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Reali-Tee Star
Mike Ruiz Launches New T-Shit Line
by Charlie Rockafort

Mike Ruiz is a lumber-jack of all trades. He started as a high fashion model. That led to his career as a celebrity photographer. Then came reality TV and his starring role on “A List: New York.” Now he is a designer. Yes, you heard that right, designer. Mike unveils his new tee shirt collection – called The Mike Ruiz Collection, of course – at The Living Room in Fort Lauderdale on February 25th from 10:30 p.m. to midnight.

You’re not just a man anymore, Mike. With your new tee line, you’re now a brand. Was that always the vision?

My entire life has been a series of unexpected surprises. I have the ability to recognize an opportunity when I see one and that is exactly how these T-shirts came to fruition. I can't say that I knew that this is exactly what I had planned when I was 12 but I did know that I had a very unique skill set.

Let’s take it back to the beginning. You began your career as a model. Can you tell us about the early days in NYC?

I moved to New York in 1988 and started modeling with the Men/Women Agency (now called Women) and then moved over to Boss Models. Those were some pretty lean times. I waited on tables to pay my bills but I knew that something was coming. Rather, I knew I was going to make something happen. I didn't really begin to earn a living at modeling until I moved to Los Angeles in 1993 where I modeled with Wilhelmina Models. That's when I got the photography bug.

What turned you on to photography?

I received a camera as a gift and became immediately consumed.

How did you create your unique photography style?

My style is really an extension of my subconscious. After years of shooting, I realized that what I was doing was trying to manifest the perfect fantasy that lived in my head.

You then became a director of music videos.

My favorite video to direct has to be Erika Jayne's "Pretty Mess" video. It was glam, edgy and super sexy.

Then came reality TV.

I've lost count with how many shows I have done. Maybe six or seven? I have yet to fully discover the reasons that I have gravitated to television. All that I know at this point is that I feel a growing sense of responsibility with every appearance I make.

“A List: New York” was the first time cameras followed you in your real life. Was it strange?

Nothing seems weird to me anymore. I’ve become pretty comfortable with cameras. Now you’re donning a designer hat. What inspired you to create your own tee line? These days everything I do has several components to it. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response I received from a handful of tee-shirt that I made as promotional gifts, I decided to give a go at merchandising them.

What do you want fans to know about the collection?

There’s a philanthropic component to the endeavor. Two-dollars from the sale of every tee shirt will be donated to The Ali Forney Center. I want people to know that not only are they getting a piece of pop culture but they are also supporting an amazing cause.

What’s next? Underwear? You can name them UnderRuiz. Get it? Underoos… UnderRuiz.

See! That is how ideas come to me; completely haphazardly! I'm afraid I'm going to have to end this interview because I have to get on the phone with the UnderRuiz manufacturer!  

Visit: to check out his entire t-shirt collection.


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