90 Day Fiancé stars Armando Rubio and Kenny Niedermeier won hearts and made history as the first gay couple featured on the TLC franchise. Niedermeier, 58, proved his love for Rubio, 32, when he decided to leave his home in St. Petersburg and move to Mexico.
The couple wed in Mexico in May and recently returned to television screens in 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way. This season brings new questions and challenges: Will Rubio’s family accept them? Should they expand their family? And how will Niedermeier cope with missing his children in St. Petersburg?
The Tampa Bay Times caught up with the Mexico-based newlyweds over Zoom. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Congrats on your wedding. What are your first impressions of married life?
Kenny Niedermeier: Throughout the whole relationship, it’s been a learning process. One thing I think makes our marriage even more spectacular and special to us is because we did have to put up a little bit of a fight to get our marriage license in Mexico.
In Mexico, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, so we thought there’ll be no problem. We went to register to get our license so we could get married, and they denied us right away. Apparently, each state can override whatever the Supreme Court rules for the whole country, and our state did that. So we had to fight with the marriage office and the government. Hopefully for the next person that comes in after us, the next same-sex couple, it will be a little bit easier.
How do you feel like you’ve grown individually and as a couple since your first time around on television?
Armando Rubio: I went into this project of being on the show not knowing what to expect. And also, Kenny being my first gay relationship. So it was a whole new world for me both ways. A lot of emotion went into it. That’s a lot of what people saw last season, and some of it is still coming up on the new season as well. But it’s made me all around grow as a person, grow as an individual, learn to love myself, and also being with someone that I love makes me appreciate Kenny even more, because it really is him who has been there for me in the end through it all. So we’re stronger together.
Kenny: I just really am proud of him. He’s kind of a shy person. This is really big for him.
A big part of your journey together has been combining the families and cultures. How have your families been reacting now that we have episodes coming out for this season?
Kenny Niedermeier: All my children live in St. Petersburg, and my grandson, and they’re all still there. I miss them terribly. My daughter Cassie is going to have a baby soon, too. They all love Armando. They’re not liking the distance at all, but they’re very supportive of us.
Armando: With my family, as seen throughout whole last season, it’s been a struggle for them to accept who I am and who I’m with. I’m trying to be as patient as I can, even though I’ve been throughout my whole life trying to go at their pace. All I’m looking for in the end is for them to be happy for me to be happy. I know I’ll achieve that someday, but we’re not there quite yet.
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Kenny, other than your family, what do you miss most about being in St. Petersburg?
Hey, I miss a lot about St. Pete and all the Tampa Bay area. I lived there for 16 years, had my home there, raised my children there. So it has unbelievable special memories for me. Just one thing that really stuck out to me, because we are gay individuals, was how open and diverse the whole area is and how easy it was for me there to be myself to raise my children openly as a gay man. It is wonderful in that area. You feel safe. That was a little bit of a shock coming here. There’s still a lot of progress to be made.
We really made our home here in Mexico and there were some things that we’re discussing about changing, and that will come out this season. But coming back to Florida isn’t in the immediate foreseeable future.
Now that you’re able to build your future together, what goals do you have on your horizon?
Kenny: We have travel plans coming that we couldn’t do because of the pandemic. We still have to take a honeymoon and we are planning to go to Switzerland.
When I moved here, I was here only about three or four months [before] the shutdown happened in March of 2020. And so we got stuck together. My kids couldn’t come here, I couldn’t go there. So it was a long time before I see my family. And we’re stuck together 24/7, trying to figure out a wedding plan along the way. I always say if we didn’t kill each other during all this, we were made for each other. But now that things are opening up, and we’re both vaccinated, we’re hoping to be able to get out a little bit more and do some traveling and be coming back to St. Pete.
What are you most looking forward to doing when you guys are back in St. Petersburg?
Kenny: I’m coming back actually in October for my daughter having her baby. Armando won’t be coming. He still can’t come to the states yet. But he’s going back to his hometown, where he has a pet resort. We’re going to try to go to Busch Gardens with my kids and my grandkids. I love downtown. St. Pete is a great place for eating and coffeehouses and stuff.
New episodes of 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way air Sundays at 8 p.m. on TLC.