.
Feleppa was one of the singer’s most significant relationships and many argue Feleppa was his greatest love, although Michael went on to have at least two other long-term partnerships before he died.
George Michael died on Christmas Day of heart failure. He was found dead in his bed, lying peacefully, his publicist said in a statement.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Feleppa’s AIDs-Related Death Drove Michael to Tears
The Sun says Michael’s childhood friend Andros Georgiou “was one of the first to be told he was gay” and “watched as George, who he calls Yog, fell for Brazilian Anselmo Feleppa.”
The Sun ran a serial in which Georgiou described how Michael told him Feleppa had AIDs before Feleppa died, “Yog looked at me, breaking down, crying hysterically. I jumped up and hugged him. He told me: ‘Anselmo has got Aids.’ He didn’t know what to do. How could the love of his life just die?”
The Huffington Post said that Feleppo discovered he had HIV six months after he started dating Michael. “Can you try to imagine being any lonelier than that?” Michael said to the Huffington Post in 2011. “Try to imagine that you fought with own sexuality to the point that you’ve lost half of your twenties. And you’ve finally found a real love, and six months in it’s devastated. In 1991 it was really terrifying news. I thought I could have the disease too.”
At that point, his family didn’t even know he was gay, said The Huffington Post. The Sun said Michael told Georgiou that he did not have HIV himself despite his relationship with Feleppa.
2. Michael Spotted Feleppa From the Stage at a Concert & Said Feleppa Was His First True Love
People Magazine said the love affair started when Michael spotted Feleppa, a Brazilian designer, in the audience at one of his concerts. The Mirror said the concert was Rock in Rio in Rio de Janeiro.
“The two met up after the show in Michael’s dressing room — and their relationship was the first time Michael knew true love,” People wrote, quoting Michael as saying, “It’s very hard to be proud of your sexuality when it hasn’t given you any joy, but once you have found somebody you really love it’s not so tough.”
He said that Feleppa “broke down my Victorian restraint and really showed me how to live, how to relax, how to enjoy life,” said People.
In a 2011 interview with the Huffington Post, Michael said of Feleppa: “He was the first person I had ever loved, and I discovered he loved me too.”
3. George Michael wrote a tribute to Feleppa called ‘Jesus to a Child.’
Michael paid tribute to his love for Feleppa with the song, “Jesus to a Child.” In it, he says that Feleppa “saved his soul” after smiling at him “like Jesus to a child.” He also dedicated the album, “Older,” to him, said the Mirror.
Michael told The Mirror: “Not to put a dedication to him would be ludicrous because so much of it was about him. Bereavement tinges the whole album. It had to be in everything I wrote at the time because I write directly about what has just happened to me. But that period is over.”
The lyrics include the words: “Kindness
In your eyes
You heard me cry
You smiled at me
Like Jesus to a child
And Heaven stole
You smiled at me
Like Jesus to a child
And what have I learned
From all this pain
I thought I’d never feel the same
Or anything again
But now I know
When you find love
When you know that it exists
Then the lover that you miss
Will come to you on those cold, cold nights.”
Read the full lyrics for the song here.
4. Feleppa’s Death Sent Michael Into a Depression
The death of Feleppa and his mother plunged Michael into a depression. He told the Independent, “I struggled with huge depression after my mother died. Losing your mother and your lover in the space of three years is a tough one.”
Feleppa died in 1993 at only age 33, and Michael coped with the death by smoking as many as 25 marijuana joints in a day and throwing himself into his music, said the Mirror.
He also turned to Prozac, devastated when his mother died around the same time as Feleppa.
In 2004, Michael described the circumstances of Feleppa’s death to GQ. The magazine said that Feleppa “flew to London to tell George he had tested positive for AIDS. It was just three months after they met.” Michael told GQ that Feleppa at first lied to Michael that his HIV test was negative because he didn’t want to ruin his Christmas. By 1993, Feleppa was dead of a brain hemorrhage “shortly after returning to Brazil for a blood transfusion.” Michael said that he felt Feleppa might have survived if he’d been treated in the U.S. or London instead.
5. Michael’s Most Recent Partner Found His Body
At the time of his death, Michael was in a partnership with Fadi Fawaz, a freelance photographer he’d dated since at least 2012, when the pair was photographed walking together down the street in various European cities.
Unlike his past relationships, Michael kept his relationship with Fawaz generally private. Fawaz tweeted that he found Michael’s body, writing, “ITs (sic) a xmas i will never forget finding your partner dead peacefully in bed first thing in the morning.. I will never stop missing you xx.”
Michael had one other public significant relationship after Feleppa’s death with the Texan art dealer, Kenny Goss, whom he dated for 13 years.