"What Beyonce song best describes your sex life?" - MTV Canada's 1 Girl 5 Gays.
Every week, the cast of 1 Girl 5 Gays provides a cross-section of views from a variety of men in the gay community on topics ranging from sex, politics and everything in-between. Rafay Agha, who has been on the show since December 2013, opened up even more about how being on the show has defined his identity.
Name: Rafay Agha
Suitless Pursuit: Panelist, MTV’s 1 Girl 5 Gays
How did you land on MTV’s 1 Girl 5 Gays?
When the producers were looking for people to audition for season five, one of my friends who was am existing panelist from past seasons called me and ask if I was interested. So I said, “you know what, let’s do it”. The audition itself would be a good experience, and around then, I had decided that I was just going to start saying “yes” to everything and not worry about what other people think. There are always going to be “what if's". The audition went well, and soon, I got a call to come in for the start of taping. It’s been really fulfilling.
What were your initial thoughts?
I thought about what my employer, family and/or friends would say about me being on this show because the questions are a bit salacious and quite personal! But you have to remember that that’s why you’re on the show - you have to be an open book. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a show like this. I think representation is important, and I don’t want to clam up on the show and do it disservice. I have to be completely open about my life. My initial thought lasted for maybe a second, but then I thought, if anything good or bad that comes from this, I’ll deal with it then.
Is that thinking reflective of your personality overall?
Usually, no. But I went through a pretty big breakup at the time, and since then, I’ve said yes to all the opportunities that have come my way, even if it’s outside of my nature or comfort zone.
So this breakup changed you?
Definitely. I’m more of a risk taker now.
Does your family watch the show?
They do, and I cringe when I see them watching. I think I’m more embarrassed that they’re watching, than they are when they're watching me. My mom and dad were over at my place one time, and they were flipping channels and found the show. I was talking about a hookup or something. I ran to the washroom, turned on the tap, started the laundry - all because I didn’t want to hear myself on TV and see their reaction!
What was their reaction?
Quite positive, actually. They’ve been really supportive about the whole thing. They’re thrilled that I’m on TV, and my mom thinks it’s funny. I think she knows that it means a lot for me to be on the show and have this outlet, and she’s supportive of that. My dad has been more quiet about it. But I think they like the novelty of their kid being on TV.
Have you always been open about yourself to your parents?
I don’t think I’ve actually ever said the words, “I’m gay” to my parents. But I think they knew. I don’t think people give their parents enough credit. At least for me, I think my mom has always known or suspected. She’s gotten to know all of my past boyfriends and asks about them, too.
(Photo: MTV Canada)
How about your friends? What have they said?
At first, I was nervous that I wasn’t coming across as myself. On the show, you say the first thing that comes to your mind. You try your best to be sensible, but your lips loosen and you say stuff. Sometimes after filming I’d think, “Oh God, I’m going to have to deal with this later.”
So I’ve asked my friends if I come across as they know me. And the answer has been an overwhelming ‘yes.’ I think one of my favourite things about the show is that I’m not putting on a show. It’s all me - it’s 100% genuine and I’m proud of that. Of course, they think I’m an idiot for some of the things I say. But they tell me that even the facial expressions I make are the ones I’d make if we were having brunch or drinks together or something.
Does the way that it’s filmed add or take away from “you”?
I’m lucky enough that the producers seem to “get” my sense of humour and my timing. My humour is a bit drier, and I’m not competing to be the loudest person on the show. It’s been an accurate portrayal.
Why do you think they picked you?
I’d like to think that it’s because I know a little bit about a lot of things. During the audition, the questions ranged from “who’s your pop diva?” to “what do you think about equality rights in the States?” to “what do you think about the Canadian political landscape?” No matter what topic it was, I was able to hold my own.
Do you think you’ve discovered more things about yourself since going on the show?
I feel like it’s allowed me to become more autonomous and independent. In the last year, I’ve changed my job and my living situation and started on this show. I also decided to lose a lot of weight and get back into good habits like eating healthy and exercising. You know, Gwyneth Paltrow-type stuff. If I want to do something, why not? Risk and opportunity are defined by me. It’s translated into my personal life, work life and any creative endeavours. I’m more confident at work, but throw more caution to the wind. You want to do good work and be noticed for all the right reasons. I’m more confident about being in my own skin.
Both your full-time job working for the AIDS Committee of Toronto and being on 1G5G have to do with sexuality. Was that a coincidence?
It’s a funny coincidence because my previous role was quite different. I was at a municipal government agency, so we had our Dockers and Oxford shirts Monday to Friday. Now I work with a lot of characters, and while I can’t say verbatim what we talk about every day, I can say that nothing shocks me anymore. Oral dams, condoms, bathhouses, oral sex, vaginal sex...you know what I mean. It’s actually refreshing. When you talk about something in a frank way, it demystifies it and takes away the taboo to talk about it. It makes it about the issues.
What does being on this show mean to you?
Being involved on the show, which is centred around gay guys, and being in an organization that has a big contingent of the gay community, has helped me develop a sense of community that was always missing. Growing up in the suburbs and being a person of colour, I never really found my place in the village, which tended to be predominantly white, male, hairless…that aesthetic. The show is sexual, but it's more than that. It’s also a great support for anyone that can identify with me, or one of the other characters on the show. I didn’t have anyone in my life who was gay (let alone someone of colour), moved around the world a lot before their 15th birthday and shared the same views. I think I’m providing representation. The target demographic of the show, for the most part, is between 13 to early 20’s, living in small towns or the suburbs without an "out", or at least they don’t think they do. Seeing a wide variety of personalities on the show gives them something no school rally can. The cast and I are trying to make meaning out of what we do, and provide an outlet.
What are your life goals?
To be present, happy and take up any opportunities that come my way, even if it’s out of my realm.
Do you have any advice to people who may be struggling with their sexuality?
Everyone comes from different backgrounds and situations and while I can honestly say my life is so much better for being out, open and proud, I can’t stress enough how important it is for people to do it on their own terms, in their own time. No two coming out experiences are the same. I really felt like I’ve gotten to truly know myself once I was able to be honest with myself and those around me. At a certain point we have to stop living our lives based on what people think about us, but rather how we feel about ourselves. If coming out isn’t an option, find a great support system for yourself. Let them be your champions. And if even that’s not an option, you have to be your own biggest cheerleader. That goes for sexuality, but also life. Be your own biggest fan.
Watch 1 Girl 5 Gays here: http://www.mtv.ca/shows/1-girl-5-gays