Brotherly love may be priceless, but it was worth at least $1 million to gay and straight siblings Jordan and Dan Pious, the winners of season 16 of The Amazing Race. Rhode Island natives Jordan, 23, and Dan, 25, proved themselves formidable contenders in the round-the-world reality TV competition, and they made some controversial moves in the final leg, cutting into an airline ticket line in Shanghai, China, and then managing to get bumped up to first class so they beat their remaining two rival teams off the plane in San Francisco. (Both moves are allowed by the race’s rules.)
The day after their victory episode was broadcast, this gay-straight alliance spoke with The Advocate about their winning strategies, their relationship with each other and with the race’s 10 other teams (including lesbian couple Carol Rosenfeld and Brandy Snow, who sparred with the team of Brent Horne and Caite Upton — with Brandy rejecting Caite’s apology at the end), and what it means to give the race its first openly gay winner since Reichen Lehmkuhl and Chip Arndt, then a couple, in 2003.
The Advocate: I understand, Jordan, it was one of your life’s dreams to be on The Amazing Race. What do you feel were the attributes you brought that enabled you two to win?
Jordan Pious: The biggest asset we had going into this race was our relationship and our bond. The bond between two brothers, it’s like nothing else, and for 23 years I have trusted my brother, I know my brother better than anybody, he has supported me, he has my back, and that is a huge asset in this race. I think that a lot of times the newly dating couples can get bogged down in small arguments, but Daniel and I have had every fight under the sun — we’ve been “dating” for far too long for that to happen. There was really nothing that could cause an issue with us that we hadn’t seen before and we hadn’t addressed before, and on top of that was being young and physically fit and my brother being as athletic as he was. That definitely helps in this race because you do have to have stamina and you do have to have the strength and being young and agile really helps.
Jordan, when did you come out, and was that ever an issue between you?
Jordan: Growing up, I think my brother saw me becoming a gay boy, a gay man, and at the early stages tried to get me involved with sports, like “I don’t know if want you to be gay,” etc. I was like 7 or 8. When I came out, the first person I came out to in my family was my brother. I was 14-1/2 years old and I told him that I was gay, and his reaction was, “I will never love you any differently, you are my little brother, and you mean the world to me, and do you, do Jordan, and don’t change who you are,” and he has been the most supportive person in my life, and that was no exception.
What were your relationships like with the other teams?
Dan: We really got along with almost every team. We wanted to get along with everyone — we thought it would be a good thing, not only for making friendships and bonds, having shared such a special experience, but strategically, with U-turns [with which one team can force another to go to a previous point in the race and perform a task] possibly being on the horizon, getting on people’s bad sides would only result in negative parts of our race. There were two U-turns and both led to immediate eliminations. It was a good thing to stay on people’s good side.
Including Carol and Brandy?
Jordan: I would wager a guess that Brandy and Carol would probably say they were closest with us on the race of the other teams. We never had a problem with them, and both my brother and I try to see the good in people and there was a lot of good in Carol and Brandy, and they were also fierce competitors, very smart, very strategic, and very savvy with the relationships they created on the race, and they were good allies for parts of this race. And they are good people. I think they got caught up in a personal issue that they had with Caite and it got the best of them on this race, but I definitely can speak from experience and conversations that I’ve had with them and days that I’ve spent with them on this race, they are good people, and we really did not have any problems with them. They and Caite had personal issues with each other, but none of it had to do with sexuality.
Up until the final, you guys had won just one leg, and that was with a fast-forward, which allows teams to skip the remaining tasks on that leg of the race and proceed to the end. Did you feel like the underdogs in any way?
Jordan: I think that some people have that perception, but our big strategy going into the race was to kind of fly under the radar and not put a big target on our backs. There are teams that will see two guys, 23 and 25 years old, in decent physical shape, as a strong physical threat, and we didn’t want that to happen. It wasn’t about getting first place in every leg, it was about getting first place in the final leg, and that’s what we did.
