Squid Game finalist Sam aka Player 016 felt ‘at risk’ growing up gay in religious family

Sam Wells opened up about his experience of growing up gay. Pictured here at the 'Squid Game: The Challenge' Celebration at the Trials Live Experience Space on November 30, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Netflix)

The internet has been completely gripped with Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge, and now, two gay players – Sam Lantz and Phill Cain – have made it to the finale to fight for the show’s multi-million dollar cash prize.

Warning: spoilers for the final episode of Squid Game: The Challenge follow.

For those not in the know, the the stream announced it was making a reality competition show based off the 2021 global smash hit series from South Korea. The fictional version was a binge-worthy commentary on capitalism and how society is money-obsessed.

Then, Netflix cashed in on the craze by pitting 456 contestants against each other in a series of games and tests – without the deadly consequences from the first Squid Game – for the chance to win $4.56m (£3.55m). 

With hundreds of players on Squid Game: The Challenge, many of them happened to be part of the LGBTQ+ community – and plenty made it through to the latter stages of the competition.

Sam Lantz aka Player 016 is one of two LGBTQ+ contestants in the final of Squid Game: The Challenge

Sam Lantz (Player 016) is among the two LGBTQ+ players – alongside Phill Cain (Player 451) – who did well enough to make it into the competition’s final three, with the winner set to be revealed when the final episodes drops on Thursday (7 December). 

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The 37-year-old artist from Florida kinda flew under the radar for a good chunk of the show. Sam kept a low profile in the dorms, allowing those with bigger personalities to be picked off in earlier episodes. 

Honestly, it was a great strategy as he warded off chaos in the game and mediated feuds between contestants up to the very end. 

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In Squid Game: The Challenge episode eight, Sam confessed he’s “pretty confident in [his] ability to hold [his] cards close to [his] chest” due to the way he was raised in a not so LGBTQ-friendly environment.

“I grew up a little gay boy in a very religious family,” he said in a confessional. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 30: Sam Wells attends the 'Squid Game: The Challenge' Celebration at the Trials Live Experience Space on November 30, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Netflix)
Sam Lantz is one of two LGBTQ+ people in the final three of Squid Game: The Challenge. (Getty for Netflix)

“It felt like I couldn’t be myself because, if I was myself, I was at risk because the talk was constantly about how people like me were going to hell or they were going to die because of their decisions.”

Thankfully, since coming out, Sam Lantz gained a found family who’ve filled the loving roles in his life in a “better way” than a “blood or relation ever has”. 

Outside of the competition, Sam Lantz owns a gender-inclusive beard grooming company called Beard Giant, which is pretty awesome.

If Sam wins, he wants to get a large art studio, help his husband with his passion for film, invest some of the money (smart) and resume animals (aww!). 

Squid Game: The Challenge is streaming on Netflix now.

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