"I want to get rid of people who I know can beat me."
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Corey Lay made one hell of an introduction on The Challenge. As rookies often do, the 12 Dates of Christmas alum ended up in the first elimination. However, not only did he make his way out of the Liar, but he gave a memorable performance. "That strong opening just removed any doubt anyone had in their mind of who I am and if I belong on the show," he says. "Now people are opening up to me, and it feels really good."

In the days since his win on the MTV reality competition show, people have been reaching out to him with very positive feedback. "I'm getting a lot of messages from queer people saying, 'Thank you for representing us and making that part of what your message is and part of what your story is,'" he says.

Going into the second episode, Lay is in a good spot. In addition to impressing his competitors, he also has a new partner, Tori Deal. As a strong contestant and a veteran with ties Lay doesn't have, Deal has always been someone he's wanted to pair up with. "Watching Tori on Instagram before going into this season, she was training extremely hard, and I wanted somebody I knew would be a physical competitor that I could win daily missions with," he explains. 

EW recently spoke to Lay about his huge first episode, representing his community, and what's ahead for him.

The Challenge- Corey Lay
Corey Law on 'The Challenge'
| Credit: Staton Stephens

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How'd you prepare for The Challenge?

COREY LAY: When I first started talking to them about joining the season, it was the middle of COVID, and all the gyms were closed. I couldn't work out, so I bought a squat rack and put it in my living room. I turned my apartment into a full gym, including rubber on the ground so I could drop the weights and stuff. I was also doing a lot of math and puzzles on my phone every day for two or three months to get ready. I showed up with a plan and made sure I knew every aspect of this game so I could have a good chance, and people will see that when they watch this season. 

What was working with Emy [Alupei] like during the first challenge?

Emy is, as you can tell from the episode, a firecracker. She's also ride-or-die, and I could tell that from the moment we started working together. During the first challenge, we initially only had one hammer to break through the bricks, and as some other teams started running to the next checkpoint, they left their hammers on the ground, and Emy picked one up and started breaking those bricks. She was just so motivating the entire time. That's the kind of partner I need: someone who's not going to make excuses. And I was so happy she chose me. 

You have a conversation in the episode about growing up as a gay man who played sports. What was it like for you to share that with The Challenge audience?

I wanted to share that with the straight men on the show because they often don't realize how intimidating and hard it is to be a queer person in straight, hyper-masculine spaces. I try my best to make them aware and bring it up to them. In that conversation, Kelz [Dyke] and Jeremiah [White] listened, understood, and didn't try to minimize what my experience was like. It felt great having the support and being honest with every person I talked to in that house. They were rooting for me and letting me know how happy they were to see someone like me there. 

I don't ever want to minimize any part of me, and that's part of why I wanted to be on The Challenge and other things like it that are competitive: to show people they can do it. I want to be visible so that some kid growing up doesn't feel like they can't do anything. It's very important for me to always speak on that whenever I can. 

What does it mean to you to represent your community on the show?

Honestly, it means everything to me. With every decision I make, I want to make sure to do what's right for me and be an example of a good person. If I do win The Challenge, I want to win by being me and being a good person. I don't want to backstab people or lie to them. I want to be that example for my community and, in general, for people who are doing anything competitive. You don't have to be so cutthroat that you lose sight of your morals to win money, and that's important to me. 

The Challenge- Corey Lay
Nelson Thomas, Corey Lay, and Devin Walker on 'The Challenge'
| Credit: MTV

You boldly claim you want to send a veteran home. Any chance you can tease if you get your chance to do that?

When I said that, I didn't mean personally take them out. I wanted to be in a position of power to orchestrate them going home, whether it is throwing them into an elimination with someone I think they'll lose against or something like that. I want to get rid of people who I know can beat me, and some of these people have way more experience, so I had to be a couple steps ahead of them. I'm bold, and I know Kelz is bold, and we had that mindset; we saw the numbers. 

You made it through your first elimination! What stands out about it? It was an impressive introduction. 

It shows people that I'm a fighter and I'm smart. If you watch it back, you'll see I grabbed Renan's [Hellemans] leg, so he had no leverage to push, and I got myself underneath them. I knew they couldn't pull me back because I'm heavier than them. It shows, at the moment, I can make decisions, and I'm strong. I hope people now see what I can do, and hopefully, they want me as part of their alliances and see me as an asset. 

Looking ahead, what can you share about your mindset coming out of the elimination? How did you feel about your fellow competitors and the game?

Immediately, I was very vengeful. I felt like Aneesa [Ferreira] threw me in there for no reason, and I wanted payback. That was my thought when leaving the Lair, and I wanted to ask for a reason to get back in the house when there are many other rookie men there. I wanted to get clarification as soon as I could, so that was my No. 1 mission going back into the house. 

Then with Tori on my side, I felt I had a good chance of winning daily missions, which is why I chose her, because I knew at this point my name had been said once and, as we've seen in previous seasons, once a rookie's name is said, it's so easy for them to be put back in. At the end of this elimination, I had a lot going through my mind, and you'll see how it plays out. 

What can you tease about what's coming this season of The Challenge?

There's a lot of global people coming from places that have never been represented on the show before. Everyone brings something very exciting to the table. People underestimated me coming into the season, and on episode one I'm winning an elimination. I'm making big moves, and I'm not the only one who's going to do that this season, so keep an open mind and remember everyone is there for a reason.   

Would you do another season?

One-hundred percent. No hesitation. It was one of the most fun experiences I've ever had. I would come back with new things up my sleeve. I now have relationships with people, and I know who I can trust, and that is great knowledge to have moving forward.

The Challenge: Spies, Lies & Allies airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on MTV.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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