TNG Interview: Tyler Wisler of “Design Star” – Just Your Average Gay Dad
Tyler Wisler is one of the contestants on the upcoming 6th season of Design Star (premiering on HGTV this Monday, July 11th at 9 pm ET/PT). Full disclosure, he and I also worked on the same floor of a building in Chelsea for a few years. This had absolutely nothing to do with my stunning feat of journalistic prowess in booking him for an intimate tell-all interview.
The New Gay: What did you know you were first – a designer, or gay?
Tyler Wisler: I knew I was gay first. My mom actually asked me when I was 15, which is when you get your first job in Hawaii [which is where I grew up]. My mom was a single mother, and I had a sister, so when I turned 15 I got my license and got a job working at the mall. There was this guy who worked at the hair salon, and we became friends and ate our lunches in the food court together. My cousin (who was much older than I was) had just come out to the whole family so Mom started going down the line. She asked me if my new friend was “bi,” and then asked “are you…?” I just said “yeah, I think so.” Two weeks later Mom and I are in a therapy session! I don’t remember who the therapist was, but they asked if I had any issues and I didn’t really. Mom cried, worried that she’d done something wrong.
TNG: How long until your mom was cool with it?
TW: She held out hope that things would change until Adrian [my husband] and I became foster parents! [laughs] She was always pretty cool with me being gay, but when she and I meet people and they ask if I have a girlfriend, that is still awkward. As soon as I had a son, though, she couldn’t care less who I was married to!
TNG: And your dad?
TW: My dad and I actually just recently started talking. He wasn’t a presence in my early life, but that had nothing to do with being gay. In fact, when we sort of had our re-introduction that included me coming out to him.
TNG: How are things now with your father?
TW: Things are much more open between us, and he really likes having grandkids. To a certain point, parents always know. Not just including my parents, though, I’ve never really had much of a backlash to being out – everyone’s been really cool about it.
TNG: And are things better with your mom now too?
TW: Before we adopted our son, Mom always called Adrian my “friend.” Now she calls him my husband. I think the barrier before was that she was really scared by the thought of not having grandkids, but now she’s very happy with the whole situation.
TNG: So tell us more about Adrian.
TW: We met when we were 17 and 18 years old, at this club in DC called Tracks. It was actually a Thursday night, which was supposed to be a “straight college” night at that gay bar, and I was taking some prospective AU freshmen out on the town. Adrian was bringing some friends from out of town there too, and we got to talking. Seventeen years later, and we have one child, two cats, and a dog! It’s the American dream!
TNG: What was the process of adopting a child like for you and Adrian?
TW: Day one Adrian knew he wanted to be a dad, but I wasn’t sure. He was relentless, and absolutely did not give up. Finally we made a pact that when I turned 30 we would figure out our game plan. By the time the date arrived, we’d already gotten married the year previous (in Toronto – our ceremony missed our anniversary by just one day). We had a pretty Swedish friend of ours who offered her eggs, and my sister offered to carry the child for us, so we started thinking about it but the cost of a procedure like that became preventative. That’s when we started attending Wannabe Moms + Dads seminars at the GLBT community center, where they discussed different adoption methods. All the people leading the classes brought their kids, and talked about this magical land in New Jersey that has tons of gay parents. At the time Adrian and I were living in Queens, so we rented a car and checked out Maplewood and South Orange in Jersey. We decided to move there, and within eight months we were filling out paperwork to become foster parents. We got fingerprinted, investigated, and PRIDE trained for foster certification – the whole thing!
TNG: So now do you bring your son to the Wannabe Moms + Dads seminars?
TW: The whole process actually took three and a half years to complete – we just completed the official adoption in February. Sometimes the process takes less or more time, you really can’t tell going into it. It’s been crazy, but now that the dust has settled I’d love to go back and bring Paolo [my son] with me.
TNG: Ok, so that’s all the gay stuff. When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
TW: At American University I was going to be an Art Design major, and while I was in the dorms there everyone came up to my room and said “you should be an interior designer!” I transferred schools, moved to New York City, and Adrian came with me! After a while of the New York scene, we realized we couldn’t keep up with the pace, so we moved back down to DC and I graduated from Marymount.
TNG: Do you think there’s a pro-stereotype for gay men in the design industry?
TW: Yeah, definitely. You automatically trust a gay guy when he says something is fabulous. That’s why straight guys are architects! Then again, in New York you can never tell whether the guy telling you something is fabulous is gay or straight, so maybe it doesn’t matter. On the show the male group was actually half gay and half straight. It was nice. It sounds weird, but I’d actually never had the chance to work with a straight guy on design before! Surprise, they pretty much function the same.
TNG: How did you being on the show affect your family?
TW: It was really tough on them. We’ve never been apart much. Adrian and I didn’t go on our first date night after getting Paolo for years! I think we really overcompensated for feeling like we were being held up to extra scrutiny and were terrified of making mistakes, so we ended up being this incredibly traditional family with food on the table at six o’clock every night and always eating dinner together. When I was out for weeks taping the show, it really threw off our family routines. My entire reason for being on this show, though, was to show Paolo that anything is possible. He’s already overcome obstacles in life that he didn’t even know existed, like being adopted by a gay couple. Me being on this show is the third time I’ve tried out, and I’m so honored that I finally made it. I want to show Paolo to work hard, and earn his dreams. He deserves them!
First time here? See what we're all about... Get involved... Send us a tip!...