Ross Mathew‘s radiant energy has spread joy around the country for over two decades. The media personality used kindness and generosity as core principles throughout his professional journey, and his partnership with Days Inn is a reflection of that. The television host and the hotel chain launched the “complimentary” mirror, and guests will be able to hear Ross’ bubbly vocals giving them a pep talk as they get ready to start their day.
“I’m so thrilled about this partnership with Days Inn, and they know that I am all about making people smile, whether it’s on the Drew Barrymore Show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, my live tour going all over the country or my over 20 years on television,” Mathews exclusively tells OK!. “It’s really what it’s about is just making the world a better place.”
“They came up with this idea to have this compliment mirror in some Days Inn across the country,” the author explains. “When you go in, you can press a little button and it’s my voice giving you a funny little compliment.”
In the spirit of uplifting people, Mathews reflected on the cultural significance of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Shortly after the show finished filming, the state of Tennessee made public drag performances illegal, and the LGBTQ community continues to experience various inequalities. Despite the increase in legislation, Mathews is proud of the show’s impact and influence.
“I think this season was one of our highest rated ever,” the Chelsea Lately alum said. “It was trending all over Twitter, and the stories we told I just think were so beautiful. These queens are extraordinary and they get to use the platform, which is ginormous. Even if you’re the first queen eliminated, you will have a career for the rest of your life touring because of the fan base.”
“It’s really about putting something intensely good out into the world. And, you know, that’s sort of a through-line with everything I’m trying to do. You see it with the Drew Barrymore Show as well,” the red carpet correspondent admits. “Drew always says we’re a bright spot, not a blind spot. We know that there are difficulties out there in the world, but we are choosing to curate this emotion right now.”
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Mathews stressed the importance of advocating and supporting LGBT issues on and off the camera. “These are my people, this is my heart, this is my soul, and I think the more they know us, the more they see us, the more they’ll love us,” he passionately says. “That is just what I think. Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas.”
“Now is the time to just be who we are and show them how full we are as human beings and how much we are alike as opposed to how different we are,” the writer adds.
As fans of Mathews continue to watch his various projects or use his specialty-looking glass, they can also see him live at one of his upcoming comedy shows. “My tour is called ‘I Got You, Girl,’ because I think now more than ever we need each other. We’ve learned that we got to take care of one another,” the podcaster says. “I think fun is what we need right now. I want to shut the door on the outside world and I want to have fun again!”
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An image of a shooting target — with two bullet holes to the head and five scattered around the chest — serves as a warning to visitors who climb the brick steps and pass the American flag to reach Eric Jensen’s front door.
“If you can read this you’re in range,” the sign says. Another warning, posted near the doorbell, states: “No Solicitation. … This property charges $50 per minute to listen to any vaccine/medical advice.” He ordered that one in 2021, after mobile units offering COVID-19 vaccines began riding through his community outside Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
For years, Jensen had been looking for a way to voice his many grievances, related not just to masks and vaccines but to “transgender bullshit” and library books “trying to convert kids to gay” and other perceived dangers he says his five younger children face in the public school system. (The 65-year-old retiree has four other children who are adults.) Then he found a place where he could finally be heard.
“You gotta start from the bottom and work yourself up,” Jensen said, not long after he reluctantly opened his front door last November. “I mean, you can’t just go to your governors and try to make a difference. So you start at the bottom, and the bottom is school boards.”
He had intended to wage a campaign against the school board to bring about change. Instead, his efforts got him arrested.
At first he was hesitant to talk about what happened in the lead-up to the February 2022 incident. In the weeks after the arrest, he didn’t comment in any of the news stories that covered it.
Then, as the months wore on and his charges were dropped, he realized that standing up to authorities wasn’t going to lead to any sort of punishment: “I thought, ‘Holy shit, I didn’t have to go through a whole lot of aggravation there.’” He said that, walking away from the ordeal, he felt emboldened.
ProPublica identified 59 people arrested or charged over an 18-month period as a result of turmoil at school board meetings across the country. In the coming weeks, ProPublica will continue to publish stories about how that unrest has played out in various communities and upended once-staid school board meetings.
