Jonathan Fernandez might be one of the newest cast members on this season of Love & Hip Hop, but he has wasted no time dialing up the drama—especially in his storyline with his boyfriend Trent Crews, who he found out was sleeping around behind his back.
On tonight’s episode, we learn about Jonathan’s past when he opens up about his experiences at a gay conversion therapy camp his mother sent him to when he was 10 years old.
Below, read NewNowNext’s interview with Jonathan about catching Trey on Grindr, and why he thinks now was the right time to discuss his experience at gay conversion therapy.
You have had some dramatic scenes this season…
[Laughs] I’ve had drinks, ice, and a shoe thrown at me…
What has been the most dramatic moment for you so far?
The big, big fight with Trey when he brought out my marriage license. It blindsided me. This is my fourth year on reality television, I was like: “I got this.” When he whipped that out. I was stuck on stupid. I literally froze. I was like: “This crafty little motherf*cker.”
Do you think Trent was just using you to get on TV?
Absolutely. 100%. I met him years ago at a photography party. We were hanging out, things were going great. I get the call: “Hey, the network would like to talk to you about possibly joining the cast of Love & Hip Hop.” But I was just supposed to come on as Anais’ friend.
It wasn’t until I did my casting tape that they realized I had a big backstory of my own. That’s when trent came into the picture because I brought him up—but he’s a player, he sleeps with everybody.
Everyone has a history, I have a past, but my friends were like: “No, it’s not his past, it’s his present. He is on Grindr.” So they would send me screenshots. That’s where I got the idea to catfish him. I waited for the perfect opportunity. I created a fake Grindr account, and the first person to hit me up was Trent. I couldn’t believe it.
On tonight’s episode you reveal you were sent to a gay conversion therapy camp when you were younger. What was that experience like for you?
My father died from HIV when I was eight. He was bisexual when he was with my mom and she didn’t really know about it. So after they split, he came out as gay. Shortly afterwards he contracted HIV, he refused to take medication and just withered away.
It was really traumatic for my mom because she couldn’t really understand why he wouldn’t take the medicine. I think she kind of blamed it on him being gay, and her best friend at the time was gay and he also died of AIDS. So my mom was in a really rough place because she saw gay men around her dying. I was bullied as a kid because I was very effeminate, I had a high-pitched voice, I walked differently. I would get home and I would see the look in my mom’s face becauase she was hurt for me. No one wants to see their child get picked on.
So I think it was a combination of things. It was me being bullied, and then it was my mom seeing so many of her close friends dying of AIDS. When she heard of gay conversion therapy, I think she thought: “Let me see if I can change my son’s life for the better.” So when I was 10 they sent me to a gay conversion therapy camp in the Dominican Republic.
What would they do to you at the camp?
They would use stickers to attach cables to my body, they would put them on my hands, my stomach. The doctor would ask questions and if he didn’t like the answer he would shock me. I learned to answer the questions correctly because I thought: “This man cannot continue to shock me or I’m going to die.”
My mom didn’t know all of these things. She just thought I went to see a therapist. She didn’t know the extent of it. I didn’t want to tell her because I didn’t want to hurt her.
What was it like finally talking about it with her?
It was the most healing conversation I’ve ever had. My mom and I have a great relationship now, we always did, but I feel us closer now. We just got Botox together [laughs].
Why did you feel now was the time to talk about it?
It wasn’t until I did my casting tape that I broke down crying talking about it. The producers said: “Let us capture the conversation because it will be healing for you, but it will also be healing for a lot of people who are going through what you’re going through.” It was by far the best moment I’ve ever had on reality television.
To learn more about the dangers of conversion therapy and how you can help stop it, visit action.vh1.com.
Love & Hip Hop airs Mondays at 8/7c on VH1.