It's been years since Karamo Brown first graced our screens as the first openly gay Black man on The Real World, participating in the beloved reality show's 15th season.
Since then, things have changed for Brown. Two years after appearing on the show, Brown found out he had a son, Jason, who's become the most important person in his life. He's dived into more television gigs, worked as a producer, and co-founded 6in10, an organization that works to provide mental health support and education for the LGBT community while combating HIV stigma.
ESSENCE spoke to Brown, who's teamed up with MTV once again to host the networks new show, Are You The One: Second Chances, about his work as an activist, his new gig as a matchmaking host, and conspiracy theories.
Are You The One: Second Chances is a spin-off of MTV's Are You The One, that gives contestants a second chance to compete for love and money, however, there's a twist. Contestants need to make it to the end with their partner in order to win the money, then they'll decide to either split the cash or keep it for themselves.
Working on the show has made Brown notice a few things about relationships, specifically, the importance of self love.
"I think for me, personally and just from being on the show, and from working in social work, where I helped people with their relationships, it's all about making sure you respect yourself first and love yourself first," he said, "Until you do that, you can't find your perfect match."
His hosting duties for the love and relationship reality competition are very different from another new hosting role he's taken on. Brown is set to host the History Channel's The UnExplained, where he'll explore and debunk conspiracy theories.
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He remarks that in college he was obsessed with conspiracy theories and joining the show has revived his interest. Brown gave us a little scoop on the upcoming series, telling us about Dr. Ronald Mallett, a theoretical physicist at the University of Connecticut, who was inspired to pursue the science of time travel after his father's death. Meeting him left a mark on Brown.
Aside from his duties as a television host, Brown works as an activist. He has used his platform to help the LGBT community fight the stigmas surrounding sexuality and HIV, specifically, LGBT Black men and women who face more issues due to society's views of Black people. He co-founded 6in10, an organization that works to combat HIV stigma and provides support and education to the LGBT community about mental health issues.
The organization's name comes from a statistic that claimed that 6 in 10 gay and bi Black men would contract HIV. That stat has since changed to 1 in 2 Black men, if the current rate persists. The focus of the organization is to combat these issues by creating a dialogue around mental health and self-esteem. Brown travels around the country to speak and host focus groups that pinpoint imagery and ideas that will help with these issues.
"Each month we go to different HIV organizations, churches, and schools and we do focus groups," Brown explains when asked about what the organization is doing and has planned for the year, "What we're focusing on now is focus groups. We're looking at imagery and creating imagery and getting feedback on what helps."
Brown's resumé is enviable and his accomplishments are extensive, but the shining light in his life is his son, Jason. The television host becomes a proud dad as soon as he begins speaking of his son, who he gushes is "very respectful of others." And, despite the fact that Jason is 20-years-old, Brown says that his fears as a parent never go away, especially in a climate where Black men face racism at every turn.
"The challenges of me being a father are just the same as any other father," Brown says, discussing parenting as a gay Black man, "It's making sure I guide this Black man to be the strongest man possible. I go to bed at night worried, still, even though he's a 20-year-old man. I freak out if it's 1 a.m. and I haven't gotten a text from him or a call just because of the climate we're living in."
He adds, "Really, I think the extra layer of raising a son as a gay Black man comes from trying to raise a son who doesn't subscribe to masculine stereotypes. He's so respectful of the LGBT community and using the correct pronouns. He's become an ally of the LGBT community without me having to force him to."
Numerous new opportunities, a platform to educate and aid the LGBT community, and a son who's any parents' dream, Karamo Brown has come a long way since The Real World and we're excited for what's next.