They're rich, they're fabulous and ... they're Persian.
In case you haven't heard of it, "Shahs Of Sunset" is a reality show that follows the glitz and glamour of six best friends living in Los Angeles. "Shahs" aims to find the balance between having an American social life but also staying true to one's roots -- and of course, viewers get to witness the bickering, the closets and the drama.
But unlike "90210," these characters are as diverse in their taste as they are in ethnicity, including Reza Farahan, the show's "openly gay Persian man," who knows a thing or two about luxury. He chatted with HuffPost TV about debunking stereotypes and the importance of having life-long friends.
With any show that has a particular focus on an ethnic community, there's always some sort of backlash. How do you deal with people’s negative reaction?
I don’t care. The funny thing is we started having a reaction from an article on The Huffington Post, actually. The writer is Persian and people were basing their opinion on her article, which was very negative. A lot of the people who read her initial article are now thinking 'Wait a minute, why was she putting the show on blast, when she hasn’t seen it and now that we've seen it we love it, we love you.' When we read her stuff we thought you would be setting homes on fire, shooting people, like it's not that big of a deal. It paints Persians in a positive light. We’re used to being portrayed as terrorists on television. We’re all thrown into this big batch of terrorists. If I’m on TV, im successful, I’m family-oriented, my friends love me, the community accepts me for being gay, but I love gold, marbles and Mercedes, great. I'd rather personify that stereotype than one of being a terrorist.
You and MJ have been best friends for a long time. When you look back at the episodes, what’s it like seeing your friendship on television?
It wasn’t that huge of a difference because I’ve known her for 20+ years. She and I are so tight and we go back so deep; it's just fun to see it on television.
Even though I've only seen the first episode, I already remember all of your names and personalities (which isn't the case for most reality shows). Why do you think the audience can connect?
I think it's because it's very real. We are Persian and minority groups have a lot of things in common. And there are a lot of relatable issues whether it’s dealing with family, sexuality, having to live in a foreign land, religion -- there’s a lot of realness and a lot of things that viewers can relate to.
And on the flipside to that, "All-American Muslim" got canceled. Do you think people are ready for shows like this?
It’s 2012. If they’re not ready yet -- too bad. Because buckle up, here we are. If they’re not ready now in 2012, they're never going to be ready.
Please explain that mustache of yours.
My mustache and I have a very tight bond. He’s definitely a lot more bourgey [bourgeois] than I am. I’m a lot more down to earth. We clash on certain issues. He’s got his own Twitter handle @Reza_mustache and I love him. His name is Little Reza.
You see a lot of the glitz and glamour on the show. In episode one, you were getting ready and you had your clothes laid out. Is this for real, do you lay them out to get the day started?
I wouldn’t lay it out. I had just gone shopping and I had a ton of new stuff so I definitely wanted to. You could see a lot of the labels. If I do a big shopping day, I’ll spread it out and say, 'What do I want to wear? What do I want to put together?' But do I lay it out on a daily basis? No. My memory is good enough to know what I have.
Even in the first episode, family is portrayed as important, just like in most ethnic communities. What's it like looking back at some of the episodes? How has it affected your family relationships now?
Pretty much, what you see is what you get. The way you saw me interacting with my family is how I interact with them on a daily basis. I don’t see exposing my family has be interacting with them any differently. It’s just the relationship with my father ... has become better since we had that conversation in episode five.
What’s the drama forecast, what can we expect?
As far as drama concerns, the beautiful thing about life and friendship is that there’s evolution. Some relationships that you see in episode one may change and shift completely. When you’re friends with people as long as we’ve been friends, there’s definitely ups and downs. In episode one, you heard me say some things about Asa. Does it remain consistent through the season? I’m not going to tell you, but not all the relationships will be the same.
Are you guys still close and hang out?
While I've been on the phone with you, Mike and GG have already called. We talk several times a day. GG and I had dinner last night.
Did you ever fear going on a reality television show would change your friendship?
I believe that I'm in control of my life. If things change it was because of decisions and choices that I made.
Besides drama, what else can we look forward too?
Deep-rooted friendship. Americans can't believe how tight we are. These other five people are like family to me. We are there for one another. My American friends can’t believe we're so connected and so tight, and how well we juggle this ancient country we’re from in a very progressive and modern land that we live in – the balancing act. Dealing with my homosexuality adds to all of that as well.
"Shahs of Sunset" airs on OMNI 2 in Canada and just wrapped its first season on Bravo in the US. It has also just been picked up for a second season.