We met Ronnie Kroell nearly eight years ago on Bravo’s Make Me a Super Model. Even though he didn’t win the competition, he certainly won our hearts. Maybe it was his bromance with fellow contestant and straight model Ben DiChiara, or simply his all-American charm and good looks. At that time, being gay on a major television network and having a budding “gayish” relationship or friendship with another male was something that America hadn’t really seen. This led to Ronnie becoming an unexpected trailblazer and put a handsome, friendly face on the gay rights movement. He has gone on to grace the covers of Instinct, Next and even Playgirl Magazine, and has worked with gay rights organizations such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Latino Commission on AIDS (LCOA). After re-watching old episodes of Make Me a Super Model we wanted to see what this model-turned-activist is up to today. It also gave us an excuse to photograph that gorgeous face.
We first met you on Bravo’s Make me a Super Model. What made you want to audition for that show? Did you realize it was going to make such an impact in your life and career?
RK: I had always dreamed of making it big in modeling, but taking the next step was scary and exciting at the same time. So, when Make Me A Supermodel came along (via a Craigslist ad), I knew it was time to take a risk and chase the dream. I had no idea just how much it would impact my life and career, but I’m grateful every day.
What was it about you on that show at the time that made you the breakout star even when you didn’t win the modeling competition?
RK: I’d like to believe that it was because I was unafraid to be myself and that I was open about everything. But, the reality is that the #BRONNIE fans were probably waiting to see if we would make out.
One of the focal points of the show was your Bromance with straight model and competitor Ben DiChiara. Did you ever really make out with Ben? Curious minds want to know.
RK: You’ll have to wait and purchase my memoirs because I certainly have some juicy stories to share.
Two years after the show, you made a daring move and posed for the cover of Playgirl. What prompted that move?
RK: It’s not every day that a mainstream magazine like Playgirl offers the opportunity to be their first openly LGBT / Public Figure cover-guy and centerfold. So, I thought about it for about six months and, after speaking with my closest friends and family, decided to welcome the adventure! I had a blast bringing the spread to life and am not afraid of sexuality. I think we as Americans have made sex dirty, but it is one of the most basic and beautiful aspects of being human and should be celebrated.
You seem to have no problem getting naked. Would you ever pose again? (Please say yes!)
RK: I’ve learned to never say never, but I’ve been there and done that. My next goal is to bring my acting talents to the silver screen and to tell some amazing stories. I hope that all those that come to know me through my work, personally and professionally, are inspired to follow their dreams whole-heartedly and to never give up.
Around the time of the Playgirl cover, we started to see more of your charitable nature. You donated proceeds from the sale of autographed copies of the magazine to gay charities. What is it about giving back that is important to you?
RK: We are in this crazy but beautiful world together. It’s very important to give back to the community, and not just the lgbt community, but the community at large. I’m grateful to be where I am today because of the help of my family, friends, and fans that believe in me. I hope that they know, through my words and actions, that I’m here for them too.
Can you list some of the charities you’ve worked with?
RK: The American Cancer Society, Children’s Miracle Network, Miracles For Kids, Trevor Project, Tyler Clementi Foundation, White Knot, Center On Halsted, Ali Forney Center, and more.
You’ve also created a company called Friend Movement. What does being a friend mean to you?
RK: Yes! If bullying is the problem, then friendship is the solution. Friend Movement is a lifestyle brand that celebrates friendship. We welcome those that want to help prevent bullying to do their part by adding “Friend” as their middle name on social media.
Why do you think it’s important to have a movement against bullying?
RK: It’s more of a movement FOR friendship than against bullying. When we are against something we give it power. Our approach is significant because we do not give bullying power, rather we are simply having an ongoing dialogue about how we can be better friends to ourselves and others.
Were you bullied as a kid?
RK: I was severely bullied as a kid and called “faggot” before I even knew what the word meant. My bullies used to wait for me after school in the middle of the Chicago winter, with sub-zero temperatures and snow, and play Monkey in the Middle (aka Keep Awaywith my shoes to the point that I couldn’t even feel my feet.
