Initially, it was Jen and Zoi, the lesbian couple on Top Chef: Chicago that got all our adoration, with Lisa flying under the proverbial gaydar—well, that is until she came out and started sporting a new sexy buzz cut. But this rebel dyke chef, who battled with a litany of contestants and judges, marched herselfall the way to the final three, often with an imposing scowl on her face. She was vilified by her kitchen mates, and accused of not being up to par by some, but her ego refused to be flattened. She gave advice where it wasn't wanted, demanded props when not warranted, and somehow she had us all watching, cheering, wildly debating and nail biting until last night just to see if America would have their first lesbian top chef.
Congratulations on being the villain this season.
[Laughs.] Thank you very much.
According to online blogs and boards, you’re an angry lesbian who didn’t deserve to be one of the final three.
Everybody is entitled to their opinion. And, blogs are very important, and they come with the territory of being on the show. It’s been a great experience. I appreciate the compliments and the criticism that people have said. And I try not to pay too much attention to the negativity that’s out here.
Tom mentioned that you had a bit of an ego, which is critical for top chefs. Do you agree with that?
Absolutely. When you’re this passionate about food and about cooking and what you do, you need to have a little bit of that drive and aggressiveness. You need to defend what you do and you need to be proud of what you do and you need to be stern about it. If you’re a painter [you’re not going to say], “Oh, whatever, here’s my painting, and if you don’t like it, you don’t like it.” You’re going to say, “No, this is what I was trying to accomplish, and I feel that I achieved my goals in this painting.” It’s the same thing for food. A plate is pretty much a canvas, and you have to be passionate, you have to be driven, you have to stand up for it, and obviously I agree with Tom that you need to be strong about what you do.
Tell me what the most difficult thing about being at the judge’s table was.
Honestly, the hardest part is standing there and just waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. It’s such a long process and it’s hot. You’re literally trying to find a focal point to stare at and not fall asleep. It’s really rough.
What do you think of Stephanie’s cooking?
I think Stephanie is an amazing chef. I hope that now she’ll finally stop doubting herself.
There was much to-do about Jen and Zoi being lesbians, and their sexuality was a well-known fact from the get-go. You flew under the radar for the first half.
I spoke about it very, very freely and openly on a regular basis. I guess they didn’t focus on it, just to amp up the lesbian couple. I’m completely out, and I’m not ashamed of it. I talk about it all the time. I’m very proud to be gay and—you can pretty much look at me and tell that I’m a lesbian. For some people, I guess they really weren’t too sure until that episode where I said, “My girlfriend has a son,” and all these people were like, “Oh my god, she’s gay? What does she mean? Her friend? Her girlfriend?” Just sort of freaking out, and I was like, “You can’t look at me and tell? OK.”
When you came back to go to Puerto Rico, you had a sexy new ’do for the finale. Why the switch?
My girlfriend convinced me to cut my hair. She’s been trying to get me to chop all my hair off for some time. Before the finale, I went to a salon where they do short haircuts for women, and between my girlfriend, her son and the stylist, they were all like, “No, go shorter, go shorter,” and the next thing you know, all my hair was cut off. It took me a while to get used to it, but now I love it. I think it suits me and I like it. And it’s not a faux hawk, to set the record straight. It’s nowhere near a faux hawk.
So are you getting hit on now?
Oh, come on, look at me! No, I’m just kidding. I definitely get approached, but I’m in love with my girlfriend. And people who want to hit, flirt and be with me just because I’m on TV for my 15 minutes of fame—it’s awesome, it’s a nice feeling, I love the flattery, but my girlfriend was with me before Top Chef and she’s with me now and that’s more important.
What food, in your opinion, should be banned? As an example, I think Velveeta should be banned.
[Laughs.] I don’t know if I would say banned. I’m definitely not a fan of Spam. I managed to go the majority of my life without trying it and then I tasted it and I thought it was hideous. But I know a lot of people who really like it. As for banned from me ever having to eat it again. That would totally be salmon. I hate the taste of salmon. I don’t like the smell of it. The more you cook it, the worse it smells. If it is cooked in front of me, I gag every time.
So if you could make dinner for one person who would that be?
Anyone? Dead or alive? I think I would like to cook for Anthony Bourdain again, so I could redeem myself from restaurant wars.
What would you make him?
I would make him the smoked laksa, but I would make it the right way, without making massive mistakes.
Say you got your own cooking show, and you needed a brand or a catch. What would that be? And it can’t be Cooking with Bold and Spicy Lisa.
[Laughs.] I don’t know, it would depend on how PG I would have to keep it. Maybe Cooking Fish with a Lesbian Chef? I don’t think that would fly. Something like, The Four S’s of Asian Cuisine, that’s kind of the code that I live by when I cook.
Since your girlfriend isn’t around right now, who do you have a crush on?
My newest crush is Jordin Sparks.
I didn’t see that coming.
No, I’m sure you didn’t. I didn’t watch American Idol. I had no idea who she was, and then I saw her video with Chris Brown, and I was like, “Ooh! She’s kind of cute.” There’s just something about her I kind of like. I don’t know what it is. Alicia Keys is beautiful, like, absolutely beautiful. Me and my girlfriend would have to fight over who would get to attack her first. Jordin Sparks is the most recent crush.
Speaking of your girlfriend, how has she handled the publicity?
People know that I have a girlfriend. I try to keep her out of the public eye. It’s not really any of their business. And watching how difficult it was for Zoi and Jen, to really exploit their relationship. My parents are loving it. They’re this super happy, proud family, like, “That’s my daughter! That’s my daughter! That’s my daughter!” My sister, too. Everyone’s been really supportive and really great.
Sexy Top Chef Jen!
Written by: Colleen M. Lee
The wildly popular Bravo show Top Chef not only tests up-and-coming culinary stars in quick-fire challenges and impossible cooking situations, but it has also introduced us to Jen—the sexy French-trained chef.
What was the initial reaction when you heard that you made the show?
I was elated. I was totally excited! I was jumping up and down!
Did you flirt with Padma?
Well I have, yeah. All the guys did. She would just shoo me away like a fly.
What are your comfort foods?
Anything that’s braised: a short rib or ox tails, roasted chicken, and Zoi makes really good Greek salad meat balls called keftedes. I have a thing for salisbury steak from my childhood. Mashed potatoes and salisbury steak smothered in mushrooms and onions.
Jen, I know you’ve been influenced by many cuisines: French, Italian and Spanish, and you’ve been mentored by many exceptional women chefs. Can you talk about that?
I came to San Francisco after working in some great Manhattan restaurants. I came here definitely for the food. Tracy Dejardanis was the up-and-coming female chef. I met her in New York and I had worked for a female chef in New York, but Tracy had this sort of amazing presence - kind of a fierce presence. She connected me with Loretta Keller, who was my mentor, who I worked for a couple of years. And later on I ended up working with Tracy again. I’d have to say that the female chefs that I worked with—the women from River Café, Rose and Ruthie, Loretta Keller and Tracy—they all tend to have this more mentor-y, more nurturing quality about them. Whereas the male chefs, you’re more afraid of them, so you’re acting out of fear.
What’s it like being lesbian in a male dominated field?
