2012 is coming to a close and this time, we’ve chosen openly gay Persian celebrity, star of Bravo‘s Shahs of Sunset and Ghormeh-Sabzi-lover, Reza Farahan as our “Man of the Year” for 2012.

His reaction?

“I’m honored, but more so, impressed…A gay man [chosen] as ‘Man of the Year’, shows progress.”

Easily the fan-favorite and arguably the most recognizable Iranian-American right now, Farahan, is being recognized this year for his courage and bravery.  Reza is now a role model, as celebrities often are, for gay/lesbian Iranians, or Middle Easterners. By sharing the status of his sexuality  and allowing cameras to follow his familial relationships (in season one, Reza famously reunited with his Jewish father) and friendships Reza has basically made himself a target, however his ability to deal with life situations using his witty sense of humor is pretty amusing to watch. And unless you’ve been living under a sang (Persian: rock)…Chances are: You’ve seen at least one episode of the ultra-popular  #Shahs.

And as the unprecedented all-Persian cast continues to raise the fun and outrageous, drama-filled (and sometimes cringe-worthy) moments their ratings are also on the rise: The season two premiere was the highest rated episode across all key demographics with 2.3 million viewers. (That’s 106% increase in total viewers versus the season one premiere.)

Iranians are a part of American culture, so it’s only natural that we are included in American pop culture, and yet it seems that the show is really more geared toward non-Iranians rather than Iranians/Iranian-Americans.

“What [many don’t realize] is the positive impact the show is having on non-Iranians.” Reza Farahan, who spent his Yalda with his family “eating pomegranates and aajeel (Persian: mixed dried fruit and nuts, similar to trail mix)”, tells us.

I receive many tweets and messages on social media everyday from people telling me that they wished they were Persian. That is unbelievable to me. For my entire life I’ve been from the country where the hostages were taken, or later from the country that put out a hit on Salman Rushdie and finally from the axis of evil. Now people are being exposed to the lighter side of our culture. The fun, love and culture. We as middle easterners aren’t all terrorists, we don’t have horns and we love the United States. To think that our show has helped to change those stereotypes is amazing.”

Enjoy our exclusive interview with the spirited, and sexy, Reza Farahan, below.

Catch Shahs of Sunset, Sundays 9/8C on Bravo.


Persianesque Magazine (PM): The Shahs of Sunset and especially your sexuality, have sparked dialogue among Iranians and non-Iranians, how do you feel about that?

Reza Farahan (RF): I feel great about that discussion. That was my sole reason for wanting to participate in a reality show. Thinking that my presence could possibly help another gay individual come out of the closet, or deal with their sexuality, brings me great satisfaction.

PM: How hard was it to decide whether or not you should put your life on TV, for everyone to judge?

RF: It was a very difficult decision, one that involved my entire family. Although I was willing to hear all of the judgmental comments, my family would be involved because of my decision to participate. I wanted to know how they felt and if they were prepared for the negative and positive, that goes along with putting your life on tv. Ultimately, they supported my decision and realized that my reason to participate actually had a greater purpose.

Have you received support or disapproval from the Persian community?

I’ve received both, but one thing is for sure, you can never make everyone happy. My goal in life is to make myself happy and do what feels right for me and my family, PERIOD.

What’s the best advice you can give to Iranian gays and lesbians, (specifically the younger generation) around the world?

Remember that regardless of how things might be right now, it gets better. Don’t make a decision that you can’t undo later. Protect yourself at all costs, but also remember who you are and surround yourself with people who love and support, regardless of your sexual orientation.

Iranians tend to keep their private lives, private. How did you convince your family to air their lives for the world to see?

They realized that my participation as a gay Persian-Amercian would actually help people. It wasn’t just about me being “fabulous” on tv, I wanted to help people and they support that. They’re still not thrilled about it, but they do it for me.

Have you gotten any Farrokhzad comparisons, especially when wearing the mustache and bow-tie look?

Not really, he’s way before my time and most of the Persians in my circle don’t really know who he is. I get the Freddy Mercury comparison all the time.

Who are your top three Persian idols from film and/or music?

That’s a very difficult yet interesting question, I don’t think I’ve ever idolised any Persian. I was fond of the Samad movies and I think that Googoosh is amazing.

What’s your favorite thing about being Persian?

Everything. If I could choose what I come back as in my next life (yes, I believe in reincarnation), I’d come back as a gay Persian man.

Have you ever had a Persian boyfriend? If so, how did that go?

I wouldn’t call him a boyfriend, but I did get involved with one Persian man. He was a friend of my cousin and it was a disaster, never again.

Do you find that you have more Iranian or non-Iranian fans/followers?

I’d say non-Iranian.

Do you think the show makes Iranians more relatable to the average American viewer by showing that Iranians are flawed, like everyone else?

Yes, I wouldn’t say because we’re flawed, which everyone is, but because we’re just like any other minority in America. We just have more of a fondness for gold, marble, and Mercedes.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far from being on such a powerful medium like TV?

You have to remember who you are, or this experience can eat you alive.

Persians are known for many things, one of them being their sense of style. How do you stay fresh and fab for the camera?

I have a passion for design, fashion and finishing touches in general. I collect Hermes pocket squares, I love ties & I’m obsessed with shoes. Combine that with a “good eye” and that’s a perfect on-camera combination.

Will you keep your mustache for life, or you think you may shave it some time in the future? Do you groom it everyday? 

I’m quite attached to my mustache right now, so I don’t see shaving it in the near future. I give it a combing before I leave the house in the morning and a nice trim once a week. Other than that, he’s pretty self-sufficient.

What are your thoughts on this season of Shahs? Do you like it better than last season?

I loved season 1 of Shahs Of Sunset, but season 2 is so much more amazing. The best part of season 2, is that the audience gets to see more Persian families. Season 1 was very short and as a result, you guys didn’t get the pleasure of season more of Asa’s beautiful family, or Mike’s close connection to his father and brothers. i think that’s really beautiful. Not to mention that I introduced the group to my new friend Lilly.

Reality TV participation has its pros and cons, how do you plan to use your exposure? Will you use it as a springboard for business, like other Bravolebrities? (i.e.: When is your men’s grooming kit coming out?)

I’d be a fool not to, but ultimately, I have a very successful business as a residential real estate agent, that’s not going to change. Stay tuned for the grooming kit, but meanwhile come to one of my comedy shows. I do standup up and I’m on tour right now, it’s called the “Shahs Of Comedy” and I perform alongside some other great comics.

What are you doing now, that you are not taping? Out of your cast-mates, who do you see regularly?

As always, I’m in the office everyday working on real estate deal, but I’m also preparing for a comedy show that I have in Vegas on December 23 at Planet Hollywood. I see Mike and Asa almost everyday. I definitely checkin with Lilly via phone or text several times per week, but I’d like to see her more often.

Has the show hurt or helped any of your relationships with the Shahs group and/or other friends?

It has hurt my relationship with MJ, but I hope that we can clear the air in the near future. As far as my other relationships, I have a tight/small circle, I’ve known many of my close friends since childhood. The strangest thing has been all of the ‘relatives’ that have popped out of nowhere.

If offered a spin-off or your own on Bravo, would you take it and what would it be called?

I’d love to have my own show. Maybe we can call it “The Reza Shah Show”.

Any plans for a book?

Yes! I’m actually working on the outline right now. It’s going to be a design/lifestyle/party hosting/dating book, with funny stories from my personal experiences.

Who is your favorite Bravolebrity?

Andy Cohen of course!

About Author

Sanaz Khalaj-Santos

Sanaz is Founder and Editor in Chief of Persianesque Magazine.