Prints charming

‘A-List’ photographer Mike Ruiz stands above reality TV royalty

Fashion-4

RENAISSANCE MAN | Mike Ruiz, above, designed a collection for J. Cheikh, including men’s swimwear, opposite. (Photos courtesy QC Cong Photography)

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Remember on sitcoms when the family pet would die, and the parents would break the news to the kids by saying that Sparky went to live on a farm somewhere? Well, that works in the world of reality TV, too. It’s not that all those fan-favorites or most-hated villains from the various seasons die, they just go to a different kind of “farm” after their 15 minutes of fame fade.

One such example is Celebrity Fashion Experience III, a one-night fashion show held recently at Lofty Spaces.

The roster for the event read like a TiVo lineup of guilty pleasure season passes:  M.C. Dawn Neufeld (from VH1’s Football Wives), guests Brig Van Osten (winner of Bravo’s Shear Genius, Season 3); Reco Chapple (Bravo’s The Fashion Show, Season 1); a collection from Nicholas D’Aurizio (Project Runway, Season 8, though he was a no-show due to a wedding conflict); and even pre-show nibbles from pastry chef Porsha Kimble, once an apprentice to Buddy Valastro of TLC’s Cake Boss. Add a catfight from the Bad Girls Club, it could have been a live version of The Soup.

Fashion-5Luckily, guests were instead treated to special celebrity appearance by Mike Ruiz, the hunky model/director/photographer/man of many talents: He’s made small screen appearances on The A-List: New York, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List, America’s Next Top Model and RuPaul’s Drag Race. While his on-camera street cred would have been reason enough for his appearance at this show, Ruiz was actually there touting his newest title: fashion designer.

“It’s [J. Cheikh’s] fashion line, and I was a guest creative director for Spring 2012,” he explains. “My involvement sort of grew out of meeting their team at charitable events and borrowing outfits for the red carpet. Eventually we just found a way to partner.”

The collection, based on the Dakar Rally (a famous off-road auto race), mixes and matches Northern African influenced textures and colors with structured European tailoring.

But the J. Cheikh collection isn’t Ruiz’s first time working with runway looks. He also recently created a T-shirt line (MR by Mike Ruiz) featuring beefcake images of him styled in the likes of Tom of Finland. (Funds from the shirt sales benefit one of his favorite charities: The Ali Forney Center, an organization that assists in housing for LGBT youth in New York City.)

Adding to his creative streak, Ruiz is in the midst of a book launch for his coffee table pictorial Pretty Masculine, a collection of images that deconstruct perceived ideas about masculinity.

“I wanted to combine feminine and masculine. I did things like drape beautiful floral arrangements on rugged men. It’s not what you would expect a book on masculinity to be, it’s not homoerotic,” says Ruiz. “A lot of books for the gay community are explicit; that’s not my mindset. I wanted to create a beautiful, aspirational ideal of what masculinity should be. I don’t consider myself hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine; I think I am a combination of both, and wanted [the book] to manifest that.” (Proceeds from Pretty Masculine benefit New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis.)

While many in Ruiz’s position of being at the cusp of a burgeoning mini-empire get drunk on their own power and quest for stardom, he’s stayed humble, approachable and even philanthropic, encouraging people not only to give back, but also to love themselves. That sincerity has set him apart from so many of his flash-in-the-pan reality TV brethren — he seems like the only anchored, non-bitchy regular on The A-List.

“I had a rough childhood, and as a result I have worked really hard and, you know, made my dream come true,” he says. “When I see people struggling, I feel it’s my responsibility to help them empower themselves. I sort of tie that into everything I do these days to pass on the messaging and help the next generation be empowered, because it took me a while to find my footing.”

Footing…. Hmmm, maybe footwear will be his next world to conquer.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Tiger Lillies at Wortham Center

The Tiger Lillies

The Tiger Lillies

London-based band The Tiger Lillies are one of those groups it’s impossible to describe to someone who’s never experienced them. Their unique brand of concert/performance art takes elements of Wiemar Republic caberet, Bertolt Brecht, opera, Jacques Brel and your worst childhood nightmares and mixes them a soupcon of postmodern absurdism to cook up the kind of theater that Sally Bowles and the Kit Kat girls would be making, were they still around, all with a decidedly queer twist.

The Tiger Lillies bring their uniquely anarchistic sights and sounds to Wortham Center’s Cullen Theater, (501 Texas Avenue) Friday, November 4, at 8 pm. The show is co-presented by Society for the Performing Arts and DiverseWorks. This American Leg of their “Gutter’s and Stars Tour” features fan favorites and some new material.

Founded in 1989, the Tiger Lillies worked their way up from London pubs to the Piccadilly Theatre, finally achieving cult status with their masterpiece, the musical “Shockheaded Peter,” a series of grisly fairy tales adapted from the 19th century German book “Struwwelpeter,” in which all of the children die at the end.

—  admin

Queens of the deserted

‘Project Runway’ alums Austin Scarlett and Santino Rice go ‘On the Road’ in the American heartland —and the Midwest may never be the same

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Ont the road
TWO WRONG FOOLS | Thanks for everything, guys: Your traveling fashion reality series is a hoot.

4.5 out of 5 stars
ON THE ROAD WITH AUSTIN AND SANTINO
airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Lifetime.  Watch episodes online at MyLifetime.com.

There are three big surprises about the new Lifetime Network series On the Road with Austin and Santino. First is how damned entertaining it is; second is how Lifetime made no effort to market it to the gay press; and third is how that it is on Lifetime at all — it seems ideal for Logo or Bravo.

Come to think of it, the third may explain the second. But let’s stick with the first.

For those who haven’t been addicted to Project Runway for a few years, Austin is Austin Scarlett and Santino is Santino Rice, also-rans in the first two seasons of the series but fan favorites for their personalities: Austin, the fey, face-powdered Quentin Crisp dandy; and Santino, the butch, cutthroat bisexual. Sharing the screen, they present as a queer Felix and Oscar, i.e., ones who know how to throw a half-lip stitch and cut on the bias.

The premise of the series is a kind of traveling Queer Eye for the Straight Gal, where the fashionistas visit small-town tomboys and make for them one faboo gown to wow their friends and family.

That’s the premise, but it’s not what the show is about. No, it is about the fish-out-of-water picaresque that puts a flamboyant odd couple in the heartland: RuPaul’s Drag U Meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
And it’s effin’ brilliant.

After only three episodes (the fourth will air after press time) — one of which was to nearby Weatherford — On the Road already deserves cult status. The highlight of the series so far: Austin flouncing into a general store in rural Antlers, Okla., beret jauntily askew, and sashaying through the aisles of Wranglers and gingham while the stunned proprietor and his son stare — polite stares, but stares nonetheless.

Not only is the show touching in the predictable but effective Queen for a Day tradition (with the added sweetness of Austin and Santino’s sometimes prickly but loving pas-de-deux), it’s a remarkably empowering bit of social acclimatization, as two queer men withhold judgment on Red State America while Red State America withholds judgment on them. Could it be gay acceptance has come so far that even in the “deer capital of the U.S.” two fashion designers can be welcomed with open arms and open hearts?

It is if this show has anything to say about it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens