You all might remember him as the guy who did not receive the last black tie in the season finale of LOGO’s “Finding Prince Charming.” Although, he didn’t win Robert’s heart, Brandon Kneefel stole the heart of many across the globe, with his charismatic personality and spiritual nature. When GPB last caught up with Kneefel, he was telling us about his time on the show.
Fast forward four months later, and he has shed that reality-star image to focus his energies on being a certified spiritual practitioner and counselor, as well as an author and activist. Just coming off the success of his book, “Defining Moments: and Prayers to Guide Them,” Kneefel is already at work with numerous projects on his belt, and yet another book expected to come in the near future.
With Kneefel having such a busy schedule, I was delighted that I was able to squeeze in an hour to talk to such a remarkable person. Having enough time for more than 10 questions this time around, you’ll get to see there’s more to this man than meets the eye. He has a larger than life story, with an even larger enough heart to match.
Defining Moments, such a needed book right now in this time we are living in. What inspired this book? Why now at this point of your life did you decide it’s time for people to know this truth.
I had been using prayer and writing my whole life, as tools for myself. I had to stop doing my spiritual counseling because of other goals. I didn’t know how to pick and choose clients and I didn’t have the time, but I wanted a resource out there. I was like, let me just write a short book.
There are so many opportunities for us in the gay community to take our wounds and transform them into our greatest assets. I know that my wounds are there because they are covering my core gifts. Once I get past those, I can let my talents and gifts shine through. I had a prayer book that I really dove into my first year of sobriety and that saved my a— many times. I wrote this as a reminder for myself, but also for a resource for people that couldn’t interact with me one-on-one.
Something that stood out to me was processing those emotions, in order to produce something like this. Did you ever think that growing up in such a toxic household, I know you spoke about coming from an anti-gay family in the book, that you would be here talking confidently and so outspokenly on your own spiritual journey? Did you think you ever would make it to this moment?
Darkness and light are two ends of the same spectrum. The greater capacity I have for living in dark times and dealing with uncomfortable emotions, I have to equal to a greater capacity for bringing that into the light. For some reason I understood that, maybe not in those terms, as a kid. I had a concept of understanding that all of my experiences could be utilized for good.
Then, when I became a writer I realized that my stories, at the very least, could resonate with other people. Growing up, it was like “Yeah this s— is hard,” but I knew there was a life possible for me. I don’t where that came from other than something placed on my heart from something bigger than myself.
I understood that everything I did was going to have a consequence, and the main thing I didn’t want a consequence for was ruining the relationship with my parents. But, I needed that time and space after they disowned me so that I could become who I needed to become, without the judgement. I think that space was really important because I was able to get back to a point where I see them lovingly, as opposed to seeing them as monsters.
Was there ever a moment where you hit a crossroads and wondered how you could be both spiritual and gay? Did you ever have doubts you could be both?
Those doubts came in junior high. I was like, “obviously, I can’t be both.” Then something happened in my high school years when I started dating guys, where I was like, “nothing bad is happening to me on the inside. The only thing bad things that are happening to me is the way the world is perceiving me.”
I understood sin not as something evil or “that you are going to be punished by God.” Sin means, missing the mark that I’m not my best at. For me, I feel more alive as I’m dating men, so this can’t possibly be sin.
I thank God everyday that I was such a stubborn and independent child because that helped me survive. If I would’ve been more co-dependent on my parents, then I probably would’ve stayed in the closet longer. I was like, “you know what Mom and Dad I know you’re trying to put me through Christian counseling … and change me … but my prayers to God can’t make a difference.” I was praying to stop being broken when I was completely whole.
Speaking to a lot of LGBTQ people, I know that some are afraid of exploring spirituality because it’s been used to oppress their identities, what is your advice to them to break out of that?
I would say nobody has a monopoly on God and spirituality. You are created by something divine and beyond this world. You have components pre-installed in you to do great divine works. Some people don’t need spirituality. They know how to practice love, joy and compassion just because they are motivated in that direction.
I think a lot of people benefit from spirituality as a compass. So, whatever your compass is, whether it’s mother nature, the ocean, God … I think those great things are calling you to your highest self. That’s all that spirituality is to me.
This is true humility. Humility isn’t bowing before people and graveling. Humility is recognizing the truth about who you are. You were born whole. You were born complete. You were born good. There is nothing that anyone can do or say that can take worth away from you. It is innate. I can’t understand love or human connection … without the context of something connecting us all together in a greater more invisible way.
It’s easy to step into addiction and struggle with mental health when you are in this lost space of not having any spiritual connection. Suicide rates skyrocket for the LGBTQ community every year. So, what was the little voice inside your head that woke you up and to all the people that don’t have that voice right now, what are your words to them?