In the dozens of incidents ProPublica examined, some of which involved threats and violence, only one person who disrupted a meeting was given a jail sentence: a college student protesting in support of transgender rights. By contrast, almost all of the other individuals, including Jensen, railed against the adoption of mask mandates, the teaching of “divisive concepts” concerning racial inequality and the availability of books with LGBTQ+ themes in school libraries. Also like Jensen, the vast majority of people arrested or charged faced few consequences.
Jensen didn’t come up with the idea to target the school board on his own. He’d volunteered to help two women connected to the state chapter of a national group that was rapidly gaining followers through social media sites and YouTube channels promoting the convoluted QAnon conspiracy theory.
Jensen, a solid, gray-haired man with piercing blue eyes, retired about five years ago, though his wife still works as a custodian at the elementary school. He’d been a project manager for a metal building manufacturer that transferred him to North Carolina from Ohio. Prior to that, he and his family owned a campground for three decades.
He described how, several years ago, he made the decision to abandon mainstream media. He said it used to be that “I was always watching the news. But once I found out how much they lie, you have to get back into alternative media to find out the actual truth.” He said he has since become convinced that John F. Kennedy Jr. is alive, Hillary Clinton and Bill Gates are dead, and the COVID-19 vaccine is actually a “death shot.” Echoing a debunked claim, he explained his belief that the vaccine changes your DNA in a way that allows those who patented the modified genetic sequence to “own” you, which is part of an effort to kill people off and depopulate the planet. “I’ve seen it many times, where they’ve got plastic caskets lined up,” he said. “There must be a million of them sitting there in lots waiting for these people to die.”
In January of 2022, shortly after he became interested in what he saw as threats posed by school boards, he logged onto the messaging service Telegram. “I started putting feelers out, trying to find, you know, groups that were involved with it and see what they were doing,” he said.
A Telegram group called North Carolina Bonds for the Win seemed like the right fit. The national Bonds for the Win movement had been gaining steam, promoting its mission to force school districts to drop so-called unconstitutional practices including COVID-19 safety protocols and the distribution of alleged “obscene materials” to minors. To accomplish its goal, its followers would serve local school boards with reams of paperwork outlining an intent to sue their districts’ surety bond (or risk-management plan) providers. The movement, dubbed “paper terrorism” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, aims to force school districts into “compliance” to avoid losing federal funding.
The tactic was already being tested in North Carolina’s largest school district, where earlier that January a mother had crossed a security barrier to serve the Wake County school board with papers, warning, “You’ve violated your oath of office.” Another local report described how police turned off lights in an attempt to clear people out of an Iredell-Statesville school board meeting. The people yelled, “You’ve been served!” to the school board members and told police they wouldn’t leave unless they were arrested.
“And that’s when I found these ladies.” Jensen said of the two women leading efforts in his school district for North Carolina Bonds for the Win.
On Feb. 22, 2022, Jensen arrived at the lobby of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board meeting and met the women, Deborah Tuttle and Regina Garner, face-to-face for the first time. They handed him a cardboard box of paperwork, which he understood to be “explanations about how they [district officials] were going to get sued against their bonds” for teaching critical race theory — an academic framework sometimes taught at the college level and above that examines U.S. history through the lens of racism — and allowing books containing “profanity” in schools. He also said the documents included proof that masks don’t work.
Tuttle and Garner did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
Just minutes into the meeting, the school board chairperson watched with curiosity and a dose of trepidation as a man with a huge box took a seat a few rows back. She texted the board members sitting next to her, alerting them to the man. They, too, wanted to know what was in the box.
“He was just staring at us, and we were a little worried for our safety,” chairperson Deanna Kaplan recalled.
Both Garner and Tuttle signed up to address the board during the public-comment period. Garner complained about the district’s failure to uphold the Constitution and accused school officials of practicing medicine without a license and violating child abuse laws. Then Tuttle stepped up. “There’s a lot more violations that she didn’t get to, but you can read those for yourself when we serve you your letters of intent,” she told the board.
As the women spoke, Kaplan grew more uneasy about the man with the box. “Then,” she said, “he started charging at us.”
As Jensen, clutching the box, neared the superintendent, school security officers grabbed him and pulled him out of the meeting room. In the adjacent hallway, he strained against the three men it took to hold him down.
