Pride in the Media is an ongoing series on local LGBTQ media personalities and ally representatives of queer-affirming local media outlets.
Derrick Shore cuts a queer eye to the TV camera and casts an impish grin. There is no mistaking the joy he feels as co-host of Houston Life, airing weekdays at 1 p.m. on KPRC Channel 2.
“They don’t call it ‘GayPRC’ for nothing,” he tells OutSmart. “We are the gayest TV station in town.”
And that gleam in his eyes? That mischievous smile? Shore says, “I am looking out in Television Land to give a nod and a wink and say, ‘I can tell you’re thinking exactly what I’m thinking.’”
About now, Shore must be thinking that the smartest thing he’s ever done was to flee Los Angeles three summers ago to move to Houston and jump out of an airplane to debut the afternoon TV program that inspires viewers to “Live your best Houston life.”
The show, which is co-hosted by Courtney Zavala, is a charming mix of local food, booze, fashion, and culture, with smooth transitions to more serious subjects. For example, on a recent episode Shore sampled three rosé wines before nimbly segueing into a heartfelt segment about Memorial Day events that honor fallen soldiers and their families.
“Both Courtney and I come from a hard-news background,” says Shore, so balancing weighty issues with lighthearted topics isn’t much of a problem.
“It’s tricky, but I’m always searching for the authentic and getting to the heart of what’s real,” says Shore. “Life is too short. There is no time for b.s.”
From “day one” of his tenure at Channel 2, “I never felt any need to lie or sneak around for other people. I am kind of an open book,” says Shore. “It is really, really cool to work at a station that recognizes how diversity makes us stronger. Our staff members, from management on, are younger, older, gay, straight, all different races and backgrounds. I appreciate being a Houstonian. When people tell me they are closeted because of social pressures and say, ‘But you are living around people who are different,’ I tell them, ‘First of all, I believe that people are way more open than you give them credit for, and second, I know exactly what it’s like’” to grow up in a staunchly conservative environment.
Shore was raised “big-time Mormon” in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“I was never convinced that any of it was true,” he says of Mormon doctrine that treats gay people with contempt. “From as far back as I can remember, I knew I was gay, so the messages I heard—which were nothing but negative—were never deeply ingrained into me. I didn’t think I was a bad person, and I still don’t. So when they lumped bestiality, pedophilia, and the acts of murderers and rapists in with homosexuals, it never calculated. I developed a sense of skepticism and critical thinking; I learned to question authority. Not only did I not buy into it, I considered it a damaged belief system, and I am happy that I stepped away from it.”
As soon as Shore graduated from high school, he accepted a reporting job in Los Angeles, where he came out for all the world to see.
“I had never traveled outside of the United States,” he says. “I knew only English-speaking white Mormons in my same socioeconomic class. But as a journalist, you are exposed to all kinds of people. I have been on six of the seven continents; I have toured 36 countries.”
Just as Shore turned 21, he moved into West Hollywood, cementing the “culture shock” he felt by leaving the Beehive State.
For some 17 years, he worked as a reporter and video producer (and even won an Emmy Award) before jetting to Houston for several days of auditioning for Houston Life.
Reflecting on how he landed the job, he says, “It’s funny. I thought, ‘Do they know what they’re getting into?’”
He certainly surprised Dixie Longate, the “Tupperware Lady” drag performer, when he mentioned on-air that the night before, his date had laughed so hard at Dixie’s performance that Shore thought the man would have a heart attack or stroke.
“It really caught her off guard,” says Shore. “It gave her pause. She said, ‘I can’t believe you referenced your date as a “he.” In Houston! Some kid is going to see that and realize they are not alone.’”
This article appears in the June 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.