Married and millionaires–amazing!

Reichen and Chip are not only the first gay contestants to win the $1 million prize in CBS’s The Amazing Race, they’re also the first self-described married couple to do so. In a morning-after interview, the L.A.-based duo talk about which teams supported their coming out, why they consider themselves married, and the problems they’ve faced as a couple since the race ended.

BY Advocate.com Editors

August 21 2003 11:00 PM ET

Reichen Lehmkuhl
and Chip Arndt, a gay couple who celebrated their
one-year anniversary during the course of CBS's reality show
The Amazing Race, won the contest's $1
million prize by being the first team to cross the
finish line in Phoenix in the final episode, which
aired on August 21. The duo competed with 11 other
two-person teams, most of which were eliminated one by
one in a race around the world, beginning in Los
Angeles and continuing through Europe, India, Malaysia,
Korea, and Australia. They also competed with their
own demons, as they competed aggressively to stay
ahead of the pack, lost their tempers, and debated
when to come out as a gay couple to the other players.

After winning the
race on that final episode, the duo were shown greeting
all the eliminated players gathered at the finish line,
while they made a dramatic, heartfelt voice-over
statement about how their victory would demonstrate
that gay people are just as capable and have the same values
and goals as everyone else.

It was perhaps
the most revealing and detailed portrait of a real-life
committed same-sex couple seen on network TV—at least
since Team Guido, the long-term San Diego couple who
came in third in The Amazing Race’s first
season. Indeed, Chip and Reichen are the eighth and ninth
openly gay male contestants to take off on The
Amazing Race
(all of whom have spoken to
Advocate.com at the end of their journeys). As a couple,
they’ve been together more than five years; as
individuals, they each have intriguing stories of
their own: Reichen, 28, is a pilot, a graduate of the
U.S. Air Force Academy, and a former Air Force officer,
while Chip, 36, is a Yale and Harvard Business School
graduate who is now a financial consultant
specializing in funding entertainment projects.

As dramatic as
the race itself—which involved Chip wrecking a race
car, driving over Reichen’s toes, and running
an SUV he was driving off the road in a tailspin, not
to mention both of them rappelling face-first down
tall buildings and Reichen swimming with sharks—was
the gossip that surrounded their relationship once
they returned home to Los Angeles. Were they still
together? The bars of West Hollywood and the Internet
chat rooms nationwide buzzed with definite confirmations
that, yes, they had broken up and, yes, they were
still together.

Finally, having
been revealed as the winners of the race—beating
second-place finishers, engaged couple Jon and Kelly, by
mere minutes and third-place finishers, David and Jeff
(straight best friends), by about a day—Chip
and Reichen can finally address all the gossip head-on. And
they can start figuring out what to do with that $1
million.

Hey, guys! Congratulations! Six months
later—it’s been, what, six or seven
months since you crossed that finish line in Phoenix?

Reichen: Yeah, we finished on February
14—

You finished on Valentine’s Day?

Reichen: Yeah! Valentine’s Day, so we had to
keep it secret for like six months. It was really
ridiculous because not only did we have to keep it
secret that we’d won $1 million, we had to keep the
secret that we were even on the race. Until June, when the
Race came out [with the announcement about who the
contestants were in this summer’s season], we
couldn’t even tell anyone that we’d even done
this. No one even knew we went on this Amazing
Race
.

So Reichen, when you did the cover of Instinct
magazine, Instinct didn’t even know you
were on the show.

Reichen: They had no idea.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the race. You
guys seemed a little apprehensive about disclosing
that you were a gay couple. Did you think that
would be detrimental to competing?

Reichen: Well, I think on The Amazing Race you
don’t want to tell anyone about your personal
life, because part of your strategy is to keep your
personal life a secret. You know, Jeff [of the
third-place “best friends” team David and
Jeff] hid that he was an amazing triathlete. You
don’t want to let people know what your strengths
and weaknesses are, because you don’t want them to
have any kind of strategy against you. So it
wasn’t that we were, like, ashamed of it. It
was just not time for us to release it to the other
contestants.

Do you think they figured it out anyway?

Reichen: Some said they did, and some said they had
no idea.

What made you decide to come out to the other teams on
your anniversary?

Reichen: Well, basically by that time we had been
traveling with those teams for so long that we felt
really close to them, and we felt that it
wouldn’t be a detriment anymore at that time. And we
had found out so much about them too and about their
lives. It just made us feel more comfortable for them
to know what they were dealing with and who we were as
people.

One of the remaining teams at that point was Millie and
Chuck, who did not seem very comfortable with all
of that.

Chip: Well, virgins from the Bible Belt who in their
interviews said, “We read the Bible
religiously”—yeah, they had a little bit
of discomfort with it. But afterward—Reichen,
didn’t they come to you?

Reichen: Yeah, coming from Nashville,
Tenn.—where it’s not as open as what we
come from in Los Angeles—I think it was tough for
them to hear that, considering their very strong
religious beliefs. But you know, afterward when we
were done, off-camera they came up to us, and they
said, “We just think you’re so courageous for
coming out, and we just want you to know that we would
never judge you.” So, I mean, there you go. It
just shows that they have great character too. I mean,
everybody on the race was so great.

What other teams off-camera were very supportive?

Reichen: Definitely David and Jeff, [second-place
finishers] Kelly and Jon.

Chip: Monica and Sheree [the NFL wives].

Reichen: All of those teams majorly supported us.

Chip: And Tian and Jaree [the models].

Reichen: Oh, yeah. Tian and Jaree were amazing too,
yeah.

Tell me a little bit more about your relationship with
Jon and Kelly, because they were at one point
digging at you guys for being “fags” just
to egg each other on. What was that about?

Reichen: When we went on that 26-hour train ride in
India after the Supremes [Monica and Sheree] were
eliminated, you know, we really made a close, close
friendship with Jon and Kelly, and that was definitely
not portrayed in the editing and in what the viewing public
saw. You saw a fraction of the funny jokes going back and
forth, and one of the regrets I think I have from the
editing was that it didn’t show this amazing,
really funny friendship that we had developed with Kelly
and Jon. I mean, the gay jokes were flying every five
seconds—if you could have really seen how it
was, I think it would have been so fun and humorous
for the viewing public. But they [the producers] were trying
to make out like we had a rivalry, which really
wasn’t the case. It was so fun shooting these
jokes back and forth. We were constantly telling Jon
how pretty he was and how gay he was and reminding him how
gay he was and, you know, he would come back with the
gay jokes. We had so much fun. It really wasn’t
a rivalry at all. It was great.

Chip: It was a flirtation.

Reichen: It really was a flirtation.

Chip: Like brothers kidding each other.

So by the time you were climbing face-first down the side
of that tall building in Australia, and Jon was
making cracks about not being beaten by the
“fags,” this was part of an ongoing thing
between you guys.

Chip: Absolutely.

Reichen: Yeah, I don’t know if you remember
when we were in the airport and Jon looked at me and
said, “Oh, Reichen, you have that pheromone
smell that keeps me attracted to you”—remember
that? By that time, even, it was so funny. Chip would
get miffed because I would get distracted because I
thought Jon was so funny, and it was flirtatious. I
mean, I would laugh so hard when Jon would do that with me.
I would, like, try to stifle my laughter to hold my
and Chip’s team together. It was so funny and
comical at that point. By the time I was rappelling down
the building, calling him an asshole, it was
so—funny.

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