Bringing Down the House
Being locked in a house with 12 strangers for 62 days is no easy task. For gay Big Brother houseguest Ragan Fox, it meant a continuing battle with Las Vegas cocktail waitress Rachel, and a “showmance” with Matt, the straight Web designer from Chicago, who eventually threw him under the bus. Though he came in fifth place (Hayden, the handsome college student from Arizona, was crowned the winner in the finale) he still left with a check in his pocket for $20K. Now, free from the public eye, Ragan discusses his first night out of the house, his desire to be nude, and how he still plans on winning the game of Big Brother.
The Advocate: Congratulations on winning $20,000 for successfully sabotaging the house for two weeks, and not a single person suspected it was you. What do you plan on doing with the money?
Ragan Fox: Thank you! I have been saying I was either gonna get a BMW or a hybrid because I’m a ball of contradiction, and then I thought maybe I’ll get new living room furniture. Now I’m channeling my inner Suze Orman and thinking maybe I should apply this to my debt or student loans.
Some of the houseguests included an Italian from Jersey, a Texas oil rig salesman, and an Orthodox Jew from Miami. Living with such a diverse group of people from all over the country with different backgrounds and religions, was there any awkwardness or unease with the other houseguests regarding your sexuality that we may not have seen on TV?
Not at all, everyone was great. They never turned it into an issue. No one made me feel like the “gay guy” in the house. The only person who ever came at me and that I interpreted as homophobic was Rachel.
Well, I have to ask you about that memorable argument with Rachel (video below). She said things to you like, “You’re not even good at being gay,” “Do you have to be the biggest bitch because you’re gay?” and to “Go grab your tiara and be a fucking queen.”
Yeah, those are the three things that made it to the CBS show, but there were actually a string of other homophobic comments that she made, where basically in the heat of an argument, things would always come back to me being gay.
Well, it ended up making Rachel this season’s “love to hate” villain. Which I guess makes you a hero for the way you stood up to her. In an interview after the finale she claims she tried to reach out and apologize, and that she was going to write you an apology letter. Do you think you’ll ever forgive her?
There’s just an issue with sincerity when it comes to her apology. I’m always willing to accept them, but I do it from a cautious place and from a place of a bit of cynicism. ’Cause if someone apologizes to you repeatedly for their behavior but does nothing to correct their behavior, it becomes very difficult to accept that person’s apology.
Enzo cast the deciding vote on Wednesday’s finale (video below). You have some history with him in your last veto competition, where you lost in the final round, which we’ll call the “Battle for the Brendrew.” How do you think the game would have changed if you beat Enzo?
I think that I would have won the game. It’s not to take away from how intelligent I think the final four were. I just really studied my butt off in the last couple of weeks in the house. I was spending at least five hours a day in seclusion, studying. And I knew if it came down to any competition that involved house knowledge, a puzzle, or an endurance competition, that I would be almost unbeatable. Now, having said that, when we saw the DV on how Hayden performed in the final four competitions, I was really impressed. I think he would have given me a run for my money and perhaps would have beaten me. To me, what would have been more compelling, actually, is not if I would have won the competition, but if Britney would have done more campaigning for me to get Lane to flip his vote and we broke up the Brigade Alliance and ending up becoming an alliance of three.
Interview continued on next page.
You eventually ended up being on the chopping block next to Hayden, who ultimately won. In your farewell video he said, “You represent the gay community well. Young gay kids can look up to you as a good role model.” With everything going on in the gay rights movement this year, how did it feel to know you were the face of the gay community within the Big Brother house?
I’ve seen what’s been written every time a cast of Big Brother is released, because I’m a big fan of the show, and I know that anytime a gay guy is cast there is this burden of representation that is thrust upon the gay character that season. It happened with Kevin, with Steven, Bunky, and Marcellas. So I was aware that that would be out there, and I didn’t want to perpetuate any stereotypes of gay men. I went into the house thinking, OK, I don’t want to be the gay guy who cries all the time. And at the same time I had to be myself as well, so I ended being the gay guy towards the end of the game that cried a lot and I was like, Oh, great, I’m sure so many gay men are looking at me cringing, thinking why does he have to do that? I am who I am, so I think there’s always a fine line one has to walk when they’re a gay character on Big Brother — between being a representative from the gay community and being myself. I’ve only seen the first three episodes, but when Annie came out to me [as bisexual], my friends were giving me shit for saying, “You’ve just given me such a big gift.” And I was getting emotional when she was coming out. It’s very difficult to understand until you’re put in that situation. For me, I just spent a week in that house where every conversation and action was so centered around heterosexuality. People spent the first week in the house talking about potential romances and who was gonna hook up with who. And I could never be a part of that conversation. Because there was no opportunity for a “showmance.”
