HGTV told contestant Mikey Verdugo that he was not allowed to participate in the show’s reunion and finale episode, on which his absence wasn’t explained, and also says that a HGTV publicist lied when she said he was offered the opportunity to do interviews with gay press.
“I was going to tell you, I wish I had one too, but I wasn’t given an explanation. They just said, ‘You will not be showing up for the finale,’” Mikey told After Elton. “And I felt a little cheated, just for the fact that I built such a good relationship with everyone on the show. I came in fourth place, which I thought was a pretty good accomplishment; after all, over 10,000 people put in for it. And it hurt because I did want to see everyone, especially Trish. Me and her were really, really tight and she was like the sister I never had. So it was an instant bond when I met her and it was just sad not to be able to see her and recap everything with her.”
Verdugo is an openly gay police officer, but that was never discussed on the show, nor did he do interviews with gay-focused publications–even though this season had two other out gay men on it (Michael Stribling and runner-up Matt Locke) who did such interviews, never mind that the show’s first winner, David Bromstad, was openly gay.
While show publicist Leslie Gwinn told After Elton that requests for interviews with gay media were given to Verdugo, and said he “decided to decline the opportunity,” Mikey said that’s not true. “I have no answer for that. I even asked her. I said, ‘Why aren’t I doing it? I’m gay, I’m open. Everybody knows about me.’ But I guess she didn’t want to go that route with me,” he said.
Matt Locke said that the Design Star 3 contestants were told what to say about Mikey’s absence. “There’s one explanation that they gave. They said we could choose not to talk about it at all, or we could say that Mikey wasn’t honest on his background check,” he said.
That’s a reference to his the bondage porno Mikey was in, and After Elton reports that Verdugo “confirmed that he’s on a paid administrative leave from his job with the Hollywood police department, but said he couldn’t discuss the film at all, for legal reasons.”
Mikey did, however, say, “I’m a strong believer in everything happens for a reason. Whatever happens with the PD was meant to happen. I’ve been a cop for ten years and I do love my job, but my passion is more in designing now. … But it’s a police world. A lot of politics.” He said that as a result of the show, he’s formed Verdugo Design Group; “has been getting a lot of offers, and I’m going to travel to Albuquerque and do homes out there”; and may do a TV show with Trish. “Right now, we’re trying to get our show on Bravo,” he said.