Eduard Leonard & Riann Weyers
Vocalists/Reality TV Stars
Move over, Kardashians! There’s a new reality TV show on E! that has the watercooler all abuzz, and it features not one but two members of the LGBT community. Eduard and Riann are two parts of the six-member South African vocal group Overtone, and their sexualities—Eduard is gay and Riann is bisexual—have been part of a major storyline on Mrs. Eastwood & Company. The show focuses on the Eastwood family—Clint’s wife, Dina, two daughters Francesca and Morgan and Dina’s latest business undertaking, the boy band she had shipped to America. Needless to stay, drama has ensued, particularly when Eduard and Riann were confronted about their sexualities by their bandmates in a heated exchange. It takes guts for anyone to come out as LGBT, but Eduard and Riann did so in front of the camera—and an international audience—and have lived to tell the tale. And as the guys tell us, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photos by Ryan Forbes, ryanforbesphotography.com
I’d like to start out with a quote from Dina Eastwood. It’s one that basically gives the premise of the show. She says, “I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I was probably having a mid-life crisis. Some women do crazy stuff, get shopping addictions or get other crazy things. My mid-life crisis was adopting a boy band.” Let’s talk for a bit about Dina’s ‘adoption process.’ How did it happen?
Riann: Basically, what happened in a nutshell was we were a band in South Africa, and we were struggling at the time. Clint Eastwood was filming Invictus in South Africa, and Dina was with Clint for vacation. She went out for a ladies night out and saw us. She bought our album, and Clint liked it and asked us to do the soundtrack for Invictus. The rest is history. She wanted to bring us over to the States, and she thought there needed to be a show because crazy stuff happens to us.
How would you guys describe your relationship with Dina?
R: She’s like a mother figure for me. I can ask her anything. She’s very understanding. She’s my go-to person when I have trouble.
Eduard: I think it’s a very unique relationship. For me, she’s more of an older sister, mentor figure. When I came out to her, she was there for me, and she’s been encouraging me and has made the process much more bearable than I expected it to be.
What were you guys’ thoughts the first time you heard the premise of the show?
E: Well, I think we weren’t quite sure which direction the show was going to go in. As in any reality show, they try to capture what’s going on in your lives. The premise of the show was to highlight the band, Overtone, but then also the relationship we have with the Eastwood family, not only Dina but also Clint and Francesca and Morgan.
R: The synopsis was originally going to be Dina and the band. That’s why she did the reality show—to promote us. But it turned out to be way more than that and more realistic in following our lives, not only the music.
Was there any hestitation to doing the show in the beginning due to you guys’ sexualities and the possibility those might become a storyline on the show?
R: At first this wasn’t a topic for the show. It just happened. Eduard didn’t decide he wanted to come out on the show, and neither did I. I was, like, why would I? But it’s not something I wanted to keep secret, and when I look back on it, it doesn’t really matter, because people should accept other people.
E: There was definitely hestitation from my side. I didn’t want my sexuality to be addressed by the show whatsoever, because obviously I had reservations family-wise. Most of my family didn’t know—actually, none of my family knew. And it’s also a difficult topic in South Africa. South Africa is very tolerant, but socially in our culture it’s very much an unspoken topic and it’s something handled very conservatively. I didn’t want to come out on the show, but the producers of the show spoke to me and said, if there’s a story that comes out that you aren’t feeling comfortable with, then we won’t show it in the episodes. We decided to see how it goes and see how it came out, and I think it ended up being a way of showing me that you can actually be comfortable with who you are and be happy.
Tell me about the experience with being confronted about your sexualities by your fellow band members.
R: I never knew the rest of the band’s perceptions about gay or bi people. It opened my eyes a bit when they found out I was a bisexual man. I was scared because we speak the same language and we come from the same culture. They’re very tied in to my parents, and I was afraid it would leak through them to my parents. Some of the guys were actually really understanding. Valentino has a gay uncle, and so does Shane. For them it wasn’t that strange. But to some of the other bandmates maybe it’s strange because it’s not a talked-about subject in South Africa. But we’re not in South Africa, we’re in America. So it’s something you do have to tolerate and accept when you work with other people.
E: It wasn’t fun, I can tell you that. It’s scary to think you could lose the people in your life, especially if you only have so many people. You don’t want to lose them. Aside from my family back in South Africa, they’re kind of the only family we have. So being confronted was something I now believe they also didn’t really fully comprehend. Now that it’s out in the open, it’s something everyone can start digesting.
