Photography by Blair Getz Mezibov. Styling by Grant Woolhead. Photo director: Greg Garry. Market Editor: Michael Cook. Shot at the Lautner Garcia House, Los Angeles. Sweater by Hermès. Special thanks to John McIlwee & Michael Reynolds.
Colton Haynes is kicking my ass. We’re playing pool in the 28-year-old’s Hollywood Hills home, and while he should be celebrating how many balls he’s sunk in mere minutes, this isn’t the activity he was hoping for. “There was an estate sale down the street!” says the avid bargain-hunter. “But I think we missed it.” The pool table itself, Haynes says with giddy excitement, is a pricey piece he snatched for much less than it’s worth from “some rich lady in Tarzana.” And yet it’s not the highlight of the house, nor is the walk-in closet with everything from studded loafers to rubber Maleficent horns, or the bright bouquets on the dining room table from a very persistent stalker.
Haynes may be one of the most popular users in the world of digital photo-sharing (his Instagram following was 4.8 million at press time), but what he truly loves to collect and showcase are tangible, printed photos, which line the walls of his home. Some larger shots are professional prints from Haynes’s early modeling days, when he was photographed by the likes of Bruce Weber and Paul Jasmin. But most of the frames contain amateur printouts of candid images that Haynes’s fans would recognize. There are familiar photos of Haynes in his famously elaborate Halloween costumes; shots of him on the sets of MTV’s Teen Wolf and the CW’s Arrow (the shows that launched his acting career); and pictures of him with his friends and family, including his half brother Joshua — who is also gay. There are even about 30 framed photos stacked on the kitchen counter that Haynes just hasn’t gotten around to hanging yet.
“My therapist says [I have all these] because I don’t like to live in the moment,” Haynes says. “But I just think I like memories.”
Haynes describes therapy as “the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.” He’s battled some degree of anxiety since he was in fifth grade, but it's spiked dramatically in recent years, in large part because of the way he shielded his sexual orientation. “I feel really bad that I had to lie for so long,” says Haynes, who’s dressed in a tank top and gym shorts, and keeps pointing out the stress-induced sweat that’s dripping from his armpits. “But I was told that was the only way I was going to be successful. When you’re young in this industry, people take advantage of you, and they literally tell you that your dreams are going to come true. If you believe that, you’ll do anything. And you do believe it, especially if you’re from Kansas.”
By the time he came out publicly in a May interview with Entertainment Weekly, he’d suffered through a bitter breakup with a man after a six-year relationship, regular bouts of panic-induced vomiting on set, an unplanned departure from Arrow (with the aid of showrunner Greg Berlanti), a one-month stint in mental-health rehab, and a stomach ulcer he is still getting under control.
Haynes was living a Dorothy life long before trekking over the rainbow. He even grew up on an uncle’s farm in Andale, Kansas, a town with a population of fewer than 1,000. “I used to run around the farm naked,” he says, crediting that for his comfort with showing skin on camera. And he was always a dreamer. “I’ve always been obsessed with clouds,” Haynes says. “I wanted to be a meteorologist. I used to go on little trips to look for clouds, and I used to chase tornadoes. In the summer we’d have tornadoes every couple of weeks, and I thought the idea of something bigger than me was so beautiful. Maybe I just like controlled chaos.”
To call Haynes’s early years “chaotic” would be grossly understating the facts. He describes his hometown as a place where “you just couldn’t be gay,” and though he’d known he liked boys since he was in first grade, everything changed when he came out to classmates and family at age 14. The bullying escalated to the point that Haynes’s older brother Clinton would meet him outside of class to protect him. (Haynes is one of six, with brother Clinton and four half siblings.) At home, Haynes’s mom, Dana, was both blindsided and dismayed by her son’s announcement. His response was to rebel. A year of exploration—in which he lost his virginity to both sexes—also became one rife with drug experimentation. He ran away from home for three weeks and bunked in a friend’s closet. He was there when an estranged relative called to tell him that his father, William, had committed suicide by swallowing roughly 40 oxycodone pills.
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“I’m the last person in the world who would say, ‘Oh, my dad—pity me,’” says Haynes, whose father, seven times married, split from Dana and was never close with him. “But I was told that my dad killed himself because he found out I was gay. So, of course, I lost it and was like, ‘How could you say something like that?’ And no one will ever really know the truth. But my brother and my mom went to pick up my dad’s stuff, and the only picture on his fridge was my eighth-grade graduation picture. So I was just like, Fuck.”
Haynes says that the same photo is among those he has yet to hang in his home.
After being reported as a runaway and placed in a children’s home, Haynes decided he’d had enough of Kansas and fled to live with his sister Willow in Florida, where she was stationed during her service in the Air Force. When she was relocated to Texas, just outside of San Antonio, Haynes followed, heading into his third and most positive high school experience. It was his senior year, and he was nominated for prom king. He brought his then-boyfriend, and they wore coordinating tuxes. “Mine was neon green,” he says with a smile.
Unfortunately, this was also around the start of Haynes’s very own sordid True Hollywood Story. That same boyfriend was Haynes’s costar in the now-infamous March 2006 cover shoot for XY magazine, which featured an underage Haynes kissing and pawing at his beau in various states of undress. Set up via MySpace, the editorial was shot in Texas, with each boy earning a couple of thousand dollars for the job.
“All I remember is, I was so excited to do that photo shoot,” says Haynes, who’s as fond of fashion as he is of tornadoes and home-décor deals. “This was, like, the cover of Vogue for me. I was like, ‘This is it! I’m going to be in a magazine!’ I truly thought it was going to be this serious moment in my career, and I knew it would earn me enough money to get to L.A.”
