The real deal
An interview with Mike Manning
Published Thursday, 29-Jul-2010 in issue 1179
Mike Manning is a Colorado boy who gained recognition after coming out as one the first bisexual men on the hit MTV show, The Real World. Set in Washington D.C., Mike roomed with seven other cast members, one of whom, Emily, came out as a bisexual woman at the same time,. Not knowing too much about social and political GLBT issues, Mike began working at the Human Rights Campaign during filming of the show and has become more involved with the community than ever before. Speaking to young people about getting involved and attending various events, Mike Manning has gone from a reality show cast member to becoming an active member of the GLBT community, helping to promote the message of equality. The Gay & Lesbian Times was able to catch up with Mike at San Diego Pride and learn more about his work with HRC and his work on the show that allowed him the chance to share his story with the nation.
GLT: So what is your full name and how old are you?
MM: My full name is Michael Christopher Manning and I’m 23.
GLT: What was it like being on the Real World?
MM: It was great; I never watched it before so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I watched some episodes on YouTube about a week before I went in, but it was a great experience. It would have been different if it were anywhere else, but since it was in D.C. it was really political for me and really exposed me to a lot of issues that I had been oblivious to in Colorado.
GLT: Did you know you were going to Washington D.C. prior to the show?
MM: No, I actually followed my friend to the interview. I was actually doing some acting work while attending business school. My buddy asked if I wanted to go to this audition with him and I was like, sure, why the hell not? They didn’t tell us the location until the last interview.
GLT: If you weren’t on the Real World, what would you have done instead in those three months?
MM: I had to take a semester off from college for this, but I guess I would’ve spent all summer boating with my family and maybe would have graduated early and gotten a job.
GLT: Was moving to D.C. the thing that sparked your interest in the Human Rights Campaign, or did you know about it prior?
MM: I didn’t really have an interest in anything gay-related prior to going on the show, because I wasn’t out before the show. I not only didn’t know what HRC was, but I didn’t know any gay-related organizations or issues. I was just in a different place as opposed to everyone in D.C. fighting for gay rights. I just wasn’t aware. So I moved to D.C. and a week into it, I walked into the HRC store off Connecticut St. and bought a t-shirt that said “Amen” on it. The general manager walks up to me and gives me a business card and is like, “hey look us up online and find out about HRC.” A couple days later I got bored, researched HRC and it looked like something I could get involved with. I came out my first week in the house because someone asked me and I’m not going to lie about it. So I came out on national television and I thought I should just do something with it. And HRC was the perfect way to get involved.
GLT: What was it like coming out on national television knowing all your friends and family were going to see this?
MM: It was hard, easy in some aspects, but hard in others. Easy in the sense of it was like taking the dive. I came out and I don’t have to do it again. I didn’t have to have that awkward conversation with every individual person. At the same time, I couldn’t take it back, as once I had come out on the show, everyone would know and I couldn’t hide it.
GLT: What was it like being one of two of the only ‘out’ bisexual cast members and also sharing that with Emily?
MM: Um, I didn’t mind sharing that with Emily. I love Emily and I’d share anything with her. But it was hard and I got a lot of flack from both the gay and straight community. I receive a lot of emails saying that I’m just riding my gay training wheels and that I’ll be gay soon. And straight people just don’t understand it. It’s hard; I came out on national television so I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m not going to bend to social pressures, so if they don’t like me for identifying as bi, then they should move on. Sexual orientation is raw attraction and it just pisses me off when people challenge me on my own identity.
GLT: If you could share one thing about coming out, what would it be?
MM: Honestly, it was just me waking up one morning knowing that I have to be responsible for myself and being accountable for my own actions. If I’m not happy, I have no one to blame but myself and if I wasn’t true to myself and to those around me, I’d never be happy. It all boils down to, are you going to live your life for yourself or for others? I just woke up one morning thinking this and I’ve never been happier.
GLT: You had one episode where you had family visit you and they had a big paradigm shift. Did you feel like they were going to accept you?
MM: My parents never shunned me away or just didn’t accept me. I came out to them before the show and had the initial talk, but it wasn’t until they visited me in D.C. where we actually had an open talk, face-to-face and where I was comfortable enough to actually say the word, “gay.” It was scary, my family is a huge part of my life and I felt like if they didn’t accept me I could move on and get along fine by myself, but it would have been a lot easier if they accepted me. And they do.
GLT: What is it that you do now with HRC?
MM: Well I live in L.A. now and I moved there about 6 weeks ago. I just travel around and do Pride events with them and I talk to young people about getting involved. There’s this huge influx of young people who saw HRC on the show and want to get involved. The gay rights movement is going to need young people in the next few years to further equality, so I go around and talk to people at events like Pride on behalf of HRC to reach that younger crowd.
GLT: What has been your favorite part of San Diego Pride so far?
