Paradise lost and regained

In front of me sits two happy and smiling guys. Patrick Smith and Jacob “Honey” Kolda. They tell of lost innocence, and how they now have a life many peers can only dream of. They are fab gays, as Patrick says

Patrick participated in the Paradise Hotel on Danish television, and his friend Jakob has appeared in Take Me Out, likewise a TV-show. When interviewed by Out & About there is a slight nervousness, but both guys are familiar with the situation and have done interviews with weeklys and in front of cameras before. While I was interviewing him, Patrick powdered his face, accompanied by Jacob’s suggestions about how the makeup should be.

I’m gay!

As the first ever gay person, Patrick participated in the reality TV show Paradise Hotel on Danish TV. With the line: “My name is Patrick, I’m 20 years old and I am gay”, he presented himself for the gaping participants and an audience of hundreds of thousands.

The reception in the press has obviously been mixed, but so has the comments from friends and acquaintances in the gay community.

Already in the fall 2009 the Danish TV audience were shocked because in the TV programme Take Me Out a panel of 20 gay guys was competing to date one gay man. Especially Gustav Salinas has made himself noticed and his Burberry shirt and sharp wit has become famous in Denmark.

There have always been gay actors, fashion people and directors who were out of the closet. They have in a way represented gay people in public. Today there are celebrities among teenagers. Patrick and Jakob, now both 20 years, remembers well the first experiences and problems when coming out and getting a life as gay.

Coming Out

Jacob says he has had friends in the subculture ever since he was 15. Indeed Gustav was the first friend he went to gay parties with. Since he has quickly gained many friends

Patrick’s story is slightly different.

“I had a period when I wondered whether I was for girls. But I think that is over now, “he says and laughs.”

“But I had a past where I was having sex with both girls and boys. Initially I was not sure because it was something new. At 16-17, I was like most boys a bit uncertain ‘Do I like boys or girls? ”I had sex with girls before I had sex with boys. Doing it with boys was an experiment. So I went to a party, met Jakob and realized that I really likes boys”

Se & Hør a Danish weekly have written about Patrick’s bulimia.

“Now the media exaggerates probably a bit. Nor was it something I told other people. But Jacob, you knew it well, right? “

Jakob nods in the affirmative.

“But I was not like dying. It was a phase. In the beginning I was together with my straight friends. Jacob and gay life was only a part of my imagination. It was a fantasy world. Jacob was initially just a friend I had in town. As it was a fantasy world, why not be bad? Try to steal people’s boyfriends and try to make them be unfaithful to each other. I’ve been bad when partying,” acknowledges Patrick.

Real life or reality show?

What Patrick talks about, is what people associate with Paradise Hotel: A fantasy world where participants do not only behave like teenagers, but are false and have no moral standards.

“People, who are aggrieved over Paradise Hotel, know nothing about young people today. Paradise Hotel reflects what actually happens in real life. When young people have casual sex in Paradise it is a reflection of the outside world,” says Patrick.

The Paradise Hotel scene is in principle no different from the outside world. In big cities there are bars, cafe’s and hotels owned and run by adults. In the TV show Paradise Hotel, it is adults who have made the concept. It is adults who shoot them when they are bathing or having sex – and it is adults who choose what to broadcast.

Paradise regained

Take Me Out was a shock to many when it first aired on Danish TV 2 last fall. On television everything is exaggerated. Although you really only see some gay guys on dates. And there is nothing more to it than what you see in the city every weekend.

But in the Paradise Hotel realty show teenage life is magnified by the television screen and displays more than a discrete peek. Therefore, the headlines and the reactions also have been magnified.

Patrick, who participated in 22 episodes of Paradise Hotel, is now a celebrity. People recognize him when he walks the street. All over the Country he has appeared as guest bartender and greets fans of Paradise Hotel. More than a hundred places, most clubs and bars.

Both Patrick and Jacob have made lots of new Facebook friends. Patrick’s Paradise profile has long since reached the magic number 5000.

“Girls and boys – 50 percent of each,” Patrick guesses.

Role models for young gays

Today, Patrick and Jacob act as the adult role models for all their young fans. Many of whom have not yet come out to their families and friends. They have found new friends outside the gay community, celebrities and participants from different kinds of reality programs. They have become grown ups themselves.

An open gay guy in Paradise has made another participant come out as bisexual. This guy, called Nikolaj now is approached by both guys and girls when he appears in public and both sexes write him. Patrick has made a difference to Danish people’s attitudes towards sex and sexuality.

Patrick and Jacob also experienced the reverse side of the coin. Once they dreamed about being what they are now, and get many negative reactions. Because, says Patrick, there is still what we in Denmark calls “law of jante” among gay people. I.e. some people comment certain people’s looks or behaviour in a hostile way:

“There is an ideal. It will always be like that. And people are striving for that ideal, being very thin. When people see us, they just offer us a cheeseburger or make a comment that we look like mannequins. But if you are happy with your looks, you won’t be hurt when people tells you, you’re too thin”

Snake in Paradise

Behind the cool façade and an awareness of being beautiful Patrick and Jacob shake their heads to the hysterical reactions they sometimes get: Because they are gay and celebs. Participants in reality shows are accused of being self-centred and hollow. People who watch that type of TV shows often have an illusion of actually knowing participants. And therefore they make strong statements.

Patrick and Jakob have also experienced more serious troubles. They have been dating, since Patrick came back from Paradise Hotel. And after they have teamed up in Copenhagen, they have repeatedly experienced threats of violence.

“Because I have been in Paradise Hotel, people know I am gay. And have an opinion about it. They have a right to have their own opinions. They should just not be violent. Then they’d rather say: ‘I do not like homosexuals” Fair enough, but then we do not have anything to talk about.”

“Especially if Patrick walks together with me he gets hostile reactions. I am a bit feminine,”  says Jakob. Then he adds:

“We are often told that it’s cool that we are so self-confident and relaxed.”

“Just not by other gay guys,” says Patrick sarcastically.

This interview first was published in Out&About June 2010. You can find it in danish in the Archive. In each magazine there is a section in english.

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