Well, I tend to be like one of the boys. No one really had an issue with it. When I worked in New Orleans and was 19 years old I was surprised that there was so much sexism and racism in the kitchen. But that was in the South. That was intimidating, working in a place where all the chefs were male and all the line cooks were male and the women were only working salad stations. It had that hierarchy and that male-dominated kitchen feel to it. But it’s never really…
What's Cooking With Iron Chef Cat Cora?
Written by: Colleen M. Lee
On camera, Cat Cora is a Tasmanian devil, dicing and slicing while directing a cabal of sous chefs on Iron Chef America. The ouzo-slamming Greek girl from Mississippi is the founder of Chefs for Humanity (an organization that provides nutrition education and emergency and humanitarian aid to reduce hunger in the world), and the author of two cookbooks—Cooking from the Hip and Cat Cora’s Kitchen—but her foremost claim to fame is becoming the first and only female Iron Chef. Late last year, just as this Food Network darling was turning up the heat in cable television’s kitchen, and garnering fans from around the globe, she took steps to come out. Lesbians around the country applauded, but Cora herself seems nonplussed by this kind of attention.
“My fan base grows as my career grows. I have a great straight and gay fan base, both of whom have always been super supportive,” Cora says. Already media savvy, Cora chooses her words carefully and reminds us that cooking and motherhood are her top priorities. So how does she navigate being a celebrity chef and a mom? Cora says, “Being a mom means everything to me. Motherhood is what I am most proud of. At this point, our sons are too young to really grasp the concept of celebrity. ”
It’s clear Cora prefers to keep the focus on food and away from her personal life. She’s mum about how her professional relationship with Elizabeth Falkner, the famous and publicly out pastry chef and restaurateur (and one of Cora’s sous chefs on Iron Chef America) evolved. She simply states that they “have been colleagues for years.” I was hoping that she would say they double dated with their life partners.
Cora comes from a family of great cooks and admits that she learned a lot of her technique as she was growing up. “Both Greek and Southern foods were a huge part of my upbringing,” she says. She developed a love for cooking and had ambitions at an early age, “My godfather owned many restaurants, which helped develop my love for them. I always knew I wanted to have a restaurant one day. At 15, I made a business plan and presented it to him. I met Julia Child when I was in my early 20s, and she gave me advice on where to go to culinary school and what it takes to become a chef,” she adds.
Cora is passionate about her career and being a trailblazer for women culinary wannabes. “I think that becoming the first female Iron Chef has been great for women and young girls because it has helped to break down barriers. The fact that I am open about my spouse and kids hopefully inspires others to have a wonderfully open life as well,” she says.
Cora is intense (and not to mention sexy, even in her chef’s jacket), but can also play it cool when things get heated. One photo shoot in particular put her in hot water with feminists. Last year, Cora agreed to pose in a short skirt, heels and a low-cut top for FHM. Many screamed that her decision contributed to the objectification of women. She shrugs it off saying, “I made a decision to do one shoot for FHM, which other celebrity chefs have done as well. I felt it was done in a very professional and fun way. I have turned down other offers, if it was a medium that I was not comfortable with. I did the shoot for myself and when I am 80 and saggy, I can look back at it and smile.”
And Cora is getting noticed for more than her killer cooking and short skirts. She was recently awarded the Hero Visibility Award from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for her work with Chefs for Humanity, about which she is truly humble. “The work that the Human Rights Campaign does on behalf of families like yours and mine is crucial and necessary. I truly appreciate their efforts. My organization, Chefs for Humanity, much like the HRC, was founded with the sincere belief that we can make the world a better place. Being honored by a like-minded organization, such as HRC, is a tremendous honor to me.”
And what does someone who cooks for so many eat herself? “My favorite meal would include having my friends and family present. I would start with cheese, crackers and antipasti, [then serve] lamb shanks, fava beans and a Greek salad. A great red wine such as Sangiovese or Malbec would of course be included, as well as something light for dessert, like chocolate-dipped baklava.” For some unique reason, only Cat Cora would consider a piece of chocolate-dipped baklava a light dessert.
Written by: Diane Anderson-Minshall
Photo: George Lange/ Bravo
When Bravo launched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in 2003, producers had no idea what phenomenal response it would garner. Almost overnight, its stars, like superfly Carson and sophisticated Ted, became brands unto themselves. Bravo went back to the well for their newest hit: Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, a weekly, one-hour series with a cast of “Gal Pals” who make over chicks in need. The Gal Pals include a Queer Eye first — a lesbian — in their roster of make-better mavens. The aptly named Honey Labrador is that lucky lady.
Labrador counsels the women in need on matters as diverse as career, family, sex and how to walk in high heels. An easy feat for the former model whose breathtaking beauty has graced the pages of Elle, Mademoiselle, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar and both British and Italian Vogue. After the allure of modeling wore off, Labrador became an actress (remember Red Shoe Diaries?) and movie producer (she was behind last year’s Sundance favorite Little Black Boot). After starting her own production company, Labrador also produced and starred in the lesbian feature film April’s Shower, which recently won the special jury prize in Monte Carlo. Soon, though, she may be one of television’s biggest reality TV stars.
So are you really a Jill-of-all-trades, or what?
Well, being 39, I’ve had quite a lot of time to … cover a lot of bases. Filmmaking is my passion, and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I moved out to L.A., obviously, to pursue acting, and found myself falling into producing … because I wasn’t getting the film parts or doing the films that I really wanted to do, and it wasn’t really fulfilling just acting. That’s why I started producing. So, yeah, I’m very much a Jill-of-all-trades—I guess a Honey-of-all-trades. And I’m a mother. I have a 15-year-old daughter.
What does your daughter, Zoe, think of your work?
She was in France, and I called her and said, “I have an opportunity to do this job.” … It’s hard enough being a teenager without having your mother coming, like, out, you know, in like a national way. And she said, “I think it’s great! I’m getting in shape! I can’t wait for the red carpet!”
Were you a lesbian when you had her?
No, I was married. I got married very, very young … I ended up with my first girlfriend for six years. I was kind of the last one to know, apparently.
Was that a difficult transition, being a young model and a mom and coming out?
[Back] in the late ’80s and early ’90s, you know, it wasn’t really that chic to be out. I think it was the hardest for me to accept personally because of how I’d been living my life. So, yeah, it was just like a complete and sudden realization. Of course, you go back and you start to say, wow, was I gay when I was in high school?
It’s that sort of revisionist history lesbians do, right?
Exactly. And then, of course, you have every friend that you ever had say, “Hey, were you attracted to me?”
Right, right, or, “Why weren’t you attracted to me?”
Exactly … but I came out and then I was out. I’ve never been one to be secretive about anything and especially raising a child, you know, I made a decision that I wanted to be honest and truthful.
Has it affected your career?
As far as my modeling career goes, it did … there were definitely clients who weren’t completely accepting of [lesbian models]. In a lot of ways, I think it got me more work sometimes. But on a personal level, it was a little bit more difficult. For my ex-husband, it was obviously a big shock, and it wasn’t for lack of love, you know, that we split up. And I can say that today he’s one of my closest friends.
Let’s talk about Queer Eye. Did they come to you, or did you have to go through an audition process?
