Kenny Niedermeier and Armando Rubio thought they knew what they were signing up for as the 90 Day Fiancé franchise’s first male gay couple.
Well, at least one of them did.
“He had never even heard of 90 Day Fiancé,” Toledo, Ohio-bred Kenny admitted of his Mexico-born husband. But Kenny was a devoted enough fan to be watching when the popular TLC series launched their 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way spin-off in 2019: “And I said, ‘That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
Kenny, now 60, assumed viewers would be interested in following along as he uprooted his life in Florida with his four adult children to live in San Felipe, Mexico, with the 26-years-younger guy he’d met in a Facebook support group for gay dads. “But I thought we’d get, honestly, a lot of backlash,” he told E! News in an exclusive interview. “It’s been absolutely the opposite. And we’re really surprised and happy about it. Shows you how much the world has changed.”
Agreed Armando, “I went in afraid and was pleasantly surprised at how much love we’ve gotten.”
Including from one very-close-to-home source: His dad, Armando Sr.
Much of the couple’s second season on the show revolved around if Armando Sr.—who struggled with both his son’s sexuality and the idea of watching him kiss his new husband at the altar—would attend their May 2021 vows.
And though he and wife Virginia did turn up at the Ensenada venue—”This is the first time we experienced a gay wedding, and it’s, well, perfect,” he told cameras. “There’s no need to put barriers within your mind to not accept anything”—his attendance was every bit as touch-and-go as it appeared on the show.
“It really was the last minute that we knew my dad was going to show up,” Armando told E! News. “So, it was quite a surprise, a pleasant surprise. And since then, things went slow, but things have gotten a lot better.”
Marveling at how they’re “at a stage that I never, never thought in my life that we would be,” Armando, who shares 10-year-old Hannah with his late wife, revealed his parents often come over for family parties and even stay overnight.
“Me and his dad have really become buddies,” added Kenny. “From the first time he met me, he wanted to punch me out, I think and we’ve really come a long way. We’re just a family now.”
Having scaled right over the PDA hump, “We can touch and all that kind of stuff and they don’t bat an eye anymore,” Kenny continued. “He’s really comfortable around it, which is really nice to see.”
In fact, other than their two-year marriage that’s “going really super well,” Kenny counts Armando’s improved family ties as one of the best things to come out of their time in the 90 Day cinematic universe.
“Before I moved here, I knew he was having trouble coming out to them,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I cannot move there and be your roommate or be your buddy. I am too old and I’ve been out too long to go back and act that way.’ So he knew he had to rip that band-aid off and do what he had to do, which I’m very proud of him for that.”
The result, said Armando, has been beyond his wildest hopes.
“You hear these things, ‘Oh, everything’s going to be better,’ but you don’t really believe it,” he admitted. “When you’re in the closet, you think it’s not going to happen for me and you live afraid. And I used to feel that way.”
But then the 90 Day cameras turned up at his house “and it’s like, ‘I’m already here, I have to do it,’” Armando recounted. “And now I can say it was the best thing I could have ever done.”
The process forced he and his relatives to get deep in their feelings. “This really opened up every wound they might have had and they’ve really healed from it,” said Kenny.
And now that the scars are fully healed, noted Armando, “I say to this day that doing the show really has been therapy for us, because I did have conversations with my family that I never would have had. I said things that I never would have said to them and it really made us stronger.”
Kenny and Armando’s marriage, of course, is just as rock solid.
Initially bristling at the idea of PDA in his more conservative Mexican neighborhood, “I’m not afraid anymore of being out in public with Kenny,” Armando said. “I’m just in my own skin with that.”
Though around their “really accepting” town, noted Kenny, they’re more likely to encounter a grateful parent than someone spewing a hateful slur.
“I’ve had fathers that reached out to us that had a hard time accepting their son, which they now do,” Kenny shared. “And we’ve had people come up to us on the street crying, saying that we really helped them accept their children, which is just unbelievable and blows our mind.”
Before signing on the dotted line for the show, he continued, “we did say, ‘If we can change one mind, then it’s a win.’ And I think we’ve done that for many.”
That continues to be their goal moving forward as Kenny teased, “I think some people are going to be surprised at some of the things coming up for us.”
They’ve already blazed a few trails, including making it easier for those in their Mexican state of Baja California to legally wed.
“The Supreme Court of Mexico, deemed it legal, but every state can make their own rules here,” Kenny explained of the battle they faced ahead of their vows. “We thought we would have no problem and they shut us down right away. And we did have to fight for it. And now, no one has a problem in our state. We really did help it out here.”
For those that are in it, dealing with the sort of bullying, loneliness and political roadblocks that deem the representation and celebration of Pride Month so crucial, he advises doing their best to keep the faith.
“Don’t let all the noise get in your head,” Kenny stressed. “Just because you see these people on TV and some of these politicians and some of these hateful people, there’s a lot more good out there than there are bad people. I think there’s a lot more good than hate, I really do.” Echoed Armando, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
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