By Neil Woulfe
Radar News Director
Mike Manning shot to fame as a member of the cast of MTV’s The Real World: Washington, D.C., which premiered in December, 2009. During the show, Mike made the courageous decision to come out as bisexual and began a journey that has led him to become a passionate advocate for the LGBT community.
For his work on behalf of LGBT youth, on Saturday, June 11, Mike will be honored with the prestigious ‘Courage Award’ at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Annual Pride Cocktail Party at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.
RadarOnline.com chatted with this Colorado native about what the award means to him, his own coming out story, and his hopes for the future.
Radar: First, congratulations on being chosen to receive the Courage Award. What does courage mean to you?
Mike: In think that having courage comes from the result of desire overcoming fear. My desire to make a change and show others that the LGBT Community deserves the same rights as everyone else, is greater than my fear of the repercussions.
Radar: In addition to being honored at the event, you are also taking on the role of host and honorary chair event. Obviously, LifeWorks is near and dear to your heart. Can you explain why.
Mike: Wanting to get involved with more local LA organizations, I took a tour of the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. When I walked into their LifeWorks division and saw all that they were doing for young people, I immediately wanted to help. This demographic in particular is, in my opinion, more vulnerable than others, but also has a greater potential to turn their situations around and create a positive. At LifeWorks, you’re looking at future successful members of the LGBT community. In turn, their future impact on others is immeasurable.
Radar: In talking to young people, I’m sure they often share with you their own-coming out stories and their family’s reaction. Is there one or two of those stories that stand out?
Mike: During one of my speeches at a university last month, a young man walked out 5 minutes before my speech ended. Because the speech included references to religion, I thought that he was angry and offended. During the Q & A portion, he came back with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. He raised his hand and shared with the group that he had just come out to parents via phone call in the hallway because of something I said, and that they were completely accepting. Out of all of the perks of traveling around and fighting for Equality, those are the most rewarding.
Radar: What would you say to young people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality?
Mike: Choose to be YOU, because everyone else is taken.
Radar: At what age did you come out?
Mike: 22, on the show.
Radar: Was there a single incident that led to your coming out?
Mike: Deciding that if I wanted the nation to accept me as I was, I had to first accept myself and show that confidence to others.
Radar: You come from a religious background, so what was your family’s reaction?
Mike: Growing up I was usually the one wanting to spend more time in church and going to Youth Group with my friends, so if there were any conflict because of faith, that conflict was internal – which there was.
Radar: Sometimes you identify yourself as being gay and other times as being bisexual, can you explain why?
Mike: When asked, I just say “yes.” It’s easier than explaining to people again and again that I am attracted to both men and women. To them I say, “label me if you must, but that won’t change who I am drawn to and who I date, guy or girl.”
Radar: Some people believe that people who say they are bisexual are often gay people who haven’t fully come to terms with their sexuality. How do you respond to that?
Mike: Judging me based on the sexual orientation in which I proudly identify, after I came out on national television and continue to fight for rights for all LGBT people? That seems a bit hypocritical to me.
Radar: In the past few months, a lot of attention has been focused on the problem of bullying, especially when it involves gay youth. Were you ever bullied as a child?
Mike: No, because I didn’t have the courage to be different. I hid myself to fit in. I consider those that have the courage to be themselves at a younger age, and be proud of their differences… They are showing bravery that, at that point, I didn’t yet possess.
Radar: What do you think of TV shows like Glee and their depiction of gays and lesbians?
Mike: Some characters are stereotypes, while others break the mold. Although not perfect, these shows are opening minds across the world, and contributing to social acceptance of LBGT people everywhere. Keep it up.
Radar: What was the experience like taping the Real World Washington, D.C.?
Mike: Imagine yourself in an unfamiliar city, with 7 other people you just met, a microphone tucked under your shirt, a camera in your face 24/7, no cell phone, no TV, no radio, and 8 people with very different personalities… It was kinda like that.
Radar: What was the greatest lesson you learned from that experience?
Mike: That I couldn’t hide from the camera, I couldn’t lie, and to find true happiness, I couldn’t hide from myself.
Radar: What was the experience like of having cameras record your every move?
Mike: I thought it was fun. I would watch the camera girl blush when I would hop in the shower. You can’t take it too seriously or you start to go nuts.
Radar: Would you ever do another reality TV show?
Mike: Not any time soon.
Radar: Tell me about Black Hearts.
Mike: Black Hearts is a web series that I helped produce and acted in as “Greg,” this metro partier focused on taking shots and meeting girls.
Also, another exciting project, a film I was in called “eCupid,” premiered in the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival a few weeks ago, and is now bouncing around festivals throughout the country. It’s won a handful of awards so far, and already has a few deals in the works for distribution. More info on www.eCupidthemovie.com.
Radar: Finally, where do you hope to be personally and professionally in ten years?
Mike: As an actor, I hope to be able to look back on dozens of projects large and small that I find artistic, impactful, and diverse. And of course I plan to continue the activism and eventually run for office when I’m older, much older.
Personally, I just want to be happy and satisfied with how I spent my years.
For more information about the Pride Cocktail Party and how you can purchase tickets, go to www.lagaycenter.org/life
Check out Mike’s web site
Follow Mike on Twitter