My modeling agents, who I haven’t worked for in two years, called me out of the blue and said, “There’s a request for you to come in on this audition.” And it’s because [Arlene, the casting director] knew that I was out, and thought I would be great for it. So I went on this casting [call], and it was all kind of hush-hush, nobody knew what it was, it was called “Liquid Lesbian.” … The next thing I knew, a week later I had a callback. I mean, literally three days later I was at my first day of the job. I think it took like two to three months to actually pick the three guys. I’m sort of the secret weapon nobody knew — even when we had gone to these straight girls’ homes, they hadn’t known there was going to be a lesbian.
How do you think that changes the dynamic?
At first, I think it might be a little bit intimidating. They kind of size you up at first — maybe they feel insecure, maybe they don’t, I don’t know, but by the end of the show, I’m so close to each and every single woman. … No matter how much gay men believe they are like straight women, they’re not women. There just are those bonds that we have as women, straight or gay. I think you know we all have issues that are, you know, just part of being a woman. I don’t know any woman who looks in the mirror and loves what she sees 100 percent of the time.
What’s it like to help straight girls with everything from makeup to sexual confidence?
I’m not going into somebody’s life and saying, you need to do this, this, and this, because I’m not going to pretend to know what’s best for somebody else. But when I share my experience, strength, and hope … working with a woman, for example, who had an eating disorder, I mean, I was a model. Eating disorders and modeling kind of go hand in hand. I may have shared with her on-camera, but it was off-camera where I was able to have a [real] conversation with her … she’s just the most amazing person, and she said to me, “The very first thing you said to me was that I’m perfect.”
I’m sure this is something you didn’t expect going in to that casting call.
I absolutely didn’t expect it, and it’s the greatest gift that I’ve received.
Plus, viewers develop such intimate relationships with people on TV, and you’re in 30 million people’s homes each week —
Are you trying to freak me out?
No! But do you think that will bring more visibility to the other work you’ve been doing?
I really hope so. Most of my producing partners have been straight men over 40. … My sexuality was never a question, so what I find is, how do we operate in the world? You know, I just happen to be a lesbian. It’s just like I happen to have dark hair; I happen to be Filipino, Polish and Ukrainian. What I’m hoping to do with my role on Queer Eye is just kind of normalize [being lesbian] so people become a little bit more accepting. I think being the face — a face — for the lesbian community is an honor, and I just hope that I’m able to bring a positive light to that.
And it’s really amazing to have a queer woman of color on television.
It’s funny, as a model, not a day went by that someone didn’t ask me what I am. I think by virtue of being a woman, I already know what it’s like being a second-class citizen in our own country. Then, to be a woman of color, which I didn’t know I was. I grew up in South Hampton, New York. My mother has blond hair, green eyes. I thought I was Irish Catholic until I started modeling and then suddenly it’s like, “What are you?”
How long have you been with your partner?
June and I have been together for about six months. We’ve known each other for 14 years, and I can say she’s my big love.
Wow! That’s a long courting period.
She came back into my life … this is the one. And we’re engaged — we’re getting married next year.
Now that you’re a TV star, all your ex-girlfriends will come out of the woodwork to tell the tabloids about you.
I make sure that I’m friends with all of them.
What’s the worst thing they can say?
That I’m a flirt.
That’s not so bad.
No, no. Even my latest ex, we were together seven and a half years and we were business partners, and so our film is coming up, which she wrote, directed, we’re both in and we produced together.
So, you’re amazingly buff. You look like somebody who could really hold her own in a bar fight. What’s your secret?
I know it sounds terrible to say — but I’m naturally pretty buff. A lot of it’s genetics, but I was a competitive runner most of my life, and that’s actually where I was going before I started modeling. … I’m not a fighter. I’d probably get my butt kicked in a bar fight.
So, do you have control over your wardrobe? Do you have input on your choices?
I have to say that I have never owned more pairs of heels then I do now. A lot of my lesbian friends are like, “Hey! Why are they femming you up?” And the reality is that a lot of them didn’t know me [when I was] modeling, but that’s how I like to dress. I like to wear heels.
In episode one, you all got to have butt masks together. Can we expect to see more cast nudity?
I did have to teach a girl how to strip for her husband. Again, it’s about body image and it matched the whole thing about helping someone tap into their sexuality. Everyone has some stripping fantasy, I believe, spoken or unspoken.
Exclusive Interview with Paula From TV Land's She's Got the Look
Written by: Colleen M. Lee
Flirtatious, statuesque and a bit intimidating, TV Land’s She’s Got the Look reality contestant Paula may have been voted off the show, but she still wants to represent African American lesbians. Discussing dating, the down-low and when she realized she was gay (it was earlier than you might expect), Paula shows off a softer side.
How did you get involved in the show?
Someone told me, they are searching for models over 35. Why don’t you give it a try? I went and stood around for about six hours and grabbed my heels and I guess the rest is history.
What happened after the audition?
I [sat] in that parking lot in my truck and cried, it was so hot. They [then] called me and I ended up making it.
You drive a truck?
[Laughs.] I drive a truck.
You didn’t model before appearing on the show?
I’ve actually just started pursuing [modeling]. At no point did I ever think that I would get chosen, but I knew that I had a look. When they asked me that question, “Are you straight?” at that moment in time, I knew right then as I did when I was 3 years old. I knew I wasn’t going to deny it. And so it just came easy for me to say “No.”
There has been a lot of talk in the media about African American men being on the “down-low.” Does this happen with African American women?
Yes, it does and that bothers me. There’s so many other things going on in the world and I believe people are going to talk about you whether you are gay or straight. Why not just go with what you know? I knew at 3 years old.
So do you think that it’s going to be more difficult booking gigs being a lesbian woman of color?
I think, all this time, that society has closed a lot of doors in my face, but I think that I wasn’t ready, as far as knowing how to place myself and stand up for myself. So some say, “Oh, she’s an angry black woman.” No. I’m not an angry black woman, I [am] not afraid to expose what I feel. [It would be] an injustice for all the women who are fighting to stand up for what they are. So when you see me you just see a woman who’s been through some things and is not afraid to share those things.
In one of show’s scenes, you all share secrets with each other. Were you comfortable talking about your childhood?
Yeah, it came easy for me. Being an African American woman in America and being a lesbian and all the judgments that I’ve been through, it was important that I release that.
So do you feel that most of the women had a big issue with you being a lesbian at first, and did that change after they got to know you?
I think with the maturity factor, being 35 and over, they didn’t have a problem with me at all. As a matter of fact, they were really intrigued.
The show stretches the boundaries of age and beauty. How do you view your beauty?
I left home at 15. I went to school. I stayed in a hotel for two years. I didn’t go to jail. I didn’t do drugs. I played basketball. I graduated. I put myself through college, with no parental supervision. [My experience] made me a stronger, defiant person. I decided I wasn’t going to fake the funk.
Here’s the all-important question—are you dating?
After the show, my status has gone up, as far as exposure. I love the attention. I’m dating, but I don’t have anything serious at the moment.
So you’re a multiple dater?
Well, no, you know? [Laughs.] I do go out. I seem like a player, right?
No, I like to take it slow. It’s my age. I love the exposure and having the opportunity to meet so many women from around the world.
Curl Girl's Michelle Fleury Dishes It All
Written by: Colleen M. Lee
As loud police helicopters fly above her head, sexy surfer babe Michelle Fleury of the Curl Girls discusses the reason why she surfs, women’s panties, the Wiggles and her infamous date with Jackie Warner.
The Curl Girls cast is so diverse. How did you all get together? And, is your relationship on screen the same as it is off screen?
