Oprah hit the road in her Wildest Dreams Bus back in 2004 to make people’s dreams come true. One of her stops was at a family owned grocery store where my guest Paolo Presta worked. She offered this aspiring actor a speaking role on the TV show Will & Grace and it went down in Oprah’s show history as one of the best viewer surprises of all time.
Paolo talks about his incredible experience on the Will & Grace show and how it felt to live his dream. At that point he hadn’t come out as being gay and he was living the dream of his Father. He felt that he needed to hide who he was during the filming of the show, wanting more than anything to keep the love and respect of his parents. He got really nervous when it came time for him to say the line, “At least I’m the second gayest lawyer here.” He felt that by saying that line, it would be as if he was actually coming out to his parents. He wanted to tell them in his own way.
Paolo talks openly with me about the moment he came out to his father about being gay. “I’m not like my other brothers… I’m not like Dominic or Carmen. I’m different. I’m gay.” Paolo’s father lovingly replied, “It’s okay. As long as you are okay with it and you are happy, that’s all me and your mother want for you.” That acceptance changed everything for Paolo. He felt that he was finally able to be himself and live his true life. It also brought him closer to his parents.
Anytime Paolo comes across a young person going through the same thing he did before he came out to his parents, he encourages them to tell their parents. “It’s going to be okay. They might not understand at first, but if my parents who weren’t born in this country and they’re from Italy… and they accept me and they accept my partner… I’m telling you, it’ is the greatest joy ever because I don’t have to hide anymore.”
The Oprah Winfrey Show has had a tremendous impact on Paolo’s life in more than one way. Recently in a 2010 episode, he had an epiphany while watching Oprah talk to 4 child molesters on her show. She was describing the steps that kids go through after being molested. Paolo had been molested by his teacher when he was a freshman in high school. “That show told me that it wasn’t my fault.”
“I was watching and I finally got it that my teacher knew that I was lonely. They know who to go after and how to groom them.”
“Knowing that I didn’t do anything wrong was like, wow…” He felt that he could love himself again. Years later, he spoke of it to his family and they again embraced him and supported him with love.
“It’s not just Oprah, it’s everyone in that building at Harpo Studios and now at OWN. They gave me something that no one else gave me. I got this education that no-one else gave me that helped me grow into the person I am today & for me there is a place in my heart that is just for them, that I value so much.”
To everyone who is watching and going through something similar, Paolo says, “Love yourself. There is a light through the tunnel… what you are going through now is pretty tough, you will survive, you will get through it. But through all that, just love yourself.”
He also says, “Take action in your life. If there is something you want to do and you are not where you want to be, change it.”
Oprah was the catalyst, but Paolo had to put in the work to find his way in life. After working on Will & Grace, he was a part of The Talk, then The Ellen DeGeneres Show and finally, he has his own show A Spoonful of Paolo.
“Anything is possible if you believe in yourself.” #Quote @PaoloPresta #KirstyTV
Stay tuned to www.KirstyTV.com for more exclusive and uplifting interviews. We will be sharing inspirational stories from everyday people, celebrities and experts every week. You can also subscribe to the KirstyTV Talk Show Podcast on iTunes.