“You work for me!” Jensen repeatedly yelled as security guards tried to shackle his wrists and ankles. His deep voice echoed from the hallway into the meeting room, where some attendees began screaming and board members sat in disbelief as they watched the mounting chaos.
As the board hastily called for an impromptu recess, one man yelled: “Commie cowards!”
“Commie bitch!” yelled another.
“If you walk out, you’re walking away from your job!” Tuttle yelled from the podium.
“There was somebody in the audience that was yelling, ‘The patriots are coming.’ I mean, it was just like a zoo. It was crazy,” Kaplan recalled. “The board members were concerned for our safety.”
Two months after his arrest, Jensen came to court prepared to represent himself on misdemeanor counts of trespass and resisting a public officer. He said he carried a folder with some notes he’d made and a printout of the Constitution. As the judge entered the courtroom, Jensen said, he proudly refused to comply with the order, “All rise.”
“That puts that judge above you,” Jensen later explained. “And that judge is not above you. He’s below you. Or she’s below you.”
Jensen said his refusal to stand angered the bailiff. He also said that before he could even open his folder of evidence, the judge dismissed his case.
Court records show Jensen received a voluntary dismissal. Prosecutors have not responded to requests for comment. A court clerk said that the slew of misdemeanor dismissals that day may have resulted from the court’s attempt to clear a pandemic backlog.
Regarding the judge and the courthouse staff, Jensen said: “I didn’t allow them to boss me around.” As for the security guards who arrested him, he said he’s now considering filing assault charges against one of them “because he grabbed me and threw me down for no reason.”
He described how, overall, the experience left him feeling empowered, although he was disappointed that the movement that inspired his efforts had fizzled.
“The ladies that I was with, they pretty much dropped it,” he said, adding that their decision “kind of threw me, because they weren’t going to fight for it.” Garner ended up running for a seat on the school board, but she was unsuccessful.
Jensen did face one consequence: He said he was banned from school property for any purpose other than to pick up and drop off his children. “But that’s it,” he said. A spokesperson for the Winston-Salem Forsyth County school district confirmed the ban but declined to detail the terms of it, citing legal concerns. He said the bans typically last a year. “In general, the letters outline situations when principals can grant permission for the person to come on campus. They, however, must ask and be granted that permission by school administrators.”
Jensen admitted during the conversation in November that he hasn’t exactly complied with the ban: When he showed up for his youngest daughter’s elementary school graduation last spring, a neighbor called school security on him. But, he said, school officials let him stay. (The district spokesperson said Jensen was allowed to attend the graduation “in an effort to reduce stress and embarrassment for his student and on the condition that he maintained appropriate behavior.”) Jensen also said he’s not that worried about what would happen if he violated the ban again.
He’s since declined to speak further about his experiences or be photographed for this story.
“One of these days, I’m tempted to just walk in and allow them to throw me out or arrest me or whatever, because they have no right to do it,” Jensen said, not long before closing his door. “So we’ll see what shakes out if I do.”
Fitness instructor Shaun T is branching out. The man behind the T25 and Insanity workouts announced last week the unveiling of his own underwear range. The brand is aptly named ‘T Bone Threads’ (we see what he’s doing there). The inaugural collection consists of briefs, a jockstrap, caps, socks, and T-shirts.
The socks, caps and T-shirts are embroidered with either “daddy”, “zaddy” or “papi”.
Shaun T (née Shaun Thompson) was born in 1978, and raised in New Jersey and Philadelphia. He became famous for his workouts. In the last couple of years, he’s also begun training as a competitive bodybuilder and documenting his journey online.
This means a never-ending supply of photos to his Instagram and Twitter in which he wears nothing but skimpy briefs… or less!
Gay men who enjoy having sex with their wives is not a topic that gets talked about much.
Shaun, 45, married his husband Scott Blokker back in 2012. They tried for several years to become parents. In 2017, they finally became dads to twin sons Silas Rhys and Sander Vaughn via surrogacy. Shaun often shares adorable videos of his family life on his Instagram (with the thirstier stuff over on Twitter).