We all still definitely hang out and spend time together. That’s a definite, except with the exception of Melissa and Jessica. I don’t believe they have much of a relationship anymore. But I just saw Erin for dinner. I’m supposed to see Melissa, I believe on Friday night. So yeah, we all still spend time together. It’s definitely a motley crew, but at the same time, most surfers are.
There is a fairly small community of lesbian surfers in Los Angeles? Do you all know each other?
We don’t all know each other, but the interesting thing about the show is that I’ve met so many more lesbian surfers since the show. A lot of people that I’ve seen out and about, in an acquaintance sort of way, I didn’t even realize that they surfed, and vice versa. That is what was interesting about the show. I’ve met so many more surfers because of it. And, yeah, I would say a good percentage of female surfers are lesbians.
Surfing is male dominated. What advice would you give to young girls, who want to surf and want to try it, but are a bit intimidated by all the males out there?
It is very intimidating. I would say it is about 90-95 percent male [depending on the] area of the world. In L.A., I would say it’s 90 percent men. As far as girls who want to try it? I would say, if they want to do it, it’s one of those sports that you really have to have a lot of perseverance even once you learn it and want to do it, so it’s not a sport that’s going to come to you. You can’t just walk down to your neighborhood tennis court. You have to be really dedicated to participate in the sport, so I would say you have to just keep at it. It’s really difficult when you start. And as far as the men in the water. I think it’s a really good lesson for life. Some of the men are really great, some are really respectful and some of them are just complete and total assholes. So, you know, you get a wide array and you also learn how to hold your own in a situation where, [you are] the only woman in the water.
What exactly do you get from surfing?
I get a lot of things from surfing. It has taught me patience. As I said it’s not like any other sport. You are at the mercy of nature and the tides and the wind and the weather and everything else, and the energy, and the water, and a storm that is happening 3,000 thousand miles away, that’s sending a pulse of energy to you. Besides patience, it also teaches you that most things are beyond your control and that you just have to adapt and adjust and once you do that the reward, which is riding a wave, is better than anything you’ll ever experience. It’s definitely on par with sex and all those other things [Laughs.]
Better than parachuting?
Yeah. It definitely feels like you are flying. I would say it’s the closest thing you can put to that. I get a lot out of it, it’s a really spiritual experience. I surf, I tend to surf really early in the morning; sun is rising, the light is beautiful, the wind is calm, the dolphins are pretty much within ten feet of you. They’re going up the coast in the morning. And that’s just the most amazing thing⎯to see a pod of dolphins, or a family with the little baby dolphin…you get back in touch with nature and at the same time it gives you this adrenaline rush and the feel that you’re flying on water. And, you also have to realize that you go through a lot to surf. You have to get in the cold water and put on the wet suits and drive to the beach. It’s so arduous.
It sounds like a definite process.
Yeah. You have to realize that, “Oh God, the reward must be amazing to put themselves through all of this. To get, and to go through everything you go through, just to ride that wave.” If you look at it that way, it gives you a glimpse into what it’s like once you do it.
Do you surf every day?
It depends on my work schedule, but I am in the water at least three times a week. Definitely, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then if there’s more of a swell, or something happening, I’ll get out sometimes four to five times a week. But as I said, once the waves hit, you have to rearrange your entire schedule to get out there. So, you’re not in control. It dictates what you do.
How have your friends and family reacted to the show?
I would say most of my immediate family has all watched it. My niece is very cute. The Curl Girls have now beaten out The Wiggles as her favorite show. And she is 4, so I am pretty proud of that. A lot of my cousins and family—I’m from the East Coast—have watched it and that’s been a great way for us get back in touch.
Not a lot of surfing in New Jersey, I take it.
Well there is, believe it or not, there really is. Fall is more of the season ‘cause you get the hurricanes coming up the coast, but it’s nowhere near as powerful and consistent as California. But all my experiences have been really good: family, friends, the people I’ve met and the places I’ve gone. It’s all been really amazing.
Has you life changed since the show aired?
It has changed for sure and I would say most of it has been positive. It’s pretty much how you choose to look at life. You can always find negative. You can always find things that might not be so great, but with this I really haven’t taken it too seriously. There are always people that are sort of odd when it comes to meet[ing] somebody that has been on television, even if it’s reality TV. I really don’t pay too much attention to it because I realize it has nothing to do with me.
So, nobody’s throwing their panties at you at this point?
Uh, no. I’ve had people fly into events that I was hosting to meet me, which was fascinating. [Laughs.] And they were lovely. They were great. And nothing strange or weird came of it. So I have not had my first pair of underwear, but…I’ll be participating in the fashion show at Dinah Shore.
That just might be the event where you get some panties.
If anybody wants to grace me with a pair of underwear, I would be more than happy to…
OK, switching gears. You seem very grounded.
I was born on the East Coast. My parents are very down to earth. They instill a lot of values of “Don’t buy in to your own hype. You know, don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.” A very typical East Coast upbringing. And I have a lot of friends who work in the movie industry. So, it’s not really new to me. But yeah, essentially, day to day, surfing, and yoga and my friends. My friends mostly make fun of me, more than anything.
Do you think that the show painted an accurate picture of you?
I definitely can be a lot sillier. I felt like I was always sort of the calm, as they said “voice of reason,” which usually I would say I am, but it was funny too, I felt like I was always serious and everybody else was unhinged so I can have my fun as well. My friends kept saying, “No, no, no, you didn’t come across that way at all.” But you know, we’re always our own worst critics, I suppose.
You were the person that Jackie Warner got set up with on her show Work Out in the first season. How did that come about and why didn’t it, for lack of a better term, work out?
Yes, I did go out on a date with Jackie Warner. When I did that, Work Out had not aired and I remember trying to get a bunch of my friends to go out. It was more setup as a friendship thing: “This woman is newly single, she doesn’t have a lot of lesbian friends. Can you just hang out with her and, you know, if something happens, great, but there you go.” So, I had to get a bunch of my friends to come out with me, and none of them wanted to be bothered. They kind of regretted [their decision] after they saw the show air, but you have one chance to get on television, I suppose. But, no, I mean from the moment I met her I could see that we definitely were not a match. I was not interested, nor was she, so it worked out really well for us to just hang out, have her meet other woman because she seemed very wrapped up in what she was doing in her past relationships. She didn’t really seem like she was in a place where she was going to be moving on. And from what we all saw in the show, that kind of turned out to be true.
So is your current girlfriend in the business?
She’s a photographer. I’m an art director so I knew her through people and I had hired her before. The one thing that no one knows and I haven’t told anybody, but Jen is the person that I end up with on my date with Jackie. Jackie ended up talking to one girl on that show and I end up talking to Jen. Jackie pointed to a girl [and said] “That girl is cute.” Well that’s when I said, “I know the other one.” The funny thing is people don’t put it together. They know it’s me, in both shows, but they don’t realize it’s Jen.
What’s next for you besides circuit lesbian parties?
I’ve been doing a lot of writing as well and shooting because I also am a photographer, so Jen and I are collaborating. I am also now writing for gaywheels.com.
So it’s been really great talking to you.
Are you coming to Dinah Shore?
I don’t know, I have a fear of big crowds in bikinis.
