If there's a breakout star from Bravo's new reality show"Shahs of Sunset,"which explores the Persian community in Beverly Hills, it has to be Reza Farahan. Witty and dressed to the nines, Farahan provides the kind of sharp but likable character that thrives in the 24-hour filming cycle.
But Farahan's also a real person – something that came to the forefront in a recent episode in which Farahan, who is gay, confronts his father about a variety of issues, among them an estrangement from his dad's side of the family. RedEye talked to Farahan about that emotional meeting, as well as topics ranging from HIV and AIDS charities to Ryan Gosling in "The Notebook."
Why did you decide to do "Shahs of Sunset"?
For me, there was definitely a really strong message that I wanted to get across. And I wanted to bring about a conversation about homosexuality, which is so taboo in my culture, to the point that the president of the country that I was born in [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] says that I don't even exist. So if me participating in a show allows me to get a message across, that really was a draw for me.
What's been the response from the gay community to you being on the show?
I've gotten so many messages from people telling me that I inspired them to come out or I inspired their friend to come out. It's been amazing. What I wanted to happen is happening. So I couldn't be more proud. All the criticism that I hear about the show, it literally, it doesn't even go in one ear and out the other. I couldn't care less. It's really easy to sit on the sidelines and give your two cents. It's a lot harder to get in there and try and do something. Especially if you're trying to do something that you're really passionate about or that you really believe in. The critics can all, you know, suck on a lemon as far as I'm concerned.
What are some of the criticisms?
When people get exposed to a new culture, for some reason, the people of that culture assume that we're all representatives. I represent myself. I don't think that President Obama thinks Flavor Flav represents him when Flavor Flav is on TV. Why do we have to represent everyone? We represent six friends and you guys get a window into our world and that's it. No one elected us to any official position. We're not here to get any political message across. We're just giving you guys a window into a world that you probably have not seen yet.
Where there any stereotypes of Persians that you were afraid of advancing?
I would rather be associated with a stereotype like loving gold, loving Mercedes, loving columns. For me, personally, those things are all true. I don't want to be associated with a stereotype that I like blowing things up, that I'm a terrorist, that I'm militant, all the stereotypes that most of the United States think we're associated with. Because we're not. I love this country. I am so proud to call myself an American. I worship the ground that I walk on here and I don't take it for granted one minute. If I'm going to personify a stereotype, absolutely let me personify a harmless one that's accurate as opposed to a toxic one that's completely false.
How emotional was the conversation with your dad?
I did the ugly cry on national TV.
Your dad is Jewish and your mom was raised Muslim. Many people don't know that there are Jewish Iranians, and Muslim and Christian Iranians, as well.
They don't. And a lot of people don't know that Persians aren't Arabs. There's so much that people don't know about Iran, Persians and the Middle East.
What's it like being gay and Iranian?
Iranians are very old-school in their thought process and they don't do well with things or people that deviate from their norm, what they consider the norm. And I deviate as far away from their norm as possible. They don't know what compartment to put me in. My mother was raised Muslim, my dad was raised Jewish, and I'm gay, so it's like I'm just kind of floating out there in the atmosphere. Like I don't really belong to any group in the old-school Persian mentality. But luckily, here, like my friends you see here on the show and hopefully generations after us, will have a more tolerant, accepting point of view. They won't be as close-minded. They'll have assimilated more.
Have you done or said anything on the show that you later thought, "Well, maybe I shouldn't have done that"?
I usually don't have regrets in life and luckily I kind of just, I haven't seen anything that I've done that I regret. If there was something that I did that I regretted, I might apologize for it. I just like to keep it moving. I'm not one to dwell on the past.
Your mustache has taken on a life of its own. It even has its own Twitter feed. Are you stuck with it forever?
Yes, ma'am, it sure does. I don't know about forever, but he and I have gotten real close in the past several months. We formed a really tight bond and I kind of would feel bad getting rid of him right now with the connection that we have.
Why did you decide to grow the mustache?