Losing his job for being gay might be one of the best things that’s ever happened to Colby Melvin.
You probably recognize Colby’s impish smile from his artsy-sexy underwear photos, his booty shaking (he’s more of a go-go frolicker than mere dancer), his calendar, his apparel, his activism, his acting, his very public relationship — and eventual breakup. The list goes on.
But there’s also a Colby Melvin you probably don’t know: the straight young oil worker in Mobile, Alabama, once desperate to figure out how to be manly.
“I struggled a lot,” he told Queerty’s Matt Baume. “Especially when I came out, with masculinity and being butch and what it meant to be a man.”
He tried all the stuff that a young male Alabaman was supposed to like: hunting, fishing, sports. “For so long, I had it in my head that I’m the straight guy,” he said. He didn’t even think of himself as closeted — he wasn’t hiding in the closet, he was simply straight, at least as far as he let himself imagine. The man that’s famous today for being a humpy gay underwear model once presented as a heterosexual middle-manager.
By day, Colby was working for a company participating in the cleanup of the BP oil spill disaster. Like a lot of gay men, he threw himself into his work, committing to 7-day, 120-hour work weeks. His entire life revolved around his job, but something felt off. His aggressively heterosexual coworkers would hold corporate functions in straight strip clubs, and throw around the word “fag” as an insult. Privately, he started to wonder if he might be gay.
He was stuck in a small southern town, but on social media he could see gay men living openly and honestly in big cities. Between the oil-industry strip clubs and the uninhibited big-city gays, he knew which one called to him more.
“I’ve never been as nervous as I was the first time,” he said. He had an first anxious date, and then the very next day he came out to his best friend. Then a few more friends. Then his mom (after prepping himself with a bottle of wine). He was lucky and got plenty of support. For many of his friends, it was like nothing had changed; and as he cautiously came out to family, they gradually came to accept the news.
His dad and grandfather struggled a bit at first. They both worked in the oil industry too, and were deeply entrenched in a culture that only recognized one way to be masculine. “It wasn’t easy at first,” Colby said. “It’s not something I can really blame them for. Where I grew up, gays had a stigma. It’s a cultural thing. It’s the way they grew up. The only thing that I can do is prove to them that those ideas are not true, and be a good person.”
But then word got out at work, an suddenly everyone stopped talking to him. “Things got weird,” he said, “and the day came when I was told by my boss that was I was doing was not acceptable. He had illegally gotten my text records and decided to fire me. He blamed it on another reason, which we both knew was bullshit. But if I didn’t go quietly, they were going to send this stuff to my family and expose me.”
That was the end of his career in the oil industry. “It all got pulled out from under me,” he said. “I felt very alone. … I lost everything I once thought defined me. What do you do when you lose everything else and all you have is your name?”
It felt like he had nothing left — but gradually, he realized, that wasn’t the case. Ever since he’d started coming out, he had his integrity, and his honesty, and his commitment to being a good person.
By a stroke of luck, he was spotted at a pool party by reps for a Texas underwear company called Bayou Beau. “I had no dreams of being a model,” he said. “I’m 5-foot-7, so it wasn’t on my radar.” But one shoot led to another, and he decided “You know what? I want to do it. I want to make it.”
Two weeks later, he bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. He stepped off the plane with one suitcase, no place to live, and only a few dollars in cash. For the next six months, he worked nonstop, taking any job he could get, from dancing to modeling to promotion. He slept on couches until he found a cheap place, graduating to four white walls and an air mattress.
“It tested how much I really wanted this,” he said. “What had happened in Alabama was such a fire and driving force in me, I was like, ‘No, I am not going to let all of that win. I am going to succeed no matter what.’ And luckily it was just the motivation I needed to keep going.”
He’s graduated from couches and bare walls. The photos accompanying this interview series were taken in his West Hollywood apartment, but he’s also just found a studio in San Diego where he’s going to be spending most of his time, living and working. San Diego’s also where his boyfriend lives.
Colby’s going to need that extra workspace because he’s moving from modeling and dancing to more behind-the-scenes work as a fashion designer. Remember, he never planned to be a model — instead, he became a star simply by accident. And while it’s fun to be recognized at every party he attends, he has bigger dreams than simply being famous for being pretty.
His vision: creating clothes that make you feel bold, confident, and manly, like a badass.
