Continuing on with the series of updates on the cast from Logo TV’s “The A-List: New York,” TJ Kelly was next in the Ifelicious hot seat. The guy who gave us the code word “delicious” in the very first episode of season 1 is doing well. “I am very blessed in the fact that with the show that I sort of go unscathed,” he added during the interview, and it’s true. TJ has that magnetic personality that you love to be around and always brings levity to the any situation. He’s got a caring spirit, too, whether it’s volunteering at God’s Love We Deliver or taking the lead to embrace the new “A-List: Dallas” cast months before the show even aired.
The day we spoke on the phone, TJ had just met some of the Dallas cast the night before while they were in New York City filming their reunion episode(s) with Wendy Williams. We also spoke about his second year judging the Mr. Gay USA competition, boyfriend Grant Haines, new job at Mizu, bestie Ryan Nickulas or as he’ll often say “Ry Guy,” new year’s resolutions and so much more.
INTERVIEW: TJ Kelly
Kelly vs. Kelley
It was the day after my interview with Ryan that TJ and I spoke. He started out by telling me the events from the previous night. First, TJ went to support Ryan and Nyasha who were presenting about entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and then he and Ryan met up with some of the cast from “The A-List: Dallas.”
Ifelicious: How was your first encounter with ‘The A-List: Dallas’ cast?
TJ: We met Phillip and Ashley- my favorite, James and Chase. It’s surreal for me meeting them because I know what they’re going through. I know how the show is filmed and stuff like that, but I’m watching their show as a viewer. Do you know what I mean? I was a little star struck meeting Ashley Kelly. I’m not gonna lie. I love her!
Ifelicious: Ashley is just herself on the show.
TJ: She is, and I really believe that the show would not be good without her. I believe that she really is the best part of the show. That’s my personal opinion. I’m infatuated…I think she’s so adorable. She’s so funny. There’s a little bit of bitchiness in there, but you can tell she’s really smart.
Ifelicious: I don’t know if Ryan told you that during our conversation I was saying that she kind of reminds me of him. He was saying he loves Ashley as well. She kind of encourages that diplomacy amongst the group.
TJ: There’s a bit of that middle of the road that she plays like Ryan did. I think, if there’s a season two for them, she might get herself into a little bit of trouble like Ryan did…I hope she maintains her cuteness, though.
Judging Mr. Gay USA
Our interview was just a few days before TJ was scheduled to judge, for a second year, at the Mr. Gay USA competition in Philadelphia.
TJ: I’m glad that they invited me back. I loved it last year, and I know that this year’s a little bit different because we will be interviewing them personally, one on one. I’m just hoping that they’re shirtless when we do that! Even though my boyfriend now has made it mandatory that he sit behind me during all of the interviews.
TJ: Philly was incredible. I love their ‘gayborhood.’ It really is the city of ‘brotherly love.’ I can’t wait to visit again. I was also super excited for the winner Mr. Lancaster. He was very deserving of the title and will make a great Mr. Gay.
You Give Me Butterflies
Pause for an MJ music interlude. Love this song!
Michael Jackson’s “Butterflies” started playing in my mind as I was listening back to the audio from our interview. TJ is so in love with Grant in that beautiful new love kind of way. We don’t see that play out at all on camera, so I naturally had to start there when getting the skinny on their relationship.
Ifelicious: Why don’t we see Grant on the show? Was that a conscious decision made by you, him, or together?
TJ: Grant and I both decided to not display our relationship on TV. At that point [the relationship] was very new, and we wanted it just to be ours. I guess I was selfish and didn’t want to share him. If you look closely, though, you will see him in a lot of background scenes. He’s an undercover gay!
Ifelicious: How is your relationship going?
TJ: We just moved in together. We live in Astoria, Queens now so I’m no longer a Brooklyn boy. I’m a Queens girl, which is sort of fitting…I’m really in love.
Ifelicious: Aww! I can hear it in your voice.
TJ: I feel so goofy talking about him…For both of us, it’s our first time living with someone…[Also] he recently came out. Being with me sort of pressed the issue a little bit more. He just came out to his father and his grandmother, and they’re from Oklahoma, southern baptist, so it’s been quite a journey, but they’re all supportive, and they’re all loving. It’s going to take some time before everyone’s really comfortable with it, but it’s really been beautiful to be part of that journey with him.
Ifelicious: It’s great that he has you as his support. What does that mean for the holidays?
TJ: We’re going to spend Thanksgiving at our new house. His girlfriend is coming up from Oklahoma, and they’re going to cook a huge southern style Thanksgiving. For Christmas, he’s going home, and he was actually pushing me to go with him, but I said that it was a little too early…Me going to Oklahoma would be like a glitter bomb hitting there! To be a little inappropriate, I don’t think Jesus’s birthday is the appropriate time to meet the boyfriend for the first time. So, he’s heading home for Christmas, and my girlfriends are coming down from Cape Cod to spend it with me.
Kind of randomly, as we were wrapping up TJ went on another love interlude about Grant that I thought I would share.
TJ: I just am so happy to have this man in my life who supports me and is right by my side every step of the way. We talk about everything. It’s just really beautiful, and it’s the best thing I have going in my life right now…We’re nesting, and we’re picking out rugs. We just bought a couch. It was funny when we moved in together. It was like the gayest, manliest move ever because we basically moved into our house with a whole lot of clothes, makeup and hair products, and two standing tall mirrors, two couches, dishes, things from our mothers sending us stuff, but it’s been a project for both of us because we’re learning how this works and what it means to live with someone else.
