Mike Ruiz (http://www.mikeruiz.com/) has recently starred in the Logo reality series The A-List: New York and is heading to a local Chicago club this week. With subjects from Jennifer Lopez to Dolly Parton, this Canadian photographer shows the world how to not shoot straight.
Gozamos: Hi, Mike. What is your nationality first of all?
Mike Ruiz: I am Spanish. My father is from the Spanish contingency in the Philippines. My mom is French/Canadian. There is a bunch of other stuff thrown in for good measure.
Gozamos: Did you study photography in school?
MR: No no no, I was a late bloomer. Ironically my dad was a photography buff. I don’t know if it was out of rebellion but I could not be less interested. I was a model for years. When I was thirty I got a camera for Christmas and then became obsessed. I was shooting everything in sight. I taught myself everything and voilà instant career!
Gozamos: Have you had a favorite subject that you photographed?
MR: I have had so many. I love all my subjects! I spread the love equally. I just worked with Kelly Rowland again. She is so sweet and unassuming, just really warm, very touchy feely. I love that girl. She is so giving creatively. We did a crazy transformation on her that was for a Dune futuristic inspired sci-fi shoot.
Gozamos: Are you making any more music videos?
MR: I just wrapped an Erika Jayne music video. I did one three or four months ago and this is the second video that I did. I am actually directing a video for a really good friend of mine Brian Kent.
Gozamos: What made you want to do the A-List show?
MR: They asked me and I gave it a lot of thought. I was cast from Facebook much like Betty White for Saturday Night Live. I thought it was a rare opportunity. I had TV stuff of my own in development and I thought what better way to learn the inside of television production than to do a show? That is how I learn everything. I just do it.
Gozamos: Well, that is one way to do it.
MR: I am not trying to be Meryl Streep or anything. I get to show my skills as a photographer on the show. I have a positive message. I have developed some responsibility to be a decent role model for people. As a gay man I try to conduct myself with a lot of integrity. I think it is important for people to see that being gay does not mean only one thing. It can mean a lot of things.
Gozamos: Explain the show to people that don’t know about it.
MR: I don’t know either (laughs). It is a drama about a bunch of guys living the dream in New York City, having fun and getting taped for TV. It is entertainment and showbiz. The dynamics are engaging. We are not looking to change foreign policy with this show. It’s light, fluffy and entertaining. There is some cat fighting and bickering. It wouldn’t be a TV show unless there was.
Gozamos: You have a photo studio in LA correct?
MR: Yes, in fact I am sitting in it right now. I live in New York but I am out here filming RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Gozamos: Oh, for the season three, that show is fun.
MR: You don’t even know. It is fifty times better. They have taken it up thousands of notches. I am hoping The A List is the same. People thought with Drag Race that it would be over the top and campy with a bunch of queeny gay guys dressed in drag. I can’t tell you a lot yet but yesterday we were all sobbing and there is definitely a much deeper message.
Gozamos: I look forward to seeing both shows.
MR: I am very proud of both things and my contribution to them.
Gozamos: Is there anyone that you want to photograph but haven’t?
MR: I have been thinking that I want to shoot people that inspired me from a really early age, like Phyllis Diller with a celebrity transformation. I would do something very fashion forward with her, edgy and cool. That’s what inspires me these days is to take people out of context and portray them in a different way that is jarring to people. Lady Gaga is very inspiring to me, she is fierce and I love her whole message but what could I bring to her table? I like to reinvent people. As much as I want to meet her, I am not sure that I want to shoot her.
MR: Maybe Morgan Fairchild or Prince. I was just having a conversation about Prince last night. He molded me on so many levels. Just to be in the same room let alone trust me to shoot him would be mind blowing.
Gozamos: That would be. You have such great opportunities.
MR: I am hoping that the younger generation will take away from the show many things. I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks with no support and no encouragement. I had a lot of things backed up against me. I listened to my heart and my head and followed my dreams. I hope people will see that you can really accomplish everything if you are not crippled by fear. That is a soapboxy. Let’s talk about some bitch fights!
Gozamos: Well, and let’s talk about that hot cover on your old movie Latin Boys Go To Hell.
MR: I am still haunted by that but it was a really cool time in my life and gave me first looks into a whole other world. I am experiencing it now on a broader scale. That was prepping me for things to come.
Mike Ruiz is coming to Spin Nightclub, 800 W. Belmont Avenue, Saturday December 4 from 10:00 pm until 2:00 am. Jade from RuPaul’s Drag Race performs at midnight with a Q & A included with Mike. Call 773-327-7711 for tickets or visit http://www.spin-nightclub.com.