Reza Farahan on 'Shahs of Sunset,' Gays in Iran & His Unending Persian Passion
Bravo audiences weren’t sure what they were getting into this year when the channel announced its newest reality spectacle Shahs of Sunset. The show created uproar with its unapologetic displays of wealth, drama, intrigue and, of course, a lot of gold and marble. And wouldn’t you know it, the razor sharp wit of openly gay cast member Reza Farahan quickly made him the show’s “fan favorite.” We caught up with the “Mustached One” after the smash success of the show’s first season.
What were you like as a kid?
Just like big Reza with less access to cash; unable to drive or consume alcoholic beverages.
It seems your closet is full of everything but you. What’s behind your fashion obsession?
I’m very into finishing touches and details. You get to see my passion for pocket squares, belts, shoes, cufflinks — I love presentation. I’m very aesthetically oriented.
What do you have to say to critics who think Shahs of Sunset is racist, exploitive, and perpetuates stereotypes?
I couldn’t care less. It doesn’t mean anything. I’m using the show as a platform to bring awareness to homosexuality. They can kiss my Persian ass. Let them put themselves out on the line and see how much they can take. My stereotype is a hard working, fun loving, family-oriented person who likes marble and gold. What I’m doing is humanizing. I’m highlighting the beautiful aspects of my culture.
Do you feel you’re accurately portrayed on the show?
I don’t think they portray me. That’s how I am in life. The exact person on screen is the exact person in real life.
When leaders in Iran say there are no gays in their country, what do you say to that?
I don’t react to it. They also said there was no holocaust. You have to ignore it. All it does is embarrass me that I was born in that country when its leader says things like that. I’m proud to be Iranian but when I hear things like that I’m embarrassed for myself. Bring us some wisdom! Tell us something good! All I have to say is, “Bitch, please.” He did send me a member’s only jacket — just kidding. [Laughs] I do have one though, and I do tell people that he gave it to me.
Do you hear from fans in Iran?
Absolutely. I’ve heard from fans in Qatar, Lebanon, Iran — all over the Middle East. That is stuff that I care about. They say they feel proud of me. In actuality, I’m not doing anything. I feel honored to have a platform to talk about something I feel so passionately about. I’m honored that I get messages from them on Facebook. I’m honored that because of what I do or say, someone was able to come out. I’m speechless.
Would you ever visit Iran?
What has your family gone through now that you’re so publicly out?
My mom has had to cut people out of her life who have said negative things about her son. She is an elegant, conservative woman. When it comes to her son she’s very black and white. If you’re gonna talk bad about her son being gay, you’re dead to her. The irony is that my dad gets mad love now, and my mom gets people reaching out for advice on dealing with their gay kids. There’s so much more positivity than negativity. People like talking about the negative more. But there’s way more positivity.
What is the “Persian passion” you’ve mentioned?
It’s not dissimilar from the passion of other hot-blooded minorities. I love to talk about it to my friends in their cardigans and pearl necklaces. We Persians talk loud. Our hands wave in the air. If you don’t know us, you might think we’re fighting.
What’s more important: romance or smolder?
Fantastic question! I think that, for me, there needs to be a healthy helping of both. If you can’t light my fire, and I’m not wanting to gaze into your eyes and whisper sweet nothings, you’re gonna lose my attention. I need to be passionate about who you are as a human, getting in your pants, AND holding your hand and walking down the street.
I’ve heard your mustache has a life of its own, even its own Twitter.
He’s super “bourgie,” a prima donna, and a little more prudish. There’s always a battle. He’s way up there over 500 Twitter followers.
You’ve said regret is a waste of time but you will say you’re sorry. Is there anything you’d apologize for?
I say sorry for things that I push the limit on. I’ve a razor-sharp tongue. If I hurt someone’s feelings or offend them I will apologize because their feelings are valid.
Talk about Project Angel Food.
I’m super passionate about it. The program I participated in, where volunteers delivered meals personally, has unfortunately been cut. On my last day I was in tears. Now it is a driver with frozen meals. But I’m actively involved in smaller ways. I’m looking for a more hands-on approach to volunteering. I’m very passionate about animals. Whenever I have time I go to shelters. I clean up poop, give them food. To me, I feel a connection with animals in a different realm than I do with human beings.
What advice would you give to Little Reza if you ran into him today?
I would tell him that all the kids that he came across that were disgusting towards him when he was younger wouldn’t matter. They wouldn’t exist. Don’t waste one breath or one minute of your time, passion, or spark of life on those people who tell you, you won’t matter. It’s foreshadowing for their own lives.
So much is great in your life right now. Can you imagine yourself any happier?
Even the bad things in my life are great. Everything happens for a reason. Everything has a gift attached to it. The things I went through with my father were horrible but there was a gift in there, too. Even the bad things have lessons to learn. I look at everything more half-full than half-empty. What would make me even happier would be if the Persian community was more accepting of their gay brothers and sisters. There are gay children living in fear because they think their parents are going to throw them in the garbage. It would make me happier to know that they are taken care of. That would make me happier. That and a vintage Hermes pocket square.
Cast photo: Bravo
All other images: Getty