Stepping Out

Who Can Resist West Wilson?

His affable, in-on-the-joke sensibility has made him a breakout star of Bravo’s Summer House.

Bravo's West Wilson talks to Bustle about the Summer House Season 8 reunion and his breakup with Cia...

West Wilson is under the assumption that I’ve seen his balls. About a month before we were set to meet for dinner in New York’s Chinatown, he had posted a poorly angled TikTok of himself feasting on soup dumplings where you could see his dumplings. (“Not the skin of my balls, they were just protruding [from my shorts],” he clarifies.) Once I let him know that no, my suggestion of Chinese food wasn’t meant to be tongue-in-cheek — all I knew was that he was a fan — he explains the since-deleted video further.

“I set up [my phone] on my dining table and I didn’t realize I was just full-blown man-spreading into the camera as I unboxed all my Chinese food,” the star of Bravo’s Summer House tells me. “I posted it, didn’t review it, then set my phone down to watch Iowa women’s basketball and eat. Then one of my friends sent me a picture and goes, ‘There’s no way you posted this on the internet.’ And it was just both my f*cking nuts.’”

Rather than shying away from the incident, Wilson doubled down, posting a re-do video alongside the caption “I angled the camera higher #dumplings.” The TikTok was viewed more than 300,000 times.

It’s this affable, in-on-the-joke sensibility that’s made Wilson a breakout star of Summer House’s eighth season — network maestro Andy Cohen has called the reality TV rookie “the next big thing on Bravo” — and it’s on full display at dinner. When our menu comes, he asks if we can “f*ck it up,” before proceeding to order everything from the oxtail buns to the Sichuan chicken. When our shrimp spring rolls with fish sauce arrive, he warns me he’s a “double dipper.” By the time we move onto dan dan noodles, he says he needs “a little soy sauce to lube everything up.”

The Summer House Season 8 cast.Bravo/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

As a former Division I football player at Montana State University — who maintains the build of a Midwest-raised defensive back, with the well-kempt scruff and vintage T-shirt collection of a Lower East Sider — Wilson never viewed himself as the “funny guy,” he says. “I thought my success with women was from being hot.”

However, after co-star Lindsay Hubbard tapped him to join Summer House — they’d met at an East Village bar the year before — both castmates and fans attributed Wilson’s romantic appeal to his abundance of charisma. “I hate to play the football guy card but that’s a very masculine, alpha environment that I've been around my whole life. I don't think that many dudes succeed in that world without having some f*cking presence,” says the 29-year-old who, outside of the show, works at Complex as a producer making sports-focused social and editorial videos.

“As we were breaking up, I thought our conversations were mutual because they were so civil and respectful. But looking back after the reunion, [I realize] I blamed a lot of external factors for my unreadiness to date.”

Whether it was his looks, his presence, or some combination of the two, there was one castmate who found herself particularly charmed by the Missourian: 28-year-old model Ciara Miller. The pair started casually dating at the beginning of last summer, and Miller’s reticence to have sex with Wilson, along with his reticence to define the relationship, became a major plot point of the season. Yet despite Wilson’s much-discussed desire to sleep with her, he never came across as aggressive or entitled to sex — a delicate tightrope to walk with a new partner, let alone on camera. “Why would you want to have sex with someone who’s not ready to have sex with you?” asks Wilson, the son of an OB-GYN mother, who seems genuinely baffled that this should deserve praise. “If someone wants it, and someone doesn’t want it, you clearly should f*cking respect the person who doesn’t.”

Ever since Season 8 filming concluded last summer, Wilson and Miller have had to remain mum on their relationship status. But ahead of the two-part reunion, which drops on June 6 and June 13, he’s able to speak freely — and according to him, here’s what transpired: The two continued seeing each other after leaving the Hamptons, but had to do so in private, since the show didn’t air until February. That caused a strain on the romance, which ended in December.

“We never officially made it a ‘thing,’ but we might as well have been. So that was weird for me, too, because how can you be boyfriend and girlfriend with someone when you're supposed to keep it a secret?” asks Wilson now. He taped the reunion a few days ago, and says he sounded like a “f*cking idiot” when talking about the breakup.

“One, I was nervous because I hadn’t seen her in a long time. And two, we never had hardcore closure. We just agreed to maybe not talk, and then I didn’t really know where we stood. Three, I tried to react to what everyone else was saying [instead of] saying what I wanted to say. It was such a disaster.”

West Wilson with fellow Summer House star Kyle Cooke on Watch What Happens Live.Bravo/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Now on our second round of martinis, Wilson says he has a newfound understanding of Miller’s perspective. “As we were breaking up, I thought our conversations were mutual because they were so civil and respectful. But looking back after the reunion, [I realize] I blamed a lot of external factors for my unreadiness to date,” he says, interrupting the thought to dig into our scallop toast and burn his mouth for the umpteenth time this evening. “The more I think about it, the more I think her feelings [at the reunion] were valid.”

Over the past few months, he’s dated around in secret. “I chronically go out in massive groups, like a zillion dudes, a zillion chicks,” he says of how he’s been meeting women. “My dad’s been very critical of my need for being with the boys. It would be annoying dating me because I’m always doing stuff with the homies.”

Wrapping up our meal, Wilson then requests a doggie bag from the waiter, with grand plans to finish our leftovers later on. But when I check in the next morning, he says that he’d kept going out and — much to his disappointment — he forgot the leftovers at a friend’s apartment.

“There’s this weird stigma as you approach your 30s that going out is immature and childish, but I enjoy the chaos, the unpredictableness,” he says, adding, “I’m afraid I’ve got a few years left in me.”