By BeBe Sweetbriar | www.bebesweetbriar.com
MTV: Ex-Morman Queer Chris Ammon Goes Big on Real World
It seems so surreal that the show that helped me open my eyes to my sexuality, owning up to it and how that ownership could affect my family, friends and strangers in the world is still around…. MTV’s Real World. I remember the first episode of the first season in 1992, and vividly recall Real World: San Francisco in 1994 and the story of openly gay and HIV+ Pedro Zamora. Always creating a space for the discussion on and exposure of tough issues, Real World entered its thirty-first season this month with Real World: Go Big or Go Home in Las Vegas (3rd time filmed there). Unlike in previous season, Real World Go Big… will present an element from its now defunct sister show Road Rules by having personal challenges for the show’s cast mates. One cast mate of interest to the LGBTQ community in particular is Chris Ammon, now living in New York, but hails from Utah. Yes, you guessed it, Chris is a queer Mormon survivor and shares, lives and explores his story on this season of Real World with his 6 housemates. In my interview with Chris he shared, “telling my story became so much more important when I realized that my story is a story so many won’t get to tell.” Chris’s story is, unfortunately, not as uncommon as one might think and sharing it on the show is a part of his plans to help create change in a world still in desperate need of learning complete acceptance of all its people, and expose the ways religious organizations propagate sexism, racism, bigotry, hatred and homophobia.
BeBe: What’s a good looking ex-Mormon queer boy from Utah doing on MTV Real World? I mean was filming Real World: Go Big or Go Home in Las Vegas an eye opener for you?
Chris: It was definitely something that made my life interesting! I was raised in Provo, Utah where Brigham Young University (BYU) is, where my parents met, where I was born and eventually went to BYU. I was at BYU when I started to come to terms with my sexuality. I was raised very, very Mormon, almost to the point of it being an extremist sect of Mormonism. I was experimenting and trying new things because I had dealt with intense depression and anxiety for years, and (psychiatrists) weren’t able to tell me what the cause was, though clearly, it was beyond something just chemical. As I started developing great friendships and coming to terms as to who I was, and in doing so, distancing myself from the faith, I found myself much happier. When I trust myself rather than the Church and the religion I was spoon-fed my entire life, I find myself happier. When the opportunity with MTV Real World presented itself, I jumped at it because I thought anything I can do to push myself outside of my comfort zone is ultimately going to make me happier. It was an amazing experience!
BeBe: How has your relationship been with your “old world” since the filming of Real World: Go Big or Go Home?
Chris: It has been incredibly strained. I haven’t spoken to my mother since the show except for our conversation where she threatened to sue me for defaming this Faith that is so important to her. Now that I’m speaking my mind and talking openly about my struggles while Mormon and after leaving the Church, I have all but lost all contact with my Mom and that side of the family. I’ve been disowned by them.
BeBe: Was there something more you wanted to get out of being on MTV Real World besides stepping outside your comfort zone? If so, what was it and did you accomplish what you set out to?
Chris: I ultimately went on the show to talk about the ways in which religious organizations propagate sexism, racism, bigotry, hatred and homophobia. It really has become a personal battle for me. For most of my life, I could be classified as a white, upper middle class, Christian, cos-gender, straight male which awarded me ludicrous amounts of privilege. There is so much work to be done in the world to make sure LGBTQ people have the same rights and privileges as everyone else. Having such a dramatic shift in my life, and seeing firsthand how so many of my rights were just gone after I came out, that was my call-to-action “to do something with my life to help create (needed) change in the world. The Real World is going to be the first step in doing that. I don’t know if I would have been able to take those steps had I not been on the show.
BeBe: Wanted or not, you are now a celebrity and your personal plans/steps to accomplish the change you desire will become accelerated. As a celebrity, you will be asked to speak for so many people like yourself who cannot speak for themselves. Are you prepared for that?
