Ray Cunningham: From Reality TV to the Real World

Friday, 26 June 2009 14:19 Written by  Stormi Texas

“College Hill” has been a very popular show on Black Entertainment Television (BET) and one of the first shows to have an all African American cast. Ray Cunningham was one of the popular houseguests on BET’s “College Hill: Virginia State University.” Being on a popular TV show can bring in a lot of good and bad publicity. Once “College Hill” was over for the season, Cunningham started to make a name for himself. He didn’t take the regular route like most reality stars do from a reality shows -- hosting parties or badmouthing their housemates. Starting a career in the real world can be hard coming from a reality show. People will always know you as “that guy from ‘College Hill.’” But Ray is proving to be more.

GlossMagazineOnline: What made you want to sign up for “College Hill”?

Ray Cunningham: At the time that they were auditioning for MTV's “Real World,” there were no casting locations near Virginia, where I was attending school. Executive Producer Tracy Edmonds came to our campus to scout for people for “College Hill.” She watched my band practice for about 15 minutes and said that she needed big personalities. I was pretty popular at school so she asked me to audition for the show.

How did you make a name for yourself after “College Hill”?

RC: I went into “College Hill” as a graduating senior. I always knew I wanted to work in PR so I started my company called “Social Status” with my business partner which has helped to catapult my career.

GMO: A lot of people who go on reality shows really can't find a good career for themselves once the show is over. How did you separate yourself from reality into the real world?

RC: I learned the true value of networking. When I moved to L.A., I made sure that I aligned myself with the right people.

GMO: Being the first gay personality on BET, do you think you have opened doors for future “College Hill” housemates?

RC: Technically, I was not the first gay personality on BET. However, I was the first OPENLY gay personality and that is a wonderful title, which I hold dearly. I definitely think that my personality did help to open more doors for gay personalities, but there is more to be done. With the recent suicides of those two 11-year-old boys, Jaheem and Carl, back in April, there is A LOT more to be done. We are more than just loud obnoxious queens. I think there is a social responsibility that major networks are running away from. I want to see us hosting 106 & Park or having our own reality shows on the channel, or any other major network for that matter. Let it be known that it is okay to be who you are. We all either have someone in our family who is gay or know someone who is. We can be serious, we can act, host and represent our community in a positive manner without being the stereotype. It seems that the mainstream community is quicker to accept their own and give them positions on CNN and other networks. However, the black gay community can't catch a break. Gay executives won't even open the door for other openly gay individuals. As a community, if they did start accepting that we are here and aren't going anywhere, then people would not tease these young kids and make them feel like they have to end their lives.

GMO: This is unfortunately true. On the note of reality shows, though, have you ever thought of trying to get your own show?

RC: Apparently, BET only feels that Keyshia Cole, her mother and sister (no shade to Frankie and Neffie) are worthy of a show. I think my personality is colorful enough to warrant my own show.

GMO: Being on “College Hill,” has the show changed you in any way, good or bad?

Actually, it has changed me for both the bad and the good. Bad because it makes me second guess a lot of people’s motives in terms of why they want to hang with me. Good because it allowed me to meet people from around the world and come into people’s lives and inspire them to just be themselves.

GMO: How did you become editor of Bleu Magazine?

RC: I am the entertainment editor. I met the CEO, Devon, through a mutual friend. I started out as the West Coast Coordinator of Events. After a year with the company, there was a position open for entertainment editor and I got the promotion. I love what I do.

GMO: You have your own blog now, and some people may call you the black Perez Hilton. How do you feel about that?

RC: I don't feel that I resemble him physically. I also do not think I resemble him for what he is known for when it comes to his negativity and controversial responses. In terms of being respected in our fields, I feel that we do resemble each other in a sense. He is more so in mainstream and myself in the urban market.

GMO: Are you working on any other projects?

RC: I most recently had the pleasure of a major role as the character Armond for a new show called “Friends and Lovers” that was created by NAACP Image Award Director Maurice Jamal. The show is being screened at prides and festivals. I am working on a book and also developing my own reality show concept.

GMO: What advice would you give someone who wants to be on a reality show?

RC: My advice would be that if you are lucky enough to get on a show, have fun but do everything in moderation. Don't believe what the producers tell you. Being loud or outrageous may make you the main character on the show, but at the end of the day, once the show is edited, the network does not care how they make you look. However, you should care about how you make your family look.


Stormi Texas

Stormi Texas

Stormi Texas is a GMO staff writer.

She can be contacted at Stormi@glossmagazineonline.com