I mean, for the absolute, just to say you did it. I ran with the bulls in Pamplona just to say I did it. It ended up to being a great experience. Dinah Shore, I would say, is pretty comparable to running with the bulls in Pamplona. It’s chaotic.
I don’t know if you’ve convinced me to go.
I know. You’re like, “Now I’m never going to go.”
If I do go I owe you a drink and maybe a pair of matching hers and hers underwear for you and Jen.
Oh, my god. I will send you photos of me wearing them on my head.
That would be fabulous. See you soon.
I hope to see you at the Dinah.
Jackie Warner Confesses
Written by: Colleen M. Lee
Love or hate her, it seems that regardless of your feelings about the uber-fit self-promoter Jackie Warner, there is no getting away from her. She’s got five successful businesses, including the Bravo hit show Work Out (now in its third season) and a new fitness DVD, One-on-One with Jackie, so if you’re into exercise, you will eventually run into her. And even though she is completely open about her life on the screen, there are still a few things we don’t know about Warner. Luckily, she divulges to us why she’s so self-obsessed, who she wants to sleep with and what she thinks of straight guys.
You own five businesses. Is your goal to be a fit lesbian Martha Stewart?
[Laughs.] “A fit lesbian Martha Stewart.” Yes. I mean that is exactly my goal. I want to cross over and see through all health, fitness, diet-related principles and I would like to be that main, go-to girl for all things having to do with health-related issues. Mainly food and sugar I deal a lot with depression, sleep disorders, things that are very important to women in particular. So I’m absolutely trying to position myself as a leader in that industry.
Have you had difficulties as a woman and an out lesbian in such a competitive business?
Not that much in L.A. because we’re so liberal here. Certainly around Middle America. What was very surprising and it was a nice surprise is Middle America middle-class housewives have embraced me. They’re one of my largest markets. I was very pleased to see that they ignored the lesbian aspect, and ignored whatever issues they may have with gays and lesbians and have embraced me as just an individual.
I noticed that this season focuses on you being self-obsessed and self-important. Is that editing or accuracy?
No, I think that what people will see this season is that first of all, to own five businesses and to give all these people—I employ quite a few people and to keep them working and keep them happy and healthy and [my businesses] profitable, I have to be self-obsessed. The businesses are related to what I do. So my staff should be very thankful that I have a place that they can go to and make a lot of money, and have a relatively nice lifestyle.
I would have to agree with that.
Yes. I think that more than anything you’re just going to see a lot of jealousies coming out. Everybody has to make their own way and the people who make their own way, do it themselves and make something out of this opportunity should be happy. And the ones that don’t and haven’t fulfilled themselves, they’re gonna be bitching and complaining.
In Season Three I noticed that you were in a new relationship; however, after checking your MySpace page it indicates you’re single. Is that a typo…
[Laughs.] Oh, you know—here’s the deal. A reality show is not the best thing for a relationship. I don’t know many that really fare well. Yeah, we’ve gone through a rocky time and we’ll have to see because it’s up and down. Personally, that MySpace page, I just made a choice to not make it about personal things. It’s really a fan page, so I really made it a choice just to be about business, about doing what I like to do, which is trying to inspire people and trying to give them tips monthly and this and that. So it doesn’t need to be a tool to shout who I’m with or what’s going on in my life.
So you would say it’s fairly hard to maintain a healthy relationship in the public eye?
Yeah, it is. It’s a stress on, not as much me, because I’m used to it by now. I’m familiar with it and I feel like everybody should sit right into my world and be just as happy and content and familiar with it too. Have fun with it, but they do not. It’s very difficult for someone to be put in the spotlight and have all their own insecurities that come along with that. I’m under my own stress and can’t really pull them through that too while shooting.
Let’s talk about the two straight guys on the show Do you feel that you have to prove you’re the alpha dog with them?
Well, for me it’s not about alpha dogs or any of that, it’s about having respect for me as being your boss, and for you being employed by me. The only time I care is if you’re disrespectful in a work environment. That’s not about being alpha male or female, it’s simply about having respect for your boss and I would not have ever in my life have I treated my boss the way that either of them treated me.
If you could date or sleep with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Oh God, that’s a good question. I would hang out with Stevie Nicks because she was my idol growing up and I just adore her.
Kat Feller's High School Reunion
Written by: Colleen M. Lee
Waiting 20 years to out yourself to former classmates sounds like an absolute nightmare. How about waiting all those years and having it be televised for anyone in the United States to see? Welcome to Kat Feller’s world. Feller, who is a successful voice-over animation artist, put a relationship on hold to join the cast of High School Reunion, where she busts out, discusses her secret crushes and decides that telling former friends you are a lesbian can be positive, rewarding and a should-do experience.
Why did you need to come out to your high school classmates?
The reason I felt like I needed to come out to my classmates was because it’s something I’ve been sitting on for the last 20 years. Some people had probably found out about it by word of mouth, but I just wanted to clarify the rumor myself, in person. To make it true and make it known—it is a fact and not just a rumor, and that it’s OK and I’m proud and I don’t care.
I love the show and it’s timely for me. I’m actually going to my 20-year reunion this fall and I guess I will be coming out as well. I could really relate to you, I’m like, “OK, let’s see how it goes for her.”
Oh no, it was great. I mean, this might be one of your questions, but everybody was so warm and accepting. It really made my reunion feel so amazing. It was like this weight that I had been carrying around for 20 years has finally [been] lifted off my shoulders and I could really be myself and when I go back to Dallas, it’s like it’s all good.
You were a bit hesitant to tell the girls you were gay. Was that you reverting back to being 16 and in high school?
When you’re sitting in a room full of straight girls and everybody’s talking about their marriages and their accomplishments and what their husbands and boyfriends are doing, it’s a little bit in the back of your mind: “I really want these girls to accept me.” It’s definitely nerve-wracking. Not knowing how they’re going to respond. Hoping they’re going to respond in a certain way. I was definitely nervous.
So was there a pressure to fit in? I know that you mentioned that you were dating boys in high school, but still had crushes on girls. Was it bi-curiosity or was it like “it might be easier for me to say maybe I want to date a guy” on the show?
You know, the bisexuality question really didn’t have anything to do with making it easier. I’ve always been a bit bi-curious. No, I’m not even going to say bi-curious. I’ve been out of the closet since I was like 20. It’s been, for me, it’s been a long time. As I’ve gotten older, you know, I’m near my 40s, I’m actually starting to appreciate people for who they are. I’m very much more drawn to the female sex by no question of the matter, but I have a bit of curiosity. I don’t know if I’m ever going to do anything about it, but I can’t see myself with a man. I just don’t find that comfortable. But I have thought about the curiosity of that.
I think your date with the “stud” was handled brilliantly. You dated the sensitive stud who all the girls wanted and then after the date you were like, “OK, I had a really great, positive date; however, I’m still a lesbian. I’m definitely lesbian.”
Yeah, I tried that, but no, that’s not going work for me. Robbie was the perfect guy because you’re right. No. 1, he was the most popular, so it was really flattering for me to go on a date with him. He’s still really handsome, he’s really sweet, and if I were to go on a date with a guy, he could very well be my type and it’s just, you know I tried it and it’s still not comfortable for me.
So it’s possible your bi days or your bi-curiosity is over.
Pretty much. I might still grapple with it in my brain from time to time. But as far as actively pursuing it, it’s just not going to happen.
Do you feel as if you conquered your insecurities on the show?
