Netflix's latest reality series Twentysomethings: Austin follows eight single roommates who are all on a journey of self-discovery, hoping to build personal and professional relationships while living together in a new city.
Throughout the 12-episode show, fans fell in love with Keauno "KeKe" Perez who was looking to leave behind his closeted life in small-town Arkansas and explore what it means to be a gay man.
From watching his first kiss with a man happen on camera to owning his authentic LGBTQ+ status, KeKe has totally left a mark on fans's hearts.
Distractify spoke exclusively (via email) with KeKe, who opened up about sharing extremely personal moments with the world, his transformation, and if he's found love in Austin.
Check out our Q&A below. (Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
'Twentysomethings: Austin' star Keauno "KeKe" Perez talks embracing his authentic self.
Distractify: Were you at all nervous to go on this reality show and put your business out to the public?
Keauno "KeKe" Perez: Oh my gosh, yes! I remember the day before I left for Austin I was thinking of ways I could get out of going because I was so nervous! The majority of people in my life, family and friends, didn’t know I was gay. Doing this experience, I realized not only would they know I was gay, but the world would, too. Which, at the time, was terrifying!
In the first episode, your mom warned you to “think before you speak.” Do you feel as though you followed her advice throughout the season?
KP: Yes and no. Yes, in that I am a listener and, when engaging in conversation with others, I listen to them and then think before I speak. No, in that you can see in a few of the episodes, sometimes I say what I’m thinking out loud. Specifically, on my boat ride date or anytime with Natalie.
When audiences first meet you, you talk about not knowing how to “be gay.” Can you talk about embracing your more authentic self in this series?
KP: Before moving to Austin I had lived my life hiding that I was gay. In Austin, I wanted to stop hiding and embrace who I am. I don’t believe [being] gay defines me, but it is a part of who I am, and a part I had not yet explored. Throughout the series, I hope you see me start to become comfortable with myself as a gay Mexican male.
You kissed a guy for the first time on-camera. Was it hard for you to share something so intimate with the public?
KP: Surprisingly, it wasn’t, besides the cameras pointed at my face. The moment was so beautiful; it was like a dream, and I forgot about the cameras. Afterward, the thoughts went through my head about how it looked — 'was the kiss gross-looking, am I a bad kisser, will this be my first and last kiss?' Looking back at it now, it's a scene I cover my eyes when watching out of embarrassment.
Do you go through a transformation from when fans first meet you to the final episode? If so, how?
KP: At the beginning of the series you will see I was a little awkward and shy, due to telling my roommates I was gay on day one. I have never met people with them knowing I was gay right away. Throughout the series, you will see a lot of firsts for me, from my first gay bar in Austin to my first kiss, and other firsts you will have to watch to see.
What is your advice for people struggling with their sexuality and being their authentic selves?
KP: Advice is always easier said than done. I remember at 25 when I thought it was impossible for me to come out, for my friends and family to know I was gay, and could not imagine the idea of me actually kissing a boy. Personally, it took baby steps. I started with talk therapy, then decided on a list of friends I wanted to tell, and slowly over two years I started telling the people on my list. In my late 20s, my advice for others is to start the journey now. I'm not saying it's easy, but I think about the years I was not fully living my life and wonder about the experiences I didn't have because of it.
Have you found love in Austin?
Yes, with seven amazing roommates! If you’re asking about a boy, you will have to watch Twentysomethings: Austin on Netflix and find out!
Would you be down to film a Season 2?
To catch more of KeKe and learn whether or not he finds love, you can now stream Twentysomethings: Austin on Netflix.