Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Danny Roberts, reality TV Star

Born 1977 in Rockmart, Georgia

Real World New Orleans (2000) featured Danny Roberts, who announced on the show that his boyfriend (later revealed to be Army Capt. Paul Dill) was in the military, bringing to TV viewers the debate over the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Their appearances dramatized in human terms the cost such a policy exacts of those who are directly affected by it. When Dill came to visit Danny on the set, his face had to be blurred in order for him to remain in the military.

Among those positively influenced by Danny’s appearance on the popular show was now-openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris (see post February 18, 2011). In Out Magazine, Harris stated, “The first face that empowered me was Danny Roberts from "The Real World: New Orleans." I think before him I'd never seen anyone wear homosexuality so comfortably. He was around my age. I could look to him as a role model. He represented a way that I could behave and stand tall comfortably without being an overt advocate and without being someone hiding in the shadows. I liked that.”

After the show Danny lived with Paul in North Carolina for two years while Dill was still in the Army. Said Danny, “Ironically, moving in together was the beginning of our undoing. We could not live our lives. We could not be a normal couple. We lived in so much fear. We were forced to live underground.” At the time, Danny’s was one of the most recognizable faces in America. In late 2006, Roberts announced that he and Dill had split up but have remained friends.

Roberts went on to make a few appearances on television in shows such as Dawson's Creek (he played a French exchange student – he holds a degree in French from the University of Georgia); Danny also hosted the DVD collection of gay-themed short films, Boy's Briefs.

Roberts has been a keynote speaker at more than 250 universities and colleges across the country on diversity in sexuality, coming out and the military's "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy. He describes his presentation style as an "open forum to talk about issues", which is why The Advocate dubbed him "The Accidental Activist". Danny candidly speaks to young people about his sexuality and coming out, just as he did on the Real World. Although Danny denies that he is a role model, his good looks, likeability and down-home charm appeal to both gays and straights alike, bridging the gap for open and honest discussion.

After spending 10 years in New York and Seattle, Roberts returned to Atlanta, Georgia, where he has worked in real estate and publishing. Currently Danny is office manager and recruiter for Sanctuary Real Estate (Atlanta).

Personal trivia: I learned the term “soul patch” when I first saw Danny on Real World; it refers to a small bit of facial hair below the lower lip and above the chin (sometimes called a "royale" or a "flavor saver").

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