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From Chippendales host to entertainment journalist to gay rights advocate, Jaymes Vaughan is a Las Vegas success story

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Jaymes Vaughan
Photo: Matthew Schueller / Courtesy

Love is in the air for Celebrity Page host Jaymes Vaughan. The Las Vegas-based entertainment journalist is busy planning his Spring 2022 wedding to actor and Food Network host Jonathan Bennett (yep, the heartthrob from Mean Girls).

Of course, for Vaughan, a wedding isn’t just a chance to have a great party. It’s an opportunity to “live loudly” as a role model to the LGBT community. After having pioneered a very Vegas civil rights victory as the first openly gay Chippendales host, Vaughan found an even shinier way to advance the cause: He worked with Kay Jewelers to design custom engagement rings for the couple (now available to the public as “Our Ring by Jaymes & Jonathan” at Kay.com). Additionally, Vaughan and Bennett chose Unico Resort in Riviera Maya because it celebrates LGBT romance (“not to mention that the resort is gorgeous,” Vaughan says). And the pair recently made news as the first gay couple on the cover of mainstream wedding magazine The Knot.

Las Vegas Weekly spoke with the 2012 Amazing Race competitor about his favorite Vegas activities, maintaining that Chippendales body and his big new travel project, Outbound.

How did it feel to be the first gay couple on the cover of The Knot? I always think about what it would have meant for me or us when we were younger and going through all of our struggles and feeling like you wouldn’t find love. You didn’t fit in. There wasn’t a space for you. To see two guys in love on the cover of this magazine would have done so much for me. I’m thrilled that we get to be a part of history, and I can’t wait to see who’s next.

During the pandemic, you and Jonathan launched Outbound, a “boutique bucket list adventure” tour company geared toward the LGBT community. Outbound’s first planned trips include cruises around European pride festivals, the Greek Isles and more. What led you into the travel industry? We missed traveling so much during the pandemic. We were sitting here making our bucket list of destinations, and as we’re Googling these destinations, we’re realizing so many other people are calling these their bucket list destinations, as well. Why not bring other people from our LGBTQ+ community and start checking off our bucket lists together?

Are you and Jonathan actually going to be on these cruises? We’ll be on every single one of them, girl. You think we’re gonna make a bucket list adventure company and not go on every adventure and tick off our bucket list, too?

How has the pandemic changed you? I’ll be honest with you, after the pandemic, a lot of the celebrity stuff just seems so silly. ... I’m gonna still do the red carpet and all that stuff and enjoy it. But as far as where you put the bulk of your energy—maybe I don’t need to care what relationship J.Lo is in right now when I could be doing something to make things better for my community instead? … That’s why, as someone who loves travel so much, it’s super high priority for me now to create a travel space for our community to feel safe and celebrated. The pandemic really switched my gears.

Between Jonathan’s work in Hollywood and your second home in Palm Springs, how much time do you get to spend at home in Las Vegas? It’s funny, because I did the whole LA thing, and Vegas is home to me. No matter where you go, Vegas has that small-town feel. Regardless of what industry you’re in, people always have your back—whether it was me performing on the Strip or doing real estate or flipping properties or this travel company. People that stay in Vegas are a certain kind of person, and we all just click. … When Jonathan said yes, I was like, “You realize it means you live in Vegas with me now, because Vegas is home.” He was like, “Oh, my God, I love Vegas. You kidding me?”

What was it like growing up in Chesterfield County, Virginia, a place you describe as “where Virginia starts to get hillbilly—the gas stations start serving fried chicken. ”There were so many days where I could not get out of bed because I was hurting. There was so much hate hurled at me, from kids assuming I was gay, from parents assuming I was gay and the church I grew up in saying awful things about gay people. … So [my childhood] definitely affected me a ton. That’s why, for us, it’s all about being as loud and proud as we can, because I don’t know who still needs that. Yes, we’ve evolved. Hopefully, we’re in a much better place for the younger generation, [but] there’s still so much work to be done and there’s so many people that need that encouragement and need that hope.

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