Shaun’s a candid, unapologetic gay dad. He’s previously dismissed haters that have tried to chastise him for posting content that focuses on his butt. Frankly, he has amazing glutes and works hard to keep it that way! In response to some comments he got on his Instagram last year, he posted the following, blunt message.
“PSA: I’m never gonna stop shaking my ass, I’m never gonna stop showing my ass (even when it doesn’t have the lift), and most importantly – I WILL NEVER AGAIN PRETEND TO BE SOMETHING OTHER THAN MYSELF to appease the morality police! I came out of the closet at 21yrs old AND I’M NEVER GOING BACK IN to hide ANYTHING rainbow”
His new business venture suggests he’s leaning even more into his true self, and he still doesn’t give a damn what others think. He proudly models his new jockstrap himself in promotional material – photos that are too hot for us to share here but you can see on the T Bone Threads Twitter.
Even so, to celebrate the launch of T Bone Threads, here are some gorgeous photos of Mr. T (and his equally stunning hubby).
Lily-Rose Depp’s upcoming Max series The Idol may be proving controversial, but the actor will at least have her partner, rapper 070 Shake, standing firmly by her side.
The 24-year-old daughter of Johnny Depp has been generating headlines for her role as ambitious pop starlet Jocelyn in Euphoria creator Sam Levinson’s upcoming drama, but she’s also proving to be a visible LGBTQ+ role model after publicly confirming her relationship with the chart-topping “Escapism” rapper.
Depp, who will star in The Idol alongside The Weeknd and an array of LGBTQ+ stars including Troye Sivan, Dan Levy and Hari Nef, was recently pictured kissing 070 Shake after returning to Los Angeles from the Cannes Film festival, where the series debuted ahead of its arrival on Max on 4 June, 2023.
While The Idol itself has received a swathe of terrible reviews, with critics branding the sexually-charged series “abusive” and “fatuously graphic”, Depp appears to stay winning off-screen when it comes to her personal life.
Who is Lily-Rose Depp’s girlfriend 070 Shake?
070 Shake, real name Danielle Balbuena, was born in North Bergen, New Jersey and began her steady rise to fame in 2017 after attending North Bergen High School, where she spent her days writing poetry and playing basketball.
In 2020, she released her debut studio album Modus Videndi, which was followed by her second studio album You Can’t Kill Me in 2022.
In January 2023, she achieved another milestone after entering the US Billboard Hot 100 with “Escapism” – a hit collaboration with British artist Raye that also topped the charts in the UK.
A month later, in February, she reportedly began dating Lily-Rose Depp.
Lily-Rose Depp isn’t a fan of labels when it comes to her sexuality
Lily-Rose Depp first sparked discussion about her sexuality in 2015 after taking part in an LGBTQ+ charity campaign called “Self Evident Truths”, which saw photographs taken of 10,000 people across the US who do not identify as totally straight.
Her father, Johnny Depp, told the Daily Mail in November of that year: “She’s got thousands of followers on social media, and they were all taken completely by surprise.
“But not me. I already knew because she tells me everything – she’s not afraid to say anything to me. We’re super-tight and I’m very proud of our relationship.”
Despite the public displays of affection, Depp has previously stressed that she values privacy in her personal life.
“I think that the value of privacy is something that’s been instilled in me from an early age,” she told Drew Barrymore in 2021. “And growing up in a family like I did, it was always something that was, you know, I always learned the importance of privacy and valuing that and keeping things just for yourself.
“And so that’s something that I’ve carried on into my own career, and that’s really important to me.”
If you were on Twitter at all the past few days (and, by the way, more power to you if you weren’t—it was a long holiday weekend, so hopefully everyone got out and touched some grass), chances are you saw this silly image floating around:
In this kerning stickler’s nightmare, “PRIDE” and “MONTH” are smushed together for some reason as if they were one word. The eye-sore “PRIDEMONTH” is then repeated, line after line, the white “PRI” and “TH” letters fading out as the central letters “DEMON” gradually colorize with a rainbow gradient.
Honestly? It’s so stupid that it’s brilliant.
At first blush, this would appear to be the handiwork of yet another too-online queer, playing in the same space as the LGBTQ+ community’s leading troll, Lil Nas X, by leaning into the satanic aspersions often lobbed at us by Christian right-wingers.
