By the time I finished my enlightened conversation with hot model Ronnie Kroell, I had realized and consciously decided that he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking to in my entire life.
Having started his career on the Bravo reality show “Make Me A Supermodel,” he has since produced or has been cast in such movies as “Eating Out – Drama Camp,” “Scrooge and Marley,” “Friend,” “Truth or Dare,” “Into the Lion’s Den” and “The Men Next Door.” He has also been seen as an Andrew Christian underwear model on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and naked on the cover of “Playgirl.” He is presently focusing upon the “Friendship Movement,” which sheds a light on the bullying issue, and what he’s doing to combat the terror.
You were on the first season of Bravo’s “Make Me A Supermodel.” How much fun was that?
I was. It was quite the adventure of a lifetime. I mean, I was a Chicago guy, never thought I’d leave Chicago. Never thought I would live anywhere else, and I was sitting down one day, and just looking for extra modeling gigs on Craigslist of all places.
I was sipping my coffee and found this post that said “audition, be on TV, be a supermodel,” and it was the same day. So I went down and I did my little catwalk for them, and the next thing I know, a few weeks later I was in New York for the finals, and then I got invited to be one of the 14 candidates for the show. It was a life changer for me. It allowed me to live my dream, work with such incredible, talented designers…not just because it helped me to grow professionally but it also helped me to grow personally. I had to be away from my family and friends and anyone that really cared about me for three months, living in a house full of strangers in a competition where everyone wanted the same thing you did. It really taught me a lot, about not taking anything or anyone for granted and just how hard you have to work to make your dreams come true. It also taught me that if you want something bad enough and you could see it in your mind’s eye and you put the work into it, that anything really is possible.
Sometimes I think we get discouraged at times. Especially as a model, you have to be prepared for rejection. You go out into the world, and you’re constantly putting yourself out there, and a lot of times you’ll hear the word “no,” because you don’t have what it takes, because you just weren’t the right fit for that job. So that show not only catapulted me professionally, but helped me to grow as a person.
I saw your pictures. I can’t see anyone saying no to you! I also heard that you posed naked for “Playgirl.” Is that true?
It is true. I was the cover model and a spread for 2010 in the summer issue. I was the first openly gay individual to be in the magazine and talk about my sexuality, what I thought about it. My whole thing was about “dropping my label.” I wanted to create a shoot that really…I wanted to do human sexuality for what it was: a really beautiful thing that sometimes I think in America we really think is “dirty”. We say, “Oh you’re being so naughty.” We really kind of made sex and sexuality kind of dirty. I wanted to create a shoot that celebrated sexuality, not in a gratuitous way, but in a kind of “artsy,” New York kind of style. And at the end of the day, when we’re stripped of all our clothes and designer labels, I wanted an artist to say “we’re all the same.” If we can allow ourselves to be beautifully vulnerable, the way we came into this world, we’d be able to actually connect to people. So this was kind of a little art project for me and also kind of a social science experience for me as well.
Do you have an extra copy?
You know what, I don’t even have a copy. They told me after the shoot that it was one of the most widely distributed copies they ever sold.
I bet! Besides modeling, you’ve been in movies, you’ve produced, I think you were even on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as an Andrew Christian underwear model?
RuPaul is such a lovely soul, an awesome individual. I’m grateful every day for the people I meet and encounter, and he’s definitely one of my top five. He shoots from the hip and has his own truth. I mean, just watching RuPaul’s career over the course of his life in New York and what he’s had to go up against and what he stands for.
You know, I left New York and actually I’ll be here in L.A. for three years now in October. I left New York because I wanted to move toward something different. I wanted to produce, I wanted to get into film, I wanted to have a new experience. New York was such a great experience for me because I grew up in Chicago, which is very much my home and my heart. I kind of look at L.A. as my home now. I kind of look at L.A. as the place to kind of find my voice and kind of combine all three cities for me to really find my voice. L.A. is a platform to continue my work in the world. But my big focus right now is promoting finding friendship. It has something to do with just treating people with love and kindness, creating your own peace and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, allowing yourself to be “you.” The greatest advise I ever got was from my grandmother. She said “just be you.” It’s all nice to say, but until you understand it, until you really live it… You know, there’s a lot of people walking around that just don’t love themselves. They look in the mirror, they see their flaws. When they buy into someone else’s negativity, someone else putting them down, it has nothing to do with you, it’s just them projecting onto you. That’s what bullying is to me, putting someone else down to feel better about yourself. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. We’re here to continue that dialogue on the flip side as artists and to have that conversation and realize that how that positive energy is equally as powerful if not more powerful than fear. So everything I do, in one way or another, has something to do with just trying to connect with people.
So when are you running for president?
I don’t know if I can handle the gray hairs.
What was it like growing up as a little boy in Chicago?
When I was five years old, I think I wanted to be a firefighter. I think I was fascinated with sliding down poles.
When did you decide you wanted to be a model?
Well, it was actually my best friend’s mom growing up. She was a photography assistant for a world-renowned photographer based in Chicago. His mom was ill when I was a child, and we would go over to his mom’s house to look after her, and she would bake us cookies, and I would just be curious and go through the books that she had on her coffee table. Of course she was proud of her son, so all of his portfolios were everywhere. As a kid I was dreaming big. I was paging through these amazing portfolios, these people dressed up, and just was so fascinated by it, and I was this pimple-faced kid just telling my dream to my friend’s mom. She said to me, “You can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it.” That was the best advice that she ever gave to me. She said it was a difficult industry, but if you wanna do it, you’ll do it. She said you’re gonna have to draw a line in the sand, and you’re gonna have to know what you’re willing to do and not willing to do, because the industry could be very demanding, and people could have a lot of expectations. She said just know where your line is in the sand and just choose wisely.
Do you have any projects on the horizon?
My main project right now is developing my company. I am really committed to shifting the conversation in the community and the states and around the globe from anti-bullying to pro-friendship, because the truth is we’re living in a constant state of fear. People don’t really know how to handle bullying, and to think that we’re actually going to stop it is not really a good goal, cause you’re not really going to be able to stop bullying.But what you can do is have a dialogue of what it means to be a friend to yourself first. Be able to look into the mirror and say “I love you,” and then in doing so being able to give that same respect to people around you – celebrating friendship through art, through music, through photographs, through interviews, through motivational speakers. This is something that I’m very, very passionate about. I’ve learned to say yes to life, and when artists contact me I get really excited, so I’m saying yes to a lot of projects.
Actually, a very cool thing is happening via social media. Anybody that has come to know about us and believes in being a friend has been changing their middle name on Facebook and Twitter to “Friend,” kind of like they did when they do that whole equality campaign. It gives people the opportunity, when asked why is your middle name Friend, to say that “I am part of this conversation.”