Riyadh Khalaf, a YouTube star and radio journalist from Dublin, phoned Shirley Phelps, the head of the infamous "God Hates Fags" Westboro Baptist Church, for a nice chat. It didn't end well.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church spend much of their time picketing funerals, protesting pop concerts, and generally saying nasty things about gay people. Or "fags", as they like to call them. They love a placard. And Khalaf just wanted to say hi. After all, Phelps had left a comment under his last YouTube video, where he got his mum to read his Grindr messages. But Phelps wasn't as friendly as he'd hoped.
In fact, her first words were a bit mean: “Yikes. You are heading straight to hell. God. Hates. Fags."
Khalaf put her rudeness down to a bad mood and tried to engage with her. Phelps wasn't really in a listening mood.
"You cannot change that standard," she said. "Doesn't matter if you can get this entire goofy disobedient nation. … Read the words and obey your god."
Khalaf decided that maybe it was better to call back and leave a voicemail.
"If you're calling about gay rights, press 6. Thanks for calling."
Khalaf left a message asking how he might get into heaven.
He gave Phelps lots of options:
"If I burn all my Lady Gaga CDs will that get me into heaven?"
"If I chop off my quiff and get a buzz cut, can I get into heaven then?"
He even asked: "If I promise not to have any gay sexual relations on a Sunday can I get into heaven then?"
And, more extreme: "I will never listen to – and perfectly lip-synch – another Taylor Swift song for the rest of my life."
Phelps still didn't pick up. So Khalaf got a bit bitchy. "Would you ever sort out your hair?"
He also kinda showed Phelps his bottom.
BuzzFeed News phoned Khalaf to see if maybe he'd like a nice chat with us instead.
BuzzFeed News: Were you secretly terrified when you phoned Phelps?
Riyadh Khalaf: I've known about the Westboro Baptist Church for years and they used to put the shits up me in the past when I didn't know any better. But now that I'm a strong independent woman I realise all they have are hateful words and placards when what we have on our side is reality. The best way to attack them is with humour and point out how ridiculous they are.
Why do you think quiffs are gay?
RK: I thought long and hard about this. I thought I can go down the route of gay stereotypes and get some hatred from some gay people, but then I thought if someone doesn't get the joke they shouldn't be watching the video.
Also, it's a very nice quiff.
RK: Thank you. It takes 20 minutes to do. Daily. I put more effort into my quiff than feeding myself.
Do you actually want to go to heaven?
RK: I've thought about it. My father is Muslim and my mother is Catholic and I guess I fall somewhere in between. When I came out it was a big issue in my family but through that process I think we've all just found somewhere spiritual, our own religion: to love people, be good to one another, and do everything without hurting anyone.
And yet here you are hating on Shirley's hair. What do you have against split ends?
RK: I think her hair is an abomination. And I think the audience will agree. So far I've not had one comment saying her hair is acceptable. Even Fox News presenters make an effort with their hair.
Maybe you should stop oppressing her with gender norms…
RK: If she says such vile hatred she should take a little bit – me talking about her hair is nowhere near her calling me a disgusting fag that should burn in hell.
Would you like to have a drink with her? Maybe go for a cream tea?
RK: Oh, absolutely. Before this I sent her request after request asking for an interview but they didn't get back to me. I'd give anything to travel to Topeka, Kansas, and sit in her home. I wouldn't argue with her – I wouldn't waste my energy. I'd listen. I'm entertained by how insane she is.
Can we talk about your bedroom? It's surprisingly white and virginal and pure for someone who's going to hell. Do you clean it yourself?
RK: Every time I shoot a video there's a mad dash: an hour-long prep on the room itself beforehand, getting the lighting right, making it sultry and soft. There's always candles lit. I have a Snoop Dogg candle I bought online. It's baby-powder–scented. It's my lucky candle.
You last video involved your mum reading your Grindr messages. Have men stopped contacting you since that?
RK: I'm terrified of Grindr now. I have a feeling if I went back on it I would get a lot of people running a mile away from my location.
You haven't been back on it since?
RK: No! I'm too afraid! But I've had people from Australia, Israel, Colombia, the States, and the UK emailing me asking if I'd like to travel to their country to go on a date. They've all kindly offered me a place to stay. The problem is I'm an old romantic at heart, and I think they might be looking for more than a kiss and a cuddle... (laughs for ages)