A lot has changed in the 20 years since Boy Meets Boy, TV's first same-sex dating show, premiered on Bravo. Since that series premiered, there have been a string of reality series featuring gay men, from Queer Eye to The A-List. But the newest addition to this gay TV legacy, MTV's The Real Friends of WeHo, has encountered something those past series didn't have to: Social media.
Even when recent shows like Finding Prince Charming and Fire Island premiered on Logo back in 2016 and 2017, respectively, social media was not like it is today. It seemed as soon as The Real Friends of WeHo title and cast were announced, the LGBTQ community had a lot to say. And it turns out, in this very online world we live in, resisting the urge to read the comments — good and bad — can be difficult, even for the Real Friends of WeHo stars themselves.
"I'm fortunate enough to have quite a few friends that have done RuPaul's Drag Race. I actually got to have some really nice conversations with Monique Heart and Jackie Cox, in particular, where they talked to me about, 'Okay, baby, let me explain to you what's about to happen,'" cast member Jaymes Vaughan tells Logo. "They had the whole conversation of, 'Don't look at social media, don't pay attention to it. Have your reason for why you did this show and just do that, and know if just one person is saved by the story you tell, then you've done your job.'"
"So that's where my focus is with this and that's why I'm so thankful to have people like Mo and Jackie in my life that give me advice like that because it does put it all in perspective because that is why we did this show," Vaughan continues. "We didn't sign up for a Housewives show. We didn't sign up for a dramatic show. We signed up for a show where we could tell our story because we wanted to give that hope to somebody out there going through what we went through."
Vaughan has been out for years, he is married to Mean Girls' Jonathan Bennett, and his career has taken him from TV host to launching his own LGBTQ cruising company, Outbound. But Vaughan's castmate, Curtis Hamilton, has had a different journey. For Hamilton, who is most known for his roles in Insecure and Surviving Compton, The Real Friends of WeHo announcement served as his public coming out.
"I don't feed into negativity like that. It's not healthy. I try to lead my life positively. I want to leave a positive effect on whoever I run into," Hamilton responds when asked if he has read any of the series trailer reactions online. "Just to see comments like that, it's usually people who are hurt, from my understanding. Hopefully, they come around and just understand, you never know what people are going through. We just need to support one another. All of that stuff is not helping us to progress as a community. It's just pulling us back. We're fighting amongst each other. It's really not the direction we want to go. Everybody needs a chance to tell their story, and this was an opportunity to do that."
Out of the entire Real Friends cast, celeb stylist Brad Goreski is probably the one most familiar with cameras following him around. From his breakout turn on The Rachel Zoe Project back in 2008 to serving as a resident judge on Canada's Drag Race, Goreski has been in the entertainment industry for a minute, and he knows better than to give the haters online his time or energy:
"I don't really read any of it, but it's the world we live in. The internet just goes off about everything," Goreski explains. "So I knew that when we did this show that there were going to be a lot of conversations about it, but I also knew that there would be people who were not into it, but I also know that the product, the end result of what we intended to do is what people are going to see."
While Goreski might be the most seasoned, being in the ensemble of a reality series is new for his co-star, Joey Zauzig who just moved from New York to L.A. two years ago. Since he is a social media influencer and is known as "the internet's best friend," Zauzig has a personal relationship with his audience, which made resisting reading the comments even harder.
"I've never done this, so, of course I'm reading it," he confesses. "I don't really have a choice because people just know already to target me. I'm really thankful to Brad and Todrick because we talk all the time now after the announcement and they gave me the advice to stop reading it. You don't have to look at this stuff because the people that already have made an assumption about you are people that have made that decision."
"There's no point to look at the bad. My whole motto is always to focus on the positive," Zauzig continues. "So with their help and just listening to my own advice, I'm just trying to be excited and proud, and keep that mentality because people have already made assumptions without seeing the show. It's not my responsibility to try and force people to see this is an amazing authentic show."
Then there's cast member Todrick Hall, who is known as a singer, dancer, choreographer, and a regular on RuPaul's Drag Race. But in recent years Hall has made headlines for multiple "scandals," something he does not shy away from talking about on Real Friends of WeHo.
"I didn't agree to do the show so that I could exonerate myself. I truly believe after years of being on social media that once the internet has decided that they don't like you or they decided the narrative they want for you, there's nothing you could do to change it," says the "I Like Boys" singer. "You could show every receipt. Until they meet you in person and have a real authentic eye-to-eye, spirit-to-spirit relationship with you, there's nothing that you can do to change that. And I didn't come here to do that. I know who I am, but I am happy that this is a great platform for me to be able to speak my truth because it's something that I haven't really talked about."
"I hope that this show creates a conversation where we start talking about why it is that we would rather see straight women live their lives [on TV] than to see gay people," Hall continues. "I think there's a little bit of internalized homophobia that we all deal with in different capacities or different levels, and I think it's an interesting conversation."
For those curious, Hamilton suggests to "just tune in, give it a shot and go from there. And if it's not for you, it's not for you. But you just never know. It's not just some dramatic show. It's not just going to be some bull crap that we all see in reality TV a lot of the time. There are real conversations being had."
Zauzig adds how he hopes "the narrative changes once people see the first episode" of Real Friends.
"I am not looking at the hate, I'm focusing on the amazing community that I have. I'm just super pumped and I'm super proud of it," Zauzig explains, with Goreski echoing his sentiment:
"I'm very proud of the other guys on the cast and how vulnerable they were and how open each of us are about sharing our story. I hope that resonates with people and for the people that it doesn't, everybody has a choice whether they want to watch it or not."
The Real Friends of WeHo airs Fridays at 9/8c on MTV.