Although it's a fairly new show, talk about Shahs of Sunset has been around for quite a while. In 2011, news broke that reality TV honcho Ryan Seacrest would be creating a new series described by many as a "Persian Jersey Shore"—something that most likely prompted a million eye rolls 'round the world.
The series, which premiered earlier this month to impressive ratings, is nothing of the sort. Instead of a beach house in Seaside, the setting is West Los Angeles, an area known for its high volume of residents who are of Iranian descent. Instead of overly tanned party animals, the cast is made up of 30-something, successful adults, most of whom are a part of the so-called "Persian Real Estate Mafia" in L.A. Rather than long nights spent drinking at Karma or Aztec, most parties in the show are held in popular clubs along the Sunset strip, or at a cast member's immaculate home.
Given the differences between the shows, and the fact that Shahs of Sunset was marketed as something completely different than what it is and has remained a solid performer on the Bravo network, the show is likely here to stay.
The show's strength is its cast, which is made up of six Persian friends who all have lived in Los Angeles—mostly Beverly Hills—for the better part of their lives. One of them is Reza Farahan, who has quickly become a fan favorite among viewers for his vivacious personality, out and proud lifestyle, and, of course, his mustache. He's outspoken without apologies, and has even inspired a web series titled "Reza's Rants" that sees him stating his opinions on everything from Republicans to sales. (Spoiler alert: He hates both.)
We talked with Reza recently about his newfound fame, how he feels about the criticisms that the show has prompted, and how it was for him growing up as an openly gay man in the Persian community.
Interview by Tanya Ghahremani (@tanyaghahremani)
How did you end up on the show?
I wasn’t cast. I got a phone call one day from MJ, who had had gotten a phone call from Sammi, who had gotten a phone call from a friend of his at Ryan Seacrest Productions, and MJ said, “Listen, Sammi and his friend from Ryan Seacrest Productions are coming over, he wants to toss around this concept about a Persian reality show. Do you wanna come over?” MJ, being one of my best friends of over 20 years, and Sammi being one of my very closest friends, a) I wanted to go and hang out, have a glass of wine with them, and b) it sounded interesting.
I went, sat down, had a glass of conversation and from that moment it happened very organically. It was broad strokes, not any real concrete idea of what they were doing, but he was throwing this concept around, and he kept calling me. Like, he would call me to say, "This is something that’s in the works,” and I just put it on the back burner, and it came to fruition.
So you guys were all cast as an entity?
Yeah, it was like one person referred another person. You know, we all knew each other, it wasn’t like all of us came together one day in a board room. It was these great conversations of referring the friends. They talked to us, and they really dug our vibe, and it just kind of went from there.
Have things changed for you a lot since the show has begun airing?
Yeah, I mean, when I’m in Starbucks, usually people are cruising me because I’m cute, but now they’re cruising me because they recognize me from a show. So, that aspect of it—people telling me they love me because I’m on the show, or wanting to take a photograph with me—that’s different, but other than that my life is what you see on the show. Not that much has changed.
Was it tough getting used to having cameras around all the time, and showing so much of your life so openly on TV?
First and foremost, I’ve felt like cameras should have been following me around my whole life! So, now that they’re actually there, I kind of don’t realize that they’re there. For me it wasn’t really a big adjustment. I might have realized them the first day for a few moments, but when you’re around a bunch of friends that you’ve known for years and years, you lose yourself in what you’re doing, you don’t have an awareness of the cameras anymore.
What about all the comparisons of the show to Jersey Shore? I’ve heard people referring to the show as “the Persian Jersey Shore” on more than one occasion.
The funny thing is, I don’t even know if the people who are doing those comparisons have actually seen both shows. Because if you watch both shows, the concepts are very different; we’re all living our real day-to-day lives in our own homes with our family and our friends. The Jersey Shore is its own show.
I don’t care about comparisons, they don’t affect me, but I feel like that comparison started early on and it had no basis. People were comparing it before they had seen it; it’s like comparing two glasses of wine when you’ve only had one. Like, how are you comparing me to something when you haven’t seem me yet? If you watch it and compare it, great, but if you see both shows and you still think our show is like that, I would be confused. I wouldn’t understand it, but it’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it.
I think because it’s a minority living in the United States, it’s chronicling their lives, and there’s no other show like that, they just automatically – it’s like default comparison, unfortunately. Or, fortunately! Not unfortunately, it’s just the default comparison because there’s nothing else to compare it to.
You can’t ask a Leo why they’re the fan favorite. I kind of knew going in.
After watching an episode, do you ever regret doing any of the things that you see yourself doing or saying, or have you been fine with everything?
I haven’t lived my life with regret. I think regret is a torturous virtue. It’s something that happened—good, bad, ugly, whatever—and it happened several months ago, you have to remember that what you guys are seeing now was filmed way back. It happened, it was what it was, and it was real, and if it was on there, it’s happening, and you guys get to see it.
I think I’m the wrong person to ask as far as that’s concerned, because I don’t have regret regardless of what I do. I may apologize for it, I may change my mind about it, but I don’t regret it. I feel like everything in life happens for a reason.
I’ve read that people are saying you’re the Persian Paris Hilton and GG is the new Kim Kardashian… What other comparisons about your castmates would you think there are?
OK…I feel like MJ could be a Lucille Ball kind of character. Sammi could be like the Fred Merc... [Laughs.] Mike is kind of like an Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Asa’s kind of like a cross between Googoosh and Joni Mitchell. You kind of have to be Persian to get that one.
Although, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Republican…
I mean, I don’t want to put Mike on blast for his political views, so I’ll let him answer that, but I’m going to stick with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Any rules to live by?
Look on the outside how you want to feel on the inside. You have a choice how you want to feel every single day, you choose how you feel—no one else decides that for you. And three, ride this bitch until the wheels come off, and enjoy every minute.
You’ve turned into a fan favorite. Why do you think that is?
I mean, come on now. You can’t ask a Leo why they’re the fan favorite. I kind of knew going in.
What sort of aspirations do you have for the future? What’s next?
I’ve always, always, always loved everything having to do with aesthetics. I love putting on the finishing touches, whether it’s on fashion, whether it’s on like hosting things, and the way I entertain in my home, which you’ll get to see in future episodes, and how I prepare things, I’m all about the details. Like, pocket squares, your socks, ties, and the plates you use, the flowers, I love stuff like that. So if I could get involved more in those fields, that would really enable me to express my artistic side, I would love that.
So, we might be seeing something in fashion from you?
You might see like a mustache tie, or a pocket square with the little mustache logo on it, you never know…
The mustache is very iconic.
Totally, I’m loving my mustache.
I saw that your mustache has a Twitter.
Yeah, my mustache has over a thousand followers. He’s very outgoing, he’s like me that way. He’s a little more bougie than I am, so he gets a little twisted up if I take him places that aren’t five-star, but, you know, he deals.