In other words — all of the things he wanted to be back in Mobile, Alabama.
In Part 2 of our interview: Colby goes from go-go dancer to one-man sweatshop, creating his own sexy outfits to show off his body in the ways he always wanted to.
Keep up the great work Colby.
Who said nothing good comes out of Alabama.
However, Mr. Melvin is apparently fighting for the life of his
new puppy and may not be in the mood for publicity right now.
Omg I want that jumpsuit… So cute.
I’m always fascinated by these later in life coming out stories. Did they really not realize they were gay up to that point or were they just in denial? Is there some sort of cognitive disconnect? Is it an inability to connect the dots? I just don’t get it. I’m not effeminate and can easily pass as heterosexual, but I knew by the time I was in 6th grade. I didn’t come out until college and played the part up ’til then, but I knew it as an act. There was never an epiphany. I remember wondering at a very young age why the attractive women presented in the media didn’t excite me. My understanding of what it meant to be gay coincided with my understand that I was gay, but I don’t remember any specific moment. It was so early in development.
I just don’t understand how someone could be an adult and not know.
@erikwm: We all develop and things click at different rates for us. Some people may be in denial; some may have urges both ways until they finally land on one side or the other (or even continue to sample both sides throughout life); some may have a blind spot in their self identities; and some of us are simply clueless until a clue smacks us up side the head. My experience is that not all guys are self reflective; and recognizing that one is gay at an early age requires just a touch of that.
How many women are out there in the gulf sweeping up crude oil? And, when did Alabama become “the oil industry”?
In every tale I’ve heard about oil workers it has been about men, all men, working long hours away from women. And, we all know what men do when they are isolated from women.
Sometimes though, a guy can just be too attractive to be “one of the boys”. It’s like the old saying that ugly guys were picked for straight porn so as not to make the male viewers uncomfortable. Sometimes a guy can just be so “pretty” he will make other guys uncomfortable (even if the guy is straight).
@erikwm: From the account here, it sounded like his job was very demanding. Some people genuinely like their job, but others can dedicate their lives to work to cover up for other dissatisfaction in their lives.
I personally did not come out until I was 25, but not from lack of knowledge beforehand. I was working a highly stressful, low paying job before then. When you’re balancing work life with wondering how you’re going to pay next month’s bills, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for working through your sexuality…or going out for that matter. I always had an inkling before that, but it was not something I gave a significant amount of thought to. It was when I was promoted at work that I suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands to think about things like relationships and what I really wanted out of life.
You could miss out on a lot of things about yourself if you’re spending a lot of energy worrying about other things.
@level75RDM: I can understand that, but human sexuality begins to develop with puberty. What about your teenage years? Were your sexual desires unfocused in any given direction? What went through your mind when you masturbated? You’re talking about employment, a career and I knew before I finished elementary school. There is a large chasm between our two experiences.
I’m of the belief that many straight-identifying guys secretly harbor desires for other men but see it as a form of rule-breaking. The rules for straightness are very strict and require that you abide by a code of conduct. If you breach that code of conduct, you’re no longer a part of the straight club.
I think a lot of gay-identifying guys underestimate how important this code of conduct is for straight-identifying guys.
Interestingly, once you take a straight-identifying guy out of his circle of straight-identifying friends, he tends to let his guard down, especially if he’s had a few drinks. This is where his same-sex desire may come out and manifest as an animalistic outburst of passion, albeit for a few minutes.
I met a guy like this once and he humped me like there was no tomorrow.
Definitely, he looks like fun for the weekend. Next.
@Chris: I remember having a crush on a boy in the year above me. It was exciting, I was 7 and kept very quiet about it.
@jason smeds: “straight-identifying guys…” “gay identifying guys…” What year do you live in?
All the negative comments about Colby have been removed despite the fact they didn’t violate the comment policy. How very professional it is to continue to sculpt the false image he has crafted. From first hand knowledge this is a very inaccurate article. He is from Louisiana, not Mobile.
@Captain proton: Mr. Melvin is never not in the mood for publicity lol.
Colby is amazing and very inspirational but, a lot of this story doesn’t ring true. Great article though. Although a good proof reader…lol
@Captain proton: All my prayers for the puppy. My best advice to all pet owners is always get pet insurance.
Great story. Would have liked to have known what was the path from the LA arrival to the Full Frontal video and Andrew Christian.
Comments are closed.