In Part 1, interviewer Matt Baume talked to Colby Melvin about his difficult coming-out, and Part 2 was all about how he wants to change the world via colorful clothing. Here in Part 3, we’ll take a look at Colby’s private life, including the parts he probably shouldn’t have revealed.
Colby Melvin’s gone through several rounds of reinvention at this point, from a straight southern boy to an ambitious underwear model to a fashion designer. Now, he’s preparing to go even bigger, with new videos and a skincare line and a calendar and spokes-modeling and charity work. He’ll always appear in cute skimpy outfits, of course, but these days he’s balancing a life both in front of and behind the camera.
“I would love to be the illegitimate love child of Ryan Seacrest and Tyra Banks and Oprah if you threw them all together,” he said. “Tyra just started as a model, and she was smart about planning. Now she has her own talk show and her own cosmetics … And the same about Ryan Seacrest. Taking a hosting gig and turning it into so many venues. Oprah being able to gather so many talents … she’s built an entire lifestyle brand. That’s what I would like to do.”
So, would you want to live the Colby Melvin lifestyle? What is the Colby Melvin lifestyle?
As it turns out, it’s actually not all that different from Oprah. “My stuff is less about me and more about empowering the individual,” he says. “I want to empower people to find the strength within themselves. … I got where I am by believing in myself, telling myself ‘you’re going to do it.’ I’m about empowering other people’s awesomeness that they have within.”
To that end, he’s thrown himself into equality activism wherever he can. He’s made videos about Russian abuse of LGBTs during the Sochi Olympics; he’s been a public face of marriage equality; and he stood up for a teacher fired for being gay. In short, he’s using his public profile to help those in need. It’s the sort of help that he could have benefited from when he was a struggling newly-out gay man in the deep south.
That focus on empowering other people, rather than himself, is deliberate. Last year Colby went through a very public breakup with his fiancé Brandon. Ending a relationship is never easy, but for the well-known couple it was even more challenging. “Everyone thinks that they’re a part of your relationship,” he said. “There was so much pressure from other people, messages saying that my relationship was inspiration for a person to come out, or get a boyfriend. It puts a lot of pressure on me. It was hard for me to say, ‘I don’t want this relationship anymore. I’m not happy.’
His friend and mentor, Marco Marco, helped him through the breakup. “I was on the phone sobbing with him, and he offered me some life advice. He said, ‘you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your happiness.’”
Colby stopped reading online comments, because they inevitably got too personal. “I’m very transparent in everything I do,” he said. “What you see is it. There’s no pretending.” So when some stranger makes a catty comment about him, they’re not talking about a character he made up for the sake of publicity — they’re talking about the real him. And that happens all the time, because he’s so widely recognized. When he’s out in public, fans are constantly saying hello, snapping photos, and dissecting his appearance in lurid detail.
“It used to hurt a lot more,” he said. “I think that people forget that just because you’re saying it from behind a computer screen doesn’t mean it’s not hurtful. In general, people need to be fucking nicer to each other.”
He’s also decided to keep his next relationship personal. He’s dating a swell guy now, but no longer does he do couples-videos or post an update every time his new beau makes dinner. That’s made it a lot easier to enjoy being in love, he’s found.
“I learned that for me to be happy, there are some things that I need to protect and not put out there,” he said. “I’m keeping those things special. For us.”