My homeboy and American Idol winner, Phillip Phillips has gone triple platinum with Home. Yet he says that song is way too pop for him and not his cup of tea. We’re off on a new season of American Idol. I am mainly watching to see what Nicki Minaj does with Mariah Carey. This will be random thoughts more than recap. Let’s get started! Continue reading »
This fake blond chick is suing a division of Ryan Seacrest Productions for referring to the Lilly, the newest member of the Shahs of Sunset cast, as a “Persian Barbie” claiming that even though she did not copyright the moniker she has been using it for years. It’s nothing more than a cry for attention. Nothing will come of this and TMZ should not even have run the story. Clearly they want to give this idiot some press. I still think they should call Lilly the Persian Courtney Stodden, but hey, that’s just me.
Anyway…VFTW is back at it this season and is pretty gleeful that they managed to get Jessica Sanchez in the bottom three (allegedly). Idol hasn’t had a really successful winner since Carrie Underwood in season five and they are tired of letting America get it wrong. Which brings us to last night. Two big production things occurred behind the scenes this week. First of all, it’s VERY clear that Idol wants Jessica Sanchez to win this year. She’s pretty and young and has a good voice. She’s marketable to the teen/young adult market. But how to make that happen? Keeping reading for the production manipulations…
And use it they did. Jessica Sanchez was clearly mortified when, before she got three notes out of her song, all three judges bumrushed the stage. J-Lo begins repeatedly screaming at her to go sit down and Randy lectures the audience to VOTE FOR THE BEST! Jessica was horrified and poor Holly, who should have gone home last night, was praying for the floor to open up and swallow her. It was a ridiculous blunder that exposed the whole show as a fraud. It makes me wonder if, despite every talk show discussing Idol this morning in a windfall of free advertising, the whole thing backfired. Instead of maintaining the usual facade, which would have caused kids all over the country to vote more religiously for Jessica, they were straight up told that Jessica, Joshua and Elise were the ones they should be voting for. Is this going to cause a backlash against those contestants and leave us with Atlanta local Phillip in the finals with Colton? Probably. Way to go, Idol.
Wow,Matt Lauer interviewed Ryan Seacrest this morning on the Today Show in a very odd situation. Ryan has been trying to land a morning hosting job for quite some time. It was rumored that he wanted to take over for Regis Philbin. Ryan was in talks to replace Matt Lauer as the host of the Today Show at the end of last year. Rumors that Lauer was leaving the Today Show began last April and it wasn’t until recently that Lauer agreed to a 30 million dollar contract to stay. The moment Ryan heard that Lauer might leave he was in NYC angling for the slot. That started the rumors that he was ready to leave his American Idol gig and relocate to NYC. Now that Lauer is staying, Seacrest is coming on the NBC team for the Olympic coverage in London this summer during Primetime. In other words, Seacrest is setting himself to slide right into Lauer’s job when he leaves. In the interview Lauer says that he and Ryan are “friendly” and have gone to dinner to discuss this; however, neither one of them looked very comfortable in this interview. AWKWARD. Seacrest said he is still working some things out with his American Idol contract, but he is expecting to return next season.
Andy Cohen gives details of his car accident to Ryan Seacrest this morning. He also shares his new love affairs with Austin, Texas and Reza Farahan.
This is a must watch video. Try to get through it without imagining Mike nekkid. I bet you can’t. What?
|It’s a Shahs of Sunset orgy!|
Three members of Shahs of Sunset , MJ, Mike and Reza, were on the air with Ryan Seacrest on KIIS 102.7 FM this morning to promote the premiere of the show this Sunday at 10pm on Bravo. The show is produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions, the first collaboration between Bravo and RSP. On the show, the guest booker Amy said about Reza, “He’s the one with the juicy legs.” which made me wonder what Reza was wearing until later in the show where they played a clip from the show where Reza enumerates the finer parts of his physique for the viewers. Not to be left out of the Reza love fest, Ryan said that Reza has the best eyebrows he’s ever seen. Reza replied that he shapes them himself. Reza is going to be somethin’ on this show, y’all. I’m just warning you now. When asked about critics who are already screaming that the cast doesn’t represent Persians before they have even seen the show, Reza said, ” I’m not representing anyone. I am giving people a window into a delicious lifestyle.”
