By KENDRA SITTON
World of Wonder (WOW) premiered its first foray into the reality dating genre with “Vanjie: 24 Hours of Love” on June 9. Of the 18 competitors trying to win the affection of Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, one was from San Diego. Tyler Renner, the media director for PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), joined the cast for his first experience on a reality tv show.
Vanjie, the stage name of Jose Cortes, has competed on two seasons of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.” The same producers of Drag Race created this show which features compelling conversations about sex positivity and confront the often-unspoken subjects within the gay dating community as Vanjie spends a wild 24hours whittling down a cast of 18 eligible singles in the quest to find her boo. Watch the show on WOW Presents Plus and hear from Renner about his experience on the show.
Did you watch reality TV dating shows ahead of this? Do you have a favorite?
No, honestly, I’m not a huge reality TV fan. So I mean, I’m aware of “The Bachelor” and what’s that new one on Netflix that everyone likes? See I don’t even have good reference points. But no, I was not really a reality TV show person or reality TV viewer. So it’s definitely a very new experience.
That is a big jump to not be familiar with dating shows then to go on one.
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I saw the posting for it on World of Wonder social media last summer. And honestly, I had COVID so I was just like at home bored or like had a lot of free time on my hands and I felt fine. So I was like, “You know what? I’ll give this a shot. Why not?” And especially coming out of quarantine and not being able to be around a lot of people and not really being able to mix and mingle and date. I was like, this could be a really new experience that I’ll just go for.
How was the experience of it being a specifically queer show?
I love World of Wonder and all of their content. And obviously, there’s so much queer positivity that comes from that representation. So I really wasn’t aware of what the format would be. But I had a lot of trust in WOW’s production companies to set parameters that would feel comfortable and that I could express different parts of what I was looking for in a relationship and a partner.
A lot of the screening questions and things leading up to it just gave me a lot of confidence that I could be myself and that it would be a unique format and not just a rinse and repeat of heterosexual dating shows. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I had a lot of trust that WOW would put together a really unique dynamic that would allow queer people to connect in a really interesting and fun way.
It sounds like you got to be yourself in terms of non-monogamy and what you are looking for too.
Yeah, definitely. And I mean, I’m just a very open person in terms of what I’m looking for in a relationship and dating and my self expression. So I was just like, I’m gonna be myself and if that’s the right fit for what they’re looking for, for the show. I don’t really know any other way than to be myself and to express what I want to. I was grateful that that aligned with what they were looking for in participants.
How long was filming for you?
It was all within 24 hours. So it was a whirlwind of an experience for sure. It’s gonna be eight different episodes, so I’m really interested to see the content that they captured in that 24 hours. It was a very fun experience. There’s going to be some guest cameos from other queens.
What was your overall experience being on a reality dating show?
It was definitely a new experience, very unfamiliar territory. I thought I would be a little more extroverted than I was just because I am pretty [extroverted] in my personal life. But definitely the dynamics that like having a production team and cameras and a lot of other hot guys–it reveals a very different side of myself that I wasn’t really expecting. I wasn’t as extroverted as I typically am, I think because of those dynamics, but it overall was still a very fun experience and something that I was just like, let me go for it and just see what happens. So that’s what I did.
Did you make friends with anyone in the cast?
It was hard for me to really connect with everyone. There’s a lot of guys, a lot of commotion. And you know, a 24-hour window is a very brief time. And I live in San Diego. I spend a lot of time in LA, right. But a lot of them are there too. But I would say I made very friendly connections and I would look forward to seeing them again in the future.
Switching to a local question, what Pride events are you looking forward to this year?
Well, last year, I had COVID during Pride it so I feel like I’m like making up for two years of lost time. And I like to do the full range of events like the Light up the Cathedral, the Stonewall Rally, the parade itself. I’ve been in a lot of contingent so it’ll be fun to actually watch the parade this year instead of being in it. Of course the festival and then just going out to the bars. That whole weekend is fun. I’m also seeing King Princess, not related to Pride, but I think that’s the Monday after. Oh, and I definitely hope to see Gottmik and Violet Chachki when they are performing on their pride tour because they are also part of the Vanjie show. They make a guest appearance, which is exciting, so I’m excited to see them perform the Thursday of Pride week.