This summer both new and established reality shows are featuring LGBT contestants or cast members including Full Metal Jousting's gay horse trainer Jake Nodar; gay tattoo artist Robear Chinosi on NY Ink; and The Glee Project's contestants Dani Shay (lesbian) and Tyler Ford (transgender).
Here are the top reality shows featuring LGBT stars and contestants that you'll want to watch:
With the return of Lifetime’s Project Runway, one of the all time gay reality stars--Tim Gunn--is back on the small screen.
And, if the previous nine seasons are any indication, Season 10 will see Gunn mentoring a bevy of queer contestants (including Gunnar Deatherage, who was eliminated in the first episode last season and is back for another try). Work it out.
The fourth season of Bravo's Top Chef Masters (premiering July 25th) features three gay chefs and the return of Judge James Oseland, the gay editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine.
Watching the award-winning chefs compete is mouth watering enough, but an extra treat is the rotating cast of guest judges including many LGBT and ally celebrities like the Indigo Girls, burlesque star Dita Von Teese, The B-52’s and bisexual porn maven Holly Madison. The chefs to watch include Art Smith, executive chef and co-owner of LYFE Kitchen and Southern Art Restaurants and partners Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, owners of Arrows.
'Small Town Security'
AMC's first unscripted series, Small Town Security is an oddly alluring new reality show that centers around a quirky and outspoken former actress (Joan Koplan) and her four-person private security company, located in rural Georgia. Koplan's right-hand man is Lt. Dennis Croft, a military man turned doomsday prepper turned security aficionado, who is determined to transform the small firm into an elite force.
Croft just happens to be transgender, but the fact he once inhabited a female body is far from the most interesting thing about him. Still, he can't hold a candle to Koplan, (who also used to host a public access TV show--before her frank discussions about sex got her booted off the air) who is one of the most indescribably fascinating characters on TV today.
'In the Big House'
Three reasons to watch Logo's In the Big House (Mondays)? Mobsters, gays, and women with big personalities. In this new reality series Big Lou, an old school Philly mobster who’s been in and out of prison for 25 years, moves back in with his family: ex-wife Dotsie, gay son Louis and daughter Michel (who, with her husband Jay, own one of West Hollywood’s top gay bars).
Living under one roof, this modern family struggles to keep from killing each other as Big Lou adapts to “straight life,” and the parents continue to meddle in their adult children's lives; like when Big Lou threatens his son’s on-again-off-again boyfriend with bodily harm if he breaks Louis' heart one more time.
'Chef Wanted With Anne Burrell'
Food Network's Chef Wanted With Anne Burrell (Thursdays) features lesbian chef Anne Burrell, who previously appeared on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs and as a mentor on Worst Cooks in America.
In her latest show, Burrell helps elite restaurants fill their executive chef positions by recruiting four top candidates and then having them battle it out for the job. Each episode features different contestants who are eliminated one by one, with the top two each taking over the restaurant for a night.
The show is worth sampling for the fast-paced competition, the delectable dishes and watching even the most accomplished chefs struggle to manage a four star kitchen. Add in the delightfully quirky Burrell, a handful of lesbian and gay contestants and moments like when Tully Wilson, a gay chef from the South, manages to impress hardcore foodie Todd English and it quickly becomes addictive.
Added bonus: this season's cute lesbian housemate: Jenn Arroyo—who already gained queer icon cred as the bass player for the all-girl metal band, Kittie. Can this 37-year-old lesbian outlast the usually sexist, ageist, and often homophobic Big Brother houseguests? Let’s hope so. She says if she wins, she’s going to “record a full length album and then...start a music program to help underprivileged kids stay focused. Music has saved my life and I want to give back.”
'Million Dollar Neighborhood'
Oprah's OWN channel offers Million Dollar Neighborhood (Saturdays), which revolves around gay financial expert Bruce Sellery, the founder of Moolala, who hopes to inspire people to get a handle on their money so they can live the lives they want.
Sellery is also former TV journalist, a diversity specialist and father to an adorable little girl Abby, who he and his partner Dennis Garnhum adopted in 2007.
'All The Right Moves'
Oxygen's new reality show, All the Right Moves (premiering July 31, 9/8PM Central) follows gay choreographer Travis Wall (contestant, choreographer and guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance) and his three choreographer roommates as they launch a new contemporary dance company, Shaping Sound.
Travis Wall (who also appeared on Step Up: Revolution), is teamed with his lifelong friends Kyle Robinson (who performed a special ballet piece on last season's Dancing With the Stars), Nick Lazzarini (So You Think You Can Dance Season 1 Winner), and Teddy Forance (who has choreographed for both DWTS and SYTYCD).
'I'm Having Their Baby'
Another new Oxygen reality series, I'm Having Their Baby follows pregnant women who have decided to give their child up for adoption. But the outcome is far from predetermined, as the moms can change their minds at any point; and some of them really struggle with their decision.
LGBT viewers will be particularly interested in episode 102 (which airs on July 30), where 28-year-old mother Amanda--overwhelmed with the children she already has--selects gay couple John and Doug as adoptive parents. The cameras follow Amanda through her pregnancy, birth, and final decision. Doug and John have been through this process once before, and that time the mom changed her mind at the last minute, so they are terrified it could happen again. Heartbreaking or heartwarming, the outcome is not to be missed.
Tired of all the model gays on TV? Having trouble living up to the standards they set? Then you'll want to turn in to ID (Investigation Discovery)'s “The Skull Collector” episode of their new series Evil, I, which follows murder investigations through the killer's voice.
The episode starts when a young man escapes from the house of a torturous madman named Bob. When Kansas City police storm the house they discover a horrifying torture chamber and obvious signs of murder. Sure, Bob's a gay serial killer, but unlike Andrew Cunanan or Jeffrey Dahmer, he leaves investigators to discover where he's buried the bodies (i.e. extended drama).
Gay serial killers like Dahmer are cautionary tales about the negative impacts of internalized homophobia. What lessons will Bob leave us with? Tune in July 27 to see.