I actually do think it has changed. I feel like now that I’ve gotten rid of this weight on my shoulders I can go through life with, “OK, I’ve got the acceptance of my family, I’ve got the acceptance of my peers. Now after 20 years, I finally have the acceptance of my classmates.”
Quite a burden to carry for 20 years.
Yeah, I know. It does make it a lot easier to know that you’ve got that weight off, and you can move on and do your thing and be OK with it. Really, the bottom line for me, and this has been my motto my whole life: As long as my parents accept me and love me, I truly don’t really care about society. But it is nice to know that people that you grew up with, your friends that trust you and that you hung out with, accept you as well, because they were your family too then.
So you revisited high school and you came out and are proud: Are times changing or does this come with age?
Well I think, I actually think it’s the times are changing, because as far as not being able to come out in high school in the 80s, you know, who was out then? Boy George?
He wasn’t out, was he? He was just considered weird.
Ellen was not even out yet, she was still scared, closeted, but it’s a totally different day and age now. It’s like, with the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and gay men being completely loved by straight women, straight men all around. Coming out as a lesbian is becoming way more accepted in this day and age. It definitely has to do with that. So people in high school, they’re probably not as afraid of it anymore because it’s just like, “Oh she’s lesbian? Fine, whatever.” You know, but back then we didn’t even have CDs. I was listening to [cassettes] then. I was riding to school on a dinosaur, very primitive. It was scary, very scary. It’s funny because now I’m getting emails from friends of mine that are finding me online, friends that I went to high school with are like “I’m a lesbian too and it’s so nice to see you coming out.” You know, none of us could come out then. I’m finding that all of these friends of mine are coming out. I was like, “I had no idea she was gay.”
Yeah, you bump into them at a lesbian bar and you’re like, “I had no idea.”
I’m like, “Oh my gosh, no way, I had no idea! I had a crush on you.”
So…did you flirt with any of the women in the house?
Oh God! I did flirt with some of the girls in the house. All the girls in the house were really so sweet and so beautiful, and they actually brought one of my high school crushes on.
Did you have crushes on any of them in high school?
There was, a girl named Heather and she’s a sweetheart, bless her heart, and such a doll. And I actually confessed to her that I had a crush on her and it went over really well. She was flattered, which was, wow, that’s amazing to have somebody that I had a crush on for so long to be flattered that I had a crush on them. So it made me feel really good, you know?
So you did or didn’t flirt with Heather in the house?
No, I didn’t flirt with her because I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to put her in that position. But I did come out to her, so if you call that flirting and maybe exposing my crush on her then maybe for a minute or two.
Are you still dating the 6-foot woman, Brenda?
The 6-foot woman? We’ve been separated for over a year now and she’s still very, very close to me. We talk everyday. She’s actually coming to the premier with me in Dallas. We’re not, no, we’re not together. If you want to call it an open relationship, that’s fine. When we get together, we’re still very close. We very much love each other, but our careers and certain things are going in a different direction so we’re taking a break and we’re separated and well, I’m single.
I was just going to ask, are you dating anyone?
Please, I’m single! [Laughs.] No, I’m single and I’m OK with it. And if Brenda and I decide to come around in a few years or if not, we’re always going to be best friends. It’s very important to both of us that we stay together. She’s awesome. My parents love her. She’s totally part of my family and she’s going to be staying with me at my parents’ and it’s just wonderful having her as a friend.
Since we’re on the subject of women, who would you date on TV?
Oh God, from a reality show? From The L Word, for sure. Remember Carmen? She’s definitely the epitome of my type of woman. She was beautiful and just carried herself well…and [was] voluptuous and sexy.
I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear that.
Oh man, [can] you set me up with her?
[Laughs.] I’m flattered you think I have her number.
You can slip her number in a note. That’s fine, I won’t tell her. I’ve never seen a woman on a reality show that’s like, “OK, she’d be nice to take out on a date.” At least not that I can think of at the moment. I think I like the Jennifer Garner type. The dark hair, dark-eyed, cute-girl face, long hair, feminine. I like the feminine girls. I don’t tend to go for the more butchier types, although I can appreciate them.
So would she have a tattoo or not?
You know, tattoos are nice. But, virgin lesbians are OK too. [Laughs.] And you know, actually I’m attracted to edgier girls too as long as they have a feminine cute look to them. Like I can see a hot girl with tattoos walking by, but if she’s got long hair and she’s voluptuous, that adds to it even more. Yeah, I’d say Shane is cute, but she’s a bit small. I don’t know, I mean, I get it, I totally get Shane and how everybody thinks she’s so hot because she truly is. She’s very sexy and hot and all that sort of thing. But she’s not my type. I don’t know if she were to approach me and offer me a drink and a hotel room key that I’d follow her up on it.
If you didn’t want the key, I’m sure you could sell it for a lot of money.
Yeah through eBay and there’s a few things, a few pieces of debt I’d like to pay off. [Laughs.]
Do you still talk to everybody from the show?
Oh yeah, the entire cast, as opposed to a few people, we all stayed very, very close. Justin is actually coming out here, he’s going to be hanging out with me. It’s funny because before the reunion I didn’t even talk to these people and I never kept in touch with them and now they’re like my family. They’re like my best friends. It’s amazing what two weeks can do to you.
Any parting words?
Go J.J. Pearce [high school]. I’m very proud of our school for getting its own show.
Pumkin Joins Our Team
Written by: Catherine Plato
Best known as the feisty "Pumkin" from VH1's Flavor of Love, Brooke Thompson has been rocking the game show and reality TV circuits for years now, with appearances on Blind Date, Friend or Foe, and Family Feud. In Thompson's latest endeavor, the outspoken blond bombshell competed with 19 other single ladies for the love of Flavor Flav of Public Enemy fame. As it turned out, love was simply not in the stars for Brooke and Mr. Flav, but it's all good: at Dinah Shore 2006, Thompson announced the good news.
So these are the rumors: you came out at Dinah Shore, and you’re engaged to your partner Courtney Taylor. Are they true?
Well, one out of two isn't bad! Yes, I did go to Dinah Shore this year. It was my first time ever going there and I had so much fun. I have literally never seen that many lesbian women in one place at one time! However, I am currently single and there are absolutely no wedding plans in the near future.
Do you identify as lesbian or bisexual?
I consider myself bisexual. I am attracted to both sexes. Women are beautiful and men are gorgeous. However, I connect more with women. When I kiss guys I just do not feel the same vibe. There is minimal connection.
When did you first think that you might be queer?
In high school I dated guys and was the typical cheerleader who always dated the star football player. But it just never felt right. I had so many guy friends but I never really connected with them. It was when I finally followed my heart that I found true love. She knows who she is.
Has your being in the media spotlight made dating difficult at all?
I think it has been a challenge for the girls I have dated since the show because I do get a lot of attention, mostly from men. It has changed my life in a way because everywhere I go people want pictures or autographs or just to say that I am their idol for spitting in the bitch's face!
How has coming out changed your life?
I think it has become more challenging. My friends don't care either way, and a few of my family members are cool with it. My mom, on the other hand, hates it. But, at the end of the day, you have to make yourself happy and live your life the way you choose to.
Do you expect it to have any effects on your career?