MJ talked about her choice not to be married, at least not yet. She thinks that her Iranian peers who rush to get married out of high school miss out on a lot. Things like college and travel and getting to know who you are. She is great friends with Reza and even works with him in the real estate business. She said, “my mom and Reza are the reason I have to think thrice before leaving the house”. She said she might like the shoes she selected but sometimes has a back up pair if she plans to run into Reza in case he has a different opinion. There was more but it was interfering with my imaginary relationship with Reza in my head so I sort of tuned that out.
Mike talked about his family. He is unabashedly a Momma’s boy. His mother is a spectacular artist by the way, and I hope we get to see some of her paintings on the show. You can see one of her paintings in the video of his apartment on Bravo. Bravo put up a ton of new videos showing where the cast lives and some more little bios. They are worth checking out. As for what Mike wants out of the show, he wants to show the world more than just his player side. Mike wants to share the love. He’s a player with a heart of gold. MmmmHmmm. We’ll see about that.
|Asa in the bathtub in her house in Venice. One assumes the tub found its way to the bath, eventually.|
Asa Soltan Rahmati is to me the most fascinating member of the cast of Shahs of Sunset. Her journey to Beverly Hills was not the straight road most of her castmates took. I know from personal experience that when you spend your childhood in more than one country, whether the experience is fantastic or something less than that, the constant flux has an effect. Relationships, both good and bad are built and torn apart. For some, it becomes easy to embrace the ways of the Nomad, set adrift with no definite destination and no emotional ties. Entertaining yourself is often the only source of entertainment. You become your own art that follows you everywhere.
|Asa, Self-Portrait 1983|
The revolution began in Iran when Asa was three years old. When she was 8, her family fled to the perceived safety of Hamburg, Germany as refugees with very little money. It was her first step into the world as a child of the diaspora. She lived in a poor area of Hamsburg as a refugee for seven years. The family maintained their traditions within the new culture in part by taking the bus and carrying with them all the equipment for a BBQ. They cooked together in the park without regard to season or temperature. It was important to maintain their culture and their family traditions. While her homelife was distinctively Iranian, at school she was influenced by western culture. She learned to speak English by listening to Public Enemy, Michael Jackson and other artists. Music impacted her deeply. During this time, immigrants to Germany were not particularly welcome. After the fall of the Berlin wall the anti-immigrant sentiment worsened and within a couple of years the family once again found themselves refugees fleeing to a new land.
So they loaded up the truck, and they moved to Beverly. Hills that is. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars.
At age fifteen, Asa moved to the United States. Her parents took a small apartment in order to be in the Beverly Hills School District. By the time she arrived at Beverly High, Asa had already developed a style of her own. She was a rebellious teen who did not wish to conform. She expressed herself in fashion which was not, shall we say, what the typical Beverly Hills student wore. She listened to rap. She had little regard for fitting in. In her answer to an interview question I sent her, Asa said that she went to High School with Mike Shouhed. Maybe it’s me but I can’t see Asa and Mike hanging out much in High School. Mike was probably driving a BMW and sitting with the cool kids at lunch. Asa likely came to school having already covered much of the material in Hamsburg, did well in class with little effort, and spent her time with a different crowd, smoking cigarettes and listening to music. That’s my theory, not something she told me. I could be wrong.
|Asa in a photo shoot for the artwork on her soon to be released single, Gold.|
Today, Asa lives as a true Bohemian in an amazingly beautiful house in Venice. Along her journey she has aquired wealth, and love in various portions. Yet the refugee girl hasn’t really grown up. Her artistic work both as a musician and as a painter are intended to shock the recipient. Asa is an Iranian rapper. In her songs and in her paintings you can hear and see, if you try, the longing that has not gone away since childhood. Perhaps only if you are familiar with the feeling.
I opted not to use the Q &A format for Asa. It just didn’t seem appropriate. I kept two of the interview questions below with regard to the show. When it comes to the show, I’m not sure mainstream America is going to “get” Asa any more than the average Iranian does. People tend to dislike those who are different, those who do not mirror their perception of the norms of their culture, and especially those who challenge them to think about things from another perspective. You may choose to make judgements about Asa because she is unique. Just don’t expect her to care. She’s busy being Asa.
