Mike Manning has faced many of the same struggles that other bisexual men have faced.
The difference? Manning was not only picked to live in a house with seven strangers and have his life taped on MTV’s long-running reality hit, “The Real World,” but it’s also where he came out as a bisexual.
Manning was a cast member on the 23rd season of the show, set in Washington, D.C., which aired in 2010.
Visiting Ohio State to deliver a speech to OSU’s chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, Manning spoke to The Lantern before his lecture Thursday night.
During his stay on “The Real World,” Manning interned with HRC in Washington, D.C., although he didn’t originally plan on it. After walking into the organization’s store, the bright lights and cameras following him attracted the attention of the store’s manager.
“He gave me a business card and he kinda encouraged me to look it up online, so I did a couple days later and it just went from there,” Manning said. “It was random, I had no idea what they even were. It was great. It was destiny.”
Manning’s work with HRC almost never happened, and the case was the same for his appearance on “The Real World.”
“I actually went there so my best friend could be on the show. I hardly watched the show. I didn’t know a lot about it and my buddy John is like the funniest guy I know, so we always thought he would be the one to be on a reality TV show and just be kinda crazy,” he said. “So I went there for him and they ended up calling me back.”
Manning wasn’t the first LGBT roommate on the show. In fact, “The Real World” has a long history casting LGBT roommates, most notably Pedro Zamora from the third season, who famously dealt with AIDS while on the show.
“I think my story is a little different because I came out on the show, on national television, and you see me kind of go from an average college boy to a gay rights activist throughout the course of the show,” Manning said. “And so I think mine was kind of, you saw the whole arc. You saw the whole 180 during the season.”
During his stint on “The Real World,” Manning brought his parents to see his work with HRC.
After coming out on the show, Manning said his experience of showing his parents his work with HRC was one of the “best moments” he had with them.
“It’s the most personal thing I’ve ever done, and I did it on national television, so it was really scary at the time,” he said. “But now that I did do that, and kind of broke down that wall and showed people it’s a very personal issue and it’s really tough to go through, maybe take it easy on kids that have to go through it like this.”
Since then, his mom has even gone on to start a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) chapter at his high school in Colorado.
Manning said he’s changed a lot since leaving the “Real World” house.
“I think just personally I’m just a lot more confident and comfortable with myself because it’s kind of all out there,” he said. “There’s really no looking back and it’s given me kind of the drive and the courage to be so vocal about LGBT equality and also being very out in the open in the public eye in Hollywood, just being an openly bisexual actor makes a statement for itself.”
Manning was vocal about his religious beliefs while on the show. As a Christian, Manning not only engaged in religious debate on the show, but also dealt with the conflict of the perceived differences between being bisexual and what the church believes.
Now, living in Los Angeles and pursuing an acting career, Manning has found a new church he’s comfortable with, even being re-baptized there.
“One of the main things I wanna get across is a lot of people think (religion and being LGBT are) mutually exclusive, (that) you have to either embrace your sexuality or you have to embrace the church and I’ve done both and it’s been fun,” he said.
Even with what Manning faced on “The Real World,” he said his experience on the show was “awesome.”
“We got to go to the nicest bars and we got hooked up everywhere we went,” he said. “We got extra attention. What 22-year-old isn’t gonna love that?”
With “The Real World” experience behind him, Manning said he hasn’t watched the show since, including the highly rated 24th season in New Orleans that aired in the latter half of 2010.
However, that doesn’t mean he would be averse to appearing on MTV’s “Real Word/Road Rules Challenge” series if he were asked.
“I actually said ‘no thank you’ to the first Challenge,” he said. “After thinking about it, if they called me up and asked me, I’d probably do it.”
He may not have time for that, however.
Manning has two films coming out in March and May: “eCupid,” a romantic comedy, and “Gingerdead Man 3-D: Saturday Night Cleaver,” which Manning describes as a “cheesy horror film.”
“Look for me,” he said.