Since we are going back to your childhood, there’s a video of you telling your coming out story on YouTube. Can you tell us more about it?
RK: Sure thing! My coming out was not sunshine and butterflies, but I’m also grateful that it was not as scary as some of the stories that I have heard. In the beginning my mom had a hard time with it, but mostly because she was afraid for me. She didn’t want to see me hurt. After a few years, Mom was the life of the party and fell in love with all of my friends. She was always happy to have them over to the house and it became tradition to go to the Pride Parade together every year to celebrate.
Is your family still supportive?
RK: I have the most supportive family in the world! I can talk to them about anything, even if they don’t have the answers, they are always there to listen. I’m grateful to have their love, friendship, and support as I navigate this crazy beautiful thing called life. Being an artist and entrepreneur can be a scary venture, but having the love and support of my family keeps me going strong towards my dreams.
I’ve been doing a little stalking of your blog and read that you’re newly single. Still true?
RK: I am still single, but dating pretty regularly. Not in a rush to get married, but wanting to take some time to really know myself and figure out exactly what I want from my life and in a partner.
So, what does Ronnie Kroell look for in a boyfriend?
RK: Above all else, I look for someone that has a warm heart! No one is perfect, but I gravitate towards those with a strong vision for their future. It doesn’t hurt if he is a great conversationalist and has a passion for people. Most importantly, I appreciate honesty and someone’s ability to challenge me to be the best that I can possibly be.
If someone were interested in you, how would they go about getting your attention?
RK: Just be themselves. If something is meant to happen, then it will unfold organically. One thing I’ve learned is that love cannot be forced, it must evolve and start with friendship.
Your acting debut was in Eating Out – Drama Camp. How was the transition from being model to being an actor.
RK: I really enjoy acting, but I have found it to be more of a challenge than modeling. It takes constant work, dedication to craft, and the ability to dig deep within yourself.
A lot of those guys in that movie were super hot. Were there any off screen flings?
RK: I plead the 5th.
So the fabulous Drew Droege was in the movie. How was it working with him?
RK: Drew is one of the funniest, most genuine and humble people you could ever meet! I’m grateful to call him a friend and to watch his career continue to blossom.
Will we see you in any more movies?
RK: From your mouth to Hollywood’s ears! I sure hope so. 2015 for me is all about finding balance and getting back to acting/modeling. It’s a dream of mine to do more mainstream projects and to really make a respectable name for myself in the industry.
How are you adjusting to Hollywood since your move from NYC?
RK: There are certainly parts of both Chicago and NYC that I miss, but I’m definitely an LA guy. I’m enjoying the nice weather year round and the ability to connect with nature. I’m grateful to have a strong network of friends, and together we are building one another up as we reach for our dreams.
Do you think being an openly gay actor is a challenge in Hollywood?
RK: Absolutely, it is! Things are slowly changing though. It is only a matter of time before hearts and minds are opened. We shouldn’t place so much emphasis on someone’s sexuality. We should be concerned if they can do a role justice or not. In a perfect world, it should be about talent.
You also seem to be a very spiritual guy. What do you think the universe has in store for you in 2015?
RK: The universe is always presenting us with challenges, but those challenges are not sent to make us fail. Instead, they are there to teach us just how much we are capable of achieving. When we are coasting in our comfort zones, we aren’t really living, we are simply existing. Life is short, so it’s important to seize every opportunity and to live life to the fullest. 2015 holds as much or as little for me as I choose to believe, that’s the power of our thoughts and actions. I choose for it to be filled with love, friendship, family and success.
So what is you favorite thing about Fop Magazine?
RK: I love the fact that Fop Magazine takes an artsy and independent approach to sharing stories, fashion and culture. It is diverse, fresh and full of positive message for all those that choose to pick it up and be inspired.
Favorite gay movie
RK: Scrooge & Marley
RK: Channing Tatum
Favorite LA date place
RK: Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen
Favorite sexual position
RK: My list of favorites is too long!
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Photography: Lidia Karpukova, Styling: Quentin Fears, Grooming: Kaity Licina