By Troy Ordami
Few do cool as hot as high-octane celebrity-fashion photographer and star of A List: New York, Mike Ruiz. With a unique approach to the exploration of visceral brilliance, his finely crafted celebrity images have appeared in Vanity Fair, Italian Elle, and Spanish Vogue. He has shot some of the hottest in Hollywood from Kim Kardashian to Adam Lambert and the girls of Jersey Shore. However, even he’ll say that none shined as brightly as beloved Golden Girl turned rapper, Betty White – she actually raps on the new club track, “I’m Still Hot”.
Savvy reality fans know Mike’s career on the tube started long before A List: New York. In fact, he has appeared on several shows including America’s Next Top Model, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Kathy Griffin’s My Life on the D-List. But A List was different. It was the first time cameras documented Mike’s every move and even more significant, it was the first time he gave up creative control. That’s a big deal for a man who is used to calling all the shots behind the lens. It was a professional risk, too, but one Mike doesn’t regret as the show introduced him and his work to a whole new set of adoring fans.
In his latest production, Mike Ruiz turns his attention to his first photo book, Pretty Masculine, featuring a hunky gang of male models in various forms of undress. It’s pages and pages of eye candy and all for a good cause, too. Proceeds benefit GMHC.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty is very individual and personal. However, I consider beauty to be represented in everything that denotes balance in our world and is in harmony with our environment. True beauty gratifies the senses, which in my case, inspires me to delve deeper into my creative psyche.
Isn’t masculinity the opposite of beauty?
The opposite of beauty is ugliness. So, to define masculinity as ugly is nothing but a limitation and inherent misunderstanding of what masculinity represents. Masculinity, irrespective of how it is portrayed, is yet another facet of beauty.
Traditionally, men have been taught that beauty is a girl thing and that they shouldn’t concern themselves with how they look.
Yes, western culture certainly has imposed its belief that the idea of beauty is relegated predominantly to the female gender. However, this preconception is very limited and I hope that, along with continued changes in our cultural behaviors and values, so too will we notice a shift in accepting that beauty is not “a girl thing”. I, for one, extrapolate what I find to be beautiful and interpret it accordingly. In my mind, there are no limitations to what is to be deemed as beautiful.
What is the main message of Pretty Masculine?
Beauty is whatever we want it to be. Just be open to new ideas and to the possibility of breaking down inflexible ideological barriers.
How do the men in your book represent male beauty?
“Pretty Masculine” depicts just one of many facets of beauty. In this case, the subjects in my book are simply a study of male muscularity—captured through hyper-stylized imagery. The juxtaposition of accessories and materials commonly depicted in our society as being inherently feminine is meant to demonstrate that beauty is all-inclusive and not meant to be segregated.
Are they the male equivalent to a Barbie doll? Are they placing the beauty bar for men at an impossibly high mark?
There isn’t or at least there shouldn’t be any bar to define male beauty. Moreover, it is important to remember that the models in my book are real people. They come from many different walks of life and have many different interests and are of many different persuasions. They are all beautiful individuals with equally beautiful souls. To objectify, plasticize or minimize them by comparing them to Barbie dolls would be nothing more than a perpetuation of short-sighted stereotypical limitations.
Isn’t true beauty really on the inside?
If you look closely enough, you’ll realize that beauty is all around us—inside, outside and everywhere in between.
What are some things you do to be the most beautiful person you can be?
I live in my truth, openly and with joy.
Of course we have to ask about recent news that you will not be part of next season’s A List: New York. Is that true?
Yes, it is true. I won’t be returning for a third season. I am most grateful to the producers of the show for having given me the opportunity to be a part of the cast. I have met many people and made many friends in the course of the last two seasons. The show gave me an awesome platform to discuss my general philosophy on life and share what’s important to me. That said, I feel that my participation on the show has run its course and that I need to tend to other projects that are pending and continue focusing on my career as a photographer.
What is your parting advice to the guys of A List?
Love yourselves and remember that you are the masters of your own destiny.
For more information, visit http://www.mikeruiz.com/.