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Zane Phillips is channeling his inner Greek hero for a good cause

Zane Phillips is channeling his inner Greek hero for a good cause

Zane Phillips for Awe Inspired
Courtesy of Awe Inspired

The Fire Island and Glamorous actor tells Out what he considers to be his Achilles' heel, and shares details about collaborating with queer-founded jewelry brand Awe Inspired.

simbernardo

To kick off Pride Month in 2024, queer-founded jewelry brand Awe Inspired has partnered with Fire Island and Glamorous heartthrob Zane Phillips to launch the company's first-ever male pendant, the 'Achilles + Patroclus Necklace.' 100% of the proceeds from the necklace will be donated to GLSEN, an organization that focuses on supporting LGBTQ+ youth.

The new partnership with Phillips is Awe Inspired's fourth consecutive Pride campaign — having collaborated with LGBTQ+ celebrities such as Pose star Indya Moore ('Marsha P. Johnson Pendant'), The L Word legend Leisha Hailey ('Sappho Necklace'), and RuPaul's Drag Race alum Kerri Colby ('Hermaphroditus Necklace') in the past. But as the company ventures into men's jewelry and celebrates "universal love" for Pride Month, approaching Phillips and being inspired by characters like Achilles and Patroclus felt like a no-brainer.

"Awe Inspired reached out and told me they were doing this Achilles and Patroclus piece as their first foray into men's jewelry," Phillips tells Out in an interview. "I was attracted to their pieces, which are really well done, and the fact that all proceeds from this necklace are going to GLSEN."

He adds, "It's really important for me to start getting more active and more involved in giving back to the community. This was a perfect opportunity for that."

Zane Phillips for Awe Inspired

Courtesy of Awe Inspired

Phillips has always tried to inspire young queer people on and off camera — an instinct informed by his own experiences searching for points of reference and role models when he was younger.

"I'm living a life that is open, free, and not constrained by the discrimination that we're facing. A full, complete life in spite of all of that," he says. "For me, growing up, I really wanted proof that you could be out and still succeed. That you could be happy and have rich relationships. There's always going to be someone who doesn't support you. Growing up as a queer youth, we have to figure out, 'How do I lead a happy life and stop paying attention to that?'"

He adds, "And it's hard, especially what we're seeing now, policy-wise. You can't escape a lot of this stuff. If you're a trans teen in certain states, people are targeting your existence to be minimized, or even erased. It's important for us to show queer youth that they have people who are supporting them, who want to give them a voice, who want to give them the space that they need to head into the better years of their lives."

Despite the significant progress we've made in the last few decades, many of us in the LGBTQ+ community are entering this year's Pride Month with hesitation, anxiety, and lots of questions about our stories, identities, legal rights, careers, safe spaces, history, and existence.

When asked to share how he feels about Pride Month in 2024, Phillips briefly pauses, and we acknowledge that this can be quite a loaded question.

He replies, "I'm feeling very pensive, you know what I mean? Which is a funny thing to feel during such a loud and crazy month. It's been a hard year for the industry, and a hard year for queer creatives in the industry. There's still a lot we have to do. [It's] a lot of hard work, being openly queer in this industry."

"You think that you're out, and it's fine, and that will carry you," he goes on. "But the reality is that you have to constantly juggle this balance of, 'How does my sexuality interface with my work?' It's a mental game, and it's something that I've been thinking about because I've had a lot of time on my hands."

But fans who were introduced to Phillips as a demigod on Legacies, a mischievous heartthrob in Fire Island, or a very hunky (and intense) heir to a makeup empire on Glamorous might not be familiar with the actor's origin story prior to those projects, which can lead to inaccurate assumptions about who he is as a person.

Zane Phillips on Glamorous

Netflix

From his childhood in Denver, Colorado, through his middle school and high school years in Fredericksburg, Texas, to his time at Elon University pursuing a B.F.A. in music theatre, Phillips has been on the go for most of his life. Growing up, he is filled with anxieties and insecurities.

"I've had a really poor relationship with my body from a very early age," Phillips reveals in an essay for Men's Health. "There was a period of time from third grade to eighth grade where I refused to wear shorts — and this was in Texas, mind you; it was hot as hell — simply because I didn't like the way my legs looked. I think it has to do with being queer, too, but male body insecurity in general is this weird insidious thing where it's never spoken aloud."

At 21, Phillips arrives in New York City to pursue an acting career. He stars in stage productions of The Sound of Music, Hair, Mamma Mia, and Hairspray, but things don't actually work out for him.

"With theater, I never felt like I brought to the table what was being asked of me," he recalls in an episode of Las Culturistas. "You come into a space, you're a man of a certain height, (…) and there was never anything that asked me to feel too deeply or have interesting perspectives. I was doing the 'boyfriend' roles and the 'pleasant guy' who is just around. Everyone kept telling me, 'Zane, just wait until you're 30. The theater roles will come swinging.' But I don't know, I was so tired of waiting."