Chris: (noticeably fighting back tears) I’m glad you asked. In the midst of this process, I had a group of women, the Mama Dragons, who are mothers of Mormon LGBT teens providing support to (Mormon) families of teenagers who have committed suicide because of their sexuality and their place in the Church. Last November, the Mormon Church published a new handbook of guidelines and in it, it says same-sex couples are considered an abomination and no longer members of the Church. Their children cannot be baptized until they are 18, moved out on their own, and disavowed their parentage. Annually, the average number of Mormon LGBT teens who kill themselves had been 34 (is unable to hold back the flood of tears), but since the handbook publishing (4 months ago), 34 kids have already killed themselves. Telling my story became so much more important when I realized that my story is a story so many won’t get to tell.
BeBe: MTV Real World is credited with launching the reality show format when it started in 1992 and openly discussing tough issues like being gay and AIDS through the story of the first openly gay person on television on its third season in San Francisco, Pedro Zamora (ironically the biopic of Zamora’s life, Pedro, was written by ex-Mormon gay Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (MILK, J.Edgar). How would you summarize the value of the show today?
Chris: The thing most surprising to me about the process was how authentic it really was. There were no scripts, no prompting. It really was 7 people in a house just figuring out how to understand each other. There was an honesty, a realness and an attention to who we were as people and what we represented. I think people will be pleased to see that the same types of issues talked about in the early seasons of Real World are very present in this season as well. What people see is us. What people see is me. And, that’s incredible!
MTV Real World: Go Big or Go Home premiered March 17 and seen every Thursday on MTV. Chris Ammon is writing a book about his queer Mormon experience and you can follow his progress on his social media IG/TW: @ImTheAntiChris www.ChristopherAmmon.com
YouTube: Vlogger Josh Leyva stars in new gay Indie Film Project
RainBRO, written & directed by Ryan J. Kaplan & Rachel Werth, is a coming-of-age teen comedy about a high school bully (Josh Leyva) who is accidentally sent to gay reform camp & must find a way to escape before his reputation is ruined. On his hilarious, yet heartfelt journey, he meets a diverse host of characters that ultimately challenge the way he sees the world, and himself. The film is in its “indiegogo” phase and hoping to garner support.
Trailor @RainBRO Film on YouTube
Follow @Josh Leyva on YouTube
LogoTV: There’s More to Derrick Barry’s Drag Than Britney
Like with its previous seven seasons, RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 8 will introduce the world to 12 drag queens that are most likely superstars in their hometown communities, but are seeking that national and international fame that Drag Race exposes its drag contestants to. Except for one already internationally known stand out…. Derrick Barry. Known as one of the best Britney Spears impersonators in the world, Derrick has turned his spot on impersonation into a gold mine making a very good living performing all over the world as Britney, including his regular gig in the cast of the world famous Divas starring Frank Marino on the Las Vegas strip. Derrick Barry became a nationally known drag performer when he became a finalist on America’s Got Talent. As requests for the Britney look-a-like to perform all over the world came in, international notoriety soon followed. So why did a drag queen already living the dream all the Season 8 queens hope to make a reality from their appearance on Drag Race want to be on the reality show phenomenon? Derrick told me why and more.
BeBe: You have already achieved a lot in the world of drag prior to getting on Drag Race. Why has being on the show been such a dream come true for you?
Derrick Barry: I applied to be on the show because it was the only way I knew to take what I was doing to another level. I get stuck in the Britney box, and as great as it is, I thought it time to find another avenue for me, pursuing drag in a similar style, but also stepping outside the box a bit for me as well. Drag Race is the biggest thing out there for me to show (more to) people who say ‘well, all she does is Britney. If they think that, then maybe they should watch the show this season.
BeBe: That definitely plays into the hands of the judges on Drag Race who like to see contestants stretch themselves with their looks and stepping out of their comfort zones.
Derrick Barry: I have always been interested in doing my own music, and now that has come to fruition. I’m excited to travel around not only as Britney, but to do my own music and looks as well.