That last part, at least, was true. At 17, Haynes and his boyfriend traveled to Los Angeles together and found lodging at Los Altos Apartments, the same Wilshire Boulevard building once inhabited by Dorothy herself, Judy Garland. (The couple split shortly after the move.) What Haynes didn’t expect was that the XY photo shoot would follow him (“It was everywhere,” he says) and eventually become the most unimpeachable evidence against a closeted celebrity in recent memory. Around the time he landed his breakthrough role on Teen Wolf in 2011, Haynes was taking the heat for efforts by his team to wipe the XY shots from the Internet.
“I looked like I was fucking gay-bashing,” he says. “Like I hated myself or I hated the gays, which was never the intention at all. I was just young and trying to make it in this town and doing what these people were telling me to do.”
All of this is spilling from Haynes’s mouth like he can’t get the words out fast enough. He seems free, and desperate to fling open the doors of his so-called closet, which, at its worst, he says at one point, was full of enough secrets to cover “a 10-acre lot.” He’s had incremental successes, with appearances on shows like CSI: Miami (2007) and recurring roles on ABC’s The Gates (2010) and Showtime’s Look (2010). But his Hollywood experience has been overrun with toxic representation, literally from the start. He claims his first manager dropped him for being gay and then advised him to post an ad on RentBoy.com to earn extra money. (He didn’t.) Haynes won’t reveal the name of the man he was with for six years, but he does note that things ended when he discovered the ex was constantly cheating. “I had a complete mental breakdown,” he says.
For Haynes, one of the toughest things about dealing with his anxiety has been that, apart from some family members and his two best friends, actress Ally Maki and her boyfriend, musician Travis Atreo, he hasn’t had many people to confide in. When approaching acquaintances for support, he’s often been met with belittling responses of disbelief, as if issues like panic disorders are the concoctions of rich, spoiled celebrities. “If one more person tells me I have champagne problems,” says Haynes, “I’m going to break the champagne bottle over their head.” The help of therapy has been vastly compounded by his finally coming out, which he says has also helped him rebuild his relationship with his mom.
But coming clean can have its drawbacks, as Haynes learned when gay actor Noah Galvin, of ABC’s The Real O’Neals, slammed his peer’s confession in an interview with New York magazine’s Vulture in June. “That’s not coming out, that’s fucking pussy bullshit,” Galvin told writer E. Alex Jung, presumably referring to the fact that, in Haynes’s own interview with EW’s Marc Snetiker, it’s the writer, not Haynes, who makes the definitive statement.
“I said I was gay, like, 50 times during that interview,” Haynes insists. “That’s just not the way they chose to print it. I would never try to hold that back, especially for my first out interview.”
Haynes was mostly surprised by Galvin’s comments. “When I came out, Noah tweeted, ‘Welcome to the family,’ and ‘So proud of you,’ ” Haynes says. “I have the tweets saved on my phone. Then, all of a sudden, I’m the worst, I’m a terrible person, and I’m a shame to the gay community. I think just having enough nerve and guts to come out in any way is a lot. It was really an emotional thing for me. And for that to be discredited by someone who has never met me was upsetting. He has no idea what I’ve been through. And I can’t sit here and have a conversation about Noah because I don’t know him either.” Galvin was unavailable for comment for this story, but his reps did offer to share his subsequent public apology, which is one thing Haynes has no qualms critiquing. “I think anyone in their right mind would call bullshit on that,” he says.
One week after my Los Angeles visit with Haynes, I reconnect with him in Manhattan during New York’s men’s fashion week, which has the self-described hermit scrambling from runway to runway, after-party to after-party. We meet at the Roxy Hotel’s basement lounge, the Django, for the unveiling of John Varvatos’s spring/summer 2017 collection, and Haynes is as in-demand as ever. Photographers practically pile on top of one another to take his picture, and though he claims that the only thing that scares him these days is people, he’s much better at this than he lets on. He schmoozes well and flashes the occasional playful duckface. “This is his shtick,” says Trey Alligood, Haynes’s guest and also his business partner for the forthcoming clothing line Harvey Haynes, set to debut this winter. (Alligood’s given name is Harvey Mack Alligood III.)
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For Haynes, the collection will follow a recurring role on the new season of Fox’s Scream Queens in September, his first gig as an out actor, and both will come on the heels of ColtonHaynes.com, his merchandise site that went live in early July. Since its launch, the site’s line of products has drawn ridicule from some (who’ve dubbed it uninspired, overpriced, or both), but it also sold out within days of premiering, its server occasionally crashing. Among the items for sale: a heather gray T-shirt aptly scrawled with the word anxious (Haynes intentionally chose the color to confront and embrace his sweating issue), and a black cap that reads daddy, about which Haynes is impossibly coy. “That’s what they call me on Twitter,” he says of his fans, all but ignoring the word’s sexual connotations. As we exit the Roxy, someone yells “Daddy!” from the sidewalk, while others wait to pose for selfies. Haynes obliges each of them.
“I haven’t had sex in—I couldn’t tell you how long,” says Haynes, noting that he’s been burned by love, that he’s been shy and reclusive, and that he’s been on two dates in two years. “I wish had more to tell you, but it just doesn’t happen.” When asked to describe his ideal man, Haynes says he’d want some combination of his three celebrity crushes: John Cena, Idris Elba, and Ryan Reynolds. “Someone who just descended from a mountain and said, ‘I don’t have any friends. Would you like to come live with me?’ I’d love that,” he says. But just as he doesn’t want to rush into trying to be a gay spokesman before properly educating himself, Haynes says that, next time, he wants to do the relationship thing right. He wants kids. Six of them. And maybe he won’t have to raise them alone.
“I want to somehow have a happy ending,” he says. “Or a happy beginning.”
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