‘Are You the One?’ Cast Reflects on MTV Dating Show’s Groundbreaking All-Queer Season

Max, Amber, Justin, Jasmine, Kai and Kylie of “Are You the One?: Come One, Come All” look back on their season one year later

Eight seasons into its run, MTV’s dating competition show “Are You the One?” did something few shows do successfully. With one small tweak to its format — a full cast of sexually fluid individuals who could all theoretically match with anyone else — “Are You the One?” produced a landmark season of television in terms of LGBTQ+ representation and breathed new life into an aging series.

A year out from the show’s premiere, TheWrap caught up with executive producer Rob LaPlante and some of the cast to reflect on the groundbreaking season and what it could mean for the dating show genre going forward. Read their answers below.

Max Gentile

Max Are You the One Come One Come All

MTV

What does it mean to you to have been part of this season?
Being part of MTV’s “Are You The One?” was more than just a “15 seconds of fame” moment. For me, it helped me find myself. I never let myself get in that kind of space with a man before, so doing that on national television helps you become comfortable really quickly. It gave 16 unique people the platform to tell their story in their own way. It’s a part of history, and I’m so thankful to be part of it. It will be there forever, and I think that’s the best part. Maybe the one kid out there who needs to see this show hasn’t yet. I also think it opened a lot of people’s eyes into how normal our own relationships and drama can be. I think their ideas of LGBTQ+ culture might be different after watching the show.

What do you hope a queer kid watching takes away from the show?
I hope a kid sees the example set by each one of us, finds comfort, knows that they are totally accepted and there is someone out there who is just like them. I still get messages today about how my story helped them through coming out and accepting themselves. THAT is more rewarding than any amount of fame or prize money. Having an example or just seeing someone who thinks the same way you do can go a long way. I wish I had this show as a kid, so to be able to be the person on the show that is the example is truly an honor.

Has the show changed the way you think about dating?
I definitely know what I am looking for and what I am not looking for. I feel like I learned about what I deserve and what traits to avoid or what ones to embrace.

Biggest regret?
The biggest regret I have is being so uptight about Justin. It’s interesting because he came out to LA some months after the show aired and the chemistry and love I had for him were not the same as they were in Hawaii. We are still great friends and talk often, but Jax won’t ever be more than friends. Sorry folks (:

Would you do it again?
I would totally do it again. I feel like I would have an even better experience the second time around.

Amber Martinez

Amber Are You the One Come One Come All

MTV

What does it mean to you to have been part of this season?
Being on MTV’s “Are You The One?” was life-changing! I got to learn so much about myself and other people. I got to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and also got to experience really fun adventures with great people.

What do you hope a queer kid watching takes away from the show?
I really hope our show touched a lot of queer kids! After watching our show I hope they can open up and be themselves with anyone and everyone. I hope they know they aren’t alone and to be yourself no matter what.

What did you learn about yourself through the process?
Through this process, I learned that it’s okay to be myself ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE, and that everyone is different and has their own story. Also, I’ve learned more about the LGTBQ+ community.

Has being on the show changed the way you think about dating?
Being on the show definitely changed my views on dating. I know that I come first and not to forgive anyone so quickly. Also, to just take things slow and steady.

Would you do it again?
YESSSSS! I WOULD DO IT AGAIN!!

Jasmine Olson

Jasmine Are You the One Come One Come All

MTV

What does it mean to you to have been part of this season?
Being a part of this ground-breaking season of MTV’s “Are You The One?” meant the world to me! I am from Mississippi, and there is not a big LGBTQ+ community there. I am just glad I was able to represent for the south and my community.

What do you hope a queer kid watching takes away from the show?
I never had anybody to speak to about my thoughts or desires for the opposite sex. As a pre-teen, I didn’t think liking the other sex was normal, mainly because I grew up in the “Bible Belt.” I don’t ever want a child to grow up thinking their thoughts are abnormal. I hope some kid out there saw this show and thought, “If these people can be so open with their lives and comfortable living them, so can I!” Just knowing that I was able to be representation for someone out there in the world was incredible.

What did you learn about yourself through the process?
I learned that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, and that is perfectly fine! I love who I am and somebody else will love me for who I am.

