It’s been nearly a year since Colton Underwood competed on The Bachelor, the popular reality show which stars a man looking for a relationship with a woman who has not been previously dated. There was a big win for LGBT audiences: Nick Viall famously identified as gay in the show’s search for the Bachelor’s season 21’s lead, ultimately opting for 26-year-old bachelor Laura Van Der Woodsen. Underwood, the 26-year-old former “football star turned NFL quarterback” who later gained fame on the off-Broadway play Prep School, caught a lot of fans’ attention.
In a recently published piece for Esquire, longtime journalist Isabella Carapella (who met Underwood on the set of Prep School) recounted the actor’s struggles with “coming out” to his family, much of whom remained deeply opposed to homosexuality. Since entering the spotlight, Underwood has revealed himself to be “one-third straight, one-third gay, and one-third somewhere in the middle.” In the piece, Carapella described Underwood’s life, detailing his studies and emergence as a hardworking actor.
“He’s been acting since age 7, when he made his one and only public appearance as a guest character in a grade school production of Chicago at a Native American conference in Texas,” the journalist wrote. “Colton Underwood was the good-luck charm for Marty from Apollo — the take-no-prisoners captain of the school’s cheerleading squad — and his other adventures in theater included a stint as Snow White in Grease and a much more troubling gig as a white businessman in a neo-Nazi play about the killing of a black man in Louisiana.”
That gig, it turns out, led to Underwood’s admission to his pastor that he is gay. The evangelical-run church launched a prayer group to minister to Underwood’s family, in an effort to minister to his spiritual as well as physical needs. Underwood’s parents’ response was being a devout Christian: “One of their daughters pointed to a Scripture where Jesus promised that he will speak to her within two years of meeting her. And they’d heard it since birth, that if you fear the Lord, you will find redemption.”
Many of the details in Underwood’s story sound familiar to younger readers: Both the pre-teen interviews Carapella cited and the various fringe jobs performed by Underwood described. But her story ends with the revealing graphic description of the casting call for Underwood’s highly-publicized reality show, The Bachelor. Though Underwood initially believed he’d been chosen for a producing role, the show’s casting director unexpectedly revealed that Underwood was being considered for the lead role in their upcoming season. Underwood immediately accepted, noting that his upbringing and education had prepared him for such a role. When the role ultimately went to Nick Viall, Underwood worried he’d been ignored.
“I couldn’t imagine how he’d be able to make it up that much of the way up himself,” Carapella wrote. “But those damn rules from the church: you can’t put yourself out there without a Christian address, and if you get nervous when you’re out in public, that’s because you’re ashamed of who you are.”
Carapella concludes that Underwood has maintained a moderate level of rebellion by focusing more on his career than his family. He also noted that the community has supported him, and encouraged others to do the same. “In the words of a young theater enthusiast at the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles,” Carapella wrote, “it’s okay to be who you are. Just, you know, on the inside.”
Read the full story at Esquire.
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