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Reza Farahan, the 38-year-old gay star of Bravo's Shahs of Sunset, is known among the show's fans for his pocket squares, larger-than-life persona and online rants. Born in Tehran and raised in Beverly Hills, Reza has found himself in the fortunate (if somewhat unexpected) position of being representative of out and proud Persians.
The Advocate: What's changed now that you've been on the show?
Reza Farahan: On one level, I realize that when I'm in line at Starbucks and someone is cruising me, they're probably looking at me because they recognize me from the show as opposed to before when they just wanted to get into my pants. On a totally different level, I get a lot of messages from gay Persian teens about how I've inspired them to come out, or that they appreciate that I'm out, stuff like that. That's obviously amazing.
When did you come out?
For a Persian, I came out very young. I was 21. I had just moved back from San Francisco and my mom confronted me one morning after a night out drinking. I think she knew, but for some reason used that opportunity to ask me if I were gay. I just decided in that moment to be honest. I don't know how or where I got the strength, but thank God I did.
How did she react?
At first she was hysterical, but then she looked at me and said, "You're my son. I love you."
Has being on Shahs brought to light any challenges faced by others in your community?
People reach out to me all the time and ask me if I can help them, talk to their families for them, be there for them to offer advice, to be their friend -- all of which I've said I'd do.
Now that you've wrapped your first season, what kind of feedback have you gotten from the Persian community?
The funny thing is, if we're just going to focus on the Persian community, the reaction, especially in New York, has been amazing, loving, supportive, excited. They interact with me on Facebook and Twitter, they want to be a part of it and genuinely want to express their appreciation for the recognition we're getting. The Persians in L.A., not so much.
Why do you think that is?
I think the New York Persians are more open-minded and can appreciate the show for what it is. I have to say I was surprised by how negative the community was here [in Los Angeles] especially before they even knew what the show was about. And the irony is, a lot of those people, now that they've watched the show, have become fans.
Do you think the show represents you accurately?
Any comments for people who aren't happy about the fact that you're gay and Persian and on TV?
They can kiss my gay Persian ass.
I saw you did an "It Gets Better" video, anything else you would want to add to that?
Yes, there's this organization called IRQR and this guy helps Persian homosexuals flee from Iran. It's kind of like the Underground Railroad for gay Persians. If I could somehow, on a grassroots level, connect to him and help him out, I'd really like to do that. I've reached out to him, but he's based in Canada and so it's not like I can roll up to his office and be like, "Here I am."
Has being on the show opened up a whole new dating pool?
Yes and no. People on reality shows get mad, crazy love. But, I'm very grounded in the fact that some people gravitate toward me because of a belief they have or a connection they think they have to me when a connection doesn't exist. So I don't take that for granted.
Let's talk about your mustache. It seems to have spawned its own fan club and, on its own, become a gay icon.
My mustache has serious groupies. And, its own twitter handle, @rezas_mustache, that was started by a fan.
Have there been any surprises along the way?
The one thing I guess I didn't think about or know would happen when I signed up to do Shahs is that I'm living as an out gay man on a massive scale. I didn't know how much freedom would come with that. It's like wearing a Star of David so that everyone knows you're Jewish before they meet you. There's a part of me now out there in the forefront so, when we meet we don't have to talk about it. It's actually very freeing.