With his classic good looks, outspokenness and gritty life story, JD Ordonez is making
quite the splash on the latest edition of MTV’s The Real World. Set in Brooklyn,
New York, this 22nd
season may very well be the queerest Real
World ever as it features not just the openly gay JD, but bisexual Sarah and transgender Katelynn.
We recently caught up with the full-time dolphin trainer who talked frankly about his relationship with Katelynn, his anti-immigrant remarks, being a representative
of the gay community on television, and whether he thinks of himself as a role
AfterElton: I’m gonna have to start
with a really tough question: Who’s easier to train, dolphins or men?
JD Ordonez : Dolphins or men? [laughs] Well, lately it’s been dolphins. I really haven’t had a love life lately, so
I’ve just been working a lot.
AE: Too busy for a love life, does
that make you single right now?
JO: Yeah, I am.
AE: The Real World is going into it’s 22nd season. How aware
were you of the whole RW phenomenon
before you joined the cast?
JO: I’ve been watching it since I
was a kid. I remember watching Real World
San Francisco with Pedro Zamora. He was a pivotal part of why I wanted to
do this experience.
I always wanted the family I never had. His life and mine have many
parallels. We’re both young gay men of color, we’re both from Miami and of Cuban descent, and we’re both
HIV activists. His story was a little bit different than mine, since he was
positive and I’m negative, but what happened to him can happen to me and can
happen to anyone, and I really expressed that throughout this season.
On tonight’s episode I actually raised half a million dollars with Breaking
the Cycle, which is an HIV/AIDS bike race from Gettysburg,
PA to Manhattan.
It was really cool this season that we got to do what we wanted to pursue,
which is why I think we got along more than maybe some other seasons. I mean,
we had our fights and stuff, but at the end we’re all cordial towards each
The cast of Real World: Brooklyn
AE: So you did the show because you
wanted to get the family you never had.
JO: Yeah, but you also have to
understand that I was very independent at a young age. I mean, I never lived in
a dorm. I never lived in a fraternity house. I went to college full-time at
night while I worked as a dolphin trainer full-time during the day, so I never
had that college experience. So for me it was kind of reliving those college
years. I was living with a whole bunch of frat boys and they were pulling
pranks on me left and right, and eventually as you come to see, I get even.
AE: You and Katelynn hit it off
immediately. Was it more than just being members of the GLBT community?
JO: Um, not necessarily. I think
we were both supportive of each other because of our sexuality, but I think
you’ll see that we kind of divide, and I think that it is sad. We’re friends
now, but our problems then had nothing to do with her sexuality or gender
identity and had everything to do with her personality.
She was very flamboyant in the sense that she was really getting in touch
with her femininity, but she flaunted it in a manner that I really didn’t agree
with. She kind of put it out there and everybody knew which was fine, but it
wasn’t … you know, the first episode she was talking about her five-ways. Literally
by the third week of us living together half the house knew that she was
JO: Why couldn’t she have just
told everybody else in the house? I think that she lost a lot of trust with the
other roommates when she did that, and the difference between me and Katelynn
is that I don’t desire pity for what I went through as a child for my
sexuality, whereas she does. She manipulates people to feel sorry for her, and
I think she feels like she’s owed something for what she’s been through.
That doesn’t mean she’s a bad person, though. I think she’s a great role
model for the transgender community, but there are certain flaws in her
personality that I beg to differ. I think she’s amazing, but we’re just two
different people, and we do end up being not as close as we were at the
AE: Some people think that you were
pretty aggressive in dragging Katelynn out of the transgender closet, so to
speak. How do you respond to that?
JO: Well, I was trying to make
her feel comfortable, and to have a backbone. It was literally the second or
third day in the house and people were already talking. I hate to say this, but
she’s not that convincing. I think that Katelynn’s a beautiful person inside
and out, but people knew from the first day we moved into the house. The
confessional isn’t really soundproof.
I don’t think anybody discriminated against Katelynn because of her
sexuality, and I never once outed her. People talked about it, and I tried to
push it to the side, but editing has a lot to do with that as well.
AE: You’ve alluded to the fact that
people gave you crap about being gay. Were you nervous about your roommates’
reaction to it before you moved in?
JO: No, not at all. I’m a very
confident person, and I wasn’t like the most flamboyant gay guy, you know? Obviously
Chet had more gay tendencies than I did, so everybody thought he was the gay
one. I didn’t really have to come out: the question was asked, and I gave the
JD (right) with housemate Chet
AE: There aren’t exactly a lot of gay
men of color on TV. Did you feel any kind of pressure to be a representative of
the gay Latino community or even the gay community as a whole?
JO: Oh, of course. I definitely
wanted to be thought of as a role model. I definitely demonstrated … it’s who I
am, it’s not like I needed to be a role model. I definitely had a story to tell
that you could come from nothing and make something of your life.
AE: Some of the past gay Real World cast members have come off a
little better than others, say Pedro Zamora as compared to Davis
from the Denver
season a few years back. Did you move into the house thinking of what image you
wanted to present?
