At Bell Media headquarters in downtown Toronto, a modest, colourful TV studio with open windows is home to many Much and MTV Canada productions. But when the sun goes down, the party really gets started.
With windows closed and curtains drawn, five gay men gather to share very personal stories about love, sex, family and relationships. But why on earth would any guy want to air his dirty laundry on national TV?
Enter the fifth season of 1 Girl 5 Gays, a frank and sometimes funny show that aims to tackle some pretty heady issues head on: is it okay for a woman to hit a man in a relationship? How much say should a man have in a woman’s choice to have an abortion? Is not being attracted to a certain ethnicity racist?
Part LGBT activists, part local celebs, the new batch of prettys are more than happy to put their private lives on parade. But how do their loved ones feel about it? Who cares, it’s all in the name of free therapy.
Hometown: Trenton, Ontario
Occupation: TV producer
3 words that describe me: Ambitious, hilarious and persistent
IN Toronto: As a brand new member of 1 Girl 5 Gays, how familiar were you with the show before you auditioned?
Patrick Maziarski: To be truthful, I never watched a full episode before I auditioned. But a couple of my close friends were previous cast members, so through them I knew that the show could be a foothold for positive influences in the gay community, despite a lot of preconceived notions that the show’s only about sex.
IT: Was your boyfriend nervous about you going on the show and discussing your personal lives?
PM: He was happy for me, but also reluctant about it. We’ve had very frank discussions about how he wanted certain things kept private and I was on board with that. We’re on the same page.
IT: Some people on the show can be a little too open about their sex life, while others can be completely tight-lipped. You seem to fall somewhere in the middle.
PM: That’s what I’m striving for. I can be raunchy, but I don’t want to be raunchy about someone in particular. I am happy to talk about sex, or give advice on having sex in the woods or something, but I shy away from the “Tell me about the guy who did this to you.” Sex doesn’t bother me. Usually I’ll have something to say about it, but I take a moment to think about how I’m going to make myself look before I answer.
IT: What will you bring to the show that no one else will?
PM: I’ve been in a relationship for three years, so my sexual adventures and misadventures add perspective. I’d like to be someone that the audience can relate to for that aspect of gay culture. If I can inspire someone or say something about my past seven years of being an [out] gay man that resonates, then that’s perfect.
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
3 words that describe me: Funny, awkward and analytical
IN Toronto: Being on 1 Girl 5 Gays can be like sharing your private diary with the world. Why be on a show like this?
J.P. Larocque: I’m a writer and a filmmaker, so I’m used to being behind the camera. For me, having an opportunity to be in front of the camera and be open with people felt like a challenge. It takes me out of my comfort zone and that’s a thrill. I also like that the show has a very interactive element with the community.
IT: Go back to when you filmed your first episode. What was it like when host Lauren Collins started asking you a bunch of personal questions in front of four people you’d never met?
JL: When I first shot, I was very nervous, and then within that initial half hour, I completely forgot that the cameras were there. I’m very lucky that the guys I’ve had a chance to film with are all really sweet and down to earth. You feel like you can be open and share, without being defensive.
IT: What did your parents say when you told them you were on the show?
JL: It was really funny because in doing the show, I had to re-approach the sex and sexuality conversation with them. I think everyone’s parents have trouble thinking of their kid as a sexual being, so when your child is now talking about themselves as a sexual being on national television, it kind of becomes something bigger. But they were really cool about it. My mom’s biggest concern was that she didn’t want me to swear too much.
IT: The show can have a reputation for being just about gay sex and scandalous stories. What else is 1 Girl 5 Gays?
JL: I think it celebrates sexuality. Obviously it’ll go into raunchy questions, but those are conversations that we all actually have with our friends. We want to take some of the shame out of talking about sex… that idea that we aren’t allowed to talk about certain things. It allows other LGBT people to see that there are other people going through similar experiences.
Hometown: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Occupation: Graphic designer
3 words that describe me: Friendly, funny and witty
IN Toronto: What was your impression of the show before you became a cast member? Be honest!