But, in actuality, it comes from none other than Lauren Witzke. “Who?,” you might ask? Exactly!
Witzke is an anti-LGBTQ+ conservative bigot media “personality” (or lack thereof), proud Christian, former host for designated hate group web show TruNews (which, by the way, is neither “tru[e]” nor “news”), and, as her Twitter bio tells us, the GOP’s Delaware nominee for US Senate in 2020 (in other words… she lost.)
Of course, as much as she hates the gays—and, trust us, the feeling is mutual—even we have to admit that Witzke did a bit of a slay when she dropped the “PRIDEMONTH” meme on Twitter this past Friday.
Almost immediately, queer folks began retweeting the graphic ironically, embracing its absolute absurdity and reclaiming the rainbow-fied demon label for themselves. By the end of the weekend, it became a full-blown meme, inspiring jokes, reinterpretations, art—it’s even been screen-printed on shirts sold by LGBTQ+-owned digital retailers. And just in time for Pride season!
His combined fans on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram top more than 9.4 million — but many don’t realize Rogers’ trajectory has been a decade in the making.
Yes, the unwitting Witzke has accidentally given us the first great meme of Pride Month 2023. We’re almost inclined to say, “thank you,” but…. no thanks!
In a follow-up tweet, she claims, “Christians are DONE taking crap from the LGBTQ Mafia,” warning that they’re “cancelling Pride Month, pouring out your Bud Light, shutting down your Targets, and we’re taking back the rainbow.”
First of all, *eyeroll* and, secondly: If you’re taking back rainbows, where are you using those colors for the “demon” in your post? The logic’s all wrong. But when it comes to bigots, is the logic ever right? (Hint: No.)
Anyway! Enough about Witzke. The brilliant, twisted minds of Gay Twitter have taken “PRIDEMONTH” and run with it. Scroll town below for a few of our favorite spins on the demonic meme that we’ll surely have us laughing all the way through June.
Many are having fun the wonky wordplay of the original post—some even using Witzke’s own formula to throw it back in her face:
Kohl’s has become the latest major retailer that shoppers have found selling LGBT pride clothing and products for infants and children.
Among the merchandise for LGBT pride month in June, the department store’s website includes a “Baby Sonoma Community Pride Bodysuit set” for young children from age 3 months to 2 years. The outfit includes a lesbian couple with a dog and three children, one of whom is in a wheelchair, and one of the women is holding an LGBT pride flag.
Additional merchandise includes the “Love Is Love” phrase on pillows, bibs, shorts, candles, a banner, and towels, Fox News reported. There are also shirts with phrases on them such as “Be Proud” and “Ask Me My Pronouns.”
Multiple social media accounts highlighted and criticized the merchandise. The Twitter account “End Wokeness” posted pictures of some of the merchandise, with the caption, “Kohl’s is pushing LGBTQ Pride for literal babies.”
TPUSA contributor and influencer Morgonn tweeted a video about the merchandise, captioning it with, “Kohls’s with the PRIDE BABY clothes… stop targeting children it’s gross. #BoycottTarget was the beginning here’s another to add to the list. #PrideMonth.”
Kohl’s became the latest major retailer criticized for LGBT merchandise for kids after calls for boycotting Target began for the same reason.
Target attracted bad press over a week ago for offering LGBT-themed items for children, which include children’s clothing, books, and dog toys. Among the most controversial were “tuck-friendly” swimsuits.
Target’s shares have since fallen, making the company lose more than $10 billion in market value in just over a week. The stock losses come after the retail giant made headlines for selling Pride-themed items such as children’s clothing, dog toys and books.
Kohl’s stock has sunk over 50% over the last year, according to Fox News.
If you would’ve told us three months ago that one of our favorite gay TV characters would be on a drama series about a family of rodeo stars struggling to save their ranch—on The Hallmark Channel, no less—we probably wouldn’t have believed you.
But here we are the day after the season one finale of Ride, already sad to say goodbye to Tuff McMurray (for now).
