Interview: Ten minutes with producer Lori Kaye, champion of lesbian reality TV

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

For more than a decade, reality television producer, and Bronx native Lori Kaye has made her digs in sunny Los Angeles but the successful, Hollywood heavy-hitter is still rooted in good old east-coast sensibility.

A once and future stand up comedian, Kaye has helped lesbians on reality television rise from the ranks of novelty or secondary characters to genuine stars.

Now Kaye can add to her resume, which includes Joe Millionaire, The Ride: Seven Days to End Aids, Work Out and Curl Girls, the honour of being named one of Power Up’s Ten Amazing Gay Women in Showbiz for 2007.

“L.A.’s been really good to me,” says Kaye, who’s worked seemingly non-stop since she moved to the Golden State 11 years ago.

An actress who attended the American Academy of Dramatic arts, Kaye put her quick wit and stage abilities to good work as a stand-up comedian for 12 years, landing a steady gig at L.A.’s famed Comedy Store.

During her stand-up days Kaye also helped to kick off a new era for women in comedy, producing the pioneering show, Girls Night Out on Lifetime.

It’s small wonder that Power Up would recognize a woman who brought funny women into the living rooms of middle-America and also spearheaded, Work Out, the first reality television series featuring a lesbian star.

Ever the stand-up comedian with equal parts self-effacing wit and humility, Kaye says of the Power Up accolade, “I was really happy and thrilled to get it. To be recognized by your peers makes you just feel like a member of the team. I feel like one of the cool kids.”

And then she jokes that she can go right back to being a geek.

Kaye’s success aside, she’s wryly open about her status in Hollywood.

“My girlfriend says I’ll always be the seven-year-old fantasizing about Hollywood,” Kaye says, adding she still dreams about the Hollywood ideal of sitting at her West Hollywood home and calling for the studio to send her a car.

Kaye’s response to whether or not the studio has ever sent a car is tres New York, quipping, “Good Lord no. This is television. It’s way different than the movies.”

Beyond her highly tuned sense of humour about herself, Kaye’s approachable and also happy to offer advice to fledgling L.A. transplants.

“You can make yourself over a couple of times. I’ve finally become my resume. If you believe it you can be it in L.A.,” says the New York native, adding that she thinks it’s much tougher to reinvent oneself in the Big Apple.

A self-confessed musical theatre geek, Kaye shines a light on the secret to her reality television success. From the hyper-hetero Joe Millionaire to the poignant The Ride, to lesbian-centric Work Out and Curl Girls, Kaye says the key is “Being the best storyteller you can be telling the stories in a compelling, smart and accessible way.”

Before her foray into lesbian-themed reality shows, Kaye produced NBC’s American Princess, in which twenty women ages 18 to 29 travelled to England for a Pygmalion-like transformation.

Despite some possible bristling due to the not altogether feminist title, Kaye’s proud of her work on the show and says, “I could relate to their struggles, their stuff.” And as Kaye knows, the audience’s credibility to a reality show’s characters, is key.

While Kaye aims to deliver compelling, watch able television for everyone, she recognizes it’s a rarity to work on two lesbian-oriented shows.

“I’m really fortunate that I’ve gotten to work in gay TV. I’m lucky and grateful for that,” she says. Exuding her stand-up comedian’s sensibility, Kaye jokes about working with Work Out’s buff Jackie Warner and with the bikini-clad Curl Girls’ babes, “You know, I try really hard to go to yoga and spinning but when you’re doing 18-hour production days sometimes it comes down to, should I wash my hair or sleep an extra half-hour.”

Currently, Kaye’s churning out episodes for an upcoming reality show about high-class concierge Sara Ryan Duffy.

The show’s locations include glamorous spots like Paris, Monaco and Tuscany.

Kaye kick-started her producing career a decade ago with a gig at The Style Network, but she’s not giving an emphatic no to the possibility of stand-up in her future.

She’s more than a funny lady with a good business sense though. Kaye’s hoping to revive her play Girls’ Room, which was produced when she first moved to L.A.

With millions of stories in the naked city, Kaye’s got tales to tell on reality TV, stand-up or otherwise and rest assured, the lesbians will be represented.

“I don’t think there’s anything we should shy away from as long as it’s interesting TV,” Kaye says.

by Tracy E. Gilchrist © 2007; All Rights Reserved