Mike Manning, the “Real World D.C.” bisexual wonder boy from Thornton, Colo., spent hours talking to MTV’s cameras about coming to terms with his bisexuality and his internship at the Human Rights Campaign. But what happened after the season ended?
Did Mike leverage the connections he made in D.C. to start a career in politics? Did he start his own advocacy group? And what does he think of the lackluster ratings for his season of MTV’s long-running show?
DC Agenda talked to Manning about his future plans, his desire to make his own version of the famous “NOH8 Campaign” ads and why he doesn’t feel the need to “rally with other bisexuals” to gain acceptance.
DC Agenda: What is your life like now that the last episode has aired?
Mike Manning: Well, my life is completely different now. Before the “Real World” I was preparing to graduate with a business degree, and I was going to get a job in downtown Denver with a financial firm. Now that I’ve been to D.C., I’m determined not to work at a desk job. I can’t be stuck in a cubicle so I’m moving to California in two months to pursue acting. I acted a lot in high school, in theater, but I gave it up in college because I didn’t want to be a starving actor. Being on the “Real World” made me rethink a lot of things and opened doors and helped me make some connections that will allow me to act and be successful. I’ll be graduating in May then moving to California.
DC Agenda: Do you feel you were represented fairly on the show?
Manning: Yeah, definitely. I worked a lot and the season highlighted a lot of what I did for HRC because I was there half the time. I did meet with Congress and lobby them; I did go to a lot of LGBT fundraisers, events and press conferences. I did take full advantage of living in D.C., so they portrayed me as the driven, goal-oriented guy that knew how to have fun, but was also involved with a lot of things in the District.
DC Agenda: You provided a compelling voice for LGBT rights while on the show. How are you continuing the fight for equal rights now that the show has ended?
Manning: I still work with the HRC in Denver and I travel as an “independently contracted public speaker” for HRC on the national level. I travel to different states and give speeches on behalf of HRC as a spokesperson. I’m also organizing a spinoff of the NOH8 Campaign photo shoots on my campus because due to legal restrictions I can’t personally do a NOH8 shoot so I’m doing a spinoff.
DC Agenda: You’ve said that before “Real World D.C.” you had “no idea” what HRC was. What is your current involvement with HRC and how do you feel those from a similar background to yours can be reached?
Manning: HRC does a good job right now because they let politicians know where they stand but not so radical that they scare people off. That’s what I liked about HRC because you know what they stand for, you know they’re out there trying to make a change and any person can get involved without having to be an expert on the issues. … One suggestion I would have for them is to include more materials for people to do actions on their own like workshops on college campuses and communities.
DC Agenda: How did the LGBT community view your coming out as a bisexual man?
Manning: Coming out as a bisexual man sends the statement that I am myself and I’m not trying to identify under a blanket term for acceptance. This isn’t a transitional phase for me; I came out on national TV so I have nothing to hide. I feel I don’t need to rally with other bisexuals to gain acceptance, I don’t need to rally with gay people, I don’t need to rally with straight people. I do find it interesting that my bisexuality is a point of contention in the LGBT community because they all know what it’s like to be judged and know how it feels to be treated differently for their sexual orientation. Then for any gay person to tell me that it’s only a transition phase or that there is no such thing as being bisexual, that is a little hypocritical to me.
DC Agenda: The “Real World D.C.” finale attracted about 1.1 million viewers — the smallest finale audience in the show’s 23-edition history. What do you feel caused the drop in numbers?
Manning: I think everybody likes to see drama; it’s evident in shows like “Jersey Shore.” Their numbers were huge, but it was just a bunch of people getting drunk, fighting, punching girls and making fools of themselves. … With the “Real World D.C.” when compared to other shows it really tackled hard issues that maybe aren’t so pleasant to some people but are still important to mention like weight issues, depression, relationships and coming out. … It’s things like this that are unpleasant but really need to be talked about by people and that’s why maybe some people were turned off by the season because it was so politically geared and so issue based. I feel the impact of this season was great.