When Family Karma premiered on Bravo, viewers immediately were wondering what the premise of the show would be. Between the myriad of fabulous Housewives cities and competition shows like Top Chef and the wonderfully returned Project Runway, Family Karma has found it’s niche and become a sensation that is being buzzed about as one of the best new reality shows airing today. Showcasing an intricately weaved family of multi generational Indian-Americans is a peek into a world that many have not had before, and Amrit Kapai is proud to be part of it. An attorney in a long term relationship, Kapai offers a look into the world of an Indian-American man living in America today, and in a same sex relationship. I spoke with Amrit about diving into the world of reality television, as well as what is it like to be looked at as an example for not just his Indian-American community, but for the LGBT community as well.
Michael Cook: You are giving a much needed and fantastic representation to both Indian-American families and to the LGBT community as a cast member on Family Karma. What is it like as a young boy who comes from a traditional Indian family to look around and realize he is not like everyone else and eventually, find a way to embrace that?
Amrit Kapai: It is pretty fantastic to see that I had the opportunity to be someone of Indian background who is gay, and who has parents that have accepted him and have embraced his lifestyle. A viewer may watch the show and think “this is fantastic, I wish my parents would do the same thing”. Hopefully, they can see my life and where I have reached and realize that they can also accomplish that. If they work towards it and take the right steps, they can be in a similar situation. I hope that provides a lot of younger Indian boys with a lot of hope; it does not matter if you’re gay. There is still a world full of opportunity out there for you and you can still live the life you wanted to live.
MC: Coming out is so different for each of us. When you come from a family and a culture that is so deeply steeped in tradition, does that add another layer of difficulty to the coming out process?
AK: Yes, it is. For Indian famiies and Indian parents specifically, marriage is the penultimate of life. These weddings span multiple days, and the sole purpose is to get married, settle down and have kids. Those are all great things and are the building blocks of society, and they are very important. Being gay though, makes it a little bit more difficult to work towards. You can do it, but we have a little bit more of a hurdle to jump over, especially with having children. Personally for me when I was growing up closeted, and watching movies and shows talking about having families I realized that that would not be me. I would not be able to have this typical Indian wedding. You just reach a point though, where all this stuff does not matter, but that comes with age and you just grow up. You can live the life that you imagined for yourself; it does not have to be what you see in the Bollywood movies, it can be your own version though.
MC: Speaking of expectation, what did you expect when you put yourself in front of cameras for a reality show like Family Karma with family and friends?
AK: I did not know what to expect to be honest with you. We have been a close knit group of friends for over twenty five years, we all grew up in the same community, I cannot speak for the rest of my cast, but for myself I saw this as an opportunity to tell my story and I am sure that they did as well. It was an opportunity to showcase Indian culture and give viewers something new to learn about.
MC: What has been the reaction from other Indian friends and members of the culture in terms of representation? Do they see it to be a fair representation of the culture?
AK: Absolutely. I have had other Indian friends reach out from all over the country and told me that they are pleasantly surprised with how accurate it is and how real the portrayal of the culture is. It has all been really positive.
MC: What has your boyfriend Nicholas felt about this whole experience? He is definitely along for the ride with you on this one!
AK: (Laughs) You are absolutely right! I am the one that really wanted to do this and he has been supportive of this from the beginning because he knows how important it is to me. He knows that it was a chance to tell my story and to be a resource for people, for all people of color. Whether they are out, trying to come out, whatever issues they are having, he knew that I could be a resource to them and that they could relate to me. He has been very supportive.
MC: So much of your story involves your relationship with Nicholas and being long distance and how that impacts your relationship. Have you decided to quarantine together?
AK: We have. We decided early on that it would be best for me to be up here. Long distance is not easy, and people really have too work towards it. The bedrock of our relationship has always been the goals that we had for ourselves. Even though things may get complicated and messy along the way, we try to keep the goals in mind as much as we can.
MC: If asked to return for a second season of Family Karma, would you do it?
AK: Absolutely, One hundred percent I would come back. It has been a really fantastic experience, Bravo has been amazing throughout it. There is no question that I would come back.
MC: While we have all been quarantined, many people have been creative and found interesting ways to occupy their time. As a matter of fact, most of the airing of the show has been while we have been quarantined. What has been the most inspiring or creative thing to you during this whole experience?
AK: I think one of the coolest and most inspiring things to come out of this quarantine is to see how the country comes together in times of crisis. We have seen it before and we are seeing it again. We are really seeing the country as a whole work selflessly to improve the situation and to deal with a crisis. For myself for example, I am in my thirties and a healthy male, but it’s not just about me, it’s much bigger. It’s about the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. It is nice to see society work together collaboratively. Just last week at my firm, I helped pioneer a research website for small businesses. My practice involved a lot of litigation and work with small businesses, so we created a research page where small businesses could go on and see what kind of funding is available to them, as it is impacting these businesses. For me personally, that is something I was so exited about that launch. That is what is being most rewarding to me.
“Family Karma” airs Sunday nights on Bravo (check local listings)