Even if you haven't seen Mike Ruiz, you probably have seen his handiwork. Although he has been in front of the camera (including the critically acclaimed gay film Latin Boys Go to Hell and the TV series The Swan), he has shot advertisements, directed music videos, and photographed celebrities ranging from Britney to Erasure to Beyoncé. The very fit Ruiz has done all this—and has been featured as one of People in Español's 50 Most Beautiful People. Recently, Windy City Times sat with the busy and affable Ruiz; topics included everything from growing up in Montreal to the merits of eating sensibly.
Windy City Times: What are you up to right now?
Mike Ruiz: Oh, nothing. (Laughs) I'm up to a bunch of stuff. I moved to New York City from Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I've been redirecting my career from doing celebrity-driven work to more fashion-oriented things. I've also directed a couple of music videos [by Tracy Lords and Kristine W.] and have a couple other upcoming projects.
WCT: Are you doing anything in the world of film?
MR: I'm not doing anything in front of the camera. [Appearing in Latin Boys] was something I did on a whim. I wasn't really pursuing acting; it was just something that landed in my lap. Filming it was a fun experience. It ended up being a lot bigger than I anticipated. Judging from people's responses to it, the film is pretty memorable. I knew the director and she asked me to do it. (Laughs) That's the nature of my career—I stumble into things, like photography.
WCT: So photography has not been a lifelong passion?
MR: No. It's something I've become passionate about. I didn't really become serious about photography until my late 20s. I picked up a camera and then became obsessed with it. Now, I like anything connected with bringing a vision to life.
WCT: Your late 20s? Judging from your picture on your Web site [www.mikeruiz.com], I thought you were about 22!
MR: (Laughs) It's just good living—and good lighting!
WCT: What was it like being on The Swan?
MR: Once again, I stumbled into that. I know the executive producer. I worked with her years ago and we were both in the People Magazine in Español 50 Most Beautiful People list. She asked me if I wanted to do a photo shoot with the girls on the show and I said 'Sure. Why not?' If you want me to do anything, all you have to do is ask.
WCT: You've photographed a wide range of celebrities, including Christian Bale, Sir Ian McKellan, and Lil Kim. Does one particular celebrity stand out as your favorite?
MR: There are so many different things that are appealing about different people that it's really hard to single out one person. A lot of experiences have been pretty cool.
There are several people who I thought were consummate professionals who brought something to the table. [Actress] Brittany Murphy is a lot of fun and is very accommodating; she has no diva attitude. Beyoncé was amazing to work with ... .
WCT: The Destiny's Child pictures on your site are amazing.
MR: Yeah, I photographed them a couple of years ago and they've exploded since then. However, people who've worked with Beyoncé recently say that she's still sweet, humble, and professional.
WCT: Is there anyone who you're dying to direct?
MR: Yeah ... a lot of people, actually. I actually gravitate toward less conventional artists and I have a surreal vision. I'd like to direct people like Bjork or Shirley Manson.
WCT: Courtney Love?
MR: (Laughs) Courtney Love would be great ... if she could sit still for five minutes. I worked with Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears years ago but I'd love to work with them now.
WCT: You look pretty buff on your site. What's your secret?
MR: I'm a product of urban gay living. No, actually, what happened was that I was heavy as a child and was picked on a lot. It also didn't help that I was the only ethnic-looking person in the area of Montreal where I grew up. I just got tired of having sand kicked in my face—and I've been health-conscious ever since.
WCT: What's your workout regimen like?
MR: I used to be really obsessed about working out—like doing it twice a day. Since then, though, I've settled into a more reasonable routine of working out four times a week. I also try to get in as much cardio as possible. Also, because I live in New York City I walk a lot, which helps.
WCT: What about your eating habits? Are you a fan of the Atkins or South Beach programs?
MR: No. I try to eat in moderation. I also try to [consume] as many nutrients as possible so I don't have to supplement with artificial vitamins. I try to get everything from what I eat. However, I'll have a cheeseburger once in a while. I don't kill myself over what I eat.
WCT: So how did it feel to be named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People?
MR: I said, 'It's about time!' (Laughs) It was a really cool experience.
Mike's Web site is www.mikeruiz.com . Take a look at his portfolio or even peruse his impressive bio.
You can reach me at westelm406@ yahoo.com .
This article also appeared in Windy City Times Aug. 18 Health & Fitness edition.