Fresh off last week's win on The Amazing Race finale, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge — known to TV viewers as Team Beekman or the Beekman Boys — were innudated with notes of congratulations. One stood out most: the mother of a bullied, gay, middle schooler named Colin, who wrote, “I’m sure you guys are way too busy to read this, but I want you to know how inspirational you two are to my 12-year-old son. He is gay and is dealing with bullying and harassment in middle school. It’s so hard to see him going through this, and sometimes the “It Gets Better” message is lost on a 12-year-old who feels that middle school will never end…We cheered you on every Sunday night and agonized every time you had difficulties. My son was so incredibly thrilled when you two won last night (as was I!). Thank you for helping him see that not only does it get better, it gets amazing.”
The Beekman Boys talked the entire Amazing Race cast into submitting images of support for Colin and they dedicated a page on their website showing their love and support for the pre-teen. We snagged a few minutes with Kilmer-Purcell to find out what the couple will do with their winnings, the show's effect on their relationship, and what it means to be gay on TV.
The Advocate: You finished second-to-last six times during Amazing Race. Are you proof that underdogs should never give up?
Kilmer-Purcell: We think it's proof that no one should give up!
What are you going to do with the money?
Three things: (1) Pay off the mortgage on the farm so that we can live together again after five years of weekly separation. (2) Invest in a building on our Main Street in Sharon Springs to become the new headquarters of our company, Beekman 1802. (3) Start a food brand of which 25% of the profits will go to helping other small American farmers pay off their mortgage.
Everyone here was excited to see you kiss at the end. I kept thinking of kids in Middle America seeing two proud gay men winning America’s favorite reality show and what it’ll mean to them. Did you think at all about things like kissing, holding hands, how you were portrayed on camera?
The only times we thought about displays of affection were in Muslim countries. We purposely held back from them not only to be polite, but also because, strategically, it wouldn't do us much good to offend someone who might be able to help us. But we never once withheld affection anywhere else. Being affectionate, however, isn't exactly foremost on the mind during most of the Race.
Did you feel any pressure to “represent” gay men?
We don't generally think of ourselves as a gay couple. We're just a couple. I think that's why The Fabulous Beekman Boys has such a large viewership across a wide swath of America. We're not a show about a gay couple. We're a show about a couple risking it all for their dreams. Most anyone can relate to that, and if someone becomes aware of how normal LGBT couples are by watching us, then great.
You were one of the few teams in Amazing Race history to really care about other people’s dreams being dashed, like with Abbie and Ryan. Why was it important to care about your fellow contestants? Did it hold you back?
We raced with the lessons we've learned from life. Our small community of Sharon Springs taught us how to farm, and together we're bringing tons of tourism and business to our village. Without our neighbors, we'd have lost our farm. On the surface, helping your competition might not seem like a great Race strategy, but it's how we roll, and it's how we've won elsewhere in our lives. So we stuck to it.
How much of this competition is luck?
Exactly 14.8%. We calculated it. Actually, there have been a few bloggers that have said we won purely by luck. But if one believes after nine countries, 25,000 miles, 12 legs, and 36 plus challenges, that we won purely by luck, then one would have to believe that luck rules the world. And if luck rules the world, then why would you attempt any challenge? So to the folks who think we just got lucky, we wish good luck. They're probably gonna need it.
Would you do another reality show?
We would be very happy to do a third season of The Fabulous Beekman Boys with Cooking Channel. While it's very time intensive, it brought a huge positive influx of visitors to our town. Brent is also itching to do Dancing With the Stars. I think I need a little more downtime before that.
There was a fair share of bickering at times. How did Amazing Race affect your relationship? Was there strain?
Wow, we thought we actually behaved pretty well on the Race! Sure we bicker. After 14 years together, we know how to communicate pretty well. We bicker about the small stuff, and pull out our A-Game communication skills for the big challenges. Actually, many teams prep for the Race with grueling physical training. We spent extra time at the gym, but we also spent a lot of time role playing scenarios. "How would you support me in this type of challenge?" "What would be most motivating for you in this circumstance?"
Brent said that it's not about winning every leg; it's just not losing a leg.
Yep. Something we discovered while racing was that the teams that were always fighting for first or second eventually got really fatigued — you saw this in the finale. For most of the Race, due to travel delays, we didn't have the opportunity to Race for first place. So we never got as frantically exhausted. This wasn't a planned strategy of ours. It just transpired that way.
Besides the win, was there a favorite moment for each of you this season?
Brent actually really appreciated the synchronized swimming, believe it or not. While we obviously did not perform that well at it, swimming with the Russian National Team is not something we'll have the opportunity to ever do again. My favorite moment was in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We were physically exhuasted, and on the verge of heat exhaustion after completing the bamboo task. Then out of nowhere, this massive crowd of children appeared, chanting "Beekman Boys! Beekman Boys!" after reading our shirts. I think they carried us all the way to Phil [Keoghan, host of Amazing Race, who was waiting with all the eliminated teams].