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Meet Ricky & Cesar, 'Amazing Race 36's loveable gay underdog couple

Meet Ricky & Cesar, 'Amazing Race 36's loveable gay underdog couple

Ricky Rotandi and Cesar Aldrete on The Amazing Race season 36

The pair talks to Out about their time competing on The Amazing Race season 36.


Besides the starting point of The Amazing Race season 36 being Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (which couldn’t be gayer, if you ask us!), this season also includes two out LGBTQ+ couples in the cast, making us feel even more seen, heard, and represented in reality TV.

One of those couples consists of Ricky Rotandi, a 34-year-old preschool teacher, and Cesar Aldrete, a 34-year-old chef and food stylist. But even though they’re another gay couple from New York City — similar to Ian and Joe from season 35 — Ricky and Cesar believe that they were seen as “underdogs” for presenting as more like a “bear-ish gay couple” than most gay pairs on Amazing Race. During an interview with Out, Ricky and Cesar open up about when they met, how self-doubt plagued them during the audition process, and what they consider to be their strengths and weaknesses.

Scroll through to read Out’s full interview with Ricky and Cesar — and tune into new episodes of The Amazing Race season 36 every Wednesday on CBS.

Out: First things first: when and how did you guys meet?

Cesar: We met summer of 2018.

Ricky: July 7th, 2018. I remember the date.

Cesar: It's been more than five years now. We went on a date and it went pretty well.

Ricky: Pretty well?! I think it went really well! [laughs] We set up the second date on the first date, so I think that's a pretty good sign.

That's usually a great sign! How long have you guys been together?

Cesar: Five years and a half.

Ricky: Yeah. It's kind of interesting because we started dating in July but we didn't actually make it official until the following April.

Cesar: It took nine months for us to be like, committed.

Ricky: We took our time with it. We weren't really seeing anybody else, but we really enjoyed each other's company. He came home for Christmas that year before we were official. So we were serious already… we just didn't lock it down immediately.

Ricky Rotandi and Cesar Aldrete on The Amazing Race season 36


Were you fans of The Amazing Race before you met each other? Or how did you get into it?

Cesar: I was a super fan! I loved it. I'm originally from Texas, but I grew up in Mexico. I would watch all the American seasons and the Latin American seasons. I was really a big fan of it. The show gave me a lot of inspiration to travel, so during the [lockdown], after I had met Ricky, we were just binge-watching.

Ricky: I had watched it growing up, here and there, and I was like, 'Oh, this is a cool show.' And then when I met Cesar, I was like, 'Oh, this is really cool.' He got me hooked on it. We would watch it a lot.

Cesar: And Ricky hadn't traveled that much at that point, but I was just like, 'Let's do it!'

Ricky: Oh, yeah. I'm not a world traveler. North America. Canada, Mexico, the U.S., and that's it.

Cesar: So it motivated us. With the Race, I was always thinking, 'Oh, I'll apply whenever I get in shape and whenever I get...' I mean, we're like the teddy bear-looking guys. But then COVID happened and I was like, 'You know what? Hopefully, nothing happened to the show, but if something happened, I don't want to live with the regret that we never applied.' So I went like, 'Ricky, we're applying.' He's like, 'Yeah, let's do it.' And we did it. The next day, we got a call.

Speaking of that! Before this interview, we were chatting on Instagram about the fact that you guys identify as like the 'bears' or 'teddy bears' of The Amazing Race. We've had amazing gay couples in past seasons like Will & James [season 32 winners], and Joe & Ian [season 35 stars], but you guys described yourselves as a kind of different pairing.

Cesar: Yeah, the bear couple!

Ricky: I think it's interesting. We're more of an average-body couple. We're not super fit, but I did CrossFit in the past. I know how to get in shape if I want to, and I'm fit, I'm competitive.

Cesar: Yeah, just in a different way. We told Phil from the beginning, 'You know what? People might look at us just as the underdogs like, 'Hey, these guys cannot run.' But I grew up in Northern Mexico, where you have to do more manly things. I grew up going camping and chopping wood and all of that. But on the other side, I also love baking and cooking. I'm now a chef. I love playing with little toys and just being creative too. So I had both things growing up, and I think that was similar with Ricky.

Ricky: Right. It's kind of an interesting thing… being a gay man. For me, I kind of ebb and flow through femininity and masculinity. Look, I have my nails done. My interests are very vast. I don't mind hiking and getting dirty. I built decks with my dad, I've worked in concrete, and I also love to paint. I'm a preschool teacher. I have a background in musical theater, dance, and singing. My range of things is so vast. I think, when you're a gay person, you have the ability to flow through all of these experiences without feeling judgment, and I think that really helps.

Ricky Rotandi and Cesar Aldrete on The Amazing Race season 36


I wouldn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that you guys were 'underdogs,' but my understanding is that this was something that you had in mind during the audition process. Did you think you didn't have a real chance of going on the show?

Cesar: I think, with me, there was a lot of self-doubt. You go through the process and then you get to a point that you're in orientation and you're measuring all of these things.

Ricky: Right. You see everybody come in and you see military people, firefighters…

Cesar: …and former NFL players. This season, most likely, I would say is the 'hero' season. You have police officers, FBI agents, etc. It's just everyone.

Ricky: It is an incredible cast of not only intelligent but also very physical people. In past seasons, everyone who comes on the show is ready to race and seems to be very physical. So when you think about yourself, there's always self-doubt. I think when we walked in, we were like, 'We know we have the smarts, but do we have the physical?'

Cesar: It was self-doubt and just thinking about it a little bit too much maybe. But as a super fan, and making Ricky watch, we trained a lot. We knew that physical wasn't our strong suit, so we worked on it. I was doing stairs, like 1,600 steps in half an hour.

Ricky: I went back to my CrossFit days. I was back in the gym, doing all that stuff. We really did put an effort into both sides of the training spectrum.

Ricky Rotandi and Cesar Aldrete on The Amazing Race season 36


This season has two out LGBTQ+ pairs, which is pretty exciting. More often than not, we only get one pair to represent our community. What was your first reaction when you met Yvonne and Melissa?

Cesar: I think All-Stars, the very first All-Stars, there were four gay people — partners and friends — but never two couples. But being at the starting line and listening to Yvonne and Melissa…

Ricky: I have the chills just thinking about it.

Cesar: It's also the first time that there's a gay and a lesbian couple, so there was an immediate connection. Then we heard that Yvonne has family from Mexico and all of that, so there were other little connections as well.

Ricky: It's so nice to see the representation.

Cesar: And also, they're awesome, just saying.

Ricky: Oh, yeah, they're so awesome. We have kept in contact with them. We have biweekly or monthly Zoom calls with them. They're just absolutely wonderful people. And having this LGBTQ+ representation with everything going on in the world… to see people like you and to normalize it, I think that's so important.

Cesar: It's also a source of inspiration. There was a bear couple on the Latin American version of The Amazing Race, and when I saw them back then, I was like, 'Well, maybe I have a chance. Maybe I have a shot.' And now living our dream, it's the best thing ever.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.