What didn’t we see?
You didn’t see a lot of me, but what you did see definitely accurately portrayed me. I’m honestly an easy going realist who doesn’t take any mess! I wish you got to see more of my actual connections in the house, and not just the drama. At the end of it all, I made genuine lifelong friendships with a few people and I am grateful for that.

Best memory?
My best memory from the show was obviously when we got all 8 beams and won! It was a relief to know all those tears and arguments wasn’t a waste of time.

Justinavery “Justin” Palm

Justin Are You the One Come One Come All

MTV

What did it mean to you to be part of the show?
It meant a lot to be a part of the show because I could finally be the kind of representation I wanted to see for so long.

What do you hope a queer kid watching takes away from the show?
I just hope they feel more like they belong. For so long I felt alone and strange because I didn’t have any examples that I felt represented me in media, or in the broader scope of the American mainstream. It was so nice stumbling across people who were more like me and helped to validate me so much as a person.

What did you learn about yourself through the process?
I learned so much about myself in terms of what I need from a partner in a relationship, as well as how I should change my behavior and mindset in relationships to cultivate more meaningful and long-lasting relationships

Do you think you were portrayed accurately/What didn’t we see?- Best memory from the show?
I felt like my portrayal was partially spot on because I am a party boy and I’m very flirty, but I felt a little flat in the realm of emotions and my display of affection which made viewers perceive me as uncaring and apathetic. My best memory from the show was watching the last sunset in Hawaii over the ocean right before the final matchup ceremony.

Most memorable fan interaction?
Most memorable fan interaction was a fan who left a full letter for me at my bar that explained how much the show meant to her. I still keep the letter right next to my medals and certificates along with all my other keepsakes in life.

Kai Wes

Kai Are You the One Come One Come All

MTV

What does it mean to you to have been part of this season?
Being a part of a queer media history milestone was truly an honor I don’t hold lightly. Growing up, I never saw anyone like myself in popular media, and when I think back to the television and films that influenced my identity and gave me permission to be myself in so many ways, I just think my entire adolescence, my entire life would have been different had I just seen, had I just known the language to describe how I was feeling. And, to add, being a part of showing profoundly authentic queer relationships and interactions. The messages I have received in my inbox only validated these feelings — it means the world to have been that for any single one person.

What do you hope a queer kid watching takes away from the show?
I hope that a queer kid watching this show feels seen, feels heard, feels valid. I hope that any kid that’s anything other than heterosexual can watch this show and know they are absolutely valid and worthy of love just the same as anyone else, and that they can do that and still be their complete, authentic selves.

What did you learn about yourself through the process?
To be completely honest, I learned a whole hell of a lot about myself throughout the process. I truly never thought I’d go on a Hawaiian reality-dating competition show and come out better at dating. Head scratcher to even myself, but truly — I confronted a lot of my demons, the good and bad parts of myself, and was like “Hey! I realized I could be completely honest with people and they wouldn’t just write me off!” *cue his abandonment issues* And I got really honest with myself.

Has the show changed the way you think about dating and relationships?
Turns out I went on a show all about finding ‘the one’ only to realize I’m not really looking for just one. I’ve recently stopped being in denial of what has been what I realized was a more polyamorous approach and mindset to dating, and as I re-watched myself shame myself into monogamy, the first couple episodes paired with some statements of my own that were pro-open relationship. And after some chats with close friends over time post-show, I decided it was something I should seriously consider. After sticking my toe in that pool just a bit, I can definitely say I see a happier, smoother sailing for future dating moving forward. What that future looks like exactly is to be determined, but I’m definitely happy to have embraced my whole self in a way that’s much more congruent with the attitudes I already had in regards to relationships, and exploring and challenging these other parts of myself.

Best memory?
The first day, sitting around the table, when everyone introduced ourselves properly to each other and you could feel the genuine excitement in the air, not that we were all just in this incredible environment together, but that we were about to do something no one had ever done before… I’ll never forget it.

Would you do it again?
In a heartbeat. I don’t care what the public has seen, the 15 other queer folks and I know what our entire experience there was together, and it was one of the best times of my entire life.

