feature image via Instagram
Last night, sixteen bisexual human beings made television history by partaking in a sexually fluid television show that wasn’t hot garbage (see: A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila) and instead was actually… kind of beautiful. The cast of season eight of MTV’s Are You The One? were consistently thoughtful and vocal about the responsibility they felt to represent their community, and they broke a considerable number of television boundaries.
I can’t remember ever seeing a transmasculine person talking about top surgery or giving themselves a T shot on reality TV before, or hearing discussions about pronouns handled respectfully and even casually. Beyond the more political aspects of the show, the cast were tremendously likable and brought a level of kindhearted drama previously unseen by the less-inspired, heavily heterosexual reality fodder currently littering the airwaves. Now that Are You The One? has happened, I can hereby declare that it is actually illegal to make reality shows about heterosexuality.
Texas native, fan favorite and 22-year-old self-described baby gay Paige Cole was kind enough to walk us through the inner workings of this groundbreaking masterpiece of modern media.
Stef: How on earth did you even get onto this show?
Paige: I was just serving tables, kinda trying to find my way, and one of my friends invited me to this party. I went, got a little drunk and met somebody who had been on the season before. He was just like, “Oh my gosh, you should apply for this next season, it’s going to be so cool! It’s sexually fluid!” I was really drunk and was like, “This is a cool way to come out, let’s do it.” So I drunkenly applied.
Stef: Amazing. You talked on the show a little bit about how you weren’t really publicly out — what was it like essentially coming out on TV?
Paige: It was really liberating. It was something obviously I was anticipating with the whole casting project to be able to do. To finally be able to come out to everybody and actually say out loud, “I’m bisexual” — it was one of the most liberating, happiest feelings ever.
Stef: Your family didn’t know?
Paige: My family didn’t know — I told them when I got back from filming, but only two of my really close best friends knew.
Stef: Were people in your life surprised?
Paige: Yeah, it was a mixture of surprise and support. Honestly I’m always pretty spontaneous, keeping everybody on their toes, so everybody in my family was super super supportive about it all. I guess they weren’t really surprised. I have a septum piercing and I cut my hair off, so I guess it was kind of inevitable.
Stef: Sure, of course. The next logical step. Had you ever been in a majority queer space before? What was that like for you?
Paige: I had not! I mean, I’m always around — a lot of my friends were queer in New York beforehand, but I’d never been in a space like that where everybody was queer. I was so mad I’d been depriving myself of this environment — it was the most empowering, inspiring, dramatic. I mean, the gays are dramatic. I loved it. I just loved it. It was just a lot of everybody being themselves.
In the very beginning, I had the biggest crush on Jasmine, even after we had our date and were like, “Oh, I don’t know.” She was always the most fun, and she was my best friend but I was always like, “Wow, she’s so gorgeous.” After that, I was really into Amber! I was so shy and awkward. People expect me to make the first move and I didn’t know what to do because it was all so new to me. Not new to me but I just didn’t know what to do. In New York, people kinda fall into your lap [ed. note: NOT RELATABLE]. I didn’t know what to do! It was really funny.
Stef: Was it different for you being so newly out of the closet?
Paige: It was really different! Different in a good way, because everybody around me knew about my sexuality and I wasn’t hiding it anymore. It was cool to wake up every day and have everybody’s support, like, oh my gosh! This is cool! It’s nothing to be weird about. I remember I had a conversation with Kari where she told me she didn’t really have a coming out story because she didn’t think it was something to come out about; she was just like, “This is who I am.” It was so cool to be around people who were so comfortable with who they are and what they like.
Stef: Even in queer spaces, I think being with people who are specifically bisexual or sexually fluid — it’s not always something that everyone understands.
Paige: This is true!
Stef: So the show has obviously blown up and I’m not sure there has ever actually been a GOOD bisexual reality show. There’s been uh — did you watch Tila Tequila when it was on?
Paige: No, but I’ve heard. I heard she said she was bi so she could do the show?
Stef: I mean, now she’s a Nazi?
Paige: That’s so bizarre.
Stef: This is… maybe the first positive representation for an entire reality series. I know a ton of straight people who are obsessed with this season!
Paige: I know! I love that it’s getting the exposure it deserves and actually touching a lot of lives!
Stef: What’s the reception been like for you?
