Fans of USA Network’s reality show “Temptation Island” — a relationship experiment that tests the strength of couples with 24 singles vying for their attention — will be introduced to “Ray Rock,” a self-described “charismatic Italian kid with a Bronx swagger” and gentlemanly soul looking for a fairy tale romance.
But Ray Rock, birth name Orazio Iannacone, also has a story of perseverance. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has lived with a severe form of dyslexia, and despite that, has excelled in athletics, his job with the city’s Board of Elections, and now, he hopes, reality television.
“I’m a fighter, and I’m nicknamed after Rocky Balboa because just like Stallone, he had his learning disability but had to fight hard to succeed,” the County Club native told the Bronx Times. “It was hard for me. I had to go through a special program (through all levels of school). I had to work twice as hard in school and sports, and work … I just want to be someone that can show how far you can go no matter what learning disability you may have.”
Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words. Iannacone said he doesn’t feel limited by the stigma that dyslexics often experience in their youth, and it’s allowed him to diversify, as the six-footer has also dabbled in modeling.
Iannacone, who is one of the 24 singles looking to sweep one of the four “committed” contestants of their feet in tropical Maui, said he never would’ve thought he’d be on a show like “Temptation Island,” but that he applied for the fourth season at the suggestion of a friend.
“I’m a guy from the Bronx, working 9-to-5, so I couldn’t ever imagine me doing this show,” he said. “My buddy showed me the application for the show online, and told me to apply. It’s funny because I used to make fun of those people on (reality television), but it’s truly been a blessing and great experience.”
When he first learned he was cast on the show, which was revived in 2019, his friends and family made a few jokes at his expense. But quickly those jokes turned into overwhelming support, with perhaps no one more proud than his mom-turned-manager, Christina Iannacone.
“She’s great. I call her my ‘mom-a-ger’ because she’s so good with handling my schedule and making sure things don’t overwhelm me, ” Orazio Iannacone said with equal praise and humor. “But that’s how she’s been since day one, she’s always been a great support system and always been in my corner.”
Christina Iannacone describes Orazio as a hard-working kid who managed to letter all four years at Brooklyn’s Xaverian High School as a star football player en route to championship glory at Wagner College. But for mom, she’s perhaps most proud of how her son has given back to his community and how he hasn’t let dyslexia dictate his path in life.
“His goal is for people to see that you can succeed with learning disabilities, and he wants to always help others with learning disabilities like himself,” she said. “To me, he’s a modern-day Rocky Balboa.”
Television programs like “Temptation Island” provoke a certain type of interpersonal drama that hooks TV viewers weekly, but Orazio Iannacone said his Bronx roots helped him analyze and evaluate situations during filming before making rash decisions. While it may be hard for some to stand out among a horde of eligible and attractive bachelors, Orazio Iannacone is confident that the kid who’s been molded by stigmatization, great family and the support of a proud borough can find his fairy tale romance.
“People perceive me as this loud, caring and loyal type of guy. Women see my looks, and probably assume I’m a player, but I hope they also see this sweet softer side and that I come from a good family,” he said. “I’ve been through ups and downs, but to be on ‘Temptation Island’ for me, it’s a come up.”
You can catch Orazio Iannacone on the season 4 premiere of “Temptation Island” on Wednesday, March 16, at 10 p.m. on the USA Network.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at email@example.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.