It seemed like the cowboys, brothers Jet and Cord McCoy, were kind of the favorites and the front-runners for a good deal of the race. Did you feel a particular threat from them?
Jordan: I think that the final six teams or so had an equal chance of winning this race — it’s not a matter of who came in first the most times. There are so many intangibles and things that are sort of out of their control, and we knew in this final leg we had to really put the pedal to metal. For good reason, a people watching the show saw Jet and Cord as quite a threat, but if you were on the race, it you would realize that any one of these teams had an equal shot of winning this thing.
Bumping up to first class and in line at airport—how did you come up with those ideas?
Dan: The cut in line was really a nonissue — all things being equal, we probably wish that we hadn’t done it. Jet has been very vocal about his dislike for homosexuals, and quite frankly, we’re trying to play a game for a million dollars, and it goes both ways, and Cord distracted me while we were doing the digital computer challenge.
Jordan: It was game-changing for us to move up to first class — it gave us a 15-minute lead. At the end of the day, it’s a game for a million dollars; you’ve got to make moves in the final leg, so we tried to make those moves.
What would you say was the most difficult thing you had to do in the race?
Jordan: For me the most difficult thing in the race was definitely the Singapore Flyer [the world’s largest observation wheel, on which they had to exit their capsule at the highest point, then crawl across a beam to the next capsule]. I realized I had quite the fear of heights, I was shaking and sweating, 541 feet in the air — getting past my nerves and actually completing that was definitely the most difficult thing for me.
Dan: For me the most difficult part was just really not getting a lot of sleep. I can’t sleep on planes, and such a large percentage of the sleep on The Amazing Race you’re supposed to get on planes, because we’re not always in hotels.
And what was the most fun thing?
Dan: The Seychelles was probably our favorite place, but my favorite leg was probably Hamburg, Germany, with soccer, bungee jumping, and drinking the beer out of the boot, which was kind of fun, and to be in Hamburg on a Saturday night — it was a hoppin’ place.
Jordan: Definitely the leg that was most fun for me was in France when we got to do the World War I reenactment. I’m a fan of the costumes and stuff. It’s fun, it’s like we can laugh at ourselves, we are crawling in the dirt, Daniel and I had some playful interactions, and it’s actually my favorite memory in the race. I’m so glad they captured that and showed it a few times. When am I ever again going to be crawling in the trenches of Verdun, France? The answer is never. It’s just cool to be able to do that.
What are your plans for the money?
Dan: We both agreed we’re gonna pay our taxes, for sure, and then save and invest the rest.
What’s the biggest challenge now, after having won the race, and will it seem simpler now that you’ve done that?
Dan: I’m not so sure I’ve thought that far ahead. I think I’ve been very short-sighted lately, just focusing on the race. The next step, I have a lot of question marks; I don’t have a lot of answers for them, but hopefully it’ll be a job with a Boston sports franchise for me.
Jordan: I think that whatever happens, both Daniel and I have gained a just little bit more confidence than maybe we had to begin with. I think we were confident in ourselves and the people that we are, but certainly being in this race and competing with the people we competed with has made us believe in ourselves even more. Whatever challenges we do face, I feel confident we’ll be able to conquer them.
What would your advice be to anyone considering becoming a contestant on the race?
Jordan: My advice is to never give up, just keep going for it, and that when you do apply for The Amazing Race, when you send in that audition video just to be yourself. I think a lot of people have the misconception they have to put together these elaborate audition videos where they’re characters rather than themselves, and I think the casting people for The Amazing Race can see right through that, and they want people who are real, who are interesting, who are determined, and who really want this.
You are the first openly gay winner since Chip and Reichen. Do you feel like you’ve helped score some points for gay visibility?
Jordan: I’ve received some fan messages and stuff like that from homosexual men and women who say I’m a positive role model for the gay community hearing that means the world to me. I have never felt that I don’t have opportunities because I’m gay, and I want everyone else to think and believe that as well. It’s just a part of who I am, it doesn’t define who I am, and you can do anything you put your mind to, so I hope people definitely take that away from this experience.