Survivor's Brandon: The 'good villain' tells all

Brandon Quinton, the gay contestant who will soon help determine the winner of CBS’s Survivor: Africa, has no trouble speaking his mind—about marrying a woman, rejecting promiscuity, being a “flamboyant” role model, and going head-to-head with David Letterman

BY Chuck Kim

January 04 2002 1:00 AM ET

Brandon Quinton is proud to note that Entertainment Tonight dubbed him the Susan Lucci of the current Survivor: Africa, CBS’s immensely popular reality game show, the 25-year-old Texas bartender is one of only two openly gay men, along with original Survivor winner Richard Hatch, in the show’s three-season history—and he joined up planning to do as much scheming as possible.

In a no-holds-barred interview with Advocate.com, Quinton—who was the ninth person voted out of the show’s competition for the $1 million prize—says he tried out for the show to strike a blow for every young “little fag” who’s never seen himself on television and to let them know that being gay doesn’t mean being promiscuous.

Advocate.com: You were out there how many days?Quinton: 27 days.

Did you have any hesitation about going when you found out you were chosen?No, but when I got out there, I started feeling a little overwhelmed. I had thought a lot about getting on the show, but I hadn’t thought about [the fact that I had] not been camping before. That was kind of overwhelming.

From your CBS interview on The Early Show, it sounds as though your primary draw for competing in this wasn’t the money or the fame.It really wasn’t. Shows like Queer as Folk that are so popular show a really bad image of 20-something gays. Pretty much everything on TV is, either you’re over 30 and you can’t get a man and desperate to find someone, or you’re under 20, super promiscuous, and trying every new fad drug that comes out. I’m 25, absolutely not promiscuous, and don’t do drugs. I thought it would be good to have someone different out there.

How do you feel you were perceived?I’m just myself. I’m not like some super-butch guy; I’m not really worried about what people think about how I act. I can’t help that, I’m just who I am. I think it says a lot that someone on the flamboyant side can last 27 days with very little food and water in very hard conditions.

You went on there to break the TV stereotypes...I didn’t go to break the stereotypes, because that’s impossible for someone on a game show to do. I just wanted there to be an alternative. When I was in high school, there was no one [gay] to see [on TV]. Then the first gay characters I started seeing were not that positive. If some kid in high school is getting teased and called a fag or a queen every day like I was, [and] they could see [on Survivor] that a little fag queer guy outlasted a lot of the butch guys, then maybe I helped them. I didn’t really have a lot of chances on the show to talk about my views on promiscuity and drug use.

Were you out in high school?I wasn’t. When you’re from a really small town in rural Oklahoma like I was, it didn’t matter that I dated girls, I was just different from everyone else. I got to hear “fag” and “queer” nonstop. [In that situation] you can either decide, I’m going to get of this—I’m going to make something out of myself and get away from these kinds of people or you can let it really get to you and it’ll drive you crazy.

I’m certainly not defending anyone, but some of these kids who pull out a gun and wreak havoc, I can almost relate to them. You can only take so much; you can only be pushed so far before you either snap like those kids did or you just get a really strong resolve and say, I’m not going to take it, I’m not going to let anyone bother me. That’s kind of what I did. I wouldn’t trade back then for anything.

Would you say your Survivor experience was a good time?It was a good experience. It was no vacation—it’s very hard. I wouldn’t do it again, because I’ve done it. I found out a lot about myself. It was a good time. I enjoyed it.

What do you think of the other gay contestants, like Richard Hatch?I’m way different from Richard Hatch. I mean, obviously, I’m way thinner and less hairy! And then there’s the Guidos [life partners Joe and Bill] on [CBS’s around-the-world game show] The Amazing Race. Wow, they were something else. They weren’t portrayed in a very likable way, I’ll tell you that. I met them last week. Their finale was the same day I was starting my press tour. They seemed very nice. I don’t know what kind of people they are, but they seem nice enough.

How do you feel you were treated by your fellow contestants? Overall, were they OK with you being gay?For most people in urban areas, I don’t think it’s a big issue. Well, not that I’ve encountered. Most people on the show, they knew gay people. It wasn’t like I was the first one they had met like [I was] with [fellow contestants] Frank and Tom. Tom [a 46-year-old goat and cattle farmer from Virginia] has never ever been around someone who was openly gay. He asked me one day, “What’s the deal? Why are you different?” So I told him.

Frank [a 43-year-old telephone technician] has a military background and he doesn’t think a lot of gay people. That’s fine. You can’t go through life with a chip on your shoulder worrying about if you please everyone. I don’t worry if I please anybody. I’m happy with myself and that’s all that matters.

Have you been back to work since the show started?Oh, yeah. I only work two to three days a week, but I’ve definitely been back to work. It’s still fun. Most of the guys in Dallas, because I’m a bartender, they know me, so it’s not so big of a deal for them. I work in a Levi’s-and-leather bar, and a lot of straight tourists come in—these little straight couples wading through the guys in chaps! When they come to get an autograph, you can just see the look on their faces. It’s pretty funny.

For some reason, I’m super popular in Australia. I guess there’s a ton of gay people there. I get a zillion fan letters from people in Australia. It’s little kids, adults, straight people, and gay people. The people who come up to me from here are all different sorts too, but in Australia it just seems like an unusual amount of people.

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