Ryan O'Connor: Out on His OWN

Former bullying victim Ryan O’Connor opens up about his longtime Oprah obsession and his unsatisfied hunger for hosting opportunities after being booted from Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star.

BY Brandon Voss

February 16 2011 2:10 PM ET

“I ate my way to the Oprah Winfrey stage,” quipped comedic actor Ryan O’Connor when Miss Winfrey introduced him as a recent guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. More specifically, it was Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings, the 29-year-old cabaret performer’s one-man show about his life as a compulsive overeater, that fed his good fortune to become one of 10 contestants on Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star, a host-grooming reality competition on Winfrey’s new network. Eliminated February 11 just shy of making the top three, O’Connor, who’ll bring his solo act to New York’s Laurie Beechman Theatre in May, says a mouthful about his journey from severely bullied gay boy in Scottsdale, Ariz., to happily engaged West Hollywood celebrity.

Advocate.com: What was it like to watch your elimination episode on Friday?
Ryan O'Connor: Sometimes I watched the episodes with a bunch of friends, and there were certain episodes I didn’t want to watch in front of lots of people, but I didn’t even watch my elimination episode until the next day. I knew how it ended, so I didn’t need to see it right away. But I’m back for the finale in two weeks. You can’t get rid of me that easily.

How hard was it to keep your elimination status a secret?
It was tough. But we shot back in October, so the toughest part was waiting until our Oprah Winfrey Show episode aired on December 30 before I could tell anyone I was on the show at all. I had to sit on the fact that I’d met and spent time with Oprah on several occasions. That was nuts.

How did you snag a spot on Your OWN Show?
I’m a huge Oprah fan, so I’ve had Oprah on my vision board for as long as I can remember. In my one-man show, Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings, I actually sing a song called “America’s Queen” — written by my good friend Katie Thompson — which was an ode to Oprah and a plea for her to have me on her talk show. That song went in my show last February. And about two years ago, fans of my YouTube show, The Ryan O’Connor Show, started an online petition to get me on Oprah, so this has all been in the works long before Your OWN Show was even created. When Oprah’s 25th and final season was announced, I knew it was crunch time, but I had a feeling in my gut that it would still happen. When Oprah announced this hosting contest in May, I knew that’s how I was going to make it on her show. So I uploaded a video application on the last day of eligibility, and the casting team saw something in me they liked. They narrowed down the submissions to 65 finalists, producer Mark Burnett narrowed us down to 20, and Oprah chose the final 10. It was an incredible twist of fate, but also the power of the law of attraction.

Oprah saw your musical shrine and wasn’t scared?
That was my fear: that I was so obsessed with being on Oprah, they’d think that having me on the show would be like inviting a stalker over for tea. [Laughs] Oprah saw our audition videos and videos of the pitch meetings we had with Mark Burnett and OWN executives. In one of those meetings, they had me sing “America’s Queen” to the camera as if I were singing it to Oprah, so she’s definitely seen it.

Tags: television

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