Zane Phillips for Awe Inspired

Courtesy of Awe Inspired

After years of built-up frustration — and facing the beginning of the 2020 lockdown — Phillips gives up on theater and starts a career in remote tutoring to make ends meet (and pay rent!). He eventually dips back into acting and has a string of standout roles in movies and TV shows like Legacies, Fire Island, and Glamorous.

Meanwhile, Phillips gains a legion of fans who clamor for him to be cast in projects like the live-action adaptation of Hercules and the upcoming live-action He-Man film. But as someone who struggled with "archetypes" during his theater years, how does Phillips feel about playing (and being fan-cast in) these kinds of characters?

"I definitely think that the acting I'm getting to do, and the roles I'm getting to play, are still pretty varied. I'm still on board with that. That's still feeding me creatively in a lot of ways," Phillips says. "But, yeah, it's interesting. I'm not in a position to say 'no' to a lot of things, you know what I mean? I've got to eat. I've got to get my bread [laughs]. And it can actually be valuable to have a thing that people know you for."

He continues, "I never thought this would be anything after years of just truly terrible insecurity in all parts of my life. So, I'm appreciative of the fact that I do have more control over my body, and I'm also trying to just focus less on myself, anyway."

Matt Rogers, Zane Phillips, and Tom\u00e1s Matos in Fire Island

Searchlight Pictures

"What's that saying?" Phillips reflects. "The Jemima Kirke story, remember? 'I think you guys might be thinking about yourselves too much.' That sticks with me," he laughs. "And that's the thing: I'm trying to focus on just being creative, being in the arts, and being back in the craft when it comes to acting. And when it comes to social stuff, I'm just having fun, trying new things, and making connections. That's all you can really do."

But as an out gay actor who is friends with many other out gay actors, does Phillips have any thoughts on the whole debate about straight actors playing queer roles? A trend that, despite this ongoing discourse and some public pushback, only seems to be intensifying with new project announcements featuring the same set of straight-presenting actors getting cast?

Phillips replies, "When I look around at all the queer artists in my life, I feel very protective of them. I feel very Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality about them. [laughs] My one wish is that the whole industry was a little bit more protective of out queer artists. That's what I'll say on that."

As far as his dream role, Phillips would love to do a film adaptation of the most recent revival of Oklahoma! on Broadway. "That score has always been near and dear to my heart. And I think that was a really interesting interpretation of it, and I'd love to see that. There are so many opportunities for bringing musicals to the screen and making them good nowadays. So, yeah, I'd love to play Curly [McLain] in Oklahoma!. I've never even gotten to do it on stage."

Besides acting, Phillips has been establishing himself as quite the model. A clear through line in his various collaborations with different brands, Awe Inspired included, is that Phillips seems to be creatively involved and wholly committed to the end result.

"My guilty pleasure growing up — I wouldn't tell anybody; my family didn't know — was that I watched a ton of America's Next Top Model," Phillips reveals. "The fashion world has always been something that I'm fascinated with. Of course, it's Top Model, so it's not the real fashion world [laughs]."

Well, we'd love to see Phillips walking the infamous "As the Pendulum Swings" runway, but that's neither here nor there.

He continues, "But I really like creating and being creative. It's a muscle that artists are always looking to flex, work out, and finesse. I'm not really a model, but now I feel comfortable enough on set and on shoots. You also learn where you can actually offer input and be more involved. It's a really interesting world."

Phillips has 388,000 followers on Instagram as of this writing, and that following continues to grow with each new TV show, movie, photo shoot, and even more candid posts from the actor. But similarly to everything else, it's clear that one should never judge a book by its cover.

"I got Instagram late in the game, in 2015 or something. It was just for your friends, and you'd post pictures of your backyard," Phillips recalls. "But now I've been really trying to figure out how to use it. It's become 'image management' in a lot of ways. But what's interesting is that… I think I've almost done too good a job of managing the image [laughs]. Now I'm like, 'Okay, I feel like people don't really actually know who I am.'"

He adds, "People think I'm just some guy who works out and does photo shoots and has nothing else going on in his brain. I've been trying to figure out how to approach that… but also, in this panopticon age, I do think it's nice to have a little bit of separation. It's nice that people don't have 100% of you, and that the people who have 100% of you are the people in your real life."

Zane Phillips for Awe Inspired

Courtesy of Awe Inspired

Considering the launch of the 'Achilles + Patroclus Necklace' with Awe Inspired, we can't wrap up this conversation before asking one last question: what would Phillips consider to be his Achilles' heel?

"My one weakness? I'm nearly invincible," he jokes, "but I want to give a good answer to this."

Phillips takes a beat to think of what he'd like to say. It's another loaded question with a million possible answers, but he does land on an answer:

"I want to say that it's paying rent. If we all could just not [worry about] paying rent, we could do anything."

Zane Phillips' 'Achilles + Patroclus Necklace' is now available on AweInspired.com.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.