As soon as television host, Karamo Brown, stepped out on the scene he has pushed boundaries—just smashed them. At the age of 22, Brown was cast on the popular MTV show, ‘The Real World,’ becoming the first openly gay African American man on a reality TV show. You can now see him as the host on MTV’s “Are You the One: Second Chances,” which airs Wednesdays at 9pm. He is also set to host History Channel’s “The UnExplained,” expected to premiere in June 2017, in which he explores and debunks conspiracy theories as a regular person.
As Brown’s career steadily takes off, he is also a single father of two and an advocate for gay and bisexual causes with the creation of his non-profit, 6in10. Him and his team passionately work towards preventing and educating the gay community about HIV and AIDS.
Keep reading to learn about his latest and future ventures, fatherhood, and how even the most ordinary person can become extraordinary:
What is your latest TV venture?
I have a show on MTV right now called “Are You the One: Second Chances.”
What is the premise of the show?
“Are You the One: Second Chances” is a spinoff of a successful MTV show called, “Are You the One,” where the contestants come to live in a house, and they have the ability to find their perfect match based on these psychological tests that people have put them through. Now that they have found their perfect match I’m giving them a second chance to win money, and possibly another chance at them falling in love.
Since these are the same contestants, do they know the drill already or is it a whole new experience for them?
It’s a whole new experience because I am putting them through challenges that aren’t easy. Everything from carrying dead rats to climbing walls, and mud challenges; just extreme challenges. But I think the craziest thing is our elimination. At the end of our elimination I give the couple that comes in last an option to either share the money that they have collected over time, or steal it from each other. They won’t know the decision until I reveal it at the very last moment.
So it’s all about trust.
It’s all about trust.
So, if you were on the show would you share the money or take it from the other person?
Oh, you are damn right I’d take it all [laughs]. Let me take this money!
Seriously! We have bills to pay.
Exactly. You know what I’m saying? [Laughs].
Now you are going into the History Channel in “UnExplained.” How was that a different experience for you?
The beauty of the History Channel show is that it still gives me the opportunity to challenge people, which is sort of what my career has been like. I have a degree in social work and psychotherapy and I really want to make sure that my television career shows my ability to show people what’s going on in the world, and see how they relate to the world. In the History Channel series I’m investigating conspiracies around the country, and I’m talking about some bizarre conspiracies. It’s everything from aliens, to the fact that there is a man that created a time machine. Some of them are bullshit, and I call bullshit. Other ones like the time machine are wild because you realize that we actually are living in an age where time travel is now possible.
How did this opportunity come about?
It was something that was brought to my attention. Now that my hosting career is starting to take an upward swing they sometimes being projects to me. I just thought it was fascinating to investigate, and have an opportunity to talk to everyday people around the country about why they feel something can be true or not.
Is hosting something that you’ve always wanted to do?
Yes, to be very honest with you. That was the dream when I was a little kid, but growing up in the south my parents—I’m first-generation American—said to get a real job. Television wasn’t a real job to them. After “The Real World” I didn’t do television at all because I went back to working a “real” job and using my degree. It wasn’t until about three years ago that my youngest son asked me if I was living my dream. I knew that I would have to lie and say, yeah I’m living my dream, or I could be honest. But if I was honest I would need to model the proper behavior. It was a rough road, but when you work hard and have God in your heart everything opens up in your life, and that’s what I’m living. Not to get all spiritual on you [laughs].
Who did you look up to in terms of having the confidence to be on TV?
I would say one of the people I looked up to, and that I recently connected with, is Nick Cannon. I love his hustle and his drive, and his authenticity. I wasn’t disappointed because he’s the same in person. As black men in this business sometimes we get marginalized and put in a category that we can only do one thing. Looking at him and seeing how he had a diverse career allowed me to know that I can go forward and have a diverse career, and luckily it’s working out very well.
You definitely exude confidence and always look so stylish. What is your secret to looking good all the time? I need to know how you always look so put together!
I appreciate it [laughs]. Well, I think that less is more. For me, my style guide is always: I don’t need a lot. I don’t need a lot of jewelry. I don’t need a lot of that. I think just simple pieces like a nice pair of jeans—I only own four pairs of jeans, but I rotate them. A lot of people always think, oh you own so many jeans, but I rotate them in a way that if I have a blazer on, or if I have a bomber jacket on, you can’t tell the difference. I’m also big on going high-low. So, I’m getting a nice pair of shoes that cost a lot of money, but I’ll put a bomber jacket on that splits the difference at $25. I think when you do that you look clean; you look relaxed, which allows me to personally feel confident in myself.
That’s a good tip!
Yes! Rotate them. Nobody knows. That’s another thing I realized; we think people are more concerned with us than they really are. I promise you, you could not tell me exactly what someone had on two days ago. You know, when we get up and put on everything, and we do all these things because we want to put our best foot forward, but then we’re like, oh I can’t wear this because someone already saw me in it. They have forgotten already. They are concerned with their own lives.
In the past you have talked about the difficulty of coming out to your family. What was it like to be openly gay on reality TV?
The experience for me was great. The minute the show aired I got a response from around the world of men and women, both straight and gay saying, wow your image has saved my life and helped me to feel more confident in who I am. For women it was, you have helped me to understand my brother, my father, even my boyfriend or my ex-boyfriend who I was mad at, but didn’t have the confidence to tell me he was gay. So, the experience for me was great, but what I always try to do is encourage anyone who is in a place where they want to be open about their sexuality to find community. It’s the best thing because what happens a lot of the time is we feel alone. We feel alone in our fear, and we get caught up in our mind thinking how bad something can be. But when you are with community you realize that things can be great and you will be supported. That way when you start to tell your family members, or you start to tell your friends about your sexuality, and if for some reason they have a negative response, you have community that’s still there to support you and uplift. Don’t leave yourself out there in the world alone. Find people who will love you.
Did you realize the doors that you would be opening for yourself and so many others?
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have some inclination of what my image was going to do, but I was 22 at the time and so I didn’t really formally grasp how that impact would last. To this day I get 10-40 messages from people who say to me, you’re still the reason why I’m confident, or, you’re still the reason why I had the courage to transition to a new career. People would say, wow thank you. And so, I’m thankful for it. I’m really humbled by it because any way that God can use me to be of service to help others is what I’m here for.
What it is like to be a single father of two, and to have that homosexual dynamic to explain to your sons who growing up may have not even been aware of what was going on in your life?
Being a father is stressful as hell, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things to see somebody grow and mature in front your eyes. To know that you’re influencing it is the most incredible feeling you could ever have. But to have my sons who both identify as straight and are black men have a father who is openly gay, it was something that I think I was more afraid of than them because this generation is a lot more open that previous generations. They’re more inclusive when it comes to LGBTQ people. They’re open to understanding our struggle; supporting us, and being our allies. I think a lot of the fears I had was more so with me, and the biggest lesson I taught my sons was, this is not your battle. If somebody at your school is being ignorant, you don’t have to fight for me. I’m a grown man and I’ve been fighting my entire life. You live your life and be the best you can be, and know that I love you and that’s all that matters. By me endowing them with the strength of knowing that they don’t have to fight for me made them stronger men, and made them allies to the gay community, and the trans community. Also, as black men, they such allies for women because they know how their mother has been marginalized. They see how I have been marginalized.
How did becoming a father change you?
It got me focused for one. I used to be out here in these streets, twerking and poppin’-lockin’ it [laughs]. I used to be every weekend like, I’m going to go to Atlanta, I’m going to go to New York, I’m going to go to Miami. Like, why not? Who cares? Once you have children it just grounds you, and makes you realize that life is not really about us. It’s about others. I was selfish before, and a little selfishness is great because it makes sure that we self care, but I realized I was too selfish. I wasn’t concerned about how other people felt, and how I helped other people, and how I served them. Now I do.
Is that why you started 6in10?
That is why I started 6in10. As an openly gay black man I’ve always been an advocate for HIV and AIDS causes. I’ve seen too many of my friends be diagnosed, or not seek treatment once they find out they are diagnosed. I figured, how could I support them in knowing that they are good enough to protect themselves, and, if they are diagnosed, seek treatment. We’ve been trying to do digital campaigns to support the community just to let them know. I’ve dated both positive and negative men, and it’s something that I try to encourage people to understand—we’re the reason why this stigma is still here. We’re the reason we’re still dying, and its up to us to stop this.
You are really a multifaceted talent and businessman. How are you able to transition from one thing to the next?
There is a lot of prayer and meditation for me, and I’m also very organized. I try to tell people, organize your thoughts, organize your feelings, and prioritize what’s most important to you. For me, nothing comes before my children. Nothing. Once my children are settled I know that I can go after my career. Once I go after my career I know that I will be able to help other people. It sort of becomes this domino effect of the things I want in life and want to accomplish. But it all starts with me knowing in my heart what’s most important and then working from there.
Do you know what’s the next step for you in your career?
Yeah! I have a brand new series that’s coming out. I’m really excited about it. I can’t say the name yet because there are a couple weeks before we announce it. Eventually we are going to do the ‘Karamo Show.’ We are going to throwback to Donahue and Montel. That’s the next phase.
When all is said and done, what lasting impression do you want to leave behind on the world?
That’s a loaded question, but I think the biggest impression I want people to know is that they can accomplish anything. I am a son of immigrants; a little black boy growing up in Texas that was told everyday that I wouldn’t amount to shit if I don’t play basketball. Yet here I stand almost close to $1 million in my bank account, working in television, and giving to others. If I can do it, anybody else can do it because there is not one thing about me that is more exceptional than someone else. That is what I hope the impression is; that somebody else knows, goddamn if he did it, I know I’m about to do it.