Between caged children, separated families, and the constant fear of deportation, it's not easy being an immigrant in America these days. It's even more difficult as a gay immigrant, which is why Carlos Brandt is reaching out with his Dear Queer People podcast.
"I was excited and scared, but very grateful for all the people that I can call friends today and the opportunities to build a support system that I didn't have and has been hard to find," says the brawny and brainy journalist-activist.
Helping ease that transition for others while also improving himself through introspection and self-reflection was always part of the Dear Queer People plan, says the native Venezuelan, who was aware of his sexuality early on.
"From the Spice Girls to Britney Spears, I always knew I was gay. I never had a girlfriend," says Brandt, who was "raised in a very Catholic way." His parents didn't accept his sexuality until after he graduated college.
"It was very challenging growing up in such an environment as I was constantly afraid to come out in a household that wasn't ready to embrace my sexuality," he recalls now.
After graduating with a degree in journalism and a specialization in the audio-visual arts, he found himself going down a marketing path, and started work at the near dawn of social media "when Hi5 and MySpace were the only channels available."
Brandt worked on the first prototype of Blogspot but eventually switched gears, founding his own fashion and communication company in Madrid in 2012.
Five years later, when Brandt was given the opportunity to work on the first RuPaul's Drag Race "Werq The World Tour," he didn't need to be asked twice.
"I was able to travel around the world next to Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen, Alyssa Edwards, Peppermint, Violet Chachki, Valentina, Latrice Royale, Detox, Kim Chi, Acid Betty, Michelle Visage," gushes Brandt. "I mean, hello--this is Drag Race royalty right here and I was on cloud nine for months."
"It wasn't a job," he continues. "It was adrenaline and life itself."
Brandt describes a whirlwind existence of "makeup, costumes, wigs, and a thousand suitcases that we needed to move from one city to another. It made me fall even more in love with the drag community and to appreciate what they do for us, to see families come together--straight, gay, lesbians, nonbinary, mothers with their daughters, groups of friends, you name it--and sold out arenas of over 5,000 people. It was a drag concert every night on a different stage."
It was around this period in 2017 that his visits to New York City prompted him to officially move to the Big Apple. He rented an apartment in midtown Manhattan and set down roots. Brandt became a content creator and started his own company focusing on social media and branding. He was living a fantasy. "When you are an immigrant, you always dream about New York," he explains.
But what dream would be complete without a little romance?
"A week after moving to the city, I met the man I thought I would marry and since then it has been a rollercoaster of emotions to try to figure out life itself," says Brandt. He describes his love life as containing "all the love-slash-relationship cliches from a Sex and the City episode."
The Dear Queer People podcast is his most recent work, and is a project heavily influenced by his own experiences as a gay immigrant and his need to find his place in a new country.
"Dear Queer People was born from my own need to connect and understand our queer community. As an immigrant gay man, it was a process to find my own path in this city, which can be very rough, to explore my sexuality and to embrace who I was in a place that sometimes doesn't have boundaries or allow you to do and be whoever you want to be. Relationships, sex, transgender, lesbian, disability, motivation, activism, so many topics that I wanted to understand and learn but also, it was a way to claim a voice, my own voice."
Brandt says he sees Dear Queer People as his opportunity to "give a voice to queer folks around this planet starting with my own, and create a space where you feel that you belong, that we are together, no matter who you are, what gender you identify with."
He says he wants to make sure people know "you are not alone, you are worthy, and that there's people like me and so many others over these podcast episodes that can motivate you and lead the way to navigate this queer life we have."
For now, Brandt is taking a brief hiatus from Dear Queer People in order to "become a better person" and take care of his own emotional health. Sadly, sometimes the dreams of romance become an unbearable nightmare when the relationship ends, as was the case with Brandt.
"Sometimes life challenges you to pause or to put things on hold. To shed relationships, ideas, friends, and old versions of yourself that no longer serve you. So I needed to pause this project to rediscover the motivation to keep going and keep creating, with a purpose, especially in these times of change."
Not to worry, though, as Brandt intends to be back better than ever.
"I fell in love, made mistakes, built a company and a successful business, and lost myself--but the journey still continues to discover who this city is and who I am."
While Brandt is enjoying his hiatus, listeners can catch his Dear Queer People podcast on all streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and Radio Public.