You can easily spot a shot by photographer celebrity Mike Ruiz. Bold colors, A-list celebrities, provocative poses, high fashion brands, and muscle-bound beauties make up a portfolio that is almost three decades in the making. Mike’s long list of celebrity clients include Priyank Chopra, Cardi B, Ruby Rose, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Prince, Taraji P Henson, Penn Badgley, Kelly Clarkson, Queen Latifah, Betty White and everyone else in between; his work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Flaunt, Interview, Paper, and the list goes on and on. As attractive as his work is, so is his personality. We got to see the personal side of Mike Ruiz during his time on reality TV that includes A-List New York, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and, of course, America’s Next Top Model. Mike’s philanthropic involvement includes work with The Ali Forney Center, GMHC, The Trevor Project, Housing Works, It Gets Better Campaign, Live Out Loud, Project Angel Food, and GLAAD, with his love of animals partnering with Stand Up For Pits Foundation and numerous animal rescues nationwide. His latest campaign – Flex Your Vote – is fueled by a much louder temperament than Mike’s norm. Basically, get off your ass and VOTE! And, to make sure the LGBT community is paying attention, he’s added some hot guys to help send the message homo, I mean home.
Being featured in a Mike Ruiz photo can make someone’s career. Mike has helped a number of fitness models achieve great success and was horrified to discover, via social media, that a number of these models were promoting propaganda and ideals that directly impacted Mike’s rights as a member of the LGBTQ community. Couple this with the fact that 1 in 5 members of our community is NOT registered to vote. In this current political and social climate, that vote is vital for our next election. We know that sex sells, we may scroll past a political post on social media but will certainly stop and admire a muscle man. Mike reached out to his photographer colleagues in the fitness industry — Pat Lee, Ulrich Oehman, Jorge Freire, Abel Cruz, Eric Wainwright, Allan Spiers and Michael Downs — for ideas on how they could effectuate change somehow. Collectively, they concluded that rather than try to change the minds of the indoctrinated, they would try to inspire the LGBTQA+ community to register and then vote in the upcoming election. These photographers have started posting images on their social media accounts with the hashtag @flexyourvote with messages already coming in from fans that they have since, indeed, registered to vote.
We chatted with Mike for an exclusive chat about his campaign, surviving quarantine and this year’s Pride Season:
Flex Your Vote was inspired when you found out that models you helped were standing up for ideals that opposed your own rights. How did you find that out?
I found out the old-fashioned way, social media. Many of them post absurdities rationalizing the colossal failure of the current administration.
Have you addressed them personally asking them about their stance?
There really is no point in trying to change the minds of people who’ve been indoctrinated from childhood. That’s why I rounded up the other fitness photographers to start this campaign.
Do you think our recent social and political protests have inspired more members from the LGBT community to become voters?
I certainly hope so. The one good thing that came out of all the current chaos is that we’ve all been shaken out of complacency.
Do you think prominent members from the community should be pressured into making statements regarding current events?
In this current climate, it is most definitely the responsibility of those in our community that have any kind of visibility or platform to use to make the change that we desperately need. If there are those that are afraid of rocking the boat, they should consider the fact that they may not HAVE a boat if they don’t speak up.
Have you witnessed any racism firsthand in the modeling industry?
Absolutely. There has always been a limited quota of POC. Shoots will have 1 token or runway shows will have 1 or 2 token POC. I really feel like the tide is about to turn regarding that.
I love your reality TV days! What do you say to those that complain that reality TV capitalizes and reinforces stereotypes?
There must be a line drawn somewhere. I’m all about being PC but these shows are meant to be entertainment. Any reality show will cast the most vocal, loud, and flamboyant people to secure ratings. This is true on every show. With that said, I feel like it is possible to conduct oneself with integrity on reality TV and still be likeable. I WAS! 😂
What are the biggest misconceptions about the modeling/photography industry?
I guess that it’s all champagne and caviar. It can be a tough, monotonous job at times. You must love it to stay in it.
What is your creative process in creating a photoshoot?
It’s very organic and fluid. I come up with a general idea and then enlist the help of a team to fine tune it and execute it. Inspiration comes from so many places. I consume everything that I see, and it somehow gets regurgitated as a creative idea.
Does being around sexy bodies, all the time, desensitize you the sexiness of it all?
It totally does. It’s so clinical to me now. Also, having been on the receiving end of unwanted advances, I’ve always vowed to be ultra-respectful to everyone I photograph
What do you find beautiful?
Compassion. Animals that have been saved from brutality. Turquoise water. Sculpted bodies.
Has body positivity and representation of different body types become more of a discussion in the modeling world?
It most definitely has. There are far fewer parameters to be a model these days. The portrayal of inclusivity in the media is a step toward real world inclusivity.
Do you have any quarantine survival tips?
What has gotten me through is to remain physically active. It can be easy to slip into a rut and working out has kept me thinking positively and feeling good.
What does Pride this year mean to you?
Pride has always meant that we should live authentically 365 days a year. It doesn’t have to be loud; it just has to allow you to feel worthy.
Check out our Metrosource Mini Podcast interview: https://metrosource-minis-lgbtq-beyond.sounder.fm/episode/mikeruiz
Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/c/Metrosource/videos
Last modified: July 27, 2020