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12/01/2004

The Day After: Manhunt's Rob Williams Talks To Towleroad

RobmanhuntWe've watched him mesh with millipedes, tease with toilet paper, strike poses in pimp wear, and tame tarantulas. Throughout the Manhunt competition, Rob Williams exuded confidence, charm, creativity, and an openness about his sexuality that makes him not only a great fashion model, but a real role model as well. And let's admit, having one of our own in the competition made it that much more fun to watch.

Any prior misconceptions his hetero co-models had about gay people were revised and rewritten as the show progressed and Rob won competition after competition while having fun and showing integrity.

Plenty of competitors would have told the other finalist Jon Jonsson to continue packing his bags when he showed hesitation at performing the final nude modeling task. Yet Rob encouraged Jon, knowing it might cost him the win. And, well, it did. Yet despite the fact that Rob ultimately finished as runner-up in Bravo's Manhunt competition, this is definitely not "his last shot".

It appears that Rob has forgiven me for the fun I've poked at the Manhunt models all season (of course I've made no secret of my favorites) because he offered to share some of his thoughts on the show with Towleroad. We're most definitely stoked.

Do you think that being gay was a factor at all in not making the top spot?

I don’t think being gay had anything to do with the results of the show. I think the judges were fair and picked who they thought was the best choice. However, I do think that some producers might believe that having a gay contestant in the final two of a show that is in part based on sex-appeal is not an ideal situation. There is still the Hollywood myth that an openly gay man cannot be considered sexy by the American public. Luckily, the eliminations of our show were decided by modeling judges, not producers.

Do you think your sexuality gave you any advantages in this competition?

I think I had to try harder which did in turn give me an advantage. I think it is easy to discard someone that can be marginalized or type-cast. Because being gay is such a huge part of who I am, I struggled (with more success sometimes than others) to show the judges that my sexuality does not define who I am as a person or a model.


How did you get involved with Manhunt? Was modeling always something you wanted to do?

I never had thought about pursuing modeling and had no experience before the show. I was at a birthday party in July where a producer of the show approached me and asked me to do it. I thought he was hitting on me so I ignored him. The next day Bravo called. I was on the show two weeks later.

Rob3

Were you happy with the way the show was edited? How did you feel that it came across with respect to what you experienced?

The show did not show anything that did not occur. It is difficult, however, to show the motivations behind the things the viewer sees happening or show it completely. The eliminations were always much more positive than was portrayed but the viewer has to be kept in suspense. Everyone asks me about my runway disaster, which I think you accurately labeled a “meltdown.” My embarrassing ass shaking down the Puerto Rico runway actually took place over five walks down the runway. After each turn a producer would yell at me to shake my ass, step it up and ham it up. Unfortunately, I made an error in judgment and listened.

How do you feel about being a gay role model?

Wow. I don’t know if I am a gay role model, if I am, I would be truly honored to be respected in that way. I do feel there need to be more positive gay role models out there, especially for isolated young gays in middle America. Growing up in Texas, the only openly gay person I met before college was my mom’s hairstylist. My mom stopped going to him when I was in sixth grade. I remember my mom telling me he had died of AIDS. I thought being gay meant dying of AIDS. I think it would have been amazing to have a young person with a positive perspective to look up to.

Rob4How did you prepare yourself for elements of homophobia in the world of fashion?

I think the world of fashion is one of the least homophobic industries. I have had nothing but support and encouragement from everyone I have met in the fashion industry. I think the gays and lesbians and forward thinking heteros that are in control are finally getting sick of discrimination. In fact, although I did not win the top prize in Manhunt, IMG offered me a contract nonetheless saying my sexuality was a non-issue. Hollywood is a little slower to catch on. It is sad that it is so unrealistic for me to become a successful leading man in Hollywood that I have not even entertained the thought.

When you announced that you were gay, Hunter had a brief episode that portrayed him as a homophobe. Can you tell us any more about that experience?

I was very puzzled by the incident as well. I can only imagine there were other things going on with Hunter that we didn’t get to see.

_rob_1

Were you out to friends and family before the show? If not, what were their reactions after seeing you on the show?

I was out to people I see everyday and my family. Some of my friends from home did not know because I don’t see them or talk to them regularly. After those friends found out, I received many calls and emails of support, which meant so much to me.

Rob7Which of the other models are you still friendly with?

I am actually still friends with most of the models from the show. I keep in contact with Paulo, Tate, Jon, Maurice, Kevin P., Matt and Jason. In fact, Maurice text messaged me to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving.

Was there any behind-the-scenes friction that Bravo did not let the audience in on?

Not really. I think they covered most of it – maybe too much.

What's the most surprising thing you can tell us about one of the other models that we don't already know?

Maurice does a killer RuPaul impersonation. It’s hilarious.

Rob6

Which of the models would you most like to take on a date?

I don’t think any of the models are really my type for dating. Plus I don’t really have a thing for straight guys so it’s hard to say. I will say Paulo is definitely very hot (but should lay off the mesh shirts). Actually, I went on a date with one of the models a year before the show started filming, but I will keep which model it was to myself.