Paige: I’ve had nothing but positive feedback, but especially — I grew up in Texas, and it’s… not really the kind of environment that cultivates.. this type of lifestyle? I’ve gotten a lot of really positive responses from people like, “Oh my gosh! I’m queer too, this is so awesome!” Especially with regards to growing up Christian and being a voice for that; it’s really cool to have a lot of people inspired by the fact that I can live my bisexual life and also have my faith. I mean you get like one or two haters every once in a while, but… they’re homophobic sooo (laughs).
Stef: I have to ask — did Dr Frankie ever actually give any advice? What did she do the other 23 hours and 59 minutes of every day?
Paige: OK so we actually… didn’t really get to spend too much time with her. It was kind of like every other day, and we would be in this other holding room away from her while they put the set together. When it was finally time for the segment, we would just sit and talk for maybe ten minutes tops. They wouldn’t really let her stay and engage with us. There was a lot more advice that she gave us that they didn’t show, and she created a lot of really great conversations that carry on in other scenes that we see, but I’d say we got 10-20 minutes. While they’d reset, she’d kinda ask how we were doing, but we didn’t really get to interact with her or Terence really. We interacted enough, but not enough where it felt like a lot.
Stef: I feel like the way it airs, it seems like she just sort of walks in with a blanket statement like, “Jealousy is hard!” and that’s… it?
Paige: I KNOW! They’re doing her so dirty. She was this peaceful lady who’d walk in and make all of us so happy. For the most part, whenever she was there we weren’t fighting — I mean towards the end, we were kind of all like, “Get me out of this house,” but.. we all really enjoyed Dr Frankie. I can speak for myself, there’s so much that didn’t air! She’s actually really good at what she does!
Stef: It’s great that they have this queer person there to give everyone advice but she seems very underutilized.
Paige: I think we just needed more episodes, and longer episodes! They should have known the queers would be more dramatic.
Stef: I’d never watched the show before but it’s also so much more complicated this season.
Paige: It’s interesting how they didn’t really time things accordingly.
Stef: I’m not sure what it was like in the house but from what I’ve seen it looks like it took a long time before people started playing it like a game and using strategy? Is that accurate?
Paige: No! It was wild. Literally after the first match-up ceremony, we all sat down like, “OK, what do we think now?” I would say it was very equally split between strategy and heart. They obviously had to find a balance for both. I can say on my end, in the beginning I was all strategy. That’s all I had! I hadn’t made connections yet. After every single match-up ceremony we would all get into the kitchen and we’d do some math. Obviously it was hard at first because we didn’t have much to go off, but we were always very game-oriented.
Stef: By the time this runs, the finale will have already aired. I don’t actually know how it works, like if you don’t find your perfect match if they actually tell you who it was? I get the vibe that they were sort of trying to teach you all something based off of who they matched you with. Do you agree with how that worked out?
Paige: You know what? Yeah. I would say the majority of the matches were kind of like, oh wow! Like with Jenna, obviously we all know she’s my perfect match by now. She’s the big gay to my baby gay. She can teach me to be more open and comfortable with my sexuality, and I can teach her how to be more positive and like, “Everything’s gonna be fine!” I mean, there were some couples where it was like, “Alright, you guys are going to light each other on fire” and there were some couples who maybe didn’t really consider each other until the end. For the most part though, it pretty much made sense. It was interesting how in depth they went.
Stef: But do you agree with the way they matched people up?
Paige: It’s tough to say because obviously the matchmakers can’t predict romantic connections. That being said, obviously I feel like where your heart leads you supersedes what a paper will tell you. I can say that the Kylie-Amber connection was very real and I can say Remy and I have a very real connection. It’s interesting to see… obviously in the house, you gotta do what you gotta do for the game, but outside the house it’s like, “So what? The paper says that? I’m sayin’ this.”
Stef: Since the show’s been on, you can even see on social media that some of you hang out more than others… It seems like it might be totally different doing this on a show where everyone’s heterosexual and there are only so many possible combinations, but in this case it’s so much more complicated and I wonder if they took all of that into account.
Paige: Yeah. I don’t know if they could honestly. It’s one of those things where everybody has at least one redeeming quality, you know? Everybody has at least one thing that drew the casting producers to put them on the show so everyone has something captivating about themselves. That was the quality I remember being very overwhelmed by when I first walked in, like, oh my god! It could really be anybody here! I don’t think… there was just no way they could have planned for what the gays were bringing.