BeBe: Do you think the judges will have a hard time looking past your Britney look and give you serious credit for your other looks you will be presenting on the show?
Derrick Barry: I’ve always had critics that say I don’t look anything like Britney and others say I look just like her. So, I think it can go both ways with the judges. If some of the judges aren’t familiar with my (Britney), it will be easy for them to judge me on exactly what’s in front of them. I can’t aim to please everyone, but I definitely know the work I’m putting into it is definitely going to pay off because I will turn people who have been against what I’ve been doing and saying ‘female impersonation isn’t drag enough’ into fans.
BeBe: So you are hoping RuPaul’s Drag Race will be the platform to show the world the depth of your drag art?
Derrick Barry: Definitely! In the first few seasons of Drag Race I was nervous to audition to be on the show because I was coming off America’s Got Talent and I was known for Just doing one thing, and the Drag Race is expecting different looks. It wasn’t until I started doing Lady Gaga that I realized that my face is a blank canvas and I can be anything I want and may Drag Race is something I should go for.
BeBe: Let’s fast forward a bit to the possibility that Derrick Barry is crowned the Next Drag Superstar. Will you say goodbye to Britney?
Derrick Barry: I will never say goodbye to Britney. That is one character that will never leave my repertoire. I’ve put too much time and energy into it to ever say goodbye. It would take Britney herself to come to.me and ask me stop, and I am not expecting that day to come.
BeBe: Being on Drag Race and becoming a RuGirl, you become an ambassador for drag and the LGBTQ communities. Will you embrace that?
Derrick Barry: There’s not a bigger honor in the world than for people to look up to me or view me as a role model. I want people to know that female impersonation is a form of drag and under the same umbrella, and to inspire people to do more of it.
Watch Derrick Barry along with his #TeamDerrick fans compete for the crown as America’s Next Drag Superstar on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 every Monday at 9pm on logoTV.
San Francisco Hosts Its First RuPaul’s Drag Race Premiere
February 28 marked the first time San Francisco played host to a season premiere event for Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Season 8 comes three years after our very own Honey Mahogany became the only San Francisco queen yet to appear on the reality competition show. For a city that has lined the purses of past and present Drag Race contestants with cash from their many, many, many appearances and performances in San Francisco over the years, hosting a Drag Race premiere for thousands of local fans to enjoy is well overdue. GLOSS was on the scene to meet and greet the queens of RPDR8 and was surprised to find that the majority of them had never been to the gayest city in the world. But after this visit filled with welcoming love from their fans, they assured me they would be back many, many, many times again.
How does it make you feel to know you have so many supporters beyond the walls of your hometown going into RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8?
Bob The Drag Queen: It’s amazing! I’ve been doing drag for 7 years and have been trudging along doing my thing, and to be recognized for my art and work is really rewarding. I just hope to make them. Proud when I hit the runway.
Kim Chi: I figure the worst I can do is disappoint on a Nationwide level! If you’re going to disappoint, go big. I didn’t come to win; I came to eat!
What is your strength going into the competition?
Chi Chi DeVayne: A lot of people may think it is my dancing, but I’m so much more than just a dancer. I’m just an all-around talented person. That’s my strength.
What was the weakest element of your drag you had to work on the most coming into the show?
Laila McQueen: I think of all the challenges (of drag), convincingly acting in some roles would be the most challenging for me.
How does it feel for you to be a part of this season of Drag Race with the heightened attention to the 100th episode and queen?
Thorgy Thor: Derrick Barry was the 100th queen to walk in, and we were like ‘of course!’ They weren’t going to give (that spot) to Thorgy from New York. Let’s give it to Britney Spears. Fucking bitch! But it’s such a pleasure to be a part of the Season.
Win or lose, what to you hope to get out of being on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8?
Laila McQueen: I am hoping to at least be able to move out of my parents’ basement.
Chi Chi Devayne: I hope to establish a stable bank account. Let’s be real here, we’re all in it for the coins.