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Kroell prepares to bare it all for Playgirl

Gay model coming to Baltimore for ‘Hunks in Trunks’ fundraiser

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After competing on Bravo’s “Make Me a Supermodel,” contestant Ronnie Kroell made the move from Chicago to New York City where he continues to model and to pursue a career in acting. He also contributes to philanthropic ventures for several causes. Kroell recently agreed to appear nude in the June 2010 issue of Playgirl. Kroell will be in Baltimore on Thursday, May 20 for the all-male swimsuit fashion show, Hunks in Trunks.

The Washington Blade talked with Ronnie about his life in New York City, his philanthropic work, posing for Playgirl and more.

Washington Blade: Since you competed on “Make Me a Supermodel” you have moved to New York City, what has life been like for you after the move?

Ronnie Kroell: You could say it’s a dream come true. Following “Make Me a Supermodel,” which I can’t believe was over two years ago, I went through a scary time because I moved from Chicago to New York to follow “the dream” and not really knowing what I was getting myself into and I didn’t have any safety nets to catch me if I fell.

Coming to New York City was one of the best decisions I think I’ve ever made in my career. I love the city and all it has to offer and I take it one day at a time. I’m working hard at my passion, which is primarily the fashion industry and modeling but also expanding into the acting arena and being a humanitarian. I’m trying to get as involved as possible with the charities I think need the most help and that I feel are the closest to my heart.

Blade: You participated in Fashion Week in New York in February. Can you give a few details of your experience?

Kroell: There is nothing more thrilling than fashion week in New York. I love to be under the tents in Bryant Park, although this was the last year to be held in Bryant Park. The entire event is being moved to Lincoln Center for September’s Fashion Week. I especially love seeing designers like Malan Breton, Christian Siriano and other designers that are really making names for themselves. I feel really close with Malan because he and I shared in the same experience because we were part of the Bravo TV family. As passionate as he is as a designer and having that incredible opportunity to be on Bravo’s “Project Runway,” there are a lot of challenges to overcome from being on a reality show like that to then become a legitimate designer and be taken seriously.

I was also able to participate in Naomi Campbell’s Relief for Haiti event, which was so much fun. You really won’t find a community that is more dedicated and more passionate about getting involved when such major disasters happen or when there is a need to help other humans American or otherwise. The fashion community is really tight knit and comes together in such a huge way and raises awareness and the money it takes to help.

Blade: Which charities have you been focused on lately?

Kroell: Right now I’m working with a charity out of Africa called Womankind. What they do is try and protect women’s rights and are trying to prevent female genital mutilation in Africa. My business partner is a member of the board of this not-for-profit and we are hosting a charity event here in New York City on June 7 at La Palm to benefit Womankind. I’ve also been really involved with GLAAD, HRC, and the ACLU in various ways.

Blade: Speaking of GLAAD, you recently attended the GLAAD Media Awards. Describe your experience at the event.

Kroell: The GLAAD Media Awards were phenomenal! It’s incredible the work that GLAAD is doing and I know they just transitioned to their new president, Jarrett Barrios. GLAAD is working so hard and really revamped their image in the community and they’re really a watchdog and are increasingly so. They make sure the LGBT community is fairly represented in media and that the people that are doing a great job are rewarded for their contributions.

It was just so fun to meet people like Sigourney Weaver, Joy Behar and Cynthia Nixon. They are the most humble people who are in positions to really bring home the message of equality and take the stance that we are all human beings first and that hopefully one day we can get beyond the labels of sexual orientation. It’s inspiring to me because I have nowhere near the career that some of these people have so I’m learning from them, they’re my role models. Having the chance to be in the same room with them, listen to their stories, and hear about the work they’re doing inspires me to continue to do the things that I love to do.

Blade: You’re going to be in Baltimore on May 20 for the “Hunks in Trunks” fashion show, which benefits Equality Maryland. How will you be participating in the show?

Kroell: I got involved with Hunks in Trunks last year thanks to my friend Ted Hart who is one of the lead organizers of the event each year. I was really impressed with the level of dedication that his organization has for the community and I remembered what a great event it was to be a part of last year. So when Ted asked me to be a part of it this year as basically a master of ceremonies I couldn’t say no. It’s a great time with a great group of people that gather together to raise money for worthy causes.

Blade: Aside from modeling you are also pursuing a career in acting; can we expect to see you in any forthcoming movies?

Kroell: Well, I’m being considered for a few independent films right now that are in the works. I have become very involved with the off-Broadway productions in New York. I’ve done a few readings at the Manhattan Theater Source but I’m really excited to say that my boyfriend has been cast in an off-Broadway summer stock production of “Equus” in the East Hamptons this summer with Alec Baldwin. They are currently in rehearsals for that so I’m really looking forward to attending the opening night of “Equus” which will be June 11 of this year.