Jake Foy (Designated Survivor, Reign) plays Tuff, the sweet and loyal youngest son of the McMurray family, and the Foreman of their ranch. Tuff, like Foy, is out and proud, and from the jump we’ve been impressed by Ride‘s handling of the character’s sexuality: It doesn’t define him, it’s just part of who he is—his family accepts him, no questions asked, and so does the rodeo-obsessed community around him.
With this matter-of-fact approach,Foy brings a natural ease and charm to the role, and Tuff is given space to explore what really matters to him. There’s his family, of course, but he’s also a talented musician with a real shot of making it big, plus there’s the handsome Bronco rider Julian (Vasilios Filippakis) he quickly fell for.
But it all came to a head in Ride‘s season one finale, “Andalusians,” and Tuff found himself having to choose between his country music dreams, his relationship, and sticking around to take care of the ranch.
The morning after—the coals on the campfire still glowing—we called up Foy to talk about Tuff’s big decision, and to reflect on the wild ride that was Ride‘s first season. The actor (who just got engaged earlier this month) was more than happy to discuss what the role is meant to him, and how Tuff’s experiences as a gay man reflect his own. Plus, he shared some eloquent thoughts on why gay cowboys are having a moment—and why he’s so proud to be a part of it.
*Spoilers ahead for the season finale of Ride.*
QUEERTY: First of all, some congratulations are in order—you just got engaged!
JAKE FOY: Thank you! Long time coming.
So how does it feelto finally be able to share the news with everyone?
My partner Nick and I have been together for five years, and I think this was always the inevitability—it just happened from the get-go, that we were like, “Oh, this will be the thing for a long time, if not the long time”. So it feels really, really natural, and it’s nice.
There are new pressures with it, just—we’re about to do a family visit on the Eastern Seaboard, so we have to do a lot of cities, and a lot of smiling and waving, so to speak. So that will be fantastic, but other than that, yeah, it feels really natural. And it’s great to sort of live and breathe a modern relationship that I get to represent on screen as well.
Of course! On that note, now that the season one of Ride has come to an end, what has it meant for you as an out actor to get to play a queer character like this on television?
The first thing that comes to mind is that I actually haven’t felt for a while that there’s been a shortage of queer representation in storytelling. So that’s kind of changed my perspective on exactly why I feel so fortunate to step into this role.
For this, in particular—and I say this a lot, so I don’t mean to sound like a broken record—but for me, what’s most dynamic about Ride is that I feel like Tuff’s representation is actually some of the most progressive that’s on television. We really are representing the world that the queer community is asking to see, which is a totally inclusive, fully formed, four-dimensional life that has access to all of the the wonders of family and love and acceptance that we all crave, right?
So that is what’s most special to me about the representation in this project—is that it’s uniquely its own, and that I haven’t read a script that was seeking representation in quite some time where I saw the potential for, you know, a committed relationship, family life, marriage—all those things. And, to be on a series that both represents a story that I have lived and has the potential to tell even more of the story that I hope to live, is part of the aspirational TV and movie-making that I grew up on. So it feels it feels great!
And have you been surprised by the response to the show, and to Tuff in particular? What have you heard from audiences—queer or otherwise—that have been tuning in?
Yeah, I do hear from members of the gay community, certainly, and there are varired responses—as you can imagine. But I think what has been most meaningful to me is the relief in feeling like this part of the gay experience might take up some space in the mainstream, you know?
Because part of the model for our show was going back to that feeling of a 2010-2011 primetime series that you could watch with the intergenerational audience, with your grandma and your cousins. And so it’s most unique in that way because I think a lot of our gay audience has been waiting for that space in the entertainment landscape as well. It’s not just watching hyper-sexualized… You know, it has to be both things, I think.
And it’s nice to really take up that corner of the market, as well as reach a lot of people who might have had their back up, or who might have been long awaiting the kind of story that Tuff gets to tell.
A lot goes down in the finale, including Tuff making a big decision to not only leave the family ranch for a little while to pursue his music career, but also to put a pause on what he has going on with Julian. Of course, there’s what the character wants, and then there’s what you want for the character… Do you think he made the right decision?
Whoa. Well, I’m partial to the decision because of how meaningfully involved the creators, writers, and network have allowed me to be in the shaping of this story. One of the most important things to me was that the relationship that Vas and I represent on screen was asking the same questions as the other relationships in the show, which is: What are the pillars of attraction here? What is the compatibility between these two? Is there enough groundwork in this dynamic to root for it, to fight it, to wish for a little more, a lot more, and everything in between?
