Hunter Sigmund had never been on a major television network. But on Jan. 7, that changed.
Sigmund, a UNC first-year and club gymnast, was at "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," where his boyfriend, D1football player Jake Bain, was speaking with host Ellen DeGeneres about what his life has been like since he came out, as well as his two-year-long relationship.
Sigmund was excited to learn that despite the NCAA’s rules about players not receiving gifts, he and Bain would be given the opportunity to travel to Fiji for a romantic weekend, courtesy of DeGeneres.
“The NCAA has such strict rules about Jake not being able to accept gifts, so we went onto the show not expecting to receive anything,” Sigmund said. “It was definitely a huge surprise, and we are so excited and grateful for everything.”
Bain is a first-year and redshirt running back at Indiana State University. He and Sigmund first came into the media’s eye when The New York Times published an article about his sexuality in 2018.
“It all started in around November when The New York Times article about Jake and our relationship came out,” Sigmund said. “A few days after that, a recruiter from 'The Ellen Show' reached out to me and Jake and we did a Skype call.”
The NYT article discussed a very public speech given by Bain at his St. Louis high school, John Burroughs School, where he came out as gay before his class of roughly 100 students. Shortly after, Bain and Sigmund started their relationship.
“Jake and I were in the same class since I think about seventh grade,” Sigmund said. “We hadn’t really known each other very well besides passing each other and seeing each other in the hallways, but around junior year at this party I started talking to him.”
Sigmund said after the party he soon came out to Bain and ever since then, the two have been in a strong relationship despite the distance.
“Jake had come out to two or three of his friends earlier that summer, and it wasn’t really public that he was out at the time,” Sigmund said. “I just started talking to him and he was able to relate to some of the stuff I had been going through, so I found a lot of solace in him.”
Sigmund said the relationship was instantly very “organic,” and it only developed from there. Sigmund has even had the opportunity to watch a few of Bain’s home football games at Indiana State University during UNC breaks.
When Bain was invited to appear on "Ellen," Sigmund said he was excited to learn that he would also be able to attend, along with his and Bain’s mothers. The three sat in the audience and were introduced during the interview with Bain on national television.
“It was crazy. We had never seen (Ellen) before and then she was just sitting five rows in front of me staring at me,” Sigmund said. “All of the producers had been telling Jake and me how excited she was to meet us, and how she knew all about us.”
Sigmund said they were given the opportunity to speak with DeGeneres for a brief period of time after the show.
“They cut to commercial and the production assistants brought me and my mom up to the stage, and I got to talk to her for probably five minutes or so,” Sigmund said. “I had no clue I was going to get the chance to meet her, but I got to talk to her and thank her for everything, and I got to hug her twice which was pretty cool.”
Sigmund said DeGeneres thanked Jake and him for everything they were doing, but she was not the only one. After the show, Sigmund and Bain both received a wave of support, along with messages requesting advice for coming out as LGBTQ+.
“I just finished answering the messages a couple of days ago, and I want to help people because I know exactly where they’ve been before,” Sigmund said. “There was this one guy, and I helped him come out to his best guy friend the other day, and there was this girl and I’m currently helping her come out to her parents.”
Sigmund said "Ellen" has not only strengthened his relationship with Bain, but it has also given him the opportunity to aid others struggling with similar problems, which is something he will always treasure.
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