In a new first-person essay, Colton Haynes shares his experience of navigating Hollywood as a gay teenager and now male.
The actor, 33, of MTVs Teen wolf and the CW Arrow, writes of his heart-wrenching journey, coming from Kansas to LA “with queer confidence” but being forced to hide it to fit the mold of professional success in the industry. He’s faced demoralizing experiences along the way, like being trained to be less gay and having to act out graphic sex scenes.
“To be a gay actor in Hollywood, even in 2021, is to be inundated with mixed messages: Consumers are mostly heterosexual, so don’t alienate them,” writes Haynes, which was officially released in 2016, Vulture trial. “But a lot of decision makers are gay, so play this game!” Now that I’m older and sober, I’m trying to figure out who I am with the inauthentic version of myself that I’ve invested in for years. I often wonder how different things would have been. if I had the right to be who I was when I moved to town: a kid full of hope and confident in his sexuality. “
Haynes said her first serious relationship was at age 14 with a man in his 40s. That year he started dancing at a gay bar in Wichita and “felt at home there”. The following year he got his first modeling agent and he and his then-boyfriend Jay posed for a gay magazine called XY. This brought him to Los Angeles, after graduating from high school, where he worked as a telephone sex operator for a year. Then the owner of a management company, whom Haynes calls “Brad” for the story, expressed interest in potentially representing him.
Almost immediately, Brad told Haynes, “You’re definitely going to have to change your ways,” saying the way the openly gay teenager spoke and held himself was too “theatrical” which was “the code for gay.”
Brad invited him to an acting class, where famous actors were his classmates, including someone Haynes calls “Ethan, whom I recognized on a popular TV show.” However, the instruction was a further humiliation, he wrote.
Not that musical! was her comeback that Brad gave her, in front of everyone, after doing her first scene. Once again, he felt compelled to hide.
The experience was degrading in other respects as well. One class night was a “sexy scene night” where they had to get completely naked and perform a scene with a partner, Brad giving instructions. Before he and Ethan did their performance, an actress and actor recreated Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton’s graphic sex scene from Ball of the monsters. Already pissed off, he then had to do his scene completely naked as he faked sex with Ethan.
“I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to look at the audience,” he said. When it was over, “Of all the things that had happened to me in my life, I had never felt so demoralized.”
At the director’s insistence, Haynes got a military-style haircut and was sent to hand over documents to a potential agent while wearing “a cowboy hat and an unbuttoned western shirt.” to try to get the agent’s services. However, Haynes was informed that the agent was not interested, so Brad said he was done working with Haynes.
I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work. Your voice, your manners, they’re always so… gay, ”Haynes was told. On leaving, Brad added that if he was having trouble finding the money, he had contact with someone Haynes could turn to for a short-term job. Later he looked at the contact information and it was for rentboy.com, “a site for sex workers.
Haynes said he knew becoming an actor wouldn’t be easy, but he didn’t know that “the thing that made me precious in private, my overtly gay sexuality was a handicap as I tried to push my way through in industry”. Haynes set the scene for the time, in the mid-years, “when occasional homophobia was still a regular hit line on TV sitcoms, Modern family I wouldn’t be introduced until a few years after arriving in Los Angeles. The actors had only started dating publicly, and none of them looked like the romantic lead role. There are still few gay men in Hollywood coming out of the closet. ”
So Haynes said he “did as I was told to do. I took lessons with a vocal teacher who made me talk while holding a highlighter between my teeth for the whole class. so that when I took it out my diction was crisp and clear. I practiced speaking with a post-it folded under my tongue to teach me how to speak. S sounds less hissing, because their softness made me look cheerful. “
A few weeks later, he landed his first role, in an episode of CSI: Miami, and the offers immediately followed by people wanted to handle it. However, “I understood because it was explained to me repeatedly by managers, agents, publicists, executives, producers that the only thing separating me from the career I wanted was that I was gay. ” So he went into hiding as he built a career out of young adult TV roles. He said his managers would “send cease and desist letters” to any websites that bring up his old one. XY gay magazine photoshoot photo. When he was linked to Lauren Conrad, of The hills celebrity, he was advised “not to deny our supposed relationship rather than make the tabloids speculate on us”.
However, hiding his real self started to make him sick.
“My mental health deteriorated and I became addicted to alcohol and pills,” he wrote. “When a doctor suggested that my secret was making me sick, I knew he was right.”
When it was released in 2016, “Besides, the work has almost dried up,” he writes. “When I was locked up, I beat up straight guys to play straight roles, and I played them well. Now the only auditions I get are for gay characters, which are still rare. Is that because I’m not very good? Maybe. But that hasn’t stopped me from reserving roles before. It’s no different for the young gay actors I see coming in today, trying to make it in. a system that is not designed for them.
He wrote about those “mixed messages” for gay actors in Hollywood, and how he wonders where he would be personally and professionally if he had become himself when he first came to Hollywood instead of hiding the real him.
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