JO: Honestly, no, because you
know everybody has their drunken moments, you know? I’m gonna say this: everybody
has their Mother Teresa moments and everybody has their Hitler with a dildo
stuck up their ass moments, and that’s what makes it The Real World. Every single person on this planet has either
offended or disrespected another person in some way, shape, or form. It
happens, and I think it’s how you grow from that experience that makes you a
stronger and bigger person.
When I disrespected Devyn I was apologetic and I was drinking, but what they
didn’t show was that she was drinking and she was a minor, and she was on this
big high horse thinking that she was the ultimate diva. Well, if you’re the
ultimate diva, shouldn’t you be put on the spot?
AE: You went on this kind of drunken
rant about immigrants in one of the earlier episodes, and a lot of people in
the house and now online have taken issue with this. What are your feelings on
the issue at this point?
JO: Well, it’s my opinion. By the
second episode I was getting sick of Chet and Ryan doing all the pranks, it
just wasn’t something I was used to, so I went out drinking by myself and came
home by myself. I had gone to a drugstore on my way home, and the lady behind
the counter didn’t speak a lick of English. My parents are immigrants; you know
I have nothing against immigrants. I was frustrated and I was expressing my
frustrations. I wasn’t being mean, I was joking and laughing, and Baya was
laughing, too, and so was Scott.
JO: And Chet [has] even stated
that he will go to great lengths to get attention. Those are his words. He had
to be in front of the camera at all times, he had to seek attention, and when
the camera wasn’t focused on him, he would butt into other peoples’
conversations just because.
Whether I was drunk or not, I was still coherent enough to have a
conversation and to make light of the situation at the drugstore. I’m sure the
remarks that I made weren’t the nicest, but it was out of fun, I wasn’t
honestly trying to be a jerk. For Chet to get in my face, I had had it, and I
told him to leave me alone and go read his Bible.
AE: I know that you came out at 16.
What was it like for you coming out at such a young age?
JO: Well, I left home when I was
13 and I went to foster care, but I had my godmother who really made it a lot
easier for me to come out, although she legally couldn’t adopt me because as
you know LGBT people in the state of Florida aren’t allowed to adopt.
But it was still hard. I was in high school and I was literally working two
jobs, at a Subway and at Sea World as a photographer, and I was on the swim
team at school because I knew I wanted to be a dolphin and whale trainer.
AE: So you were fully out at work and
JO: I was junior captain of the
swim team in high school and I was openly gay. My coaches and everyone on the
swim team knew and everyone was really cool with it. I grew up in Orlando,
which is a fairly big metropolitan city, and people were really accepting of my
AE: That’s really great. Having come
out at a fairly young age, how do you feel about kids coming out younger and
JO: Well, it is what it is. I
don’t think that kids that young should be sexually active, but I mean if
people that are young and confident in who they are want to come out, more
power to them. I came out at a young age, but I was kind of forced to, you
know? I mean a lot of kids want to be independent, but they’re not forced to
AE: Being on national television
gives you a great deal of exposure and celebrity. How do you want to use your
JO: Well, so far I’ve gone back
to work full-time. I did this for very selfless reasons, whereas others have
done this for very selfish reasons. You know, some people want to use this to
get into the entertainment industry, and if I were to fall into that, it would
be great. But right now I’m focused on my career as a marine mammal trainer. I
love what I do, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything else.
I could see myself doing my own show on Animal Planet or something like that,
but at this point … I did this to share a story and to be a role model to the
LGBT community, and not just to the LGBT community, but for the whole entire
world. I mean the younger demographic, you know, and it is definitely working. I
mean Real World is the highest rated
show on MTV. They did an amazing job taking The
Real World back to its roots and showcasing survivors.
AE: Now when you allude to some
people doing the show for selfish reasons, is there anybody in particular that
you’re thinking of?
JO: Definitely Devyn. She states
that herself, she wants to be a singer-actress, but she’s also on this high
horse like she’s better than everyone.
AE: So, I remember you mentioning on
the show that you’d like a family. What is your reaction to the passing of
Proposition 8 in California?
JO: I’m against it, obviously. That
was a big thing for me, and I wasn’t able to protest against it because we were
on trip that you’ll find out about eventually if you keep watching.
AE: As a gay man of color, how do you
feel about the blame that was kind of wrongly placed on black and Latino voters
JO: It’s frustrating. LGBT people
need to come together, but you know right now as much as I am an advocate
against things like Proposition 8, I think there are much more pressing issues
that we need to deal with as a nation. Yeah, of course I believe in marriage
equality, but right now we have this economic crisis and just so many things
that we need to come together as a nation and deal with, than just trying to
get married, you know?
AE: What’s next for you?
JO: Well, I’m traveling and doing
a lot of speaking engagements at colleges and club appearances. I am still
working about 60 hours a week at the Miami Seaquarium. My day starts at 6AM and
I don’t stop until 6PM, but it’s a very rewarding job, and physically and
AE: Any final words from JD?
JO: Keep watching, it’s gonna get
really juicy, and really good!