The “A-List” follows the exploits of a group of gay men living and working in New York City as they try to keep up with their jet-set lifestyles and the bitchy squabbles and catfights that frequently pop up along the way.
All the original cast members from the first season are back for round two: “The Amazing Race” winner actor/model Reichen Lehmkuhl, Brazilian model Rodiney Santiago, celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz, international model and troublemaker Austin Armacost and ultra-high-end-salon owner Ryan Nickulas.
The new season also features a new cast member in the form of Nyasha Zimucha. The Miss Africa USA 2008 pageant winner, recording artist and CEO of Embrace Your Hair (a hair and wig company) has appeared as a judge on “Little Miss Perfect,” a show featuring child beauty pageants.
If you didn’t like the show the first season, you might as well stop reading now and proceed to work on this week’s challenging crossword puzzle. We’re truly sorry and we’ll see you next week.
But we do feel your pain, because we had to watch to first episode of the season to prepare for this interview. We can’t fault anyone for participating in the show because quite honestly, if we had the choice between living like paupers and being semi-whorish reality-show personalities to bring in an extra six figures a year ... Let’s just say we’d have some serious thinking to do. And for the most part, some of the “A-List” cast play the game and do the dance admirably. Then there are others who come across as vapid bags of flesh who should live in constant fear of someone more talented and better-looking coming along.
Judging (and if you haven’t noticed, we are judging) from the first episode, Zimucha wastes no time in making her presence felt, much to the delight and/or chagrin of her mates. And, yes, the claws come out fast and early.
And while we’re on the subject: Do people really throw full drink glasses at each other anywhere else but on reality shows? We here at PGN drink a lot and we never see that kind of thing happen. We get mad enough to throw the glass but, dammit, we’re going to finish our expensive beverage first!
So where were we? Right ... “A-List” ...
Zimucha talked to PGN about being the lone woman thrown into the gay-male mix on “The A-List: New York.”
PGN: How did you end up getting cast on the show?
NZ: I was approached by the casting director, a guy who knew me from being Miss Africa and a TV show that I did with WeTV that I was a celebrity judge on. They approached me and said this is a great opportunity. I wasn’t 100-percent aware of the dynamics of “The A-List” and once I was given the information and got a chance to do some research, I was completely signed on. At the time, like most TV people, I was looking around at different networks and getting the chance to meet the people at Logo was just so convincing. In television, it’s about who you work with. It’s an amazing network and every black girl needs a gay and every gay needs a black girl.
PGN: How is being on “The A-List: New York” different from other television shows you’ve been on?
NZ: It’s vastly different because, for the first time in my television life, I’m able to be myself. A lot of time when you’re in formal television settings, working or appearing at dinners with President Clinton, these are settings where you’re required to behave in an extremely conservative and formal manner. I love doing that but I love to show my fun, eccentric side. I think being part of a show like this is great because I’m really able to be myself. There’s no holding back. I love that freedom.
PGN: Who would you say acts more mature: your fellow cast members on “The A-List New York” or the contestants on “Little Miss Perfect”?
NZ: [Laughs.] I would say that 98 percent of the cast on “The A-List” acts more mature. There’s a small percentage that doesn’t act mature in season two. I think some of my 5-year-olds in Alabama can act more mature.
PGN: What is being on “The A-List” doing for your career?
NZ: I think what is does for my career as an artist is allow me to showcase my music to over 2 million people a week on television. I think after working in the business for several years and doing this professionally and internationally, I’m aware of how tough the music industry is right now. A lot of people that are signed to major labels are struggling to get airplay or press. This is just an amazing opportunity for me to showcase my music to a fan base that’s going to gravitate toward my music, which is the gay community and women, because a lot of women watch the show too.
PGN: Where do you draw inspiration from for your music?
NZ: My inspiration is drawn from personal life experiences. I have a very eccentric background. I grew up in apartheid in South Africa. My parents are members of the African National Congress. I’ve lived so many places, I consider myself a global citizen. Last summer, I spent a lot of time in third-world Asia backpacking by myself, no weaves, no eyelashes. I climbed The Great Wall. I’m just an eccentric being and I’m inspired by my life and my travels around the world, particularly Africa. That’s where my heart is. I might not sound like it, but it’s who I am.
PGN: Why do you think “The A-List” is considered by some to be controversial?
NZ: I think it’s considered controversial because there’s an element of necessary drama and spice. We’re in an era of television where that’s what does well. People might speak about how it’s controversial but the ratings don’t lie. The ratings have been great. If you look at the shows that are really successful right now, they have the same elements. But it’s real. I think it’s hard for some people to digest because they see a little bit of themselves in that. But I think it’s a very honest representation of a group of fabulous people living in New York with expensive lifestyles trying to get along. I think the controversy probably comes from the group being predominantly gay men. I think that we’re in an era right now where it’s so taboo to do that. It’s 2011 and New York just legalized gay marriage. I think we’re a day late and a dollar short. If it were a group of straight women, maybe people wouldn’t say so much.
PGN: Was it hard to walk on to the show as the sole new person, knowing that your fellow cast members had established relationships with each other from the first season?
NZ: It’s true but, like anything in life, you have to walk in with a positive attitude and try to be optimistic and that’s what I did. I think it’s definitely intimidating walking into a room with a group of new people. It doesn’t matter who you are. I think I quickly stood my ground and embraced everyone and the people that embraced me, I embraced them back. And the opposites got the opposite. You’ll be surprised to see how the season unfolds because people that you’ll see me gravitating toward or against in the beginning, some really interesting things are going to transpire over the next few episodes for the viewer. But there are two specific people that from day one have been very genuine and openhearted to me. That’s really a safe haven for me.
PGN: Have you ever had the opportunity to use your fame and notoriety to address LGBT issues?
NZ: I definitely have. I’ve been involved with AMFAR now for two years. What I’m doing right now is working on a program in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. There are still a lot of places where if you are LGBT, you can get arrested, killed or beaten up by police. We had a dinner earlier this year with Dr. [Mathilde] Krim, the founder of AMFAR, not just focusing on the AIDS research element but specifically on the LGBT youth who feel that they can talk to anyone. I’m going back home at the end of the year to try and implement that program more aggressively and raise funds. At the end of the day, any great incentive requires funds. You have a great idea to help people but you need to back it up with some money. I’ve recently been asked to do some stuff with the Trevor Project here in New York. I love being able to give back. That’s a big part of my life. I would be nothing if people didn’t give back to me.
The new season of “The A-List: New York” returns 10 p.m. July 25 on Logo.