Like, for example, they gave us a little workout box in the backyard, like… you really think the gays don’t work out? All the other seasons got gyms and we didn’t? We did get a vanity room though, I’ll tell you that.
Stef: OK so like, obviously they didn’t tell you before you got there, “We’re having an under the sea party, go buy blue glitter everything,” right?
Paige: Oh no no, they styled us individually for that.
Stef: Like, some PA got sent to the Honolulu Party City or something right?
Paige: I can’t even imagine all they went through to style that. It was amazing. All I wanted was to look like a slut, and I mean, I nailed it. When they shot it, they took us out of the house and it was cute — we had a little beach day, then they took us to get our nails done and then they took us to a hotel to get ready with our outfits because they were still decorating the house. It was so much fun to have an outfit reveal! We all had actual stylists putting our outfits together — “Here’s what I’m picturing for you.” They really went all in for the party.
Stef: Was there anything on the show that you feel wasn’t represented properly or portrayed fairly? Or that people didn’t see
Paige: One thing I wish they’d embellished upon more was my story with Remy. There’s a LOT that they didn’t show. There were a lot of incidents of you know, me running up and telling a joke and him finishing it; it was this really funny friendship in the beginning. When things got more intense… it didn’t stop after the no-match, which I thought was funny. I mean, I was connecting with Jenna, but Jenna also knew I was connecting with Remy at that time. We matched because of strategy; it wasn’t like, this instant connection.
Stef: Like, “Surprise! We’re in love now.”
Paige: Yeah. She was very supportive of what was happening with Remy and me, which made it really interesting. We were very aware that we were being selfish and it might not look too great, but… I mean, you can see me and Remy in the Boom Boom Room in one of the previews, and that didn’t air. I guess that was one funny thing I thought would be bigger, and it really wasn’t — me interacting with Jenna while still connecting with Remy.
Stef: I reached out to my colleagues when I found out I was going to do this interview and some of them gave me some questions of their own… It’s time to ask if you have ever watched The L Word.
Paige: OH MY GOSH, no! But I’m so excited – I’ve never actually seen it – but I’m SO excited to see the new version of it. My heart did a pitter-patter when I watched the trailer.
Stef: I feel like you should watch the original first.
Paige: Oh, 100%. I will, 100%.
Stef: But it’s not like, GOOD.
Paige: I’m the worst when it comes to TV and movies. I grew up with my parents just watching superhero movies and that was the extent of TV-watching. I just watched sports my entire life. Then I moved to New York and I don’t have cable; I’m broke… Or I do have Netflix, it’s not really an excuse; I just don’t watch it. There are a LOT of movies and TV shows that Jenna is making me watch and that’s on there. I’m so excited.
Stef: I have to warn you though, it’s NOT GOOD, but it’s sort of like required reading.
Paige: That’s fine. That’s kind of what Jenna said, like, it’s kinda shitty but it’s great at the same time.
Stef: My first girlfriend made me watch Queer as Folk and I was like, “This is a bad show.” She was like, “No, we all know – wait til you see The L Word. This is all there is.”
Paige: I know, I’m so excited for the new L Word. It looks so good!
Stef: I don’t know if it’s going to be more relatable but like, I saw more places I recognized [in the trailer], it seemed like… closer to my experience?
Paige: I think it’s just gonna like, normalize it a little bit, you know? I’m so excited! I’m SO excited!
Stef: Another person at Autostraddle would like to know your favorite book of all time.
Paige: (gasps in excitement) Oh, that is a good QUESTION! My favorite book of all time is Love Does by Bob Goff. It’s full of really fun, interesting stories about showing your love to people and not just saying it. It sounds so corny but.. I also feel like the book I have to honorarily mention.. Honestly? Twilight. I remember I read the first book all in one day. I truly didn’t know if I wanted Bella, Edward or… all of the wolves.
Stef: ALL of the wolves?
Stef: How do you feel about Kristen Stewart being the gayest motherfucker of them all?
Paige: Oh my god. I… She’s just such a good actor. Her character was so boring and the fact that everybody labels her as a boring actor disgusts me because she played the character perfectly.
Stef: Yeah, that was the character. There wasn’t much more to her.
Paige: Yeah, and it’s iconic, and she needs to be treated as such.
Are You The One? aired on Monday nights at 11 PM on MTV, until last night when it stopped, and now it runs every night in our hearts forever. Increased bisexual representation means that heterosexual television is canceled. Basit is in charge now. Goodbye.