COURTNEY ACT’S BI LIFE
Courtney Act sashayed away from Drag Race and won Celebrity Big Brother, UK; now the Aussie showgirl is hosting a pansexual dating series, The Bi Life. Naturally!
She sashayed away from Drag Race and won Celebrity Big Brother. Now the Aussie showgirl is hosting a pansexual dating series, The Bi Life!
IF ANYONE’S going to host a dating show for bi, pansexual and genderfluid folks it’s Courtney Act. Airing on E! globally, the 10-part series follows a group of bisexual+ or “questioning” British singles on their queer-ish quest to find love. The guys’n’gals live together, party together and navigate the travails of what E! calls “bisexual+” dating in steamy Spanish hotspot, Barcelona.
“It’s time there was a dating show for the large number of people who, like me, are attracted to more than one gender,” said Courtney at the show’s launch. “In 2018 we know that sexuality is fluid and sharing the stories and experiences, the laughter and the love making of young bi people is so important. These are the true stories of bisexual singles, who are the largest part of the LGBTQ+ community, but the least known.”
While The Bi Life arrives with some dubious credentials (the producers are also behind faux reality shows Made In Chelsea and The Real Housewives Of Cheshire) the fact that Courtney is involved lends some credibility. Now based in London, Courtney has become a mainstream media presence in Britain and will follow The Bi Life with her own variety special, The Courtney Act Show, for Christmas. DNA: When were you first approached to be involved in The Bi Life?
Courtney: I came out of Celebrity Big Brother on a Friday and by the Monday my manager had set up meetings with the people who were producing The Bi Life. We just finished a screening of the first episode with community people here in London, which went very well. It’s been a fast turnaround for a TV show.
Yes, it has. The conversations about The Bi Life came up after we started chatting about The Courtney Act Show first. Then they said, “We have this show called The Bi Life and we think you’d be perfect for it!” They told me about it and I was a little bit scared.
I was scared of representing a sensitive topic on a reality television program. The E! network is the home of the Kardashians.
It also used to be the home of Joan Rivers and Fashion Police! Exactly. Don’t you wish she was still alive? Maybe this is your chance to embody Joan and carry her spirit further.
I don’t think that I approach things from the same angle as Joan. Fortunately, we have Bianca Del Rio to do that!
Speaking of Drag Race, didn’t you win the talk show challenge on your series?
The Bi Life is a good match for your talents then, right?
There’s an element of art imitating life here. I’m the host, but I don’t go, “Hello and welcome to The Bi Life. In tonight’s episode…” I’m like a friend. I come into the villa, have a chat with everybody, see how they’re feeling and send them out on dates. I’m single Courtney who sets everyone else up on dates but doesn’t get to go on a date herself. I go back to my Barcelona hotel room alone!
So you didn’t live in the villa with the cast? No. I just came, had fun and left. Everybody going on dates and having a great time and I’m spinster Courtney! I’m the fairy drag mother. That doesn’t seem fair. You should be getting some of the action.
I think so, too, quite frankly! That’s another series – Courtney Wants A Pansexual Partner! I’ve always felt bisexual men are my target demographic because they understand femininity and they understand masculinity. You recently declared you are widening your ethnic choices in the dating pool.
I made some statements about growing up in Australia and having been socialised in a country where sexual racism, and racism in general, is very much a part of our unconscious bias. When I moved to the US, I was much
A real issue for a lot of bisexual men is that women struggle with the idea of having a boyfriend who’s also attracted to men.
more aware of the conversations around race. It felt like Australia wasn’t aware that it had a problem. I don’t think I ever had any examples of people of colour being sexually desirable, which is why I had a preference for white guys before I moved to LA.
Then you realise this was an issue for you?
I remember being on Grindr, swiping right when it came to people of colour, then realising what I had just done. So I made a conscious effort to stop, look, and take it in. In LA there are a lot more opportunities to have contact with people of different ethnicities. It was interesting for me to observe that the country I grew up in had taught me to be unconsciously sexually racist. What did this awakening teach you about yourself?
It was liberating. As you get older you get the chance to unlearn a lot of the things you learned as a child that may not have been necessarily true.
