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Ray Cunningham
Gets Real...Some More

Ray Cunningham
Gets Real...Some More


The first gay reality star in BET's history chats with John Griffiths about his new gig getting straight boys to open up in Fox Reality's Nightclub Confessions

Miles Ray Cunningham -- you can call him Ray -- has always been thirsty for attention. As a little prankster in Richmond, Virginia, he recalls, "I once snuck a beer from my dad and took a picture of myself with the bottle in my hand." He also irked teachers by, um, pretending to fall out of his chair. "My parents' phone numbers were on speed dial at Southhampton Elementary School," he says with a downright infectious giggle. "I was a BAD kid. I just wanted to be the center of attention. Eyes on me!"

Thanks to his stint last year as one of the eight studious (if boozy and/or snarky) roomies on the third season of College Hill -- BET's spin on down-and-flirty reality shows like The Real World -- Cunningham can now, at 24, claim title to being the channel's first-ever admittedly gay personality (catch his momentous coming out and more in HILL's latest DVD release).

He has since parlayed his B.A. in mass communications from Virginia State into a gig as one of folks who ask club-hoppers naughty questions on Fox Reality's Nightclub Confession (a show where straight drunk guys are known to sometimes wax surprisingly homoerotic). What else is there to note about this peppy hopeful thespian--other than the fact that he can enjoy a cocktail during an interview? Cunningham opens up during a chat from his two-bedroom "luxury" apartment in L.A.

When did you first get an inkling you were gay? When I was a kid, I used to draw Gem and the Hollograms. And the only music video I liked to like was En Vogue's "Giving Him Something He Can Feel."

What's it like being a reality star? The good is that people like you for you. The downside is that if you want to be a comedian or an actor, people say, "Oh, he has no talent. He just got on TV because he had some deep, dark secret he told in his audition."

What was your deep-dark secret? When I tried out to be on College Hill, I never intended to be the "Gay Guy." I did not want to come out on national TV. But that's what happened. My heart dropped when I saw myself finally say it. I was at a premiere-night party, and my phone lit up instantly. It was like, 'Oh, my God!!"

Any fall-out? My family was mad that they officially found out that way. My daddy (also named Ray, an Amtrak conductor) took it hard at first. He wasn't upset that I was gay; he just was hurt that I didn't come talk to him about it. But now I have the most supportive daddy that a gay guy could ever have.

Had you come out to anybody before that? The first person I told was my sister in my junior year of college. I was in a relationship, and there was a lot going on. She was like, "We love you no less. Just be knowledgeable, be safe, be respectful of your family." And I will say I was one of the most positive images on the show. I was the one who was going to class, putting together benefit parties. I was the voice of reason for the cast.

But you did have some booze-spilling moments and fights on the show. Any regrets? Well, I do regret wasting some good cognac! But a lot of people say they remember me for being a nice person. One of my roommates got drunk and threw up all over the place, and I cleaned it up for him. I was like, "Well, if production hasn't cleaned it up, somebody has to!" [Laughs]

Tracey "Babyface" Edmonds helps produce College Hill. Did she give you any tips on how to handle fame? The main thing Miss Tracey told us was to always be humble, be yourself and keep your family close to you.

Who are your personal black gay icons? Anissa from The Real World. I just love Miss J. [Alexander] from America's Next Top Model. He's straight to the point but he's funny too. He seems like somebody I would love to party with. And I like Chamo from I Love New York. I met him at Outfest. He's a ball.

How about favorite diva? Whitney Houston! The first song I ever learned was "The Greatest Love of All." And The Body Gaurd was the first R-rated movie I ever saw. My mom took me to see it. Some parts, she had to cover my eyes.

What's the key to a great Whitney impersonation? You gotta get the "Hell to the no!" right!

Your take on the down-low deal? Down-low is a damn lie! People deal with their own gay life crises in their own way. But I just personally don't condone men who are married and sleep with other men. I have two sisters, and I also have nieces. Those could be my loved ones who are affected.

You speak to youth groups about a lot of issues. What's your main message? Come out on your own terms. I don't think anybody should be forced to come out. The hardest part of coming out today, I think, is actually saying it to yourself: "I'm Gay!" You have to live it, accept it, and make it who you are. And if you feel your mom and dad are going to cut you off, you might want to wait till you graduate to tell them. Wait till you get a job and can support yourself!

What's on your own self-improvement list? A lot of times I lash out in anger and spite. Some people say that I'm crazy. I've burnt some bridges out of rash judgment. I'm working on controlling that.

Any tips there? Honestly, I'll have a cocktail like I am now. I'll go watch my Desperate Housewives DVD. I'll take a nap. I try to revaluate. I'll try anything to avoid an argument.

Are you single?" Yes, and I've been doing a lot of mingling. But I'm ready to just mingle with just one person now. There's someone I do like, but we're on different coasts right now. I'm not into the long-distance relationship thing. It doesn't work.

You have a pretty festive MySpace page. Who's your most famous friend? Saaphyri [Windsor] from Charm School. I met her at a Halloween party last year and we've been friends ever since. She had on a big fur blue coat. I don't know what she was supposed to be. I was a vampire. I need to wear black to conceal my body type. You know, in L.A., it's not cute to be thick.

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