If the producers wanted you to compete in an All-Stars season, would you do it?
Yeah! If you asked me right now I’d be like, “I’d have to think about it.” But I’m sure in two years’ time if I got a call from the studio saying, “We’d love to have you for All-Stars,” I wouldn’t even think about it, I’d be like “Absolutely.” I’d play very differently, but I wanna win this game.
We need a gay winner.
I know! Kevin came so close last season, and I really thought that I had a good shot at doing it, but the odds were stacked against me.
With all eyes on you for 24/7 for 62 days and then being sequestered to the jury house until the finale, what was the first thing you wanted to do when you got home?
I wanted to be nude. I got so used to never being able to be nude. I also wanted to go out with my friends to a dark bar, where I would have a little bit of anonymity, and drink a rum and coke. And I wanted to listen to Hole. That’s all I needed. And that’s what I did. I actually took [my fellow houseguest] Matt and his wife, Stacy, to a gay bar called Fubar in West Hollywood the night after the finale. It was great to have my “showmance” and his wife with me.
Your “showmance” and his side alliance in real life.
Right! Exactly. [Laughs]
Did you have a lot of fans come up to you at the bar?
Yeah, they announced over the loudspeaker that “Ragan and Matt from Big Brother 12 are here” and a number of people came up and they were awesome. The response I’ve had in West Hollywood has been very kind and generous, and quite frankly very humbling.
Speaking of Matt, I read in another interview that you plan on attending his Halloween party in Chicago next month. Are you two going to dress up as Rachel again? You both looked great in red hair extensions (pictured at right).
[Laughs] I think that we’ll be different segments of the human centipede. I think that’s what our costume is going to be. Then it will be perfect because we’ll get to be mouth to butt — our goal all season long.
Wow! That sounds ... good. [Laughs] I wish I had a segue for that, but I’m having a hard time coming up with one. So, jumping to the next question. You’ve officially established “gaylebrity” status,while being a communications professor at Cal State Long Beach, and you begin teaching classes this week. Do you think competing on this show will affect your curriculum? Any chance of Big Brother 101?
I don’t know that it will necessarily affect my curriculum. In every class that I teach I’ve always included a section on gay and lesbian history and queer theory. That’s been something that I’ve done ever since I started teaching. If anything, I think it will be strange for my students. I think this generation of current undergraduates have a different experience than my own, just with how open-minded they are. There are still people who can't deal with the fact that their professor is gay, but when they see them on TV talking about being gay or other people talking about them being gay, suddenly it becomes a different kind of issue. And even some of the response that I’ve heard is people saying that I talk about having sex all the time. That is very surprising to me. I haven’t had sex since February. So it’s interesting to me how someone who is gay can talk about not having sex and that can become very sexualized. But hearing straight people talk about sex all the time, in graphic detail, is never this big issue. So I think it will be interesting to see how these dynamics play out at school.
I’m curious, and I know many other viewers are too — what does that tattoo on your forearm say?
It says in French, “Sometimes a dream is what makes you a slave.”
You have a podcast called Fox and the City that I’m sure you’re excited to get back to. You talked a lot about pop culture and would even joke about celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton. How did you react to everything that went on with them this summer while you were locked in the house?
[Laughs] She was arrested, right?
You have missed out! Yes, she went to jail and rehab and recently tested positive for drugs in a random drug test.
And I heard Hilton was caught with cocaine and she claimed it was gum? These are the moments that make my life worth living. I have a pile of poo I have to dig myself out from under before I can sit down and do a new show, so we’ll see what happens. I imagine, because people are probably curious about the Big Brother experience, I probably won’t go back to the regular format immediately. The first couple episodes I might have people from my season, and you can expect to hear from Matt. When I get my bearings I’ll go back to doing the regular show.
Earlier you seemed very caught up on your Big Brother knowledge. So lastly, because you’re a professor I wanted to end this interview with a Big Brother Gay History Pop Quiz. You are the 11th openly gay houseguest. Which two seasons did not have a gay or lesbian houseguest?
I’m gonna say 2 and 4.
Close! The answer is 1 and 4. Two had Bunky Miller.
Bunky! That’s right! The guy with the hair on his back.