Gabriel Rojas: If I can be completely honest, I thought that the show was a little staged and that a lot of the guys were fake. Some of the stories that they told sounded pretty outlandish. When the producers asked me in my audition what I would bring to the show, I said, “Realness.”
IT: When you found out that it wasn’t fake and that you were going to have to share some real stuff, what did you do to prepare for your first episode?
GR: Honestly, I took two shots of vodka and a Red Bull.
IT: Surely there are young gay kids in the closet watching 1 Girl 5 Gays for advice. What do you want them to know?
GR: What I hope these kids take away from the show is that being gay doesn’t need to be a stereotype. The panel consists of five very diverse guys, with very different ideas on life, sex and society. I want them to see that they don’t need to necessarily [be labeled] “the circuit kid” or “the butch gay guy.” They can be whoever they want to be. We’re all just regular people.
IT: As the new season just starts to air, are you anxious to see what the audience has to say about the new gays?
GR: I’m guessing that there’s going to be a lot of feedback, and a lot of comparisons to the older cast. But I think that with every change, whether you enjoy it or hate it, it’s going to get people talking. It’ll be a ride.
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Occupation: Interactive media specialist
3 words that describe me: Thoughtful, witty and annoying
IN Toronto: As a new member of the 1 Girl 5 Gays cast, what are you most looking forward to?
Rafay Agha: When I first started the show, I was in a relationship. As of a few weeks ago, I am no longer in that relationship. It lasted eight years, so it will be interesting to see how my perspective on things changes in the next little while. The show is like free therapy, so it’s great.
IT: That must be hard to talk about on TV, but there are going to be a lot of people watching who will be able to relate to you.
RA: Yeah. I’ve seen a lot of the messages sent to the 1g5g Twitter account, and for us it’s just something fun to do, but the show does mean a lot to people. Even being on the panel, I find I can relate to the other guys in a lot of ways. And it’s not all serious business; it’s like any conversation you might have with your friends.
IT: Emotions can run high on the show. Are you more likely to shed a tear on camera, or get into a heated argument?
RA: If I had to answer this question before filming, I would’ve said I’d be flipping tables and ripping people’s weaves out, but that’s not at all what happened. I’ve already teared-up on one episode. There was a question about bullying, and I had a not-so-fun experience in university so it definitely hit a chord.
IT: If a show like this was on when you were in high school, how would it have affected you?
RA: Things would’ve been completely different. I feel like there was no face for what it meant to be gay so you had to kind of keep it your own personal secret. Today, there’s a lot more representation in the public eye, so it definitely makes it easier to feel comfortable in your own skin and not have to treat your sexuality like a dirty secret.
Hometown: Acton, Ontario
Occupation: Microbiology student, University of Guelph
3 words that describe me: Strange, positive and witty
IN Toronto: Did you watch 1 Girl 5 Gays before you were cast?
Steven Grant: Every single episode! When you’re growing up, you sometimes think, “Is it right to have these gay thoughts?” and seeing other gay men talk about the same stuff that you’re thinking, you feel like you fit in. It’s comforting.
IT: You’ve been filming the show for two months now. Have any questions stumped you?
SG: There are a couple of questions that stumped me. One was about politics; I don’t know much about politics, and everyone else had very well thought-out answers and I’m sitting there, thinking, “I have no idea what I’m going to say about this….”
IT: You’re the youngest cast member. Have you felt that “little brother” syndrome where people might not take you too seriously?
SG: That’s what I was worried about. Because I’m the youngest, people would think I’m a ditz or naïve. I don’t want to come across like that. But everyone’s so much older and more experienced, I feel like they have really smart answers.
IT: The cast of the first four seasons garnered a pretty die-hard following. That can put some pressure on the new cast. Are there big shoes to fill?
SG: Yes! Those guys have done such a good job and they made the show [what it is now], so it’s hard to live up to that image. I see on the 1g5g Facebook page that the fans are already expecting us to fill those shoes… so, yes, there’s plenty of pressure.