From Betty White to Lindsey Lohan to Brooke Shields, photographer Mike Ruiz has worked with some of the most legendary people in the business. His appearances on “America’s Next Top Model” & “RuPaul’s Drag Race” cemented his reputation as one of the most in-demand photographers in the business today.

Mike talks to Contributing Writer Michael Cook on his early days on working with superstars such as Kelly Rowland and Kathy Griffin, his new show “New York A-List”, & how to get a subject to give the best “face”.

1)Mike, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. You’ve become an icon in the world of photography. How did you get started taking pictures?

You bet! Thanks for talking to me! Even though I was modeling professionally, I didn’t pick up a camera professionally until I was 30, when I got my first Canon for Christmas. It was something that I became enthralled with and consumed my every waking moment.  The rest is history.

2)When you take a picture, what makes the subject give you their best “face”? The end result of a “Mike Ruiz” photo is breathtaking!

Photographing a subject is a very individual and intimate experience. No two shoots are alike. It’s a very organic process for me. I rely on my instincts and intuition to get the best out of people.  

3)You were raised in Repentigny, Quebec, Canada. What was it like growing up gay in Canada?

Repentigny was a very blue-collar suburb on the outskirts of Montreal. The plain fact is that there was no being gay in Repentigny. Otherwise, you were ostracized–or worse: get the crap beat outta you every day. So, it was a matter of survival to keep to myself, which in turn led me to live in idealized world that I’d end up creating in my head. 

4)You seem to have cornered the market on working on reality-show competitions, with great work on both “America’s Next Top Model” as well as “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. How hard is it to tell if the contestants have what it takes during your time with them?

For me, it’s pretty easy and immediate. I can tell who “has it” in the first 10 seconds of hearing someone talk. It’s poise, articulateness, dignity. I guess you could say it’s all in the charisma of the individual.  

5)You also worked with Kathy Griffin on her hit BRAVO show, “My Life On The D-List”. What’s something about her that surprised you when you first met her?

I can’t really say that anything about Kathy necessarily surprised me. Undoubtedly, she is a smart, empowered woman with an important message. But, as with anyone of that caliber, it was very gratifying to witness the humanness behind the talent.  

6)In addition to photography, you’ve branched out into the world of directing music videos, for artists such as Kristine W, Jody Watley, & Kelly Rowland. Was it a hard transition to make?

For me, video is just an extension of still photography; a normal progression of similar mediums. Directing music videos has allowed to explore a bit more in depth my aesthetic sensibilities and give me the opportunity to work with some really awesome people. 

7)In terms of dating, what do you look for in a prospective man to date?

What do I look for? Nothing anymore! I’ve found it! I’m desperately in love with the most amazing man I’ve ever met!  

8)Your next project is LOGO’s “The A-List-New York”.(being touted as a “Real Housewives” for the gay set). How did you get involved in the project?

I was approached by the casting director to participate in the show so I took a gamble on making a career move upward. I have a few TV things of my own in the works so hopefully this will give me some leverage. That and the fact that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work out my hostility on TV!!!!

9)Many people could say that the show shows the “vapid & materialistic” side of the gay world. How do you respond to the critics?

Really??!! That’s shocking since our goal with the A-List is to end global warming and achieve world peace!

10)What’s next for Mike Ruiz?

Just going with the flow. TV production is certainly in my future. I also hear Bollywood calling (kicking it off in Mumbai in December) I think I may have tapped into a good thing over there.