Tuesday, October 19

Dinner is Served: Fox Soul’s “The House” features 2 Black LGBTQ+ Ohioans

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Featuring a panel of Black queer and transgender guests and hosts, “The House” debuted on Fox Television Network’s new streaming platform Fox Soul last Friday.

And it was a delicious feast indeed.

Dubbed an “all new and exciting one-hour Black LGBTQIA late-night talk show,” The House has deep Ohio roots as two of the panelists hail from Cleveland: Cheryl Rich (clinical psychologist, trauma specialist and executive producer) and Aaron Johnson Levy (producer, creator, and online personality).

The eleven-episode series will include special guests such as transgender GLAAD Media Award nominee and Warner Records soul singer Shea Diamond, controversial music producer and Love and Hip-Hop reality star Milan Christopher, famed celebrity choreographer from RuPaul’s Drag Race and Disney’s Aladdin Jamal Sims, and the first openly gay WWE superstar Fred Rosser formerly known as Darren Young.

The House is executive-produced by nine-time Emmy® Nominated veteran Hollywood producer Doug DeLuca (Jimmy Kimmel Live!) along with executive-producer Kurt T Jones (America’s Next Top Model, Biggest Loser) who also directed the series.

No topic is off limits and everyone’s voice is heard at this table.

The Buckeye Flame caught up with Johnson Levy to dish on this giant leap forward in representation on the small screen.

From left: Aaron Johnson Levy, Antonio LeMons, Cheryl Rich, and Chris Curse

First, tell our readers a little bit about you.
AJL: I call myself an actorvist. 50% is me just wanting to make it in this industry, but the other 50% is focused on how I can make social change in this industry.

Even when I was going to auditions, that split was present. A lot of actors will hide being gay in order to progress in the industry. I went to the other extreme and said, “I will only audition for gay male character roles, because I want to be that gay that I never saw.” I have always had that as my personal mission. The talk show really is an extension of what I have been trying to achieve in the entertainment industry, which is representation and role-modeling.

How did the idea for The House come about?
I was shopping around an LGBTQ+ script and, as sometimes happens in this industry, other ideas come up in the process. I started putting together these ideas like a puzzle. Ok, we have access to a talk show producer. I went to culinary school and I definitely know some chefs. And then there is the idea of dinner parties: these places where people can really let down their guard and be raw. Especially when there is wine involved.

I love a great dinner party!
Yes! I have a group of Black gays in Cleveland, and we talk about stuff that I don’t talk about with anybody else over dinner. Stuff I would be shocked to talk about in other environments. So much of this show is inspired by those conversations, so let’s put it all together: talk show, food, LGBTQ+ space. And suddenly there’s The House.

I started the ball rolling, but it took many hands, minds, wallets and talents to bring The House from concept to screen. I call Cheryl Rich the first executive producer. She brought the idea to Doug DeLuca and was the glue that kept it all together. Kurt T. Jones brought in the team that could bring the vision to life. And with Doug DeLuca as our leader, we were off and running. That’s why we’re here.

In Living Color

Why is this representation of Black LGBTQ+ individuals around a table so very important?
There’s a real desperate need right now for Black gay role models. I thought about my own life, and the closest thing I had to role models growing up was Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather on In Living Color. They were two flamboyant gay guys critiquing the movies. I laughed with everyone else, but I also at the same time knew that when others were laughing, they were laughing at me. I wasn’t fully there yet, but inside, I knew early on, that’s the kind of person I am: the flamboyance, the style of the clothing they wore, the hair. That is the kind of person I am.

I thought we have to do something that spotlights Black gays. that gives people access to someone they can be inspired by and learn from. We’re constantly put down by our families, by our classmates, by our neighbors. I wanted to inspire the little me’s and the people who are like me who just don’t have that.

What do you want people to get out of watching these episodes?
I want the audience to go on a collective journey toward a better understanding of each other.

My goal was not solely to entertain. You’ll see, I really put myself out there on the show a lot. There’s a lot of my personal business that the world will have access to. But it really is to help. I want people to heal from whatever it is that is hurting them and to learn more about themselves and those around them.

I have always felt suppression because of my flamboyance and my affinity for things considered feminine. As a Black man, I was persecuted for that more than for being gay. There was this notion that, “It’s not bad to be gay. Just don’t be that kind of gay.” We have several trans guests on the show, and you will see the connection I have with them and the real things that transpire on the show regarding gender identity.

I want people to find the soul freedom that I also have been searching for throughout my life. I want the audience to go on the journey so they can also find that freedom that we all crave. I believe the one thing that no one can take away from us is that we are unique. We don’t value that uniqueness and instead punish people for being different. We are all perfectly unique and I want that to be celebrated. I want everyone who watches the show to embrace their perfection, and the world will benefit from that. 🔥

Ignite impact:

  • Watch “The House“! Check out the first episode below!

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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