Which of the other models would you want to take to bed?

Marissa Miller so I could get some sleep.

Are you single?

Yes. I am unlucky in love, but I am still hopeful the right person will come along.

What are you passionate about besides modeling?

I love my family and friends. They are the most important thing in my life and keep me sane. But in a business sense, I want to use my journalism degree and do entertainment reporting. I also have a few television projects I am trying to develop. Peter Max-Muller, a celebrity stylist and the stylist for Manhunt, and I have a clothing line coming out in late spring called Grandpa Goes to London. The suits will be similar in cut and quality to those we wore for the fashion shoot on the show, but more affordable.

What has been the biggest perk of your 15 minutes so far?

I live in L.A. where only the big stars get the perks.

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Comments

  1. Andy,
    Thank you for this as well as every other fine presentation you make. This gent seems so well balanced. Bravo! I hope there are more of us like him to off set the screaming negative queens I so often see in the world around me.
    P.S. I am still in love/lust over you.

    Posted by: dan | Dec 1, 2004 8:07:33 AM


  2. Andy,

    Congratulations on your interview with Rob. So-called reality shows lack, for the most part, integrity. It is refreshing to see that Rob maintains a healthy balance between the expectations attributed to him on the one hand, and trying to, as they say, keep it real. I would date Mr. Williams any day.

    Posted by: Gabriel Caro | Dec 1, 2004 9:50:55 AM


  3. Congratulations to Rob Williams!

    His positive attitude will surely ensure a very successful career.

    Phil & Mike,
    The Justus Clothing Company

    Posted by: Phil & Mike Boila-Elam | Dec 1, 2004 9:58:49 AM


  4. Nice interview! I wanted Rob to win, as I think he could be a better overall model, but I have to admit that last night when they showed all the photos of each of the two, Jon did have the stronger Manhunt Portfolio of the two. This isn't necessarily Rob's fault, as he had no choice in what photos were chosen, but ultimately the photos had to have the most weight in the decision of the judges. Anyway, Rob will be a very successful model on his own, I'm sure.

    Posted by: Patrick | Dec 1, 2004 11:30:38 AM


  5. Congrats to Rob for maintaining a level head and for being down-to-earth...how refreshing! Thanks too, Andy, for your episode updates and your...uh, in-depth, analysis. ;-)

    Posted by: Corin | Dec 1, 2004 11:51:56 AM


  6. My guess is that the other model he went on a date with was cute Blake. He lives in L.A., too.

    http://www.bravotv.com/Manhunt/The_Models/Blake/

    Posted by: Paul | Dec 1, 2004 12:02:09 PM


  7. Hey Andy,

    This is a great interview and inside perspective on the show. I thought the questions were really interesting and Rob's answers very honest and real. You have a great site and I just wanted to congratulate you again on providing support for the team in such an imaginative way.

    All best,
    Sean

    Posted by: Sean Bickerton | Dec 1, 2004 12:05:52 PM


  8. Andy, thanks for the exclusive!

    This just reinforces what I thought of him: that he's smart, cool, down-to-earth; he doesn't let fame get to his head, but still takes advantage of it. The world needs more role models like that. Is it possible for him to be even more lovable?

    Since Rob got offered a contract by IMG, doesn't that mean my prediction was correct in that he'd tie for first? =)

    Posted by: jase | Dec 1, 2004 12:51:08 PM


  9. I finally watched this show, which was interesting as I had no sense of who these people were, what they were like, etc. I think I was in the bathroom when in retrospect they opened the issue that he was gay. I had no idea. So here is what I thought watching the program: The embedded model needs a hairdresser for his eyebrows alone. They were all interesting physically in some way. It was clear, at least to me, that Jon had something going on: I wasn't sure if he was Hawaiian, half Asian, there was something very unique in his face. And I loved the fact that he wasn't tall (the most moronic condition required to be a model, ever!) I also thought as a personality, he was about as dull as you could get. I actually started to pay attention when he became resistant to the nude modelling idea. What have we here? I wondered. The myriad of reasons that one wouldn't want to pose naked raced across my mind. I sat through the long commercial break. Karl Simone (oh my!) and models in seven minutes of absolute boring television. I wish HBO would do this program. Well, it was clear, at least to me, who was sexier. I liked this Rob guy. He seemed to actually possess personality, charm and charisma. I also thought, this is no major model. But I would almost want to give it to him just because he had a personality. Turns out he's gay. That's cool. I don't think it was an issue (as far as I can tell) in the decision. Now its funny, I have read Andy's interview and Rob may make the call that fashion is not homophobic, but the agencies–the worst. First hand experience. The worst, maybe its best just to leave it at that.

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 1, 2004 1:20:02 PM


  10. Role model? hardly.
    Would like to fuck him? absolutely.

    There are true role models out there. Let's not confuse gay heriarchy of beliefs (one dimensional and superficial 90% of the time), with people who actually make a social difference. I am an avid reader of your site, but lately it has reached a cuspid in venal.
    Other relevant issues other than Man Hunt, Andy?

