Let’s start from the beginning. I was in school on Long Island. I was the rowdy, bad kid, constantly cutting class. I did like to draw, though, which gave me something to do. My parents, to keep me motivated and get me out of Seaford High, worked with the principal and art teacher to create a program, designed just for me, that included art studio, art history, and design classes. This was the only way I could graduate. My parents wanted to see me go to college.
I, on the other hand, wanted to graduate high school as quickly as possible to travel the world and model. I was curious about everything and anything. After watching the movie Mahogany, my aspirations shifted, and I had a goal. I was going to be a modern-day Renaissance man, traveling to Europe and ultimately becoming a model/designer/stylist/actor/author. At home, my parents paved the way for multi-area expertise; over the course of my childhood, they worked in a variety of jobs ranging from dog grooming to IBM to real estate to the restaurant business.
At age 17, I left home, went to the Fashion Institute of Technology for three semesters, and worked many odd jobs in New York City. After dropping out of FIT, I found myself with a thousand dollars in my pocket en route to London to start my modeling career. Despite not being tall or straight enough, my career took off. I met people in my European modeling days that I’m still friends with today. Believe it or not, I did not have the support of the gay community by any means. What I did have was my personality, charisma, charm, and drive. Back then, the gay population was not a community that banded together. It only seemed to exist in terms of a secret nightlife.
Even to this day, I am hugely supported by the “straight” mainstream media. I can be on People’s Hottest Bachelor list, published in every Vogue and every Elle, but gay magazines won’t even cover my book, “The Shopping Diet”. Where is the support for each other in the LGBT community? Maybe the gay community figures I am big enough on my own (but we all know that no man is an island and it takes a small village), but we must always stick together and help each other out by any means necessary.
In 1989, when I quit modeling and didn’t even know what a stylist was, I became one. Hollywood was changing, there was a niche to be filled, and I became a celebrity stylist, television commentator, author, and personality overnight. The new Hollywood era was beginning, with stars like Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Julianna Margulies, Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan, and Nicole Kidman. I was at the beginning of a change in time. It was the start of a new, young and fresh era of Hollywood glamour, which is kind of what’s going on again now. I filled a void in Hollywood to be the spokesperson for star style. Now, there are limitless opportunities in the world of social media that didn’t exist then, such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, you name it.
After styling 11 people for the Oscar’s in 1998 and releasing my first book, the media caught up with me, and life caught up with me. Ellen came out, Halle Berry won the Oscar (I styled her), and I realized I wanted to do something different. So I started to broaden my horizons, which is when I started to act in movies. I have always made myself available to do whatever there is to do and learn whatever there is to learn. That is, and has been, a big key to my success. Being a friend collector, with every job I have done, I have kept friends and kept them close. Networking, now more than ever, is also an integral part to success in any business, especially fashion and entertainment.
With regards to my sexuality, I have been “out” and on television for nearly 20 years. Again, this was not due to the support from my fellow gay brothers and sisters. Something I still do not understand is that we are segregated when we are already a minority. Black people complain all the time that getting ahead in the world is harder for them. I believe it is equally difficult to be gay and I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to be black AND gay. We are not an inclusive population. The only place we find each other is in a bar or a gym. This is why I’m thrilled that networks like dot429 are beginning to pop up for our community.
Despite my many successes and glamour-filled life, I know that it’s not easy to develop a professional career being “out.” It is not, however, impossible. We are stronger as a group than as individuals. We need each other more than just to date or have sex. We need to build friendships and networks as “out,” open professionals, so it will be that much easier for the next generation following in our footsteps. I love who I am and what I have become. I love my family, my friends and my life, and I will continue to work my tail off to be an example of a successful gay man. We do exist and we must be there for each other.
Check out Phillip Bloch’s latest book, The Shopping Diet.