When can we expect you to host The Gay Life? Um… I’m always hosting the gay life! [Laughs] There are so many labels, but I identify with pansexual. I’m attracted predominantly to men, but I have attractions to other genders as well. I’d love to see a gay and queer dating show. We’re very happy you’re doing this show because you do good work.
After screening the first episode of The Bi Life everyone thought it was done in a tasteful and fun way. That’s what the queer community needs more of – be it The Bi Life, The Gay Life or The Trans Life.
What can viewers expect from The Bi Life? Real people having real dating experiences that happen to be with different genders. Coming into it, I knew it was a reality dating show on E! and neither of those things instantly made me think of a responsible, heart-felt show about an important topic. I was very clear that it [had to be] handled correctly and E! were very much on board with that.
Describe meeting the cast.
On the first day we had a big lunch and it all made sense in my head because there was no political activists talking about important points, it was a group of real people having real life experiences. We talked about our attractions to different genders and I don’t think any of us had sat in a group of likeminded people without having to explain something or make excuses before.
What’s surprised you the most about the show?
Being in an environment where the cast were allowed to express themselves however they liked. I thought they’d get here and have themselves figured out but it’s been a place of real growth. The support they show for each other is really nice.
E! says the cast will “help each other navigate the rocky road of bisexual+ dating”. What’s the rockiest part of that road?
It’s different for guys and girls. Ryan said he was more romantically attracted to men and more sexually attracted to women. He said he finds it challenging to connect with women because when he tells them he’s bisexual that’s often the end of it. A real issue for a lot of bisexual men is that women struggle with the idea of having a boyfriend who’s also attracted to men. For a lot of women, the idea of a man being attracted to another man is a threatening or dangerous or off-putting idea. Women struggle when finding women to date in bisexual relationships. The girls have all said it is really challenging to work out whether a girl is gay or straight or bisexual, whether there was interest or they were just being friendly.
There are no dating experts on The Bi Life. How have you supported the cast?
I’m a devil’s advocate or voice of reason, asking questions. When I came out in the year 2000, I had to go to gay bars to be myself; that’s where I felt safe. I needed that monoculture to work out who I was. In 2018 a lot of young people are identifying as pansexual but there’s [often] no understanding of people who like different genders. What’s really lovely on The Bi Life is watching these people not reacting to that struggle, just being able to be there and live their lives.
What kind of things have gone on in the villa? We had lots of parties – a masquerade ball, a pool party, a speed dating night where bunches of people from the UK and locals from Barcelona came in. There’s been lots of sparks and some tears. When someone goes on a date, the rest of the cast sometimes have the opportunity to watch them. It’s like watching sport. People have teams, but you want it to end well. I remember watching one with Mariella: the more calm and collected she was, the more this guy lost his shit. He turned bright red and there were chopsticks involved as well, which made it even more awkward. Why do you think the show will capture the public’s imagination?
People are obsessed with dating shows – look at the success of First Dates and Love Island. The cool thing about The Bi Life is there’s something for everyone. There’s opposite-sex people going on dates with same-sex people, there’s trans experiences… In the society we live in [bisexuality] is misunderstood and a bit taboo and therefore people might want to watch.
Will The Bi Life normalise bisexual dating in a way that society needs?
I think so. Bisexual people suffer most from lack of visibility. The Bi Life might not be the most activist-y or advocate-y thing, but there’s a group of people having genuine experiences. That’s interesting and wonderful to watch.
On The Bi Life, how do you decide whether you’re presenting as Shane or Courtney? Courtney comes out at the parties. I don’t wake up and get into drag and go down the shops to get some milk. It’s like when someone gets dressed up to go to a party, or an event, but it’s more often a few times a week.
Have there been any off-set dramas?
The day I arrived I realised that most of the boys, including myself, had been shopping at the same stores because we all had the same clothes. We had to work out who’s going to where what.
Is there an actual winner on The Bi Life?
One thing I love about it is that it’s not a competition and no one wins a prize. It’s just a bunch of people having real-life experiences.
The Bi Life cast and Courtney.
Ryan and Michael.