What interests me most about the art-imitating-life in my representation of Tuff is not just finding love in the world, but discovering a love for your work and your vocation and your calling.
Tuff and I share a love for music, and also a dream of partnered life with someone that you love deeply. And that is a tale as old as time as well. So I think I’m positioned uniquely in the ensemble to have to wrestle with a love of an art that allows your heart to open, and a want for a love in another person that allows your heart to open.
And I think that there’s a lot more to explore there for Tuff’s journey. And so I’m excited that the finale of season one leaves that potential open for him.
Right, and specifically between Tuff and Julian, there is a goodbye, but you get the sense that we’re not fully closing the book on what they have together.
Yeah! The only the only real goodbyes in this show seem to be at the hands of a bull, and that is not the fate of Tuff and Julian, thankfully. So, yeah, there’s a lot to explore in future seasons. And as progressive a story as I believe we’re telling with Tuff, I think a love triangle is not out of the question for this queer storyline, and all of the wonderful magic that comes with wrestling in that space. As well as trying to balance your love of music! So there’s lots to explore in future seasons.
Since you mentioned art imitating life, I can’t help but feel that, broadly speaking, the idea of the “gay cowboy” is having something of a moment in culture right now. There’s this series, other films and media, music—but also gay cowboy conventions, a rise in popularity of line-dancing nights at queer venues, and a general sense that folks are interested in queering traditional Western imagery. Has this played into any of your creative discussions around the show? And, if so, do you have a sense of why this “moment” might be happening?
Yeah, let me speak to the American cultural zeitgeist from my apartment in Vancouver. [Laughs.]
No, but we do talk about this sometimes! You know, I start with the subject of my music theater background and something like the musical Oklahoma—reaching a very urban audience and at a very unique time at the pivot into the golden age of musical storytelling.
I think, similarly, at this time when people have been through a lot of undue stress over the past few years, the romanticism of a simpler life is really, really appealing.
Then you add to that the inherent flamboyance of rodeo culture, you know? I joke that there are more sequins at the rodeo than at a drag show—and that’s partly true! And what’s beautiful, too, is that, without all of the rigid animosity that sometimes comes with our current discussion around gender and identity and sexual politics, the women of the rodeo are actually quite gritty, and the men of the rodeo are actually quite showy. And in that non-binary is actually a lot of space to connect.
That might be why you’re seeing what you are seeing! I think there’s a sincerity to a line-dance that maybe doesn’t exist in a laser-lit nightclub, you know? So I think people are looking for sincere connections in a world where they’re harder to find, and a Western life makes that possible.
And, escaping to that Western life for an hour a week is certainly more palatable than having to go shovel hay yourself, so it’s all it’s all of those things.
Jake, I just through the loosest, broadest question at you, and you just responded with such an eloquent, thoughtful answer—my mind is blown a bit! So much to chew on. Thank you for that!
Every year, hundreds of men descend upon the small city of Zacatecas for the gay cowboy convention.
As a finalnote, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking with your co-star Vasilios Filippakis previously, and he told us that your sweet dog, Daisy, made quite a few appearance on the Ride set—
Daisy! She’s here—let me grab her. [Picks up Daisy and shows her to camera.] She’s a little snoozy right now, but she’ll say hi. Here’s Daisy.
Aww, so sweet. So is she the diva when she’s on set then?
No, she’s the “fluffer”—she keeps everybody happy. She’s a very happy dog ,gets along with everyone. She’s wary of horses and cows—she’s yet to get over that hurdle.
But, yeah, it’s actually a very dog-friendly set. Tierra [Skovbye] has her dog, Scout, Beau [Mirchoff] has Cali, Nancy [Travis’] dog, Josie, stays home in Los Angeles, but I think that’s going to change because she’s got a new puppy.
Also, it’s something that—I think it’d be very cool to see the McMurray’s maybe get a puppy at some point. So I have to bring it up because it is difficult to work with kids, hats, and dogs. But I think this is the kind of show where we’re already working with kids and hats, so why not?