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Contestants on Coming Out for Love

Contestants on Coming Out for Love (PHOTO BY CAROLYN S. RUSSELL)

You might know the name Nicole Conn from her queer films like A Perfect Ending, Elena Undone, and More Beautiful For Having Been Broken. But soon, she predicts she’ll be best known for her next project: Coming Out for Love, which is the first lesbian dating competition show in the United States.

Coming Out for Love brings together 16 queer women living under one roof in Palm Springs and competing for the love of activist, basketball player, and social media influencer, Amber Whittington. Hosted by out actress Jessica Clark (A Perfect Ending), Coming Out for Love sees contestants competing in emotional and physical challenges including a dress to impress catwalk, blindfold kissing, and a lingerie contest. The show will also feature what Conn says are a number of “legacy lesbians” as guest judges, including pansexual filmmaker Caroline Giuliani and Franco Stevens, who founded Curve Magazine.

Conn shares that she has been trying to do something like this on and off for the last fifteen years in different iterations, but never quite like this. The original idea came from watching The Bachelor with her daughter; as her daughter grew older, she started asking: “Why aren’t there women like you and mommy?”

But Conn maintains that her show is very different from The Bachelor. “I thought it would be like regular reality TV, [where] everyone gets catty and start scheming. But it was completely different,” shares Conn. “It is a completely different kind of reality show because it’s really an exploration of who we are at our core, what makes us queer, and why we love women.”

However, the differences between The Bachelor and Coming Out for Love don’t end there. Conn has also made a point not to make lots of cuts to the show. For example, in episode two, Conn teases a huge racial issue that the producers let play out the exact length, as well as additional explorations of colorism, alcoholism, and mental health issues.

“We’re not censoring who we are in our community at all, not one bit,” says Conn. “It’s a really cool way to see who we are, pretty much unvarnished.”

Conn also spent a lot of time making sure that the cast was as diverse as possible, and her efforts clearly paid off. Many contestants of color are part of the show as well as a Ukrainian actress and a deaf actor and screenwriter. Conn also noted that the contestants are accomplished in the fields of work they have chosen, include modeling, acting, music, and writing. In addition, not everyone on the show is at the same place in their coming out journey – a few contestants mentioned that this show served as a mechanism for coming out to their families.

If the show is successful, Conn hopes to work on additional seasons that revolve around gay men, bisexual people, and the transgender community. But as a lesbian filmmaker, this season holds a special place in her heart.

When asked what she wants to accomplish with this first season, Conn explained: “[I want people to know that] we’re not the parodied lesbian in every recurring episodic TV that has a storyline because we have to have a storyline about us. It’s really who we are in a much more full-fledged way.”

Coming Out For Love is available to watch at www.comingoutforlove.com.


Becca Damante
Becca Damante
Becca is a Smith college graduate with a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies and an Archives concentration. She has worked and written for non-profits organizations such as Media Matters for America, The Century Foundation, and GLAAD, and loves to write about the intersections between pop culture, politics, and social justice. You can find her at @beccadamante on Twitter.