Jesse Leed approached me in the very beginning of his conception of the show. A few people had referred to him to my work and facebook page. I totally had a to sit with the idea for a while whether I wanted to have my life on a reality TV show or not. Authenticity and ‘being me/doing me’ are very important to me. After meeting with Jesse, I had a better idea and decided to go for it. And plus I’ve known Sammy since I was 15 and Mike and I went to Beverly Hills High School together!
What is your goal for the show?
The Persian culture is super old school and very traditional. While that is a beautiful thing, it’s also important to move forward as a people, particularly when we have moved our families to a new country. I am actually very traditional in many ways, but I live a very unconventional lifestyle. Many young Persians, in and outside of Iran, reach out to me all the time and ask me if it’s “ok to be gay”or if its ok to do this and that – while I am not gay myself, I have many gay friends and many artist friends who design their own lives and don’t live by somebody else’s rules. I don’t let society tell me how to live my life. And this is why I am doing the show, for other young people, Persian or not, to see that it’s not only “ok” but essential to think to for yourself. Every human being is a beautiful unique individual and should not be judged by their cover. There is no box you can fit me in.
To read about other cast members of Shahs of Sunset, my post about Mike Shouhed can be read here, my post about Mecedeh Javid can be read here, my post about Sammy Younai can be read here. and my post about Reza Farahan can be read here.
This is the last in a series of four interviews with cast members from the new Bravo show Shahs of Sunset. The first one, with Mike Shouhed can be seen here, the second one with Mecedeh Javid can be seen here, the third one, introducing Sammy Younai can be seen here.
How do you respond to criticism that the show could turn into a Persian version of “Jersey Shore” or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”?
It’s completely different in my mind. No one who’s calling it a Persian version of Jersey Shore has seen [Shahs of Sunset]. I was there for the show; it wasn’t a show. We were living our lives [with] a crew following us around. Jersey Shore is a group of people that didn’t know one another that were thrust into a living arrangement. We’re actually a group of dynamic friends. We’re educated, we’ve got rich backgrounds and a culture.
There are not many openly gay Persians. Was it difficult to overcome the fear of coming out?
I didn’t overcome any fear but the way I’m programmed as a person, I have to live an authentic life. There was going to be a time that I would explode and the information would come blasting out of me. My parents saw that I was attractive and I was never bringing any girls around. One night [when I was 21] I went out and I came home really late. The next morning my mom woke me up and brought me into the kitchen, sat me down and looked me in the eye and she asked me if I was gay. At that moment, my life flashed before my eyes. I realized I either had to take that opportunity and let her know or I had to keep my mouth shut and live a miserable existence without being authentic. Somehow I summoned the courage at that very moment to be honest and I told her.
How did she respond?
It was the most fantastic two minutes of my life. She started out in tears talking about watching an episode of Oprah where these people found Jesus Christ and Jesus cured them, to “Your father wasn’t around; he was traveling too much in your formative years.” [Then] she stopped, collected herself, she sat up straight, she looked me dead in the eye and she said, “I love you. You’re my son. I’ll always stand behind you and nothing has changed.” From that day forward 17 years ago to today, she has made such strides in her reprogramming who she is as a Middle Eastern woman that grew up in a in a different era with different standards and norms. She is an amazing woman and I hope I can be half the person she is when I am her age.
Do you hope appearing on this show will help other closeted gays who are Persian come out to their families?
You hit the nail on the head. The only reason I did this show is because even though my mother is very accepting, the Persian community as a whole isn’t known to be the most accepting community when it comes to people deviating from what they perceive to be the norm. It’s opened my family to whatever criticism and backlash that may come as a result of me being on this show [and that] was for one reason and one reason only. Teens and adolescents were committing suicide because they were getting bullied in school for either being gay or being perceived as gay. It devastated me to my core. I wanted to do something, and this opportunity came along. I got lucky that my family loves me and supports me, but if they had all turned their backs on me, I would still live an authentic life. There are a lot of Middle Eastern cultures where kids may be exposed to bullying or families that don’t accept them. If I can help one of them not commit suicide or give one of them a glimmer of hope, whatever backlash I get from being on this show was worth it tenfold.