I can’t believe that love exists, there is a purpose for me on Earth, that people care about me and (then also) believe that I’m worthless. So, the first step is recognizing any little evidence of self-worth. If someone smiled at you today, you are worthy of that smile.
It’s starting with that small spark of hope, and then, letting that hope build and immediately stopping the thoughts that would say otherwise. I have to check my thoughts all the time. That might be “I’m never going to learn this,” to “I’ve gotten through crazier situations I can benefit from being patient.”
One secular tool that I used that really helped me was me was meditating. All it needs to be is quiet time where you sit comfortably, relax and notice as your thoughts go and then gently let them pass. One of the biggest things we have … is our own judgement of ourselves.
Meditation is very important looking at this political and social climate that we are fighting in and leaders in this country not representing values people hold close to their hearts. How important do you think your role is as an author and spiritual counselor, now more than ever, in this time?
I love that question. I come from an activist background. Activism that I got started in was Soulforce. They were one of the first queer groups that were doing intersectional work at a non-violent, resistant level. I wanted to write this book so that there was something out there that people could … return to when they were feeling stuck, uncertain and scared.
I’m more of a doer too. That’s why I think the spiritual counseling was taking up too much time because I like to work in the world. Right now, my goal is to help people understand how these changes actually occur from the individual to the societal level. If you understand what heals one life, you understand what heals the world. I truly, truly, truly believe that.
I love that people are getting involved and trying to funnel their anger. I think the most important thing, now more than ever, is for people to start visioning and creating in their own good spaces. What happens when we spend all of our time focusing on what’s wrong, we get more of what is wrong.
We have this administration that is building this world in front of us … we’re following behind them … and trying to undo those structures. We can’t do it because they’re always going to be a step ahead of us. What we need to do is turn our mind, eyes and attention toward those people who are doing great, powerful work.
Focusing on senators or spiritual leaders … and push our energy there, so that all the attention suddenly goes back to those people. When attention goes someplace, the power goes there too. Suddenly this person is no longer effective because we aren’t paying attention to them, which means they’re losing support.
Let’s switch over to life after reality television. Do you look at “Finding Prince Charming,” as an overall good experience? What were the things you wished they showed and some things we didn’t get to see?
I loved it. I thought it was an amazing experience. I think the producers actually did an impeccable job at editing. They were very kind to me. I had a good relationship with the story producers.. But, their job was very minimal. You put gay men together going for one man, some things are going to come up.
I was really impressed with the men on it. We called each other the “Sister Wives.” There was four of us who had this bond and it was kinda primary to what was happening with Robert. That show was really about how we dealt with dating the same guy and what happened with Robert was an insulator.
It was a very special experience to me. I will tell you this, when he rejected me … I had to stay in a SUV for an hour while they finished up and then I had to film a little reaction video … I was crying harder than I ever cried before in my life!
I went to bed crying. I woke up crying. And, I had that injury too. So I’m limping off stage, after I just got rejected off live TV, in front of Lance Bass! It was hard because you are alone. The only people there are the talent crew. You can’t debrief with anyone. That was really emotional.
I had literally ruptured my achilleas and within 24 hours we’re doing our final date. I didn’t even know what was going to happen. I was in this makeshift cast. I had to get surgery. I couldn’t drive. I knew I was going back to the real world with all these medical issues. I had to stay in my house for a month. I was in a haze, girl. It was crazy.
But look at you now, growing and thriving. Do you still talk to anyone from the show, any friends with benefits?
Half of them live out in LA with me, even Robert. Robert moved right after the show to LA. Eric, Dylan, Robbie and, now, Chad all live out here. So, I’ll see them all at events and I’ll say “hi.” They’re all fun and great people.
Around the east coast, I really connected with Jason and Nick who are great guys and I love to stay in touch with them. Nick and I have similar world views, and he’s like a sista to me too. Other than that, it was like a moment in time for us.
And now that moment has passed?
Yeah, and I don’t drink. So, I’m not out and about as much. Often times I know the boys will go out for drinks together. I miss out on that a lot more. Yeah, we’re all doing our own thing. I love Justin. He’s up in Seattle. At the end of the day I made friendships and connections, all of them across the country, and I’m really appreciative.
I was sipping my tea watching the show, a little bitterness, because we have shows on mainstream television, like the actual “Bachelor,” that’s on ABC, and I felt some type of way that when I mention the show (Finding Prince Charming) to my friends half of them didn’t even know the show. Do you think that is problematic, a show that is pivotal like this, for it only to be showed on LOGO? Do you think that’s helping?