MM: I met this boy at the stand and he’s from Kansas. It’s actually going to be really funny if he reads this, but he was so hot! So I guess he was my favorite part of Pride, but the ice cream’s good too (laugh). I just love Pride because everyone is just happy to be here. It’s not like other places where people are bored as shit to go somewhere. Everyone loves to be here because they can be themselves. They’re all great, normal, happy people and they deserve the same fucking rights as everyone else.
GLT: So I can deduce that you’re currently single?
MM: Yep, I’m currently single.
GLT: Are you currently looking?
MM: Yes, I am (laugh).
GLT: If you had to pick one cast member that you found the most attractive in the entire season, which would it be?
“If I’m not happy, I have no one to blame but myself and if I wasn’t true to myself and to those around me, I’d never be happy.”
MM: Umm, it would have to be Emily. We call each other twins, like brother and sister because we’re really that close. She’s me as a girl and I’m her as a boy, she’s awesome. I wasn’t really attracted to anyone in this season but I’d say Emily because of her personality, I could do anything with her. She has such a good heart.
GLT: Was there anything crazy that happened during the season that was edited out?
MM: There are a lot of naked moments I had that they hardly showed; I was a wrestler so I had no shame. Other than that, there was this time when Emily and I rented jet skis and we went out and I met these guys in the middle of the lake on a boat. When I thought the cameras weren’t looking and I was like, “guys could I come on your boat?” and they were like “yeah.” So I jumped from the Jet Ski and swam over to this speed boat, slammed a few beers with these guys and then they were like, “do you want wake board?” and I was like “yes, please!” So I strapped in. I had this life jacket on and I tucked a beer underneath it. I jumped in and they pulled me up and I was just wake boarding. I grabbed the beer and chugged it while I was still holding on to the rope. I crushed it and stuffed it back into my life vest. Talk about a badass moment, that’s the shit they should have recorded (laugh).
GLT: Do you still keep in contact with everyone that was on the show?
MM: Yeah I do, some more than others. Andrew and I talk, Emily and I talk and actually Ashley and I are friends now.
GLT: Are you going to be participating in any of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge shows on MTV?
MM: Maybe in the future. I want to tone it down right now. I love MTV but I’m trying to branch out right now and get away from reality TV at the moment.
GLT: Is there any GLBT icon that you really look up to?
MM: Well, I beat Lance Bass in beer pong a couple of weeks ago. Before that I thought he was awesome and then I beat him and now I think I’m awesome (laugh). But he’s a cool guy, and I think Ellen is pretty awesome too. She so down to earth and she’s so funny.
GLT: Do you expect to do more work with HRC or do you plan on branching out a little more?
MM: Well my main focus right now is my career in acting and activism. I still speak at colleges and I’ve done events with PFLAG and GLAAD. HRC is my main catalyst for reaching the GLBT community.
GLT: What was the craziest thing you’ve done prior to Real World?
MM: Probably my massive orgy with these seven girls from Sweden, we had llamas and sex toys, it was crazy (laugh). No I’m kidding.
GLT: What is one thing you would tell anyone who wishes to get involved in activism?
MM: I would say, if you’re not doing something about it, don’t complain.
GLT: What is the ratio between men and women that you’ve dated?
MM: Well recently, the men ratio has increased quite a bit. I come off as confident, fun and I like to have a good time. But when it comes to dating, I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. For the last five years, I’ve been in some serious relationships. I was with my ex-girlfriend for a year and a half, I was with a guy for a year and a half and then I was with Tanner for about a year. It’s just crazy because it feels like I’ve gotten out of the pond and I’m in a fucking ocean of people everywhere that are hot and interesting. It was funny because I was at the gym the other day and I almost dropped the weight on myself 5 times because it was just an overload! There were hot guys everywhere (laugh).
GLT: What is your type for both men and women?
MM: To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. I think regardless, they have to have a great sense of humor, they have to be smart and I like someone who takes care of their body. I guess it just depends on the person. I can sit here right now and draw out the perfect person, the perfect type or how I want them to look. But I could meet someone tomorrow that’s completely different that I’d want to take to the bedroom and ravage (laugh). But one of the first things I do think about is, are they a good kisser? I could make out for days.
GLT: So after you’ve done the deed, are you more of a cuddler, a smoker, or a sandwich eater?
MM: (laugh) Want to find out?
GLT: What is your celebrity crush? Female and male?
MM: Hmm, that’s a good one. Female would be Jessica Biel. She’s got that accent and that ass, ah! She is something else. For a guy, I don’t want to say Taylor Lautner because everyone says him.
GLT: Do you believe in safe sex?
MM: Yes, safe sex or no sex.
GLT: What are some words that you live by?
MM: I really like Einstein’s, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but a life-long attempt to acquire it.”
Thank you Mike, for taking the time out of your Pride day to talk with us about your past and future successes. Your work with the community and HRC is appreciated. We’ll be sure to keep our eyes on you and look forward to hearing more about your involvement and activism.