Popularity is relative, and especially in the digital age. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers online, but be completely unknown in the streets — massively famous on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, but lack any kind of real, authentic cool in person. For our new series, Coolest Person in the Room, New York-based photographer Megan Walschlager pinpoints all the people whose energy is contagious regardless of their following count or celebrity. Meet Remy Duran, the native New Yorker known for slinging hats, having sex, getting wild on Twitter, being the most-catfished man online and now stealing America's hearts on MTV's latest edition of Are You The One, Sexually Fluid Edition.
Tell me about your current day job.
I do not have a current day job. I only have night jobs.
Tell me about those.
I work for different parties around the city, whether they be naked or otherwise. Some of the ones I work are naked — those are sex parties. Those are pretty frequent. Sometimes once a week, sometimes every other week — I've been doing that for almost four years now. The other jobs are clothed, for the most part anyway, and mostly have to do with Ty Sunderland mostly — and anyone else who wants to show up — my friends, people who want to meet me in person.
You also do gay security
I haven't done gay security in a while — I guess there hasn't been a need for me to gayly secure the premises.
And just so everyone knows, gay security is just Remy doing security and is gay.
So, you grew up in New York City, what was that like?
I'm a native New Yorker and I grew up in one of the diverse neighborhoods outside of Queens. I grew up in the East Village, Lower East Side area. We had every type of person, damn near every language spoken — I grew up on 7th St between 1st Ave and Avenue A — right next to Tompkins Square Park, right next to Little India and St. Marks with all the crust punks and Lucky Chengs with all the drag performers.
Growing up, I would have sushi one night and Indian the next night, and I know many of my friends did not have as diverse choices to choose from as a kid, even just as far as food and the people around them. I went to the United Nations School, so I had literally people from Nepal, Djibouti, Mongolia, in my main, core friend group. So it wasn't even like normal diversity, it was like, extra diversity. Diversity plus.
It was a really cool experience growing up in New York and I feel really blessed to have that, because I never had to learn that certain people were real outside of TV later in life. And New York just kind of built me up to live this crazy life that I live now. Nothing shocks me.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
When did you start going out then — because you've been involved in nightlife for a long time. Do you remember your first party?
I mean, I've always been a party person. Even as a kid I would throw birthday parties in the park and invite my whole school, so I always loved the idea of gathering and being silly, ridiculous and wild. I realized I could take parties to the next level in high school, when I started going out to the warehouse parties in Brooklyn. I was like, "Oh shit, I can really just make out with 6 or 7 girls in a night." And Four Loko was out at the time — the original one, not the re-formula. I brought my friends from high school there who had never been to, like — they would go to parties with no white people — because again we went to these really diverse parties. And this was when the parties weren't regulated, before gentrification really, really started taking hold of that whole neighborhood.
Yeah. And people were just opening warehouses and if the cops come, the cops come. We're not IDing anyone we're just charging like $5 for you to come in until it goes. And that was just like a free for all — everything and anything goes. Then it changed when I turned 21 or 20-
Did you have a fake ID?
I did. I had a fake from like 18 on. I had two fakes. Just in case one got taken. But then I was going out to clubs. Which I always thought were just kinda, eh, 'cause there were rules there. You had to be there at a certain time, walk in with a certain amount of people.
Yeah, and wear pants! I didn't really like clubs that much, but I went because it made you feel cool. Once you got of drinking age you were like, "Okay, I don't want to do this anymore, it's expensive."
Then I started going out in the gay scene when I started dating Andreja [Pejic], when I was like 20. I was just very confused about that whole situation because she wasn't out as trans yet — she wasn't even out to me as trans yet — so we were just going out to gay clubs and I was like, "Am I gay? I don't really know what's going on here." And then she came out to me as trans, and I was like, "Oh, I have a girlfriend. And I just have a girlfriend who is involved in the gay scene." So that's when I got my first taste of the gay scene, and they liked me. I wasn't one of them yet, but they liked me.
So then I was just kind of like, "Okay, the gays are better than the straights, let's see what this is about," and I haven't looked back since. I went to one straight party recently and it was one of the most terrifying events of my life. It looked like sex trafficking central.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
You also have your hyper-sexual public persona — you have that article out about how you're a gay matchmaker and you are the most catfished man in the world — how did we get here?
