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Courtney Act on ‘The Bi Life’ and its bid to normalise bisexual dating

“I think in the society that we live in, bisexuality is misunderstood and a bit taboo”

Boy, Girl. Artist, Advocate. Courtney Act is more than just the sum of her parts.

Entering the 2018 UK Celebrity Big Brother house with the wardrobe malfunction seen around the world, Courtney quickly proved she was no ordinary celebrity housemate. She raised our consciousness in matters of gender and sexuality and became one of the most influential CBB winners in memory.

Courtney Act is more than just gender or drag. Whether you know her from Celebrity Big Brother, RuPaul’s Drag Race, or even Australian Idol, she is a contemporary artist who embodies the zeitgeist of an era and she’s now adding ‘The Bi Life’ host to her resume. The E! bisexual dating show is set to be the first of its kind and hopes to normalise bisexual dating.

What can viewers expect from The Bi Life?

Real people having real-life dating experiences that happen to be with different genders. Coming into it, I knew it was a reality dating show on E! and none of those things necessarily instantly make you think of a responsible, heartfelt show about an important topic. I was very clear that it [had to be] handled correctly and Monkey and E! were very much on board with that.

What’s surprised you the most about the show?

Watching all of them go through their own journey. Arriving here and being in this environment where they’re allowed to express themselves however they want has been a real place of growth. I thought they’d get here and have themselves figured out. The support from each other is really nice as well.

E! says the cast will “help each other navigate the rocky road of bisexual+ dating”. What’s the rockiest part of that road?

It’s different for guys and girls. During one conversation I had with Ryan, he said he was more romantically attracted to men and sexually attracted to women. He said he finds it challenging to connect with women because when he tells them he’s bisexual that’s often the end of it.

A real struggle for a lot of bisexual men is that women struggle with the idea of having a boyfriend who’s also attracted to men. For a lot of women, the idea of a man being attracted to another man is a threatening or dangerous or off-putting idea. Women struggle when finding women to date in bisexual relationships.

The girls have all said it is really challenging to work out whether a girl is gay or straight or bisexual, whether there was interest or they were just being friendly.

There are no dating experts on The Bi Life. How have you supported the cast?

I’m more of a devil’s advocate or the voice of reason asking questions. When I came out in the year 2000 I had to go to gay bars to be myself, that’s the place that I felt safe. I needed that monoculture to work out who I was.

In 2018 a lot of young people are identifying as pansexual but there’s [often] no understanding of the people who fought hard for their ability to like different genders in 2018. There’s also something really lovely to watch about that, that these people are not reacting to that struggle, that they’re able to just be here and live their lives.

What kind of things have gone on in the villa?

We’ve had lots of parties – a masquerade ball, a pool party, speed dating – where bunches of people from the UK and local [ex-pats] from Barcelona come in. There’s been lots of sparks and some tears.

When someone goes on a date, the rest of the cast sometimes have the opportunity to watch them on the date. It’s kind of like watching a sports match – [you have] your team and the opposition but you want it to end well. I remember watching one with Mariella, the calmer and collected she was, the more this guy lost his s***. He turned bright red and there were chopsticks involved as well, which made it even more awkward.

Did you live in the villa with the cast?

No. I just come, have fun and then leave. Everybody’s going on dates and having a great time and I’m like spinster Courtney! I’m the fairy drag mother. I just come and work my magic as best as I can.

Why do you think the show will capture the public’s imagination?

People are obviously obsessed with dating shows – look at the success of First Dates and Love Island. The cool thing about The Bi Life is there is something for everyone. There are opposite sex people going on dates with same-sex people. There are trans experiences and all sorts of different dating experiences. I think in the society that we live in [bisexuality] is misunderstood and a bit taboo and therefore I think people might want to watch.

Will The Bi Life normalise bisexual dating in a way that society needs?

I think so. Bisexual people suffer most from lack of visibility. They’re the largest percentage of the LGBTQ+ community and the least visible and least represented. In the visibility that The Bi Life is delivering, it might not be the most activist-y or advocate-y but there’s a group of people having genuine experiences. That is an interesting and wonderful thing to watch.

On The Bi Life, how do you decide whether you’re presenting as Shane or Courtney?

Courtney comes out at the parties, which is kind of like real life. I don’t wake up and get into drag and go down the shops to get some milk. It’s like when someone gets dressed up to go to a party or an event but it’s more often, a few times a week.

Have there been any offset dramas?

The day I arrived I got a sneak peek of Michael because he was waiting to come into [the villa] and that’s when I realised that most of the boys, including myself, had been shopping at the same stores because we all had the same clothes and we’ve had to work out who’s going to wear what. On day two, I wore the same shirt that Ryan had so he’s now deleted that.

As the person of privilege who gets to come and go, I’ve had to say ‘which of these do you have, I won’t wear them’.

The Bi Life premieres on Thursday 25th October at 9pm on E! UK & Ireland.

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