Proudly gay & surreal
by David-Elijah Nahmod
You couldn't be more out than the delightfully funny Alec Mapa. His act and his very persona are all about his experiences as an openly gay Filipino man.
"I love being gay!" he announced, grandly, when he hosted the GayVN Awards broadcast on Showtime. "And I love porn!" The GayVN Awards are the gay porn industry's answer to the Oscars.
"My weird, surreal life," Mapa said in a phone interview. "Hosting the GayVN Awards, then driving my eight-year-old to school the next day." Mapa has been with his partner Jamison Hebert since 2002. The couple married in 2008 and now have a son, adopted when the boy was five.
Mapa hopes to expedite the growing acceptance of society towards LGBT families. He's launched a kickstarter campaign at his website, www.alecmapa.com, to raise funds for his new pet project Baby Daddy, a proposed documentary about his family. Known for wearing his heart on his sleeve, Mapa has toured in I Remember Mapa, an autobiographical one-man-show in which he shared his experiences of growing up in San Francisco.
Roles played by Mapa include Vern on Desperate Housewives and flamboyant gossip show host Suzuki St. Pierre on Ugly Betty. In a clever comic twist, St. Pierre was revealed to be Byron Wu, a straight, married man.
Mapa approached his latest project with equal aplomb. Starting May 23, AMC began airing the performer's eight-episode reality series Showville .
"A lot of reality television is very mean-spirited, conflict-driven and about putting people down," he said. "In Showville, we celebrate the eccentricity of people. Everybody lets their freak flag fly, and I applaud the loudest."
The premise of Showville is simple: Mapa travels to small-town America and coaches local citizens on whatever talent they feel they excel in. A talent competition follows, and the winner takes home $10,000. In towns such as Athens, Ohio and San Marcos, Texas, the comic was as out and as proud as ever.
"There's no point in someone like me hiding it," he said. "You'd have to be headless not to know that I'm gay. I come with a lot of baggage and was fearful, but everyone had a great sense of humor. Everybody likes to laugh, so we had fun and laughed. In three days I was gone."
He noted the courage of several Showville contestants who were as openly gay as he, in small-town America. "Life isn't easy for them," he observed. "It takes a lot of bravery to come out in a small town."
Mapa is a reality television veteran. In 2008 he hosted Logo's Transamerican Love Story, in which eight straight men competed for the affections of transwoman and actress Calpernia Addams. Addams is best-known as the real-life subject of the docudrama Soldier's Girl. That film recounted Addams' love affair with Army Private Barry Winchell, who was brutally murdered by a fellow soldier when their relationship was revealed.
Mapa will also be celebrating his Filipino heritage. On June 28, he'll be featured in the PBS July 4th documentary Lidia Celebrates American Freedom and Independence. During the show, journalist Lidia Bastianich will join Mapa as he shops for groceries at a Filipino market, then helps him prepare Kinilaw, a Filipino dish. Mapa will be one of several guests from varying cultures who will show Bastianich how they celebrate the freedoms that the United States offers.
But Mapa fans don't have to wait to see their idol. Showville is now airing Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on AMC. The already-aired first episode can be viewed at www.amctv.com. Subsequent episodes will be posted after they air.