“From a very early age, I knew I was different. And everyone says that, and it’s so cliche, but I really knew I was different.”
TV host and personality Scott Nevins described his childhood, coming out in college and creating role models for LGBT youth Thursday night during Rainbow Alliance’s spring speaker event.
“He’s the jack-of-all-trades in the entertainment industry – standup, TV, live theater, movies,” said Zach Wichter, Medill senior and former president of Rainbow Alliance, who introduced Nevins to an audience of about 20 students. “He’s just generally a wonderful guy.”
Nevins opened his talk with a summary of his childhood, describing his “average, all-American family with two kids, a mom, dad and a dog.” His father, a former Yankees and Red Sox player who then became firefighter, owned a bar near their home in New York.
“It blew my mind that I’m staying at a hotel across the street from Nevin’s Pub and none of you told me that that was there,” Nevins said. “That’s been Instagrammed already.”
With a former major league baseball player for a father, Nevins played T-ball as a kid, though he said he only likes watching sports and never enjoyed playing them. He said his dad bribed him with peanut M&M’s before each at-bat.
“There’s a video of one of my games as a kid,” Nevins said. “The camera pans over all the little boys playing ball, and in the outfield I’m out there with my glove over my face, arms open, spinning, singing the opening to the Sound of Music.”
Nevins attributed his “saving grace” as a child to two people: his “infamous Aunt Grace,” who taught him not to worry about other people’s opinions, and his openly gay uncle (“guncle,” Nevins clarified), now a Hollywood director and writer. Nevins often accompanied his uncle to dinner in Manhattan with his friends, all of whom were successful professionals. Years later, Nevins realized the value of these nights in the city.
“It gave me something that a lot of people don’t have – a plethora of positive gay role models,” Nevins said. “Today, no matter how many gay characters we have on TV, how many Anderson Coopers, this is still the biggest problem plaguing our community. It’s great that we have Neil Patrick Harris, the It Gets Better videos, but we still have so much further to go. We need more than just a handful.”
Role models originate from communities themselves, Nevins said, emphasizing that the people in the room serve as role models for the younger LGBT generation.
“They’re asking, ‘If I go to Northwestern, are there going to be gay people who understand me? Will there be straight people who will accept me?’” Nevins said. “Those are real fears. We need to inspire each other to see a real breakdown of the ‘sheep mentality,’ where people feel they need to fit into a box, a cookie cutter.”
Nevins also explained what it’s like to be openly gay in the entertainment industry. When asked if producers essentialize him as the “gay comedian,” he said “it’s going to happen” but encouraged aspiring entertainers to use their identities to their advantage and “devise ways to bring it up without making it your calling card.”
As an example, Nevins recounted a story from his experience as a truTV World’s Dumbest commentator. Early in his career at the show, the producers asked, “Do you want to be the cute gay guy on the show? We have Loni Love, who’s the big, fat, funny black girl. We have Brad Loekle, and he’s gay but more of a bear. We have Judy Gold, and she’s a lesbian.”
“So I asked, ‘What does that even mean? Why can’t I just be Scott Nevins?’ And they said, of course, of course, but you’ll want to find your spot.’
“And I said, ‘I did – I’m Scott Nevins. Just trust me.’”