Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Writing Our Own Stories: Reality Star Karamo Brown Says It's Time for LGBT People to "Take the Pen out of Hollywood's Hands."

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Writing Our Own Stories: Reality Star Karamo Brown Says It's Time for LGBT People to "Take the Pen out of Hollywood's Hands."

Article excerpt

Reality star Karamo Brown thinks there should be more diversity when it comes to LGBT representation. "Point-blank," he says, "there is not enough diversity in media." He wants to see more of "everyone," and believes the queer community can help make it happen by how they spend their money and which shows they choose to watch.

In 2004, Brown made history as the first out gay black man on reality TV when he appeared on The Real World: Philadelphia. He instantly became a role model, simply for providing visibility to gay black men.

"I was getting messages that I loved from people," Brown recalls. "Saying, 'Oh my gosh, you stopped me from killing myself!'" But, he admits, he didn't know "how to respond [or] what to do." In the end, the pressure was too much and Brown "got addicted to drugs, to cocaine, and was like partying every night, wasting away, killing myself, basically, because I didn't know how to deal with this sort of new reality fame."

That was one of the reasons Brown disappeared from public view for nearly a decade. Another was his sudden discovery that he had a son, Jason, who was 10-years-old when Brown first met him. In 2007, the preteen came to live with him full time. Brown went on to adopt a second son, who encouraged the former reality star to pursue his dreams of getting back into TV.

Brown saw that dream come to fruition in 2014, when he became a panelist on Dr. Drew on Call, recruited in part because of his background as a licensed social worker. He filmed 54 episodes of the show.

Being a father is critical to Brown's identity, and when Carlos King cast him on 2016's The Next 15 with other former reality stars like Tiffany Pollard (I Love New York) and Claudia Jordan (Real Housewives of Atlanta), Brown insisted Jason appear on the show.

"It was extremely important," Brown explains, "I'd never really seen men of color ... who were openly gay, raising their children. I don't know if I've seen any other black gay fathers raising their kids on TV. I've never seen a single gay father, and I knew that it was important for any men out there ... who were wanting children, to see that relationship."

But it's not just single black gay dads that Brown wants to see reflected on big and small screens. "We're not talking about Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans, trans Americans, we're not talking about, even representation of bisexual people. I mean there's so many stories that need to be told, narratives that should be shared. We, as communities that are marginalized, need to open up our minds and realize that we should be asking and advocating for more of everyone. Let's get more gay black men, let's get more trans women."

He continues: "How about we get more trans Asian men? You know, like, where's that story being told? And I'm talking about in both scripted and reality programs, and I think that it's up to us to sort of take the pen out of Hollywood's hands and start controlling our own narratives, and pooling together and utilizing the resources we have, so that these stories can be heard in the mainstream."

While Brown believes having "directors, producers, executives who are part of the LGBTQ community is very important," he adds, "I also think it's important for our community to realize that there's power in our dollars."

He recalls growing up and seeing his Jamaican-American parents protest by refusing to shop at certain stores unless they changed their policies. …

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