    Posted by: Sasha | Dec 1, 2004 1:25:07 PM


  11. Dear Sasha

    I had to race to the dictionary.

    cuspid:
    Definition: Tooth with one point, sometimes called the canine tooth.

    venal:

    1. Open to bribery; mercenary: a venal police officer.
    2. Capable of betraying honor, duty, or scruples for a price; corruptible.
    2. Marked by corrupt dealings, especially bribery: a venal administration.
    3. Obtainable for a price.

    Andy, are working from the inside again?

    I'll be wearing cuspid in venal tonight.

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 1, 2004 1:31:07 PM


  12. I'm so glad that IMG offered Rob a contract and that it seems he's able to parlay this into something lasting. I'M SO GLAD! Honestly, I was rooting for him from the get-go and, though I saw this coming, I was sad. I thought that, above all, he DESERVED to win due to the way that he handled himself. Not to discredit Jon *(where was HE when I was in Santa Cruz?!) in any way... It just seemed that Rob had to work a tad harder, and I thought that should be rewarded.

    At any rate, congrats to Rob and a wonderful future. I'm sure whatever he does will be accomplished with sincerity, dignity and the sentience.

    ps. So how're those exclusives with J.D. Salinger and Salman Rusdie going?

    Posted by: M@ | Dec 1, 2004 1:42:15 PM


  13. Congratulations to Rob. He might not have won the competition, but he sure won my heart. I'd buy anything that guy was selling.

    Does anyone have the URL for Milk Studio, the nude photo place?

    Posted by: David Morton | Dec 1, 2004 1:56:02 PM


  14. I'm going with Sasha on this one. Rob is definitely boinkable but no model, role or otherwise. Jon Jonsson (you can call me J.J.) is as dull as they come and while he takes a better picture than Rob, he is still not in the same league as the big boys.

    Speaking of big boys...

    Was Rob's cockiness during the nude shoot justifiable boasting and was shy Jon's reluctance to drop trou a hint that he's a bit lacking in the "goods" department?

    Posted by: Jeff | Dec 1, 2004 2:43:06 PM


  15. ...I am at a loss for words....

    Posted by: Chris | Dec 1, 2004 3:20:51 PM


  16. Nice job rounding up the photos and interview, Andy. I've been rooting for Rob all along... He's more interesting b/c he's not your typical model... More sophisticated, less beefcake.

    Posted by: N | Dec 1, 2004 3:47:15 PM


  17. David, here is the URL for Milk:

    http://www.milkstudios.com/index_pc.html

    It's just a rentable studio. What you're probably looking for is the photographer who took the pics:

    http://www.karlsimone.com/

    Best,
    Sebastian

    Posted by: SPY | Dec 1, 2004 4:37:55 PM


  18. Andy, good job with the interview. I still have not watched the show and rely solely on your recaps to keep me up to date. Rob seems like a nice, likeable young fella.

    Posted by: MDB | Dec 1, 2004 11:15:55 PM


  19. randy:

    how old are you anyway?

    Posted by: sasha | Dec 2, 2004 5:03:36 AM


  20. Doesn't the word "exclusive" mean this is the only interview? Because one with eerily similar questions, but by someone else, appeared on gay.com.

    And just because a guy comes out on tv doesn't make him a role model. Not a chicken? yes. But role model isn't a one-time thing.

    Posted by: Chris H | Dec 2, 2004 9:14:09 AM


  21. Yes I saw the interview on gay.com too which they didn't tell me they were going to do. I'd like to think I asked a few more relevant questions but I guess that's up to what you want to hear.

    As far as the role model, my view of role model is someone who is worthy of imitation, which I think is pretty much the recognized definition of that term. In that sense, I think that the way Rob behaved on the show with respect to his sexuality was admirable, since so many people in the public eye just choose to keep it in the closet.

    Posted by: andy | Dec 2, 2004 10:43:28 AM


  22. Thanks Sebastian!

    Posted by: David Morton | Dec 2, 2004 1:39:17 PM


  23. Jeff you sound like an insipid bitter old hag worthless trashy loser

    Posted by: speaksthetruth | Dec 2, 2004 3:27:19 PM


  24. Grat interview with Rob, Andy. Rob is definitely a role model for young gay men.
    He had the poise and confidence to take himself to the final two of the competition.
    Sorry he wasn't chosen. But he will be a fabulous and hunky print model. I wish him all the best. WOOOF.

    Posted by: BT | Dec 3, 2004 9:05:15 AM


  25. Just watched the episode tonight. Our house (3 gay men) was strongly rooting for the home-town (homo-town?) team, but Jon's portfolio really blew Rob's away.

    Rob's nude-photo crisis semmed awfully scripted.

    Role-model? Sure. Coming out so publically and with so much grace puts him light years ahead of most gay men in the public realm. Kudos to him.

    Posted by: Zach | Dec 4, 2004 7:37:49 PM


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