Blade: “Equus” is a great segue to the next question — can we talk about your appearance in the upcoming Playgirl? What led you to bare it all for Playgirl?

Kroell: [Laughs] Well, it’s kind of a funny story. We received an e-mail out of the blue from the Playgirl camp basically feeling me out to see if I would be interested in doing a Playgirl pictorial. At the time, upon initial contact, it wasn’t really something I saw myself doing. It took me about three months to get to ‘yes’ as a decision. I’m really happy and it was really a fun experience for me because Playgirl immediately saw upon meeting me the artistic vision that I had and what I really wanted to do. The Playgirl people allowed me to share creative control in the process, which allowed me to bring in a high-fashion photographer, and a full fashion team. So on May 15 on Playgirl.com the first 15-20 photos will be released then the actual print edition will come out June 15. It was quite a fun time, we shot at the Grace Hotel in New York City and it was all high fashion. There are a lot of surprises and I feel it will take Playgirl to a whole new level.

Blade: Had you done any nude modeling previously?

Kroell: Nothing other than something for my book and to build my portfolio and nothing really that was seen in any major way by the public. Doing this photo shoot was definitely taking a lot of risks in a lot of people’s eyes. The fashion community is definitely open and willing to see nude females in the industry but Tom Ford says it best that the fashion community and Americans at large are afraid of male nudity. For me, this was an art project. It was a way of taking a calculated risk, have fun, and making the statement that I’m dropping my labels for Playgirl because at the end of the day we all have the same human body; we’re all just as vulnerable as the next person. There is something really beautiful about the human body when it’s at its most vulnerable, natural state. As Americans, we view sex, sexuality, and the nude body as something scary and perhaps dirty but for me it’s the exact opposite. My body is my work and my art form so I’m really excited to see people’s reactions and hopefully they will see the perspective and angle I used with this project. I hope people appreciate the pictures for what they are and that is as an art project.

Blade: You mentioned that you sided with leading fashion designer Tom Ford regarding his stance on male nudity in fashion photography. Do you feel that such industry heavyweights as Tom Ford will start a change in trends?

Kroell: I talked to my business partner and to my circle of friends and the reason, we concluded, why male nudity doesn’t receive such a warm welcome is because it is still such a heterosexual, male normative society. The people in charge, those that make the decisions, are the people that want to see female nudity and have no problems with exploiting females in the industry. I think because of this, it is an uphill battle. Although if you look throughout the course of history, like at the ancient Roman and Greek times via the sculptures created or Michelangelo’s David there was no issue with male nudity; both female and male were held in the highest regard. I think there is still a distance to go on the subject but with people like Tom Ford speaking out, I felt like I had the opportunity to continue with the statements he made and just say ‘It’s OK’ because the human body is beautiful and something to be appreciated and not looked at like something that is dirty. I’m excited to see where this project will lend itself into conversation because, more than anything, I like to start conversations.

Blade: Taking on a project like this could definitely be considered, as you said, a ‘calculated risk’. Are you afraid of the potential negative backlash?

Kroell: Anything is possible but I’m an artist and throughout the course of history artists have had their ups and downs and taken risks that could lead to failure. Later in life I don’t want to look back and think ‘what if?’ This was just a really exciting art project for me and just one of many I currently have going on.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Stephanie Jones

    May 14, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Ronnie is the co-Trustee of our charity, GeekNerdWonk Charitable Foundation that does the work to which he references in this interview, and we also have a for-profit corporation, Kroell & Jones Enterprises that has some exciting things lined up. I just wanted to share that while everyone, man, woman, animal, even inanimate objects, I think, appreciate his exquisite beauty, inside that man is a first class political scientist, campaign strategist, and soulful human rights activist. I have more than one worked all night with Ronnie to get done what others thought impossible to accomplish. He is as humble, graceful, and thankful as he seems. An exquisite man. On the outside too.

    Thanks for this great interview.

    Come meet Ronnie in person on June 7th at La Pomme. Send me a note to [email protected] and I will send you an invitation!

  2. hughman

    May 14, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    “Had you done any nude modeling previously?

    Kroell: Nothing other than something for my book and to build my portfolio and nothing really that was seen in any major way by the public.”

    um, wasn’t there a nude photo shoot on Make Me A Supermodel? granted it wasn’t the most popular show but i assume some of the “public” saw it on national TV which is a pretty major way.

    • Jerry

      May 15, 2010 at 1:18 am

      The nude photo from the show is generally covered by the phrase “building my portfolio,” dear. The photos from the show go into the participant’s books, win or lose, just like ANTM and Project Runway.

