In the world of reality TV that celebrates drama queens and stereotypes, TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way celebrates a real-life love story, the first same male sex marriage of the series, which is built on trust, understanding, and overcoming life’s challenges. Kenny and Armando’s emotional journey was captured in Season 2 of the popular TLC show which included an emotional coming out, cultural homophobia, loss, and a storybook wedding. Regardless of an age difference, language barriers, distance, or circumstance, these two fought the odds and have quickly become reality TV’s favorite couple.
Both: Although we were at first apprehensive about being the first [male] same-sex couple on the franchise which was a hidden weight on our shoulders, we were so surprised how 95% of feedback was so positive, supportive, and loving for us. Of course, you have the occasional homophobia that plays a part, but we learned to focus on the positive. It was a beautiful thing to see that our love story touched so many people’s hearts. We received multiple messages about how we changed views on same-sex couples and marriage because they saw a true love story between two men. Our reality helped so many parents and families accept their children because they realized they too can have a normal loving relationship, and that love is just love.
Kenny and Armando, separated by different countries, found each other in an online, single parent support chat group. Armando had been dealing with the unexpected death of his wife and raising his daughter, Hannah, while having to hide his sexuality from his family and his daily life. Kenny, a single dad from the beginning, had raised three triplet daughters, a son, and was actively involved in helping to raise his grandson. Despite the 25-year age gap, the two instantly connected.
Kenny: I could feel Armando’s kindness, sweetness, and giving nature almost immediately.
Armando: Kenny’s sense of humor really stood out to me. I was going through tough times, and the way Kenny made me laugh was a shining light in my life at the time.
Just like a Hollywood movie, the two decided to finally meet and spend some time face to face. The rest, as they say, is history.
Both: We were still friends at the time. We had no agenda, and we spent a few days together as friends. But we both knew when we parted ways to go back home that something magical had happened, and this was just the beginning.
As time went on, the couple’s relationship grew, via Facetime, text messages, and subsequent visits until they hit a fork in the road. Kenny made the difficult decision to leave everything he knew behind, including his family, to be with Armando and Hannah in Mexico. In Kenny’s lifetime, he had never come across someone with whom he had such a connection or felt such an unconditional love. Kenny was a fan of 90 Day Fiancé and after he decided to move, Season 1 of The Other Way premiered. The Other Way is a spin-off of 90 Day Fiancé that features Americans leaving the country to be with their future spouses. Casting for Season 2 was underway, and Kenny brought it to Armando’s attention. The two did their research, applied, and within months were cast on TLC’s global show that has since changed their lives.
While never capitalizing or dramatizing Kenny and Armando’s emotional journey, the show did share some intimate moments. The visceral reaction of Armando’s conservative family to his coming out was intense, despite an earlier attempt by Armando to come out years prior. Armando decided that he would no longer be tied down by what others believed was the right way to be or live. To add to his reveal, he also told the family that he was taking Hannah and starting a new life with his partner, hours away. Over 1,000 miles away, Kenny’s goodbye to his family was equally as devasting. As he drove away, sobbing, with his family, looking lost and broken, our hearts broke with them. How can such love come from such pain? But that is what their story was all about, fighting for love and taking the journey forward, no matter the cost. Not just an inspiration for relationships, their experience is an inspiration to anyone that lacks the courage to live life to the fullest as their own true self. Not yet celebrities, the choice to put their lives and families on camera was a difficult decision.
Kenny: It was a lot of back and forth on deciding whether to do it or not, but I concluded that our love and relationship were worth showing to the world. Even with all our differences, the best relationships can come about.
Armando: I am a quiet and private person, so there was a lot for me to consider. But I thought this would be a wonderful way for others to see they’re not alone. Coming to terms with one’s self and the coming out process was important for me to show, to hopefully help others.
The couple would watch every show as it aired and got to see how the rest of the world was going to witness their story. Where editing and forced situations in reality TV are commonplace, there was nothing faked or performed. You were seeing raw experiences and feelings and, for once, it wasn’t based on stereotypical gay drama. What did the couple learn the most about themselves from watching the show?