I think it would do better on a broader, mainstream network. I think people are scared of the risk. I do know that … 50 percent of the people that we reached were straight women. Gay people watch the “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” because those same nerves feel the same no matter what sexual orientation you are. When they aired the first episode on VH1, it got like 2-3 times the amount of viewers. I think that benefitted a lot of people.
A lot of gay people don’t even have LOGO. I would love to see it on Netflix or HULU, or even YouTube Red because there’s a lot of international people that watch the show. They’re watching it on the most random places. I found out that Sweden, props to Sweden, they actually aired “Finding Prince Charming,” recently this summer on their No. 1 TV station. I was getting a lot of messages from Sweden. I was like, “alright Sweden, showing us up.”
Okay, now we’re going to get really candid. How is Brandon doing with finding his Prince Charming? Are you still single? How do you find time for your love life? I want to know the tea.
I liked that you worded it like that. I’m still single. But the “how do you find time for your love life?” that is interesting because I didn’t think of it like that before.
I mean, you juggle a lot of things.
Yeah, I do notice that I find myself saying, “Oh my god I’m sorry, I’m so busy. This weekend is not going to work.” Honestly, to tell you the truth, I did a lot of work around relationships. I did a lot of videos and wrote a lot of articles about romance and love. I read this book “Deeper Dating,” by Ken Page. It’s amazing. If you all are having issues with committing or finding that “right person,” I highly suggest it.
I started looking into certain therapists, and was like “maybe there’s something that I can still work on.” But, all that it comes down to for me at this point is trusting my intuition. Especially with the amount of projects I take on and living in a city that’s pretty big. I need to rely on intuition so I don’t waste energy or effort, uselessly.
I’ll meditate on that. From there I usually make the best decision. I had the opportunity to revisit an old relationship and the person was kinda the exact opposite of Robert. I felt like I needed those bookends, like the goldilocks syndrome, and now I need to find the good middle. At this point I’m open to meeting people in different ways. I’m open to a lot of my friendships transforming into romantic relationships. And, I’m also interested in not having such high standards for people.
Trust me, girl, I feel you.
I’m expecting these people to be all this, when I’m showing up halfa—
Literally. I be looking for 10’s, and I be like ‘boy you barely a 7.” But, when it does come, what is your ideal man?
In the past I’ve dealt with very difficult men. It’s either the doormat or the dictator. So, people I either walk all over on, or people telling me what to do and who to be. The sweet middle is someone that pushes me, motivates me, inspires me and also gives me the freedom to do my thang.
I think the one thing I recognize that I missed is someone who inspires me. Like, “Oh my god, I want to be a better version of myself, look at them go.” That’s very attractive to me. Integrity is super attractive to me. I like having people around me that have a really strong ethical compass. I can’t have gray area with the relationships that I have.
I get stronger when people are like, “No, Brandon, that’s not the right thing to do, and you know better.” I’m a homebody for sure, but I don’t need to be with someone everyday.
Girl, I feel like I’m writing a Cupid profile right now.
I’m typing it right now.
But, you know, those things are generally important to me. It makes it easier for me to not settle. And by settle I mean, not go with the person that, intuitively, I know is not going to be the right person for me because I’m lonely and want some attention.
That’s the deal with like all these apps, too. We just need to know that people are thinking about us. We’re going through our day-to-day lives, going off to these individual projects and it’s nice to know someone is like, “can I see you today?” We want to hear that. Too often we take it too far and begin faux-relationships. Then, we’re like “I didn’t mean to go this far with this person,” and then we have to backtrack and hurt feelings. I need to get into those non-negotiables because I’ll often be like “alright, let’s go on a date,” and two months in I’m like …
What did I get myself into?
Wow, I need to update my Scruff profile. But, now, you’re such a busy person, the amount of stuff on your resume is probably ridiculous, so what is your daily schedule? Like a microscope into your daily life.
I get up. I try to do some form of connecting with my higher power. I’ll easily do a prayer, or meditate, or read something, like do some reflection. And if I’m really good I’ll do some journaling. I come to work at Breathe Life Healing Centers. I automatically have cataloged all these articles I want to read throughout the week. So, I usually start my day with reading those. Those are inspirational, entrepreneurial, visionary-type stuff.
I’ll do work at Breathe, then I’ll take breaks and work on side projects. Usually, at lunchtime I’m working on a side project. Then I’ll probably take a couple meetings. Coffee meetings. Lunch meetings. Then I get off work and focus on whatever side project. I try to have one. Over the summer, it was finishing the book. Now, it’s something I came back to, which is a startup that I will be in a 3.0 variation, that I thought of three years ago … and now I’m officially going to launch it as a 3.0 stage before the end of the year.