Okay, first of all I never called myself a matchmaker. I guess someone was just like, "Oh, so you, like, hook people up?" And I was like, " I guess." I hook up with people and then I'll tell someone else, "You should hook up with them, they're great in bed!" or whatever.
And that was only like a good two years of my life where I was in this mood. I had just come out, I was on Adderall, I had lots of free time, my brand was ending and I wasn't doing much. I was kind of working as a stripper at the time. I was kind of having a third sexual awakening. And I guess when you're a hoe, it kind of sticks with you for a long time — and like, I don't care about that. You can't shame me. I don't think I've been ashamed of anything I've done, especially when it comes to consenting partners and sex.
I think sex is funny. One of the reasons I talk about sex is because I have hilarious stories and I think being free and open about it helps — well, it doesn't necessarily help me cope with being ashamed of it, but it helps other people to have this conversation too. And they're not always open about it right away, but they'll be in my DMs like, "OMG you did that?! I've always wanted to try that." And I think it's a good bonding conversation. Once you can talk about fisting someone or double penetration, then you're friends. Then you can talk about childhood trauma later. Sex is just the ice breaker.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
So the obvious next step from this, was you joined Are You The One, the sexually fluid edition, on MTV.
How did that come about?
This casting director actually found me on Instagram. And he was like, "You were recommended by someone and you seem perfect for the show. You're bisexual and you're open and wild and crazy." And I was like, "Are you real?" Because people try to scam me out of shit all the time.
The process took about a year. They hit me up in June of 2018. I didn't take it that seriously, but they were like, "You need to send your shit in now. We really think you'd be good for the show." So I sent it in and then I got a call that I got it like, two weeks, before I went out to Hawaii to film.
But yeah, here I am on TV now, being a bisexual icon.
What has that been like for you? Do you get recognized on the street more?
Actually, yeah. I'm super surprised as many people watch the show as they do. I mean, I knew it was a popular show, but I just didn't realize how wide of a reach it had. People just come to me like, "Oh my god I love you on the show!" And in New York, everyone thinks they're too cool to go up to somebody like, "I love you on that TV show!" Maybe it's just that they love me so much they don't care, but a lot of people do come up to me.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
I feel like you have had a lot of success just based off your personality. We've talked about this before, but I followed you on Tumblr in my early teens before we knew each other in real life. And I feel like there's some sort of correlation between having success on the internet and reality TV, as there is with having a success on the internet. I think it's because all of these places give you a sort of controlled platform to shine and you've done a really good job at navigating that and pivoting when it is time.
Totally. I feel like my way of going about it is, like — there are a lot of people who are a big personality on the internet because it allows them to make up for not having this big personality in person, or they're just super shy and on the internet they can be the person they want to be. Whereas for me, the internet almost doesn't allow me to be the full me. When people meet me in person, they're always like, "Wow, you're really like this. You're actually worse in person."
Then the pivot from Twitter Gay to reality TV worked because you could hear how loud I actually am. You can use as much caps lock as you want, but on TV you could hear me actually yelling at people. And it was neat to see that work on every medium. I feel like now that they're putting more bisexuals on TV — or gay people or queer people or whatever — they're going to start having more people who already had a cult following on the internet beforehand. Before you would see these people on TV who had, like, no idea how to use social media or barely had a presence on Instagram, and were literally regular degular people. I'm proud to be one of the first Twitter Gays to be on TV.
What was the actual process of being on this show like? Aren't you like literally locked in a house with strangers for a month? And you don't have a phone right?
It was insanity. At first I rebelled against it completely, I was like, "I don't like any of you people, I hate all of you and I don't want to get to know you at all."
You didn't know anyone beforehand, right?
No. I didn't know anyone. But I did have a few mutual hookups with someone. But that was about it.
I mean, it's a really unique experience. Some people I love outside of the house, and inside I was like, "I fuckin' hate you." But we're put in this bubble, in this very unique universe, where we're trying to date everyone — which is actually sort of like dating in New York because everyone is dating everyone — but it's the bisexual edition. There's no real bisexual clubs and there's no real bisexual space where everyone goes and is just bisexual together and is dating everyone. It just doesn't really exist like that.
By the end of it, it was kind of like Stockholm Syndrome where I was like twitching and like, "I love you guys so much." But I've realized with some of the people it's like, we were just coworkers. We had this cool little social experiment and it was a job to do for a month. I do have love for a lot of people in the house — like 14 out of 16 — and if you come to New York, you know, it's all love.
