Shahs of Sunset star Reza Farahan is bringing much-needed visibility to Middle Eastern gay men. Matthew Wade caught up with him ahead of the season seven premiere.

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Shahs of Sunset star Reza Farahan was leaving a Starbucks in Beverly Hills recently when a black Mercedes pulled up beside him.

An older Persian man in his seventies stepped out of the car, before throwing his arms around Farahan and kissing him on the cheek.

“He told me I was his favourite character on the series,” Farahan says. “I thought he must be completely close-minded and homophobic, but that wasn’t the case at all.”

Shahs of Sunset is a seven season strong reality series following a group of Persian-American friends in California, who juggle their social lives and careers while balancing the demands of their families and tradition.

As a Middle Eastern gay man, cast member Farahan says hundreds of people have reached out to him over the years to let him know the impact his visibility has had on them.

He says being a Middle Easterner on television who’s also openly gay has helped spark conversations over the dinner table, helped some of his fans come out, and even helped others to express themselves more openly.

“When I signed up for the show, I thought if I could be on television for even two seconds so that a teenage Middle Easterner who might be struggling with their sexuality can see me, that’s what I wanted to do it,” he says.

“I want young people that are having the same experiences I had as a teenager to watch the show and think wow, look at him – his family loves him, his friends love him.

“Maybe I can make it, maybe I don’t have to kill myself, and maybe my family won’t abandon me.”

The new season of Shahs of Sunset will see Farahan and his husband navigate married life well into their second year of wedding bliss.

He says growing up, he never thought he’d see the day that marriage equality would become a reality.

“When we ended up with marriage equality, I felt it was my duty to exercise that right,” he says.

“And it’s been amazing, marriage has been great.”

Farahan, who continues to be a prominent player in the Los Angeles real estate world alongside filming the series, says the best part about being on the show is its reach.

“[The best part] is definitely the reach you have, the impact, the influence,” he says. “That’s tremendous.”

“The part that sometimes isn’t the best is when I want to roll and go somewhere and not worry about how I look, when I want to be anonymous for a moment.

“That doesn’t happen anymore, but the pros far outweigh the cons.”

Shahs of Sunset premieres Friday 3 August on hayu, with a new episode streaming every Friday thereafter – same day as the U.S.

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