I don't think so, because before Flavor of Love I was the same person as I am now and I had no problem with appearing completely straight on the show. I hope that is does not hurt my career. Hollywood is so accepting. I do not think they care what you do on your own time as long as you are good at what you do and keep the viewers wanting more.
So do you plan to continue working in reality TV?
I love reality TV... I am what they call a reality TV whore, meaning I audition for everything, not meaning that Iï¿½m an actual whore!
Any plans to break into mainstream acting?
I am open to that as my next move. I love reality television, but that's all I know at this point. I would love to branch out into movies eventually, but right now I am just trying to extend this 15 minutes of fame I have been given. Pumkin might remain as a memory, but America has not seen the last of Brooke.
I've read that you never had a deep romantic interest in Flav. Do you think that's true for other contestants on the show as well?
Flav is an amazing person. He is so much fun to be around and has such a positive outlook on life. He is a sweetheart and an all around great person. But that's where it ended. The difference in our upbringing made it hard for me to understand what he was saying half the time. Each and every girl on the show had a motive for being on Flavor of Love. Out of the 20 girls, I do think there is one who went there for Flav and only Flav. Whether it be to further a modeling career, or to break out into acting, each of us had our own motive. And there is nothing wrong with that.
What was your prime reason for being on the show?
My motive for doing the show was to make a name for myself, and to have a great time. I am a wild child at heart and enjoy new and exciting experiences. I knew living with Flav would be an experience in itself.
What was the highlight for you?
The highlight for me was making it in the top four with my two girls Goldie and Hoopz! We had so much fun and I think it showed. Unfortunately, America did not get to see all the fun times we had, but the experience in itself was amazing.
Having been on a few shows, how "real" would you say reality TV actually is? It sounds like a lot of things get manipulated and scripted.
Typically three days worth of footage would be cut and edited into one hour, so you can imagine how much the producers have to cut out. Flavor of Love was definitely not scripted. When I called New York a bitch and a transvestite who had her dick tucked between her ball sack, those were my words! And I have no problem owning up to them... I think that all reality shows are about the same. The cast tends to make situations bigger than they actually are in order to make them more appealing to the viewers, but at the same time, those are real tears, real emotions, and sometimes real hearts being broken.
So beyond TV plans, what's next for you? Are you still substitute teaching?
I am no longer able to substitute for the high school kids because it was a huge distraction. A lot of the viewers are high school students and between classes the students would literally pour into my class to get pictures, autographs, or just saw hi. One time, this student made a paper clock, brought me pizza, and walked into my class to propose! It just got a little much for me to handle and the security would have to drive me from my class to the office on golf carts to avoid students at the end of each school day.
How would you describe yourself? Are you different than how you think the media portrays you?
I am the type of person who does not care what people think about me. I am true to myself and if people have a problem with that then they do not have to associate with me. I am a major flirt and I know how to work it. I think the media somewhat portrays [me] as an easy slut, but the people who know me know that is the furthest from the truth. I kissed Flav many times. So what? That does not mean I fucked him like Miss New York!
One last question: If you were in Flav's position, who would you have chosen?
I would have picked Hoopz. She is not only gorgeous, but she has the personality to go along with it. She also knows how to be romantic and take care of her partner.
Ruthie Sets the Record Straight...Sort of
Written by: Gretchen Lee
Even in television's Real World, the cameras don't lie. Or do they?
Last summer, 71 million homes nationwide sat glued to the set each week to see what Ruthie, a native Hawaiian, bisexual Rutgers University student and the wildest girl ever to inhabit an overdecorated summer home-turned-pressure-cooker Real World set, would do next.
In the very first episode, we watch as Ruthie, a spirited woman with an irresistible smile, goes with her housemates to a bar, has drinks all around, and then passes out on the bathroom floor with alcohol poisoning. She wakes up in the hospital after having her stomach pumped, and later wonders aloud, to the surprise of her worried housemates, "Did someone put something in my drink?"
In another episode, after another night of drinking, she impulsively kisses her (straight girl) housemate Kaia in the back of a minivan, and then claims the next day not to remember the incident at all. Ruthie's eyes widen as she says on-camera, "Maybe I had too much to drink...My girlfriend isn't going to like this very much." (She and the girlfriend have since split.)
"I remembered it," acknowledged Kaia, pointedly adding, "and I liked it."
Yet even after she's kicked out of the house mid-season and offered an opportunity to come back only if she successfully completes a stay in an alcohol rehab ward, Ruthie insists she's not an alcoholic. "I couldn't relate to the other women there," she says. "And I even got into a little bit of trouble in the [rehab] program because they said I was a little too happy."
"I know it was a big deal," she says, of the alcohol poisoning. "It was my second day there," she recalls. "I called my friends from Jersey and they were laughing, saying, 'Oh my God, already?'"
"It got out of control when I was on the show," she acknowledges. "People are going to think that part of my life is all of me. In actuality, that was just four months of my life. Everyone's going to have their own opinion, but no one was in my shoes but me."
From January to May of this year, Ruthie and six housemates lived in a posh, plantation-style beachfront home in Hawaii as cast members for MTV's popular reality-based soap opera The Real World. As part of their agreement with the show's producers, the cast of seven 20-somethings were videotaped 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Because there's always a camera running, you might think you see everything that happens. Eighteen surveillance cameras monitor the house and are observed continuously by a director or producer nearby. Three taping crews assigned to the cast work from sunup to around 5 a.m. or so, when the last of the Real World cast members has finally fallen asleep. Plus, a security guard keeps an eye on the house to alert the show's producers if the kids start sneaking around at night.
Eventually, the show is pared down in post-production to include only 22 one-hour episodes. So a lot is bound to end up on the cutting-room floor.
Some of what you won't see on The Real World will come as no surprise. Camera crews tend to shy away from taping in the bathroom. "Unless they're having a conversation in there," says MTV camerawoman and out lesbian Gretchen Warthen. Similarly, the crew keeps their distance from any lovemaking trysts. "We don't film people having sex per se," says supervising producer Matt Kunitz, "but we show enough to document that they're having a sexual relationship."
That strategy backfired this season when taping the first-ever in-house romance. The director, speaking off-site into the cameraman's headset, instructed the cameraman to back up farther and farther—until he landed with a loud splash into the pool, upsetting lovebirds Amaya and Colin, losing the shot and ruining the camera. Still, Warthen, who also crewed for the Real World season set in Seattle, and Kunitz agree this is the most open cast of any previous episodes.
Nudity was definitely "in" this season, to the extent that the crew had to devise a special "necklace" microphone for Kaia and Ruthie, who kept taking their shirts off. On the first day of taping in the beach house, Ruthie and housemate Teck lost no time in stripping off all their clothes and leaping into the pool. Kaia took a dip in the buff as well, while Justin, the more reserved gay housemate, rolled up his pants legs and dangled only his feet and ankles in the water.
Kunitz recalls one shoot that didn't make the final cut. Ruthie, Kaia and two of their friends were hanging out in the backyard taking nudie photos of one another as they applied suntan oil. "The neighbors peeking through the fence must have thought we were shooting a porno," he says.
In interviews after the taping, show co-creator Mary-Ellis Bunim claims not to have known about Ruthie's proclivity as a party girl. Not so, says Ruthie, who endured an intense screening process in which only seven of 23,167 applicants are selected.