But, I actually just lied because I’m working on the full-length book that will be available on paperback. I wanted to put something out before my birthday, which was in August, because I didn’t know how long this other book was going to take. The next book is everything all wrapped into one. They’re essay pieces that are memoir mixed with societal critiques. I promise, it’s more exciting than that.
Writing that this past year has helped shape my worldview on what I think needs to happen next. Even though I’m involved in politics, I think we rely too much on government. The startup I’m working on right now will help transform some issues around that. I do a lot of studying, practice and experimentation with that startup, and will be doing that 20-30 hours a week for the next 2-3 months before I officially launch anything. That’s all my extra time.
I go to the gym. I take baths, only because, if I’m at home the easiest way for me to read is in the bathtub because I’m not distracted. I’ll either bring my IPad or my book in the bathtub and I’ll read. I probably read 1 ½-2 hours a day. Then I do a nightly inventory, and this happens half the time, of what I’ve gotten right and what I have to work on. And, then I turn on Netflix and zone out.
What’s on your Netflix right now?
I just finished The Defenders. It was awesome. I always watch 30 Rock right before bed because it’s so funny. So goofy. It leaves me in a good mood and I don’t have nightmares. I finished Game of Throne. Ugh, I wish they were longer!
I heard you talking about the new book. When should we expect it?
I was working on it pretty diligently and then a plan solidified with the startup. So, I’m like I have to focus on this right now, because I had real deadlines around it. There was no real deadlines around the book.
And the book I also didn’t want to rush because it’s a critical piece. I didn’t want to write just to write. Knowing me, it’ll probably be out end of this year, early next year. But, right now that’s taking a backseat to the other business. I think if you’re inspired and have a vision go for it. I used to be a writer for a magazine, and I retired from that mostly because I’m less interested in writing about the news, and more interested about making the news. If there is something I can do here and now locally to effect change, then I better be doing that.
Absolutely. We’re going to wrap up the interview but I first want you to tell me three things people assume about you and then three things you want people to know about you?
Okay. Three things people assume about me.
One, I found out halfway through the show Robert thought I was a party boy. People assume that I’m a party boy. I’m a former party boy.
Two, people assume, wow this is going to be awkward territory, that Robert past me up for Eric.
Okay! Spill this. Let’s unpack this even more.
Which is fine I don’t mind playing the underdog. And people assume …
Oh no! You have to go back to that second one. Go further! So you’re not the underdog? What does that mean? Was there more we didn’t see?
You didn’t see the whole thing.
We’re not moving on to the third one until you tell me.
I will say Robert tried to have his cake and eat it too. He thought logically that one person made more since and he didn’t trust his gut. When the cameras went off, it was a different story.
I thought so.
I’ve given enough. This is more than I’ve ever given. I don’t think anyone in the media knows. I think enough time has passed.
And lastly, I think people assume that I was the sweet, innocent one on the show. I was the unbothered one.
I’ll tell you, I hold people to really high standards. I expect a lot out of people. As Tina Fey says in Mean Girls, “I’m a pusher.” That’s not a docile personality. I’m a very dominant, aggressive person in general. On the show I knew for me to not lose my mind, especially being the only sober one, I needed to not get sucked into drama.
Eric, in fact, was the sweet, innocent one. The only time I steeped out of that was the finale because I wasn’t expecting that.
Me either! I was shooketh. Wasted my time. It’s fine. Now, the three things Brandon wants readers to know about him.
One, my greatest strength is being able to talk about those hard times in my life and synthesize my personal experience with what might happen in the world. Ever since I was eight years old, I thought about how could I fix the world. I did a lot of spiritual counselor and practitioner training for a couple years to really understand how to heal myself and heal people as individuals. Now, I’m ready to step back and look at a macro level.
Two. I’m not even close to perfect. On the show that was exactly how I showed up. That’s because I was really able to focus and really stay in my spiritual practice throughout the day. I’m really fiery in real life.
The third thing is I don’t know …
You’re still single!
Yep. I’m still single. Doing better everyday. Just looking forward to the next thing. This whole thing is a lot of work. I think people assume now the doors are opening. No, you go back to your regular life.
I remember coming back and I was crunching numbers or something but then getting calls from TMZ. I was like, “I don’t know how to be in this office and still be that person.” I remember hanging out with Robert, and TMZ would follow us. And I was like, “this is so weird.” You think about regular stuff. You stay a regular person, with just a little bit more people knowing who you are.
Yeah, a little bit more people in your business.
Yeah, but, you know me girl I’m an open book.
That he is. GPB would like to send a warm thank you to Brandon for his time. If you would like to purchase his book, “Defining Moments: and Prayers to Guide Them,” click here.