Kenny: Realizing how this brought out a lot of emotions that I never knew I had. A rollercoaster of feelings that played out on screen. It made me more in touch with my emotions and made me realize even more how I cannot worry about what others think of me. I have realized I have to be true to myself and who I am.
Armando: Reliving everything through the screen has been healing. Seeing the growth I’ve had within myself has been amazing. I am a stronger person, more confident, and sure of who I am from doing the show, and all along with Kenny’s help.
Both: The whole experience made us stronger as a couple. From day-to-day life, raising Hannah together, even wanting to expand our family. We realize we are a great team together, and we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.
One of the most compelling arcs of their story was the evolution of Armando’s family. Coming from an ultraconservative, machismo cultivated Mexican culture, being gay can leave you abandoned by your family, your friends, and even result in death. The tears, the awkward silences, fear of the unknown, hugs, and ultimate unity showed the world a glimmer of hope for the LGBTQ community in the future. In a culture where feelings are not often talked about and differences in one’s self are not often celebrated, Armando’s journey showed there can be light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how difficult the journey. The cameras being there gave Armando courage, perhaps it was Kenny’s unwavering, if challenging, support, or perhaps it was just time for Armando to live his life.
Armondo: It did not really hit me, what I was getting myself, into until I saw the whole film crew arrive at my house. It was then I actually thought, “What the hell did I get myself into?” But at that point, it was too late to back out, so I realized I just had to be myself, put it all out there, and live my reality. My family to this day does not fully grasp the reach around the world that 90 Day Fiancé has. They have actually never watched the show. However, the whole experience made my family open up to each other in ways we never had, and as my sister realized, “This whole experience has brought our family closer together.”
What is Armando’s advice for others still struggling to come out?
Armondo: As Kenny taught me, once you come out (even though everyone might not be there for you), on the other side, the world opens! Coming out is terrifying, but truly being free to be who you are is an indescribable feeling, and you will for sure be a happier person for it.
Kenny’s coming out was during a challenging time in gay history. And though his coming out was different than Armando’s, it was no less stressful.
Kenny: When I was 19, I moved away from my hometown of Toledo, Ohio, which was very conservative and closed-minded. It was 1982 and I moved to Florida where I found myself, and embraced that I was gay. I started living my authentic life. I was tired of hiding who I was from my family back in Toledo. So two years later, I wrote an eight-page letter to my parents and came out. Luckily for me, they were accepting. At the time, the AIDS epidemic was hitting the gay community hard. They were concerned with how that would affect my life. Thankfully, I personally was not affected by it, as so many of my close friends. It helped me move forward to be my authentic self and to always stay true to myself and live a positive life for those who did not get the chance.
One of the most undeniably loving characters in Kenny and Armando’s story is Hannah, Armando’s daughter. Not only is she adorable and so mature for her age, but she also exemplified unconditional love from the perspective of a youth untainted by societal or cultural phobias. She instantly responded to Kenny with open arms and an open heart. Some of the most emotional moments are seeing Hannah’s face light up when she finds out Kenny is coming to live with them, or her tears of happiness when she finds out that Kenny and Armando could finally marry. Now Kenny and Armando are adjusting to raising Hannah together, captured in an amusing moment when Kenny and Armando first question the other’s style in giving into Hannah’s wants.
Armando: I had to get used to co-parenting. Taking someone else’s thoughts into my parenting style. As an only child, I was used to giving in a lot more, so we had to adjust and meet in the middle on how we would move forward as parents together.
Kenny: Raising four children very close in age, I had to be stricter and more military-style. It took me time to adjust and ease up on raising an individual child.
Kenny’s children also play a big part in their story. Supporting your father’s choice to pack up and leave, to a different country, with someone whom they had never met was not easy, but they did support, they did show up, and they did embrace Armando and his family as their own. What have the couple learned the most from their kids?
Both: Seeing through our kids eyes, children and the younger generation are much more accepting and open-minded.
Kenny: I learned that even now, living miles apart, in a different country, the bonds you have with your children never go away, and the love is always there. We are even closer now, and that just shows that parent-child bonds transcend distance.
Armando: Seeing firsthand the unconditional and sincere love. Learning and growing from that to be more like our children.
