Home Sweet HomoFor better or worse, "the gay," has become a stock cast member on almost every reality show since the very first season of MTV's The Real World. Combine that with the lifestyle movement giving rise to The Food Network, Learning Channel, HGTV, and others producing a myriad of instant gratification decorating, entertaining and cooking shows hosted by a cavalcade of obviously gay men parading in and out of America's kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms every day. The only problem was, no one was talking about it.
It took Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (whatever any of us may think of that show) to acknowledge the elephant in America's living room: that gay men are a huge influence and (in many cases) are at the forefront of the most creative industries in the world be they fashion, culture, cuisine, home design or beauty. Finally, the gay community was being recognized for some of what we have to bring to the table as valid and worthwhile. With that "secret" out, it gave otherwise wholesome networks like HGTV and the Food Network license to include gays on reality shows of their own. I'm speaking specifically of Design Star and The Next Food Network Star.
Coincidentally, the winners for the first seasons of both these shows were out, proud, gay men. What's new about that you may ask? After all, didn't Richard Hatch become the most notorious gay reality show winner on Survivor I years ago? Well, the difference is that viewers vote American Idol style for the winners of Design Star and The Next Food Network Star. The prize in these cases is not money or a start-up business but rather, a contract to host a regular show on these networks where week after week average Americans will welcome these gay men into their homes, listen to what they have to say and take them seriously. What's more, the viewers themselves chose these guys specifically for the job.
Almost two years ago, former actors and Chicago couple Dan Smith and Steve MacDonagh were named the very first winners of The Next Food Network Star. The owners of The Hearty Boys restaurant and catering company never hid their relationship or sexual orientation from viewers. In fact they used it to their advantage. In their audition tape MacDonagh gave a bit of good natured advice to Food Network producers saying "We're a gay couple and you should think about that because the gays right now? They're hot." Their married-couple chemistry, tongue-in-cheek bickering and ability to finish each other's sentences combined with their updated take on retro American comfort food proved a winning combination. Dan and Steve host a show called Party Line with the Hearty Boys which includes recipes and entertaining tips from their years of catering experience. It airs on the Food Network Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM Eastern.
This past September viewers voted for David Bromstad, a Miami based designer, as the winner of the very first HGTV Design Star. According to Metro Source NY, when Bromstad was chosen to compete on the show he made a conscious decision not to hide his sexuality from the cameras. He was a stand-out from the very first episode, not only for his superior design skills but also because he seemed so comfortable in his own skin. And what fine skin it is, too, stretched over about 180 lbs of Miami circuit boy muscle! Bromstad never missed an opportunity to ditch his t-shirt and show off his chiseled body to the hoards of desperate housewives (and gay men) watching at home. The producers chose not to show specific footage of Bromstad talking about his sexuality until the very end of the series, but the fact that he was gay could only be missed by the most homoblivious of viewers. In interviews since his win Bromstad talks quite openly and proudly about being gay. Bromstad's show Splash of Color will premiere on HGTV this March.
If you would like to counteract all the negative gay news lately (Isaiah Washington, Tim Hardaway, etc) with something positive, check out the feature article on the Hearty Boys in the January 2007 issue of Chicago magazine or the cover story on David Bromstad in this months issue of Metro Source NY.