How has your family handled the exposure?
It’s been mixed. I have to be honest. There’s been a lot of hearsay, rumors and speculation because there’s only a little teaser on the website. I love Persians, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a lot of us and we do like to chitchat, so something small [like] “I saw Reza walking down the street” can all of a sudden turn into “Reza
Do you think the fact you are gay had something to do with why you were cast?
It was very organic because Jesse Leed in a very informal meeting sat down with MJ, Sammy and myself to talk in big broad strokes about concept. For our show that’s the unique, amazing part of that, we are legitimately a group of friends. It wasn’t like they decided they wanted to have an openly gay person and threw the net out. Do I think the fact I’m openly gay and Persian helps? Well, yeah. Especially for featuring a group of Middle Easterners, the perception isn’t always about a gay guy. It’s kind of refreshing.
Your bio says you want the “American White Picket Fence” happy ending. Do you think this show will help you find that?
I actually do because when you verbalize something, I’m a firm believer you will things to happen in your life. There weren’t trailblazers in front of me that were Persian and gay that were talking about wanting the white picket fence and American dream. I feel like if I put that energy out in the world—I try to live my life in a way that I give back more than I take away from my community—I think that I’m going to will it.
This is the third in a series of four interviews with cast members from the new Bravo show Shahs of Sunset. The first one, with Mike Shouhed can be seen here, the second one with Mecedeh Javid can be seen here.
Sammy’s interview with Anderson has a lot of interesting information in it. It explains how the show was not “cast” but rather developed around a group of people that were already friends. I think that is what is going to make Shahs of Sunset a huge success. Click through the jump to read excerpts from the interview.
So, how did you end up on “Shahs of Sunset”?
One of the first people I came to meet was [Producer] Jesse [Leed]. His girlfriend [MarisaWeber] and I have been friends for 15 years. About 2.5 years ago they came up with this idea. I was the first person [that they called]. We shared a lot of fun nights together in the few years we’ve known each other before he decided to do this show. He was just always on me to do something. I said, “Okay, let’s do it.”
What’s your goal for this show?
Honestly for me it was to have fun. I’ll look back on it when I’m 70 and say, “Hey, I was on a TV show once.”
As a residential developer, you serve a Persian clientele in the local community. Do you think appearing on this show will be good for business? I hope so. We’ve developed close to 40 homes already in Beverly Hills in the last few years and even though the main portion of my clients are Iranian, [many] of them aren’t. I think it will be very good. We have a nice little niche.
Tell us about growing up in Beverly Hills.
I moved to California around the fifth grade from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I was in [LAUSD] and then I went to Beverly High from 10th grade on. I had a great time going to high school in Beverly Hills. I’m still friends with a lot of people I went to school with. I think being Iranian and growing up together through weddings and gatherings, we’re all so mixed together as far as someone’s cousin is also my cousin. We just have a big family. We’re always together.
What was the transition like from Florida to California?
In Fort Lauderdale, I was the only non-American person in probably the whole school. It was right around the time we had all the problems in Iran, and people didn’t know what to make of it. The fact I was the only Jewish kid in that school too really didn’t help, but it was great for growing up and it definitely taught me how to run really fast. It’s a completely different world from Fort Lauderdale to L.A. Even from L.A. to Beverly High, [it was a] complete 180.
What are your memories of Beverly High?
Even though it was high school, it was like one big party all day long. Even though we were supposedly there to learn something, it was more just hanging out with friends and having a great time. They did such a good job at that school where it just came naturally. My friends who weren’t at Beverly High hated attending school. Kids that went to Beverly High enjoyed attending school because it was such a fun place to go. We had our own [TV] department there and our own channel that broadcasted to all the homes in Beverly Hills. Mr. [Dave] Stiles [was] fantastic. I was [in the TV department] for about two years after school. It was such a great change from the everyday English, math, and science. It was fun learning about it, how to operate the cameras, and behind the scenes, how to edit and produce.
What do you think viewers will learn about the Persian community in Beverly Hills?Pretty much how tight we are, how we all have each other’s backs. Just being Persian and growing up together and the way we support each other and the way we care for each other, hopefully the big emphasis that we put on family life. I think that’s probably going to be the biggest thing we’re going to see on this show.