Sean Patterson: Hollywood's Gay Best Friend

Sean Patterson, the Wilhelmina Models president now doling out his money to strangers on E!’s Bank of Hollywood, dishes on Ryan Seacrest, Candy Spelling, and his BFF Fergie.




The way you’ve moved from behind the scenes into the spotlight through reality TV appearances reminds me a bit of Andy Cohen at Bravo. Have you always craved fame?
I don’t think so. I mean, most agents are hams and like to hear themselves talk, but overall I just look at these reality shows as a great branding mechanism for Wilhelmina. Because people in the fashion industry know that Wilhelmina is a gold-standard brand, but people on the outside may not have known us before The Agency and She’s Got the Look. Now Bank of Hollywood is taking it in a slightly different direction, but this is where pop culture is going right now, so Wilhelmina is going along for the ride. Andy Cohen is a very smart man who’s done great things at Bravo, and he should be on TV because he’s got a talent for it. If people think I’m interesting enough to put on a show, that’s cool, but I love my job running Wilhelmina.

When does promoting Wilhelmina become self-promotion?
Well, for starters, you’re the first interview that I’ve given for this show and you’ll probably be the last. I was asked to do a bunch of them, but I was really only interested in speaking to you because The Advocate’s a gay publication. I’ll only do something if I feel it’s helpful to Wilhelmina, and I’d never do something if I felt like it would distract me from doing my job. You know how long it took to shoot Bank of Hollywood? Four days. I’ve been at Wilhelmina for 17 years, so I feel like it’s my home.

As someone who helps celebrities land endorsement campaigns, do you think Tiger Woods’s sponsors were justified in dropping him?
We put people on pedestals too much just in order for them to fall. I understand why brands have to be protective over their companies and distance themselves from Tiger for the time being, but were we lauding Tiger because he was a professional athlete excelling at his sport or were we lauding Tiger because he was a family man? At some point later this year, people are going to remember that he’s still an incredibly gifted athlete, and there will be sponsorships for him again. As much as this nation tears down its idols, we’re a very forgiving society when people apologize, make amends, and show that they’ve learned something.

From a strictly business standpoint, would you have any hesitations in taking on an openly gay client?
That would never be a problem for me with a model, an actor, an actress, or a musician. Now, it becomes a little trickier from a marketability standpoint if it were an athlete, but I’d still take on a gay athlete because it’s the right thing to do. Again, we need to look at a celebrity’s merit and not who they sleep with. Like, I don’t think Adam Lambert’s sexuality needs to be addressed in his marketing. He doesn’t need to do all these omnisexual performances and videos. I’d rather him just come out as a heartthrob and let men, women, or whoever fall in love with him. Why does he have to be surrounded by people in bondage gear? I have a problem sometimes with how gay talent is packaged.

How do you advise that your clients handle gay rumors?
Look, if there’s a gay rumor about a client, they’re doing something right, because it means people are interested in talking about them. It’s kind of like what Kathy Griffin says about how people only spread gay rumors about people like Tom Cruise. She says, “You never hear the queens saying, ‘Ooh, let me tell you about Miss Gene Hackman!'” It’s totally true.

Tags: television