VH1 may have been trying
to disprove the dumb model stereotype with their show America’s Most Smartest Model, but it might take Bravo to finally dispel that particular myth. The cable channel once again adds to its stable of reality programs with their latest contribution, the remake of British import Make Me A Supermodel. Continuing the network’s
gay-friendly casting ways, the show includes one out model in the competition. His
name is Ronnie Kroell and he’s not just another pretty face. In fact, he’s a political science major, runs his own
not-for-profit organization, is politically active, and hopes to
one day be president.
talked to him about the show, those White House aspirations, and his porn star ex-boyfriend.
AfterElton.com: Hi Ronnie,
thanks so much for talking to us.
Ronnie Kroell: Absolutely. It’s my
AE: We know you’re 24, from Chicago, IL, you’ve acted and
modeled, and you’re studying political science. What else should we know
RK: I am an only child and my
parents are divorced. I am interested in working out. I work out just about
AE: After seeing the show, I would have guessed that.
RK: [laughs] And I have a very deep passion for the arts and diversity
issues. I actually started a not-for-profit organization about three years ago
now called 4 + 1 Productions.
AE: What does the organization do?
RK: It’s a production company dedicated to bridging diversity through the
arts. We’re trying to build ourselves into being a very strong network of
artists in the Chicago-land community. By supporting their work in the
community, we hope we can work together to break down prejudice and stereotypes
at all levels. At one point, we were going to be focused on the GLBT community,
but we decided to broaden our horizons. Our definition of diversity is the
unique experiences and differences that we each bring to the table as human
AE: In the casting special you mentioned you have a boyfriend. How long
have you been together?
RK: Actually, we are no longer together. We broke up just before the
Thanksgiving holiday and decided to become good friends.
AE: Well, that’s always good too.
RK: [laughs] Definitely. It’s good to be friends.
AE: You mentioned that a previous partner turned out to be a porn star
and escort. How did you find out and what did you say to him?
RK: [laughs] It’s actually pretty funny. I can laugh about now in
hindsight. About six months into our relationship, a friend of mine called me
and told me I really need to sit down before I heard the information he had to
share with me. I asked why and he said, "Just sit down. Ronnie, your
boyfriend is most definitely a porn star and you have to go to this site."
So I went to this site
and, sure enough, there was my current boyfriend in every Kama Sutra position you could come up with. [laughs] It was one of
those situations where I was a little frustrated, as you can imagine.
I never had anything
against what people decide to do with their lives, I don’t judge people in that
manner, but this was my boyfriend so of course I did have a conversation with
him. I asked him if he wouldn’t do that while I was with him, and we worked on
it for quite some time, to the end of a three-year, on-again-off-again
relationship. It didn’t quite work out. He kind of went back to everything. It
was an interesting time of my life.
AE: Makes an interesting story, that’s for sure.
RK: [laughs] Definitely! And the funny thing is, after I found out he was
escorting and doing porn again, the thing that broke our relationship wasn’t
that. Rather, I was in school at the same time he was and he took my essays
from a class we were taking and copied it and turned it in as his own. So I
said, "I’ll handle the porn, I’ll handle the escorting, but when it comes
to plagiarism, that’s where I draw the line." [laughs] So I kicked him to
AE: How old were when you came out?
RK: I had a difficult coming out process. I didn’t do it by choice. My
mother caught me kissing my first boyfriend in my backyard when I was 16 years
AE: What was the reaction of your friends and family?
RK: It was World War III. My step-dad didn’t really care because his
brother is gay, so he’d been through that, but my mom, even though she knew gay
people, it was devastating to her. When she caught us, my heart stopped. I
jumped up and tried to explain to her that it was a phase and I was bisexual
and everything was going to be fine. You know, trying to calm her down.
It took a lot of time and
energy on all of our parts over the years to reconnect again. I don’t think my
mom will ever be 100% okay with my being gay, but I think after so many years
of knowing, we’ve kind of come to that point where we know time is too short to
be worried about those types of things. We’re just enjoying our relationship with
AE: Have you actually gone into the "house" yet where you’ll
be living with the other models?
RK: No, we haven’t. We are sequestered at an undisclosed location and we’re
just being prepped to go into the house tomorrow and begin production.
AE: Have you been told what to expect?
RK: We’re still being prepped and processed to know what’s going to happen
and what’s going to go down, but really, right now, we’re just taking time to
prepare ourselves for being in the house with the other contestants for up to three
months — which is a really exciting opportunity and there’s a great competition
ahead. Bravo has done a great job of outlining the rules and making sure it’s
going to be a fair and fun competition, not only for the contestants involved,
but also so it’ll be an enjoyable show for America to watch.
AE: During casting, did you ever feel as if you were up against
Nicholas for the "gay guy" spot on the show?
RK: You know, I never looked at it as an issue because I look at myself as
a man who happens to be gay, not a "gay man." For the longest time, I
struggled with my sexual orientation. As you can imagine, you define yourself
by your sexual orientation because it’s different from everyone else, and I
think society presses that on you as well. But at this moment in my life, I’m not really focused on my orientation, but rather everything else I’ve been
working on with my experience in the last ten years in the industry. I was
basing my ability to move forward on all those other factors.
AE: Do you see yourself as a role model by being on the show?
RK: You know, I think to be on something like this, to be a supermodel, you
should see yourself as a super role model. Any time you’re given an opportunity
like this to be before the public on national television you should be acting
in ways that other people would want to see you as and you would want to
promote. So most definitely.
AE: What sets you apart from the other male models that will get
viewers to vote for you?
RK: Like I said in my video tape audition, I’m bringing my entire self to
the table. What America
is going to see is really going to be what they get. I’ve learned not to put up
a front, but just be yourself, have a good time, and this is going to be an
incredible adventure whether I win the show or not. I’m just looking forward to
all the people we’re going to meet, all the travel, and the potential to learn
and grow. This is an industry I’ve loved for so very long, I’ll do anything I
can to take myself to the next level.
AE: Do you think being out will be a plus or minus on the show?
RK: I think for me, I’d rather be true to myself in every aspect. That’s
why I was openly out as I auditioned for this. I think any time you hide a part
of yourself that comes across in one way or another. People’s perceptions are
their own realities, so if they feel I’m hiding something from them, they might
look at that in a poor light. I’d rather be open and honest all the way
through, and I pray that America
sees that as a good thing.
AE: What are your thoughts about being the only gay contestant that we
know of on the show? Do you kind of wish you had another gay boy on the show
RK: [laughs] I guess it’ll keep me out of trouble. I won’t have any
showmance opportunities, at least that I know of. It’ll keep me focused and on
top of my game.
AE: What do you think of the other guys?
RK: We’ve had limited interaction. Of course, I’m not allowed to have that
much interaction with them because they want us to get to know each other in
the house where America
can get to see it. As far as I know, they’ve cast an incredible group of
individuals who are very talented and very good looking. It’s going to be a
good competition. I’m certainly not sitting pretty and comfortable.
AE: Do you see yourself more as a runway, catalog, or editorial model?
What’s your strength?
RK: My biggest strength is probably mostly catalog and print work. I love
print work, like high fashion industry, any opportunity that would present
itself for me to do high fashion, and see other parts of the world, and kind of
do things that are more creative.
AE: Have you watched the original British version of the show?
RK: I have seen some footage on YouTube, but I haven’t actually seen an
entire episode. It’s kind of fun, but it’s all going to a surprise for me really.
AE: What’s your take on the other modeling shows out there such as The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, America’s Next Top Model, and America’s Most Smartest Model?
RK: Out of the three you’ve noted, I’ve seen America’s Next Top Model and America’s
Most Smartest Model and I’ve learned a lot from watching those shows. It
sounds funny, but I made it a point when I learned I was on Supermodel to watch
those shows a little more in-depth, because I believe in learning from other
people’s mistakes before making your own. [laughs]
I’d rather go into this
as prepared as I can be. I think they’re fun shows, and I think there are a lot
of lessons to be learned from those shows that don’t strictly apply to the
modeling industry. I think a lot of those lessons can apply whether you’re a
doctor, or a lawyer, a waiter, or whatever.
AE: Recently the JDMA has focused on the issue of nudity, which is
problematic for some models. Is that an issue for you?
RK: I think as Americans, we are kind of prudish. I think the human body is
a beautiful thing and we shouldn’t demonize it. If it’s done artistically and
creatively and not gratuitously, it can be a beautiful thing and make for some
really great photos.
AE: Your website lists Spiderman
2 as a credit. What did you do?