"I laid it all on the table," Ruthie says. "I told them the good stuff and the bad stuff. I told them I'm a party animal. That I'm very independent. That I grew up in a foster family and about my bisexuality."
Ruthie, a fraternal triplet (two girls and one boy), and her siblings (plus one older sister) were raised as foster kids by a strict Filipino family living in Hawaii. She has a strained relationship to her birth mother, who hung up on Ruthie the last time they spoke by phone several years ago. And her foster family recently disowned her as well, after seeing the casting special and reading about the show in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
"We were treated differently because we were foster kids," she says. "My grandma—I call my foster mother my grandma because she's too old to call her mom--had seven kids. We were always treated less than them. When you're a little kid, you don't understand what's going on. I used to say, 'You don't love me! You don't love me!' at 9 or 10 years old."
"I went to visit my foster family when I knew I was going to be kicked out of the [Real World] house," she says. "I told them, 'If anything happens, please don't be disappointed in me,' and my auntie was like, 'You know I'm going to be there for you.' I got really upset when she said that, and was, like, 'When have you ever been there for me?'"
Living on her own since the age of 17, when she and her sister went away to college, Ruthie says her life changed 180 degrees after taking part in an Upward Bound program the summer after her freshman year in high school. "My self-confidence went from 50 to 110."
"I'm kinda glad that I went through this on the show, because it helped me grow as a person," she says. "A lot of people are going to tell you I didn't learn anything, but I can tell you I learned a hundred things. "At least I know who I am," Ruthie says. "And I know that this is not the highlight of my life. The Real World does not make you, you make you. People are going to learn from my experiences.
"Even though I was sacrificed to TV Land," she adds.
Tila Tequila's Girls Speak
Written by: Kristin A. Smith and Candace Moore
Brandi Ryan, who left the show in a firestorm of emotions, may have a second chance at reality TV. The 23-year-old from Costa Mesa, Calif., has proposed a new show to MTV that centers around helping teenagers deal with some of the issues Ryan herself has dealt with—abuse, foster care, the court system and coming out.
“I really want to help them believe in themselves,” says Ryan. Since Shot at Love ended, Ryan has received 40,000 emails from fans, most of who ask her advice on dealing with their problems.
In terms of dealing with her own problems, she says she’s “still learning.” Ryan may be remembered best for her emotional exit and unsuccessful return. She says that she handled the situation wrong, by “running away from a problem instead of explaining it.”
She adds that if she could have really told Tila her feelings, she would have had a real shot at love. For now, though, she’s choosing to remain single and refocus her attention on raising her brother, who she began fostering five years ago.
If MTV were actually a university, and Shot at Love a class, Amanda Ireton would be the funny girl in the back of the room who is everybody’s best friend (myspace/msk1tty.com). Some might like her because she rolls her eyes at the trivial fights between underclassmen. Others might like her because she’s tall and has big breasts. But Ireton is a girl to be remembered, not for her outlandish behavior, but because she was consistently herself.
“I was real throughout the whole thing,” says Ireton. She was one of the three final contestants, and attributes her longevity to her humor and age. At 28, Ireton is one of the oldest competitors. “A lot of the younger girls don’t really know who they are,” she says, “I do.” Plus she adds, “Tila really appreciated my sense of humor.”
While Ireton admits that there was no real sexual chemistry between Tequila and her, she says the show was important, because “it was historical and raised awareness and helped gain acceptance for the queer community.”
Ireton, a high femme from Southern California, is a self-proclaimed “serious member of the gay community.” By serious she means she came out at 15, dated all types of women and was even married to a woman. She says her quote at the beginning of the show about butch women being unappealing was a misrepresentation of what she said. “They cut out the beginning of the quote. When I heard the edited version, my stomach just dropped.”
As for her life after Tila…she says she’s reentering the dating scene. “If somebody amazing falls into my life, then I’ll go for it.” “Until then,” she jokes, “I’m accumulating a group of dykes to tattoo my name on their body.” Ireton begins a standup comedy tour in February.
Vanessa Romanelli is the girl most likely to kick your ass. The self-proclaimed “wild, crazy bitch from the show,” has proven her ability to tumble with the best of them (from boys to Brandi).
Kicked off in a flurry of fist swinging and hair pulling, Romanelli has made numerous club appearances where she runs a spin-off stage version of the Tila Tequila show—A Shot at Love with Vanessa. In these performances, Vanessa invites a group of men and women up onto the show to, as she puts it, “berate them.” And they seem to be lining up for the abuse. “They love it,” she says, “people really want to do this.”
Romanelli says despite her vilification on the show, she “really [is] a nice girl.” She says that MTV showed what they wanted to show, and while she did lash out when angry, she was also very nice and made some great friends. In fact, she says that while she and Tila had some chemistry, the real chemistry was with her seeming nemesis, Brandi. “We had a real love/hate relationship,” says Romanelli. As for her dating? The 24-year-old New Yorker says she’s single and “partying it up.”
CURVE caught up with A Shot at Love contestant Ashli Haynes at her coming-out bash at the O Bar in West Hollywood, Calif. Haynes’ guests, including co-contestant Amanda Ireton, joined her in her private cabana or out on the dance floor. And yes, ladies, she’s still a virgin.
Tell us about your coming-out party tonight!
The show was really my coming out. Before that my family didn’t know, most my friends didn’t know. Now I’m having a coming out party; a way to celebrate.
You go by Ashli the Virgin. Do you think your lack of sexual experience might have been one of the reasons you didn’t get picked?
When Tila eliminated me, she said she respected me too much to make me feel uncomfortable, and didn’t want to put me in a position that maybe I couldn’t handle. I think me being a virgin definitely had some influence on her.
How overdramatized was the show from what happened in your experience?
Everything you saw, as far as drama and confrontation, was true. It was not scripted at all. There was no need to overdramatize anything. You take a whole bunch of people from different life experiences, different walks of life, and you’re going to get that.
Especially when you throw them all in the same bed!
Absolutely! Lesbians and straight guys—crazy shit is going to happen. People are naturally competitive and there was competition between the guys and the girls because we didn’t know who she was going to choose.
Were you surprised by the final two?
As far as the people, in retrospect it makes sense.
Have you been hit on since the show? I’m sure that everyone wants to be the one to deflower you.
I get approached a lot. Maybe people approach me because of what I look like, or whatever, but a lot of the times people approach me because of the show. Lots of people do just want to get a chance at the fresh meat.
Have you had any romantic encounters, people that you’ve been interested in and seen more than once?
I’ve been seeing someone.
In terms of approaching the idea of having sex, are you two going slow?
The person that I’m seeing has been really honest with me in terms of why she wants to be with me and what she likes about me. She’s made it perfectly clear that we can take our time, there’s no rush, and I really appreciate that.
What are you working on now that the show’s over?
Right now I’m working on my demo. I have this one song that I completed and it’s really hot, called “Reality,” produced by Russell Weiner. It’s like pop meets gospel meets rock.
Are you more attracted to femmes or butches? Or you don’t have a preference?
Honestly, I’m more attracted to femmes. I have more masculine friends and I get it and I’m open to it. If I were to meet someone that I just clicked with like that than why the hell not?
So Dani’s not your type, necessarily?
It’s funny, but I actually did start to fall for Dani. She’s a really charming woman. She has such a good spirit. She’s very intuitive and observant and she pays attention. She got me before I even had to open my mouth. I connected with her.