He is one of the friendliest people on reality TV, a superstar photographer who has captured some of the most iconic images in pop culture, a film director (RuPaul's Starbooty) and Video Clip director and is a staunch gay rights advocate who tirelessly works for a very long list of charities - and he does not stop there!. Guidetogay.com caught up with one of our favourite people in the world, Mike Ruiz, to chat about what's going on in his hectic life, including his gorgeous book and imagery project "Pretty Masculine".
You yourself were a very popular and in demand model before becoming a photographer… was that part of the inspiration to do "Pretty Masculine"?
Not really. My inspiration came from my desire to portray male ideals in an unconventional way. I wanted to create images that challenged the idea of what it means to be masculine.
How do you define masculinity, particularly in the GLBTI community?
Masculinity to me means being empowered and self assured. In my mind, it’s less about being butch and more about loving youself enough to extend that to others.
You have been an INCREDIBLE supporter of the community - ridiculously so, giving your time for so many charities and in particular GMHC, who are the beneficiaries of the proceeds from this book - why did you choose them out of the many you regularly support?
I chose GMHC because of all the amazing work that they do for people living with HIV and AIDS. All of the organizations that I support are for the betterment of the quality of life for our community.
You have shot and made iconic imagery of some of the worlds leaden celebrities - who was your favourite pretty and or masculine celebrity to shoot?
I don’t really have a favourite celeb. I do think that Dita Von Teese is amongst the “prettiest” and most beautiful subjects that I’ve ever photographed. I recently photographed a guy named Matt Mendrun who is spectacularly beautiful and will most likely end up in the 2 edition of “Pretty Masculine”
In the book - are there any identities the global queer community would recognise, or are all the models just hunky buff models?
I had a purpose with the subject matter of the book. It wasn’t about gratuitously photographing hunky men. I wanted to show the contrast between hyper masculinity and a softer, more feminine side. I pay homage to many gay artists such Tom of Finland and Pierre and Gilles
Is there anyone in there that we should now of, aside from them being stunningly gorgeous?
Most of the guys in the book are very well known in the world of fitness but I suspect that me and Martin (Mike's fabulous lovely Husband to be! They just got engaged!!! - Ed) are the most recognizable people in the book.
You have a very distinctive style that makes your shots instantly known around the world, how would you describe your photographic style?
The Guidetogay.com crew have been known to wear some of your awesome T-Shirts around the world on assignment… tell us more about those and how people can get them!
I created the line of T-Shirts to benefit The Ali Forney Center which is a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in New York City. They are available at www.mikeruiz.com/store and can be shipped worldwide.
We have heard through the grapevine that you have finished A:List New York forever… is there any plans for a Mike Ruiz spinoff - or another show on the box?
I don’t have specific television plans beyond A-List NY but I’ve learned to always stay open to opportunities that may present themselves. Life has a way of taking me where I need to go.
Pretty Masculine is a brilliant visual treat. Aside from the book - are there any other plans to turn this series into other products (like tshirts, posters etc)?
So far, some of the images are available as limited edition at www.mikeruiz.com/store and in the book. I am talking to some people about licensing the images for various things. Pretty Masculine is going to be an ongoing project that will result in a body of images that will hopefully permeate pop culture on some level.
Whats coming up in the next few months for Mike?
I am extremely excited about my collaboration with menswear designer, J. Cheikh. The collaboration has resulted in and incredible collection they we are very proud of. It was born from the desire to have clothes that I really love and want to wear. The suits are amazing and the detail is exceptional. The Spring/Summer 2012 collection has ben sparking a lot of interest.
I’m also very proud of my collaboration with Meoko Vodka (pictured). I was named creative director, spokesperson. I am thrilled with the fact that they are big supporters of some of the causes that are near and dear to my heart.
Aside from that, U can see me on Season 4 of Rupaul’s Dragrace in Feb 2012 and will be promoting my book around the US for a few months.
Then, of course, there is my full time day job as a photographer that always keeps me insanely busy.
You can join Mike's Guidetogay.com artist page/Group here