Kylie Smith

Kylie Are You the One Come One Come All

MTV

What does it mean to you to have been part of this season?
I am truly blessed to have been a part of the first-ever sexually fluid season of “Are You The One?” It honestly was rewarding to have been picked out of thousands of people. To be a part of something so rare and touching. To show the world that It is so many more humans out in the world who are loving of everyone and accepting. To just be able to be myself and not be judged, we were all the same. It was amazing to be in a house full of strangers but yet I felt so loved and could actually be myself and not be looked at sideways or people whispering. All I can say is I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity of a lifetime.

What do you hope a queer kid watching takes away from the show?
I pray that any kid watching this season who struggles with finding themselves knows that It is okay to be different. It is okay to love anyone no matter how they identify or how people see that person. If you love someone do not allow others to get in your head or make you feel like you are not loved anymore, because baby, I promise you it is not you it is them. We love people with our hearts and soul not with our body parts. Do not be afraid to reach out to people. You are not alone.

What did you learn about yourself through the process?
Honestly, being on the show taught me a lot about myself. I have had some inner demons that I had not dealt with and it showed in my dating life and just my day-to-day stuff. I have been through some rough times and never really spoke about it with anyone. The show definitely brought it out, but I can say your girl has gotten help. I have a therapist now and I LOVE It. I recommend everyone see a therapist! Might be things you don’t even know that are constantly on your mind and affect the way you move and think.

Would you do it again?
Would Kylie Marie do it again? Yes, I would do It again. It was one of the most rewarding and honoring moments in my life. To be a part of something so rare and real. To show other kids, adults, grandparents any and everyone that it is okay for us to be us. It is okay for us to love who we want whether they are a boy, girl, them, they — we love who we love and nobody can change that. I would absolutely do it again.

Dr. Frankie Bashan, relationship expert

Dr Frankie Are You the One Come One Come All

MTV

What has the response to the show been like?
Amazing! People are thrilled to see a sexually fluid cast reflecting our society of diverse beautiful humans!
In your view, what’s the impact of having a queer dating show on a major network? Finally the message is coming across that one doesn’t have to feel shame for being a part of the LGBTQ family and instead they can celebrate that fact. Furthermore, the representation on a major network also allows viewers to see aspects of the LGBTQ human experience that they may be able to relate to or at the very least better understand, thanks to MTV.

What do you think other dating shows could learn?
They could learn that it’s actually interesting to an audience to capture the human condition of suffering where there are underlying issues at hand that many of us are working through whether it’s early childhood traumas, attachment issues, identity confusion, etc. What makes AYTO so interesting is not just the fact it’s a sexually fluid cast but it brought to light real-life issues to be discussed and explored by the cast for viewers to enjoy. There was an incredible amount of depth of experience shared by the cast, because they had all had been through challenging times as a result of their own personal gender identity/sexual orientation journey.

If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?
I would have asked more pointed and direct questions to get to the meat of the matter amongst the house.

Rob LaPlante, executive producer

Rob LaPlante

Lighthearted Entertainment

What has the response to the show been like?
The response to the latest season of “Are You The One?” has been incredibly positive. Ultimately the show provided a platform and voice for a group that doesn’t always have it, especially in unscripted television where the queer point of view is often told from the straight gaze. Discussion about gender and sexual fluidity is highly relevant, and something I think both straight and queer audiences have been trying to find for a long time. Viewers want to see their stories told by people who truly understand them, and I’m proud to say that our cast and producers took on that challenge with care and pride.

In your view, what’s the impact of having a queer dating show on a major network?
It’s essential that major networks use their platform to constantly evolve the conversation about gender and sexuality- to be relevant to audiences one must be relevant to the societal conversation. Despite the fact that some portions of the audience may not seem ready to have the conversation, that cannot have a negative impact on groups that just want a place for their voices to be heard. Television and all forms of media are a public trust, and should never be used to silence points of view, but rather be used to allow new thoughts to be heard and explored.

What do you think other dating shows could learn from this season?
I think other dating shows have been stuck in this monotonous run of heteronormativity. Human beings are complex, and it’s important to show all aspects of that spectrum, and, not surprisingly, the stories get more interesting and new as a result.

If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?
Honestly, there is very little I would do differently if we get to do another sexually fluid season.  Please let MTV know you’d like to see one, and hopefully they’ll give us the green light!

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