A jarring and terrifying moment during the show occurred when Kenny’s daughters came to visit, and they went out to dinner in their new neighborhood. Out of nowhere, homophobic slurs were uttered by other patrons on their way out. In an instant, the bubble of happiness and love was popped as the reality came to reality TV, showing how dangerous being out can be and how much more work there is to do in combating hate. But the two didn’t let that stop them. Armando went from being afraid to showing Kenny public affection to kissing and dancing with Kenny at the wedding in front of his family and the whole community, with fireworks no less! Kenny and Armando’s first attempt at applying for a marriage license was denied, due to them being same sex. They fought the system which resulted in same-sex marriage being approved in their area.
Kenny: We have met a lot of great people and surrounded ourselves with open-minded caring people. We put ourselves out there as a normal loving couple, and most people seem accepting of us.
Armando: At first, I was terrified. But I quickly learned I had to be fully proud of who I am. I had a confidence boost that has allowed me to live my life without worry, and that has played a positive role in my life to no longer concern myself with what others think of me.
The couple has settled into married life and keep busy. Armando currently works for an architectural design firm, and Kenny started a small property management company. They also created their online Kenny and Armando Shop, www.KennyandArmando.com with a line of Pride and household items that have their distinctive touch. After work, they enjoy family with afternoon park outings and beach walks with their cuter-than-words new puppy in tow. They continue filming Pillow Talk, a fun behind-the-scenes for TLC. Who knows where else the two may pop up on TV.
Although Kenny has settled in, there are still growing pains. Finding a barber to maintain his signature coif was an issue, as was becoming accustomed to Mexican life. What has been the hardest adjustment?
Kenny: All the conveniences of life in America with everything at your fingertips – whatever one needs is around the corner. The language barrier has been a struggle for me as well as Mexico’s lack of acceptance of our same-sex relationship.
Being away from my kids is still an ongoing struggle. I miss them terribly, and in addition to my four children in Florida, I now have two grandkids I wish I could see grow up day-to-day. That has not gotten any easier.
But Kenny and Armando are making it work, turning their long-distance fairy tale adventure into the reality of day-to-day living, getting used to each other’s habits and quirks and having to adjust. As the two showed us, change is not always easy, but the result can be rewarding. The biggest keys to a healthy marriage?
Both: Always putting the other first, going beyond, and giving 51% more to the other. For us, a sense of humor is key, and enjoying even the smallest things in life. Learning how to “fight” right and hashing out differences quickly.
Going from single fathers to becoming TLC’s sweethearts came with a lot of press, global exposure, a social media boom, and even an exclusive wedding spread for People magazine. But don’t expect them to turn into Kardashians.
Both: We’ve stayed grounded and living our everyday normal lives raising Hannah. It all has been an amazing experience that, more than anything, has been humbling and made us better people to be a light in our families and be positive role models to others.
They have used their high-profile status for good, supporting their local community, more specifically the Eunime orphanage in Mexico, a center for the unwanted of Mexico’s youth, those affected by HIV.
Both: As we explored the possibilities of expanding our family, we started doing research on orphanages with the possibility of adoption. Many were opposed to speaking with us because we are a same-sex couple. One, in particular, was open to speaking with us and only houses children living with HIV. When we met with the director and children, we instantly fell in love and realized that even if we could not adopt, we knew it was our mission to help these children. They were all so kind and loving, and we decided to raise money for them. With the help of the 90 Day universe, we raised $25,000 via GoFundMe. We were so elated to help these children and it demonstrates what good can come out of the show and proves what kind and generous hearts are out there.
With their social media flooded by messages of love and hope, what is their message to their fans?
Both: We do not like to call them fans! We refer to them as supporters, because they all have been huge supporters of our relationship, our families, our love story, and Armando’s coming out process. We really want to thank you all for always having an open mind and seeing through a lot of the noise of 90 Day Fiancé to connect with us. For all the showing of love and affection that has brought joy to our lives, we truly thank you. You all have put a smile on our faces.
You can stream Season 2 of TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way (Photos courtesy Kenny & Armando)
Follow Armando and Kenny on IG: @Kenneth_90Day and @Armando_90Day or Twitter @Kan_tampabay
Last modified: May 1, 2022