Gus Kenworthy Doesn't Like Being Called Colton Underwood's 'Gay Guide'

Sunday August 1, 2021
Originally published on July 29, 2021

He may be in Tokyo doing commentaries for NBC News coverage of the Olympic Games, but this week Gus Kenworthy spoke to the The Advocate about his busy Hollywood life, including his role in the upcoming Netflix reality series that follows Bachelor Colton Underwood after he came out in April. Underwood, who was promoted on the show as the "virgin Bachelor," revealed he was gay to Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America." Shortly after, it was announced that Underwood would be making a Netflix reality series that would follow his coming out experience with out Olympian Gus Kenworthy acting as his "gay guide."

But Kenworthy tells the Advocate that the moniker made him bristle. "God, please, please, please don't put it in quotes as 'gay guide,'" Kenworthy says. "In actuality, I'm kind of just his friend." 

They met four years ago on a comedy podcast long before Underwood decided to go public about being gay, but they stayed connected through social media.

Kenworthy says that when he was approached by Netflix, they pitched him that he had gone through a similar experience and his advice would be beneficial to Underwood. "I was like, 'Oh, that sounds so great,'" says Kenworthy, who saw the series as "a cool opportunity" to chronicle the process of a public figure's coming-out for an international audience," writes The Advocate. "However, he objected to the media's appellation of his role. 'It put a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths, and mine included, because that's not what I signed up for,' he says."

"I don't want to come across as if I'm this holier-than-thou educator that knows everything. I don't. I'm still learning myself," Kenworthy confesses. "But I'm friends with Colton. And then, I know more than he does, because I've been out for longer. And so I want to try and pass on some of that knowledge to make it a smoother road for him and to help open his eyes because he does have a platform, and he does have an amazing opportunity to connect with a lot of people."

What also made him bristle was the criticism the new reality show received after it was announced just days after Underwood came out that Netflix had been filming the series for weeks. This led to a petition asking Netflix to cancel the series that would keep Underwood from monetizing his coming out experience. In the petition, his troubled relationship with his "Bachelor"-ex Cassie Underwood was cited as a reason.

"Colton is a former bachelor lead who stalked his final pick, Cassie Randolph. He placed a tracker on her car, sent her and her friends anonymous threatening texts, and was even seen standing outside her window extremely late in the night, resulting in her brother attempting to de-escalate the situation," read the petition. "Cassie is a victim of Colton's abuse, and he does not deserve a platform in any way. Regardless of his sexuality, Colton should not be given a platform as a result of his abusive, manipulative, and dangerous behavior."

"While I understood a lot of the criticism [surrounding Underwood] and actually could even say I agree with some of it, it also doesn't change the fact that it is still a big day for him," Kenworthy told the Advocate. "And it's a huge weight off of his shoulders."

"I wish that he could have just gotten to have that for his day, instead of having it tied to something else, and kind of making the whole experience ugly," he says. "I also think that there is a real pile-on effect that the internet and Twitter can have. ... It doesn't feel very good to be on the receiving end of it."