R: I think they’re still going through it, but it’s just part of life. People need to get over it. I think the bandmates are in a way—it was just a shock to them to hear it and then see it again on TV.
How would you guys describe your interpersonal relationships within the band today? Is there still tension due to the sexuality topic, or has it pretty much blown over?
E: I don’t think there’s anymore tension in the band because of our sexualities. There has been a change of thoughts, or not so much a change of thoughts but they don’t see being gay or having gay members as a bad thing. They’re much more hopeful, especially now that they see we can use this opportunity for a different demographic and as a different way of promoting the band.
R: I think the bandmates thought about it and realized we should use this to our advantage. It’s a highly talked-about subject within the country, especially with Obama now supporting gay marriage, and especially with a lot of other celebrities coming out of the closet.
What kind of feedback have you guys gotten from the public since the show started airing?
E: I can’t tell you how great a response we’ve received from the public. I was actually quite surprised. Not only gay people but straight people also give us so much support.
You guys mentioned your families back in South Africa. Have you guys gotten any feedback from your families?
R: It was a difficult subject for me because this is all new. I came out only three months back, and the show only airs in South Africa a month or two later. So I still had that gap to tell them. It was not easy—my mom didn’t take it well, and my dad was just very quiet. He was like, I need to work through this. I don’t know if I’m going to accept it, but I love you regardless because you’re my son. That’s a lot of acceptance for me, coming from my conservative background. It’s all I need to know that they’ll still love me.
E: My mom and my dad found out about three months ago, and they have accepted me. It’s not something they fully understand, and my mom went through a mourning process, but my father, he’s been the one telling the family, which I found strange. I thought it would be something like, just keep it a secret, no one should know. But he’s been going around telling people, and any negative comments he’s received, he just says, you know, my son is more important than my family, and if you won’t accept him, then we’ll be moving right along.
Eduard, I know there was one point—in one episode—where you were having a particularly rough time and kind of hit rock bottom. How are you doing today?
E: I’m doing much, much, much better. Dina is continuous help. She texts me daily to ask how I’m doing. So I’m OK. I’ve gotten the help I should’ve, and not only that, I’m working on myself.
What was it like to have such a deeply personal moment out there in the public eye?
E: It was very difficult because it is a very private matter and there’s complete vulnerability. But I’ve made peace with it. And I decided I’m not going to hide this stuff, because if there’s someone else out there that I can help, so be it. I’m very happy I did this, because there have been many people that have contacted me.
R: I agree with Eduard. I really think this was just the best thing I could do. There are so many people out there who don’t have a voice, and if I have the opportunity to help people who are in need or going through the same process, I would love to help them. It was not easy to see it on TV, but the world is slightly changing.
How have you guys handled the transition of moving from South Africa to California?
E: It was a big step for me. It’s stressful for me just to pack bags and go away for the weekend, so moving to a different country was very difficult. But we’re very lucky.
R: Yeah, going to another country is not easy. You don’t just snap your fingers and move. Financially it’s very difficult because you need a support structure, which we had, and Dina was so supportive in helping us, but to be honest, it’s been a big struggle. In the last four years we’ve been in America, this year is the first year I’ve had my own room. You can imagine, we’ve been living together with each other for four years constantly.
What are some of your favorite things about living out here on the West Coast?
R: I love the people, I love the sun, the liberalism. California’s great.
E: The number one thing for me is that I can just be who I am and not worry constantly about judgment from other people. That’s something I really like. There’s no need to hide anything.
Last, what we can expect in the near future from Overtone?
E: Well, we signed with Johnny Wright [famed music manager who has worked with New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, Janet Jackson and Britney Spears], so we’re very excited about that. We have a few things coming up—we’re going to sing the National Anthem at the Dodger’s game. Our single “Nothing Else Matters” is currently playing on “20 on 20” on Sirius XM—I believe we’re number two at the moment. People have been going to iTunes and downloading the song. The next step is to get some more music down and hopefully get a tour together as soon as possible.
R: Yeah, we’re looking to do a tour together as soon as possible—just get out there and do a few performances. And a music video—we want to do a music video for “Nothing Else Matters.”
Catch Mrs. Eastwood & Company Sundays at 10 p.m. on E! For more on Overtone, go to overtoneband.com.