Working at Mizu
Season 2 of “The A-List: New York” revealed the building strain that TJ and Ryan were feeling trying to be work partners and best friends. Ultimately, TJ decided to leave Ryan Darius Salon. On the show, we don’t see much about how that all went down so I wanted to know more about his move and his new position at Mizu- New York.
Ifelicious: You’re at Mizu Hair Salon now?
TJ: Yes, Mizu. It’s Japanese for “water.”
Ifelicious: How did you decide on a new place to work?
TJ: I just reached out to some people in the industry. Knowing Ryan and also working with Goldwell, the color company, I met a couple of people. One of them was Dimitrios Tsioumas…[who works] at Mizu…We interviewed on a Tuesday, was called on a Wednesday, started that Thursday.
Ifelicious: Wow! So there was no real job search for you.
TJ: I was actually very blessed in that aspect…I love Mizu. It’s an amazing salon. It’s a lot different from Ryan’s, though. It’s two floors. There’s like 30 hair dressers here, and it’s uptown so the energy is so different.
Ryan, Ryan, Ryan!
I’ll concede that Ryan’s name in triplicate does not have the same connotation as Jan Brady when she cried the infamous, “Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!” on “The Brady Bunch.” It does, however, reflect how much Ryan came into the conversation in an affectionate way yet very different than the energy I got when he spoke about his boyfriend Grant. There’s a distinct difference between the bromance of his life and the romance of his life. Rest assured, you can’t break up that friendship between TJ and Ryan with a Ginsu knife, and they’ve endured two seasons on reality TV.
Ifelicious: Yesterday, Ryan told me the story about meeting you in high school, and how he remembers you going up and down the hallways with a magic wand. What drew you to Ryan?
TJ: What drew me to Ryan at first was that he was pretty. Also, I really feel like it was fate…I was sort of the big gay on campus, and then Ryan came out. So, it was sort of natural that we were drawn to each other…He worked at the Gap at the time, and I think our first conversation went like, ‘You work at the Gap. Well, I need a discount on a puffy coat.’
TJ was the mastermind behind OutSpokenNYC, an online localized resource for latest news, events and more written by and for the gay community. The site is phenomenal and includes six hot, gay boys (Stevie Hannigan, Jon Bender, Tommy Pardee, Tyler Williams, Dan Chizzoniti) including TJ who are all contributors.
Ifelicious: How are things going with Outspoken?
TJ: Oustpoken is great…It’s thriving. It’s growing…I really have to give a lot of credit to the boys because they’re all so talented, and they’re all so on point with it.
Ifelicious: Is there any vision for it longer term?
TJ: I would like to see it go national, like have different Outspokens’ in different states, and sort of have Outspoken be the go to point for anything gay in the city you’re in…It started off as sort of a vanity project, and now it has grown into something with five boys that I really care about…I hope that, even moreso for them, that it becomes something that will be profitable.
Cigarettes and Botox
I can’t believe 2012 is just around the corner, and for some of us, that means it’s time to dust off that list of this past year’s resolutions and see where we landed while thinking of what to conquer next. Did you work out, read, or reach out to your friends as much as you wanted? I wanted to know if TJ was a resolution kind of guy and what he’d want to set as a goal.
TJ: I’d really like to quit smoking. I’ll put that out there. My boyfriend will love me for saying it. It’s such a gross habit, but I really love my cigarettes…I hate making resolutions because I hate putting that much pressure of a promise on myself. I think with any resolution if you’re ready to do something, it’s going to be done on your time…Oh, and get more manicure pedicures with Ryan would be another one!
Ifelicious: For giving up cigarettes, you should make a trade off or some kind of agreement with your boyfriend as incentive.
TJ: Well, I already talked to him. If I quit smoking then I’m allowed to get botox again. He said it’s not worth getting botox now if I’m going to keep wrinkling my skin with cigarettes.
Season 3 and Seasons Greetings
I closed out my conversation by asking TJ if there was any word yet about a season 3 of “The A-List: New York” and if he had anything else he wanted to share for his fans and friends.
Ifelicious: I haven’t seen anything, but is it safe to assume that there will be a season 3 of ‘A-List: New York?’ Have they told you guys anything?
TJ: We have not heard anything. On a personal note, I would assume there would be a season 3, but you never know how these things work out. If there is one, I would be so happy to be a part of it. You know, they could cast it tomorrow all over again, and do a completely new cast like ‘Housewives.’ We’ll just keep our fingers crossed, and we’ll probably hear [about a future season] some time next year.
Ifelicious: Anything else you would like to share?
TJ: I’d like to thank everyone for loving the show or hating the show or hating to love the show. I want to wish everyone a happy holiday season. We’re coming up on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s. I know it’s a hard time for a lot of people out there. Me, personally, losing my dad nine years ago, I understand when people get a little sad during these times…I think we’ve all lost people we care about. When the holidays come around, we start thinking about these people. Especially, Ryan right now. Oh my, I’m going to cry. Ryan right now is really in my heart for these upcoming holidays, and I just love him so much.
Thanks, TJ, for the interview. You’re always an enjoyable person to talk to, and I love that you have remained accessible to your fan base and journalists like me even as your reality TV fame has grown. I wish you joy and comfort through the holidays and look forward to seeing your career continue to soar.
TJ will be joining with his fellow cast mates Ryan and Reichen as well as Dallas cast members Chase, Levi, Ashley, and James on a nationwide tour in January and February 2012. Dates and locations will be posted on Only Matt Martin PR.
Next, and probably the last in this particular interview series, is my interview with Reichen Lehmkuhl. To be posted soon!
Read all of my blog posts about “The A-List: New York” – CLICK HERE.
Read all of my blog posts about “The A-List: Dallas” – CLICK HERE.