Coming Around Again
By Nelson Branco
'I'm a year-old gay,' laughs Degrassi: The Next Generation actor Adamo Ruggiero, 22, after coming out a year ago this month in the pages of Canadian gay magazine, Fab, and on Out.com.
While many gay actors are still languishing in the closet (you know who you are!), Ruggiero reports coming out resulted in 'the greatest year of [his] life.'
'I recommend it to everyone,' he proudly says. 'I shot my first feature film [Make the Yuletide Gay], earned a lot of support from my fans, made new friends, landed a straight role in a play in Toronto, and grew closer to my family and myself. I doubt that was a coincidence.'
It's also no happy accident that the talented actor is still starring on the hit Canadian CTV coming-of-age series Degrassi: The Next Generation, which airs in States on The N. In fact, Ruggiero finished taping a Degrassi TV-movie with celebrity guest stars Perez Hilton, Vivica A. Fox, Kelly Carlson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, and Dan Levy to be released August 2009.
Having shot the film in Los Angeles this past November, Ruggiero was proud to march in opposition of Proposition 8. 'Everyone in the industry -- gay and straight -- told me how inspired he or she was when I came out, especially at my age,' he says. 'I felt very welcomed and respected.'
The 22year-old teen heartthrob hopes 'we're transitioning into a new time -- despite the passing of Proposition 8 -- with President-elect Barack Obama's win. Yes, it's a big mess, an oxymoron regarding our progress as a nation, but hopefully our community we'll be more mobilized in the future.'
However inspiring Ruggiero's coming out was, the rumored gay A-listers in Hollywood aren't on the phone asking for pointers on fleeing the closet -- at least not yet.
'They're not calling me yet, but I'd be happy to coach,' he says laughing.
But the sweet and soft-spoken star has been shelling out wise advice to his youth fan base, which is one of the reasons he felt it was important to come out. 'Teenagers come up to me wherever I am,' he says. 'Honestly, the whole coming out thing was more for my fans and our viewers. Before coming out publicly, I was out to my friends and family. It's been rewarding to help out gay teens who are in crisis. And those few adults who are, too.'
Although Ruggiero's career is on fire, the Mississauga-born actor says he concedes he may have lost out on a couple of acting parts because of the public admission of his sexuality.
'I suspected certain casting directors would be weary of casting me because I did come out,' Ruggiero admits. 'But, for the most part, everyone has been fair. Just as much as there has been hesitation towards me, there have been a lot of gay roles, which increase with each year, and I've been asked to audition for them. Having said that, I don't expect directors to think of me first when it comes to their masculine protagonist lead role on their project, either. I do believe art will prevail in the end, though.'
Hollywood aside, Ruggiero claims being out hasn't given him a pink pass in the gay community. For starters -- does he skip line-ups at the hottest clubs? 'Not in Canada,' he claims. 'We don't care that much about celebrity like in America.'
Single after a two-year relationship, Ruggiero is not sure how to top his best year ever, but says, 'I'm looking forward to continuing my journey in '09. Hopefully, it'll be a little more quiet than last year, but I hope to keep growing, find love, and a lot of new roles in film and TV.'
And though Ruggiero may not have received a toaster oven in the mail for his coming out efforts, he did experience an official rite of passage late last year that marked his greatest personal triumph thus far ' attending his first Madonna concert.
'I'm a huge Mariah Carey fan, but I was also a Madonna virgin. So, my publicist urged me to witness Madonna in concert. You know -- you're not gay until you've witnessed a Madonna concert in all its glory,' he laughs, before adding, he experienced a major case of the guilts. 'I admit, I felt like I was cheating on Mariah, but Madonna's concert was indeed more fun. Now, I feel like a gay citizen of the world.'
But don't cry for Adamo, Mariah: 'There's enough room in this world for two fierce musical divas,' he says.
And certainly for out actors.
Catch new episodes of season eight of Degrassi: The Next Generation on The N this February.