Perez started his career in television at the bottom as a production assistant and worked his way up to main anchor for WPLG 10's nightly news, replacing Dwight Lauderdale.
Despite having successful shows, he was booted -- even after covering high-profile stories such as Princess Diana's death and Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, and interviewing Hugo Chávez. He also won a few Emmys for his work before getting fired. Apart from the discrimination Perez alleges to have suffered, his career was also plagued by a highly publicized scandal
with former lover Dennis Pena.
Prior to his appearance at Books & Books
Tuesday, Perez took some time to answer our questions:
New Times: What has been the biggest lesson you've learned as a gay man in television?
Charles Perez: By far the biggest lesson I've learned as a gay man in the TV business is... when you compromise who you are to please other people, you may find success, but at a significant price.
What attracted you to Miami?
I was raised in Fort Lauderdale. Then I spent years living in Los Angeles and New York City. When I spotted the opportunity to move back here, it was a no-brainer. Especially Miami. Basically, Miami has much of what you'd find in those cities while being much more manageable. Also, because Miami is still so new, it's still birthing itself. It's still a work in progress. I love that. There's a real opportunity here to make a difference. Also, it's possibly the most truly international city in America.
Do you have any advice for LGBT people who are considering broadcasting as a career?
Yes. Be out and visible from the start. So many of us subtly retreat as we work our way up the ladder. We start to say, "Don't worry. I may be gay, but I'll keep it in check." In essence, we give permission to our bosses to expect that we'll hide our lives and our relationships. Meanwhile, our straight colleagues are almost expected to offer up their spouses and kids for a promo or two. It's a double standard. The only way it will change is if we make that double standard unacceptable. That means we need to be "out" and without shame from the start.
What is your favorite activity to do as a family in Miami? Or favorite spot to hit?
We live in South Beach, so, as a family, I think the best thing to do in Miami is to take a walk. From Lincoln Road to the Design District to Matheson Hammock Park to the boardwalk on Miami Beach to Crandon Park, it's all about packing up the baby, grabbing the dog, and taking that perfect early-evening stroll. Sometimes it's easy to take for granted how beautiful Miami is. Taking a walk in the right spot can bring it all back.
What was it like for you growing up as a gay Latino?
Growing up, gay wasn't exactly good in my family, or really anywhere. Only as an adult did I learn that my grandfather, Carlos, had a gay brother. When the family found out, they removed him from all pictures and conversation. It was as if he'd never existed. It was something to be ashamed of. That's the context that I was born into. That's what many of us are born into. It's time for it to change.
What or who inspired you to go into broadcasting?
Phil Donohue really inspired me. He was Oprah before Oprah. I initially learned about racism, religion, abortion, women's lib, gay rights, and sex while watching Donohue. I loved it. I wanted to grow up and have those conversations and be a part of the debate. I wanted to cover the issues of my day. I still do. But now I want to affect them.
Tell us about the No Shame Project.
The No Shame Project is a campaign to erase the shame associated with being gay. Though it does "get better," the purpose of the project is to say it should "be better" right from the start. We need to affect how parents, teachers, politicians, and especially preachers react to "the gay issue." So often they end up shaming kids instead of supporting them. It's wrong. It has to change. There is no shame. You can check it out at no-shame.org
Tell us something about the book.
The book is my personal journey toward my tipping point, that moment in my life where I could no longer sit silently. I'd long felt like my life as a gay man and as a TV personality/journalist were like two cars headed for a collision. Eventually it happened, and my life changed. The book chronicles that change and the emotional price I paid along the way. Thankfully, I've come out the other side a better man, with an amazing husband and a beautiful daughter. In a state where getting married and adopting a child wasn't legal, it wasn't easy... but it was worth every bit of the struggle. Today we're a family, and I often have to pinch myself to see that it's real. Just because the state of Florida wasn't ready didn't mean we had to compromise our lives. We did it, and there's no going back. Whether in front of the camera or not, it's a much better world when you walk in the light of who you are. For me, getting married, adopting our daughter, and writing the book were the beginning of a life walking in that light.
Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami