Gay tennis professional in reality show, Deuces and Love, hopes to reach a wider audience
Lendale Johnson, the first openly gay professional tennis player, is on a mission to share his experience as a double-minority athlete in the current social climate. Despite being best known for his appearance on the Fox TV show Empire, he’s an activist who tackles homelessness, racism, Trans and LGBTQ issues.
The Black Lives Matter movement is thriving not only in the U.S. but across the world. In 2020 alone, over 4,400 protests denounced all forms of bigotry supporting BLM, all protesting in unity. This pivotal moment in our history reached its climax during Pride month, which signifies the LGBTQ community’s evolution.
Johnson hopes to start conversations amongst diverse groups and educate people using his voice and his new reality show, Deuces And Love, to reach a wider audience. When asked about the show’s main focus, Johnson said, “Well, I’ve been doing so many exciting things in my life, I felt it was time, but the main reasons were to address racism in Hollywood, highlight the BLM movement, shine a light on LGBTQ issues that are not visible, address the problems we face as professional tennis players off the court, and look inside my day to day life.”
He has also had his own experiences with racism dating back to as early as middle school. “I recall dealing with it in middle school,” Johnson said. “I was transferred to a predominately white school. Due to redlining, my mother moved us into a white neighborhood at an early age because she wanted me to have the best education.”
Johnson is an active part of the Black Lives Matter movement in Brooklyn, NY, marching in protest alongside the Manwari Black Panthers and making a point to discuss the “movement” as much as he can. “Yeah, it was an extraordinary day for all of us involved. I met up with the Manwari Black Panthers and organizers at the Applebee’s in Bed-Stuy. We shared thoughts on the police brutality that has killed so many innocent black people, systematic racism, and the inequalities that need to change in the law.
“I’ve been completely moved by the solidarity I’ve seen in this country; it’s extraordinary seeing everyone from toddlers to the elderly making an effort for change,” Johnson continued. “The protests need to continue, and literally, everyone must vote. However, I’m not sure about some of the white protesters, and I believe some are only doing it for a quick photo opportunity for social media, which is not cute.
“Again, it’s offensive,” Johnson said. “Murder, slavery, dehumanization, and racism have plagued my culture way before I was born. The fact that black people are still being murdered in 2020 by the hands of law enforcement system leaves me feeling very alarmed.” Johnson adds, “Enough is enough. Law enforcement needs to be held accountable and systematic racism needs to stop. It pains me to the core seeing my people killed, and no one should have to worry about their lives and safety by just existing.”
A man of many hats, Johnson also started his own Tennis Academy. “Well, I love tennis, so it doesn’t feel like work, which is the goal, right?” Johnson said jokingly. “Some of my biggest challenges have been dealing with the NYC Park District rules; tennis players often request lessons at the local public parks. A permit is required for anyone looking to play tennis in NYC, unless you play in the parks that do not enforce it. With that being said, if you go at the wrong time, there’s sometimes a huge line. Tennis is very popular in NYC because the U.S. Open is here.”
When asked of the pressures from society to feel like “the one” and the role model for young gay black men, Johnson said, “Billie Jean King said, ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ Billie Jean King is an iconic figure in the world of women’s sports and tennis, who was ranked the No. 1 tennis female player in the world. It only comes to those who earn it. I’ll leave it right there.”
Johnson says between managing a reality show, two tennis academies, and his own professional tennis career, “Goodness. there have been days when I’ve been extremely stressed and overwhelmed with anxiety,” Johnson said. “I’ve even had panic attacks, but it’s all about managing your life. Being an entrepreneur, there’s no balance [between your everyday life and business life]. I try to keep a strict schedule, but that doesn’t always work out. I’m grateful for my dream team and [publicist] Colleen at OtterPR.”
Deuces And Love will show Johnson revamping his career, love life, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the issues that ITF (International Tennis Federation) and ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tennis players face.
Instragam & Twitter: @lendalejohnson