Q&A with Amazing Race Winner Reichen Lehmkuhl

Note: Since Digest’s interview, Lehmkuhl and Arndt have announced they have broken up. In the 10/28/03 issue of The Advocate, the aspiring actor stated, “We were a team, we are a team and we’ll always be a team in so many ways.”Soap Opera Digest: So, what’s been the downside of instant fame?
Reichen Lehmkuhl: Gossip columns are starting to take pictures of Chip and me at random parties and that’s when you realize, “Oh, my God. Not only are we appearing in things, but now we’re being depicted a certain way.” I love the attention. I admit it [laughs]. Who wouldn’t? But you still worry because what if you’re holding a drink in your hand? They’ll make you look like an alcoholic.Digest: Do you feel like you’ve lost your privacy?
Lehmkuhl: We liked to answer a few questions about our relationship, but Chip and I take our privacy seriously, and it’s okay for us to say, “We can’t answer that question.” We didn’t realize that at first. We thought we had to answer everything.Digest: Before the split, it made headlines that you and Chip were “having problems.”
Lehmkuhl: It’s no secret that we had some problems. We just went on THE AMAZING RACE and won a million dollars and had to keep that secret. Everyone thought that we just went on vacation. It wouldn’t have been that hard had we not won, but to have only each other to talk about this with was a tremendous amount of pressure. It was almost … I don’t know how a human could do it.Digest: Because of all the media attention, did you feel pressure to be a role-model gay couple?
Lehmkuhl: I think people wanted to make us that “it” couple. When they found out that Chip and I were having relationship problems, it waned a bit, but then they wanted to pry in and find out what the problem was. Not so much that they wanted to destroy us; it was almost like, “Why can’t this work? Why isn’t this gay relationship working? We all want it to work.” And Chip and I were saying, “Look, we’re not just a gay relationship. We’re a relationship.” My parents got a divorce. It doesn’t mean that all straight relationships are not going to work out. We were together for four-and-a-half years. We had some tough times, but we had some amazing times that we never would have experienced had it not been for each other.Digest: What’s the fun part of being famous?
Lehmkuhl: Fan letters. They’re beautiful. We get congratulations, marriage proposals. I get one of those a week [laughs].Digest: How do you like being an instant overnight sex symbol?
Lehmkuhl: I can’t say that I hate it [laughs]. But it can be scary. You know something’s wrong when someone says in a letter or an e-mail, “I know we’re meant for each other.” Obviously, you could never know you’re meant for someone from a picture and an interview. The scariest thing was when The National Enquirer came to our door with a camera and they’re like, “We got a tip that Reichen and Chip live here.” And this was at a time when we weren’t allowed to speak to the press because the race finale hadn’t come out yet. Then, they went to my brother’s house. He started getting harassing phone calls at 3 o’clock in the morning. Ninety-nine percent has been positive. One percent is scary.Digest: It certainly sounds like you’re ready to handle the soap press when you land that next daytime gig.
Lehmkuhl: Bring it on! I’m ready!

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