RK: I was an extra. I’ve been an extra in several different movies. It was
actually a really fun one to work with Sam Raimi, who I think is an incredible
director. We got to go o downtown Chicago,
and be on the subway system as they were shooting a fight scene between Spiderman
and one of the villains. We were there to be spectators witnessing this fight.
The cameramen were all around us and Sam was walking up and down and directing.
It was a really exciting time to be learning about the industry and building my
AE: What other films have you have you been in?
RK: I was in Robert Altman’s The
Company with James Franco and Neve Campbell. Most recently, I was in a
movie with Sean William Scott and John C. Reilly. I’ve also been in some local
commercials and industrial commercials, fashion shows, things like that.
AE: Are marriage and kids in your future?
RK: I can’t wait! I really can’t, but I think there’s a time and place for
everything. I have a lot to learn and do, a lot of ways I have to grow before
I’m ready for that. But I definitely see myself partnered, and I want to have
at least three kids. I want to have one of my own, one of my partners, and I
would love to adopt a child. I’ve seen what goes on in foster care facilities
and all these kids that have no one to care for them. It saddens me, and I’d
love to not be selfish in that way, and have some to look after that doesn’t
have loving parents right now.
AE: We checked out your MySpace page and there were a couple of things
that caught our attention. You were hit by a car! Were you hurt?
RK: I was. I was hit back in January. I was on my way to work, I was
working at this bar at the time, and I was struck from behind. The guy was on
his cell phone and accelerated into a turn. I was hit, thrown up onto his hood,
and fell onto the pavement. I was lucky; there was a nurse walking by who came
and told me not to move. Long story short, I had two major herniated discs and
I’m still to this day suffering nerve damage in my left arm to where I have
pain and numbness that I’ve just learned to tolerate. The only opportunity to
correct that is through surgery and there’s no guarantee that it would correct
AE: You’re also very politically involved and are supporting Hillary
Clinton. What made you pick her?
RK: I’ve been paying close attention to Hillary for quite some time. I’ve
met her on several occasions. When I choose a candidate, I like to think of
myself as neither a Democrat or a Republican. Rather I’m choosing a candidate
based on the issues they’ll work the hardest at. One of the issues that sticks
out in my mind is education. I was at an education summit in Washington,
DC where I was lobbying for funds for Harper College
in Palatine, and she was the guest speaker.
She hammered home that this country needs to stop doing education as just
another expenditure but rather an investment into our country’s future. That
really spoke to me, because I think it’s so important for every American to
have a strong education, to continue to better themselves, and make the most out
of their life.
Secondly, she’s focusing
on health care and rescinding Bush’s veto on legislation allowing stem cell
research. My grandmother Carmella has macular degeneration, and it’s a type
that isn’t curable at this point in time, but has the potential to be if this
veto was lifted and doctors could continue stem cell research.
Moreover, I think she’s a
strong candidate. I don’t look at the fact that she’s a woman, but that she has
eight years in the White House and her record speaks for itself. It’s time for
needs a president who has a positive attitude, one who is inclusive, and stops
acting unilaterally and realizes that there are other countries and leaders in
this world that we need to be cooperating with.
AE: You said in the special you’d like to be president one day. Isn’t
this a rather unusual route to becoming president?
RK: This isn’t really part of my plan. It’s really and truly just one of my
passions. The acting and modeling world is a part of my life. I’ve been singing
in choirs and acting in plays since I was in grade school. This has never been,
"This is my plan or map on my way to the presidency." I believe in
everything in good time. There’s a lot of lessons that I’m still learning.
But the biggest part of
my desire to be president is to look after and protect American’s rights. My
diversity work allows me to come in contact with myriad groups of individuals,
and it’s so important to me to understand them. A lot of people look at me and
say, "What’s this white boy going to do for us? Who is this guy and how
does he really understand us?"
The thing that sets me apart from many
other people is that I question, I want to know what it’s like to be an
advocate for individuals and communities. I have a genuine desire. I enjoy learning
about other cultures and people. The best thing I’ve been able to do in life is
travel, being put in a place where I have to be humble and learn about
someone’s culture. I think as Americans we take a lot for granted, and I enjoy
learning about other cultures in that way.
AE: Thanks for talking to us and good luck! We’ll be rooting for you and
following the show.
RK: Thank you so much!