But it's definitely tricky because of the whole dating aspect. Maybe it would be different if it was like in the style of The Hills and I got to be around people who are really in my life and I get to go home at the end of the day, but it was like no, you're here.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
Would you do it again?
I would. It was fun. I get to have fun and terrorize people. Especially now after seeing how America is loving me [Laughs]. It's so funny because I know there are some people in the house mad about how kind of universally loved I am, but you know, I'm lovin' it.
So what's next for you?
I'm trying to relaunch my old brand ADEEN — and not go full out into hats and fashions, just keep it cute and keep to its roots. It started out as a streetwear brand. I want to do t-shirts and cute little accessories, nothing too crazy ambitious. I think that's kind of where I lost myself last time with my brand. I tried to do everything and be everything and be something that I wasn't.
I'm also still working on my comic book. That's kind of taken a backburner the last few months because of this whirlwind I've been swept up in, and I haven't been focused on writing right now. I want my own comic book, I want my own cartoon, I want my own fighting game based on characters from the comic book and cartoon. I really think I have a bunch of good ideas and I just need to figure out how to do that, because I don't know anyone in the comic book industry.
Well you figured out how to launch a brand as a child.
Right. A literal teenager.
But that's what's next. And of course I'm still open to more TV and maybe in the future scripted things and acting.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
Also, my favorite thing to tell people about you is you made the look Madonna wears in the "Bitch I'm Madonna" music video. She wore ADEEN.
Yeah, I've had a few cool people wear my hats. I had Madonna wear my stuff in the "Bitch I'm Madonna REMIX" video —and for the whole music video she wore that hat. And Future wore the TRAP hat — and that was when Future was the coolest thing in the world. Yeah, I've had a bunch of people wear it, will.i.am. in the Britney Spears video.
But you know, I don't think I've worn hats in years, so I probably won't be making those again.
What is your go-to drink at the club?
It was tequila soda, but I guess I'm getting old. Tequila has been turning me into a monster lately. Right now I just go for a beer. An on tap beer. It'll keep you sipping for awhile. I'm 28 now.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
What is your favorite song to hear out?
Anything Kim Petras. Which is funny because I was never a pop music person, ever. I was always like, I want to hear French Montana and Young Thug. But now all I wanna hear is Kim Petras.
What do you think are the coolest places in New York?
I love the Lower East Side still. I love Chinatown; I love just walking through Chinatown and finding random arcades or restaurants. I love finding bootleg Yu-Gi-Oh cards and looking at all the little toys and figurines. I think Chinatown is one of the places that gentrification will never really fully take over, so I love Chinatown. I also love Harlem — especially in the summertime, it really comes alive. And the food up in Harlem is just so good. I used to go to Brooklyn a lot more. It honestly all depends on who I'm dating at the time [Laughs]. Club-wise, it's anywhere that is paying me to be there.
Do you have any final words?
I will say as a lifelong New Yorker who thinks New York is the greatest city in the world, Berlin has us beat in nightlife. I want to move to Berlin for a summer.
I was just going to ask if you would ever leave New York.
I would never leave for good, but I'd leave for like a year and then come back. And I love Mexico so much, I miss it. But I would live in Berlin for like a summer and maybe a fall.
I feel like winter would be nice there because it's already like dark and industrial.
They say Berlin in the winter is really for people who are from Berlin only, because tourists don't go and it's so dark and grim and really scary.
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What did you think it was about nightlife in Berlin that made it so good? A lot of people are actually saying we are going through a nightlife drought here in NYC.
There are no big clubs here. Berlin literally has big, whole, huge buildings that are clubs. They can take an old power plant and make it into a nightclub, and we can't do that in New York because real estate prices are insane and then we charge too much to get in. Like drinks in Berlin are super cheap drink compared to what it costs to get in for this huge mega club.
Also in Berlin, the clubs open Friday evening and don't close until 3 PM Monday. Like 72 hours straight. And in New York, there are stricter laws about closing times. Berlin just has people who want to party and not people who think they're too cool. I've never faced this, like, elitism from it. It's just been super fun and amazing and free — and it's mixed, there are straight people and gay people in the club. It's just years ahead of its time.
Follow Remy Duran on Instagram (@remdelarem).