Our Pride Month celebrations may have come to a fabulous end, but one Houstonian is keeping the love alive all year round. As the creator, producer, and host of Panning for Love, a new reality dating series, 25-year-old Davis Mendoza Darusman is working to broaden representations of queer people in popular culture.
“I’ve always been a fan of reality dating shows like The Bachelor and the new one The Ultimatum, but there’s not much queer representation. I got tired of waiting for someone to change this and decided to do it myself,” Mendoza Darusman told Houstonia on a phone call in late June. The show stars four queer Houstonians (Miles, Julia, Alex, and Jessica) as they go on a series of six speed dates in hopes of finding the one.
Mendoza Darusman grew up in Katy and is a former student at the University of Houston, where he worked on Coug TV and Coug Radio. In January 2021, he founded his own production company, Houston Unscripted Production, and conducted a casting call on platforms like Instagram and Reddit to help launch the new show’s production. He received support from his alma mater and even shot Panning for Love’s pilot episode on the university’s campus.
Mendoza Darusman’s journey with pansexuality has inspired his desire to create the series. Though he met and married his partner while in college, coming out to his parents as pansexual was a challenge because there is little representation available for nuanced sexual preferences and gender identities. “I wanted to create a picture of how people like myself are experiencing dating,” he explains. “We’re just people; it’s not black and white. With pansexuality, there’s room for so much more.”
Panning for Love’s initial casting call brought in a diverse range of people aged 20 to 35 from various socioeconomic backgrounds, races, gender identities, and sexual orientations, from pan to bi to graysexual. The show’s four contestants also reflect this diversity, featuring two gender-nonconforming cast members and one who doesn’t yet fully identify as queer but is curious to explore.
Although the series has yet to be picked up by a major network, Mendoza Darusman and his team are working to share the show with local audiences. The initial screening, recently rescheduled to early August, will feature the premiere of the pilot episode, along with a live taping during which the audience will see the cast members select who they’d like to take on a second date.
Because current reality shows have little to no sustained queer populations, Mendoza Darusman has high hopes for Panning for Love’s impact. “[The show] is a good amalgamation of queer dating,” he says, “and I really would like for this to kick-start the revolution of queer programming in the media.”
Watch the trailer for Panning for Love above, and keep an eye on Things to Do for more information on the screening and live taping.