  3. Ted

    May 15, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    As Ronnie mentions in the article he will be live Thursday night in Baltimore at Hunks In Trunks, along with 10 more super hot guys. All this supports Equality Maryland (http://www.equalitymaryland.org)

    Great guy, hot guys, important cause!

    Get your tickets online: http://www.hunksintrunks.net

    Hope to see you there.

  4. JustBeBob

    May 16, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Unless I am missing something today is May 16 and Playgirl.com still hasn’t posted any photos of Ronnie. I went through the shame of becoming a member just to see them.

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Real Estate

My Best Of’s in D.C. real estate

Favorites in buyer programs, paint colors, and more

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Forget shiplap, wallpaper is back!

As I congratulate my colleagues and friends who have received the coveted Best of Gay DC awards, I thought it appropriate to share with you my own, subjective “Best of” list. 

Best Housing to Buy. With 233 of them on the market in D.C., the one-bedroom, one-bath condominium under $400,000 may be the best option for a personal residence or investment. Given a median price of $320,000 and 49 days on the market, there are deals to be made. You have your choice of areas around the city and of buildings large and small.

Best First-time Buyer Program. D.C.’s Housing Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) is by far the best option to use if you are eligible. This program is based on household income and size and can provide up to $84,000 toward the purchase of a D.C. personal residence. For example, to receive the full amount, the income of a party of two is limited to a total of $51,600, 50% of the median family income for D.C. Other requirements may apply.

Best Tax Reduction Program. If you qualify, you may be able to take advantage of the DC Tax Abatement Program. Using the example of our party of two working adults buying a personal residence for less than $516,800, the income limit is $79,020 or $113,500 in designated Economic Development Zones.

Approval for the program exempts buyers from paying property taxes for up to five years and reduces the closing costs for the purchase by eliminating the buyer-paid recordation taxes and distributing the seller-paid transfer taxes to the buyer instead of to the DC tax office. For the buyer of that $516,800 personal residence, that can mean a savings of nearly $15,000 in closing costs.

Best Neutral Paint Color. First it was Builder Beige, then Gray was OK, then they blended into Good Grief Greige. While neutrals can be bland and boring, these days, expect to see a variety of off-whites gracing the walls of homes for sale. Sherman Williams 7008, Alabaster, did the trick for my most recent sellers. 

Best Wall Décor. Sponge paint and other effects are long gone. Forget shiplap unless you live in a house at the beach or on an actual ship. Distressed wood may still be suitable for a cabin in the woods, but in a modern, urban setting, wallpaper is back, baby! 

This is not your grandmother’s wallpaper. No chickens, tiny prints, borders, or faux grass cloth are in sight. Today’s wallpapers are bold, geometric, or a throwback to mid-century modern and are primarily used on an accent wall so they’re not overwhelming. Love vs. Design (lovevsdesign.com) can create custom wallpaper to match your color scheme in a peel and stick application that eschews the mess of wallpaper paste.

Best Indoor Plant. For us plant growing novices, the award goes to The Easy Care Bundle at The Sill (thesill.com). For only $45, you get two potted succulents that are very hard to kill, a Snake Plant and a ZZ Plant. 

You can also set yourself up on a subscription. $60 plus a $10 shipping charge buys a medium sized plant-of-the-month with a black or cream-colored planter. Choose classic plants or select pet-friendly, non-toxic plants for only $5 more with a 3-month minimum subscription. You can even purchase these as gifts.

Best Balcony Plant. For homes with a balcony or a deck, the winner is a potted Winter Gem Boxwood. It’s an evergreen that will turn a golden shade in the winter then green again in the spring. It also grows in both full and partial shade – almost a set it and forget it type of shrub – needing water only once a week or twice in hotter climates. Cut it as a topiary à la Edward Scissorhands for a little architectural interest.

Best Freestanding Refrigerator. I would be remiss if I didn’t include a best appliance category.An upscale fridge with see-through doors and built-in versions of computers, televisions and smart home elements holds a certain appeal until one of the glitzy attractions breaks and you spend as much for a new motherboard as you would for a whole new refrigerator. 

The winner of this category, therefore, is Samsung’s model RF28R7351SR. This bad boy is available in both standard and counter depth and features a French door top with external water and ice, a pull-out freezer with dual baskets, and a middle drawer that can be set to one of four temperatures to accommodate food or wine.

There you have it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to judge the Best of Blake Miniature Schnauzers category. I’m thinking a 4-way tie is in order.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs

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Real Estate

Helpful tips for homebuyers in seller’s market

2021 has been a great year for home sales

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COVID-19 housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

Without question, 2021 was a great year for home sales. Sellers across the country, in many cases, found themselves listing their homes and quickly having not just one, but multiple offers, many of which were at asking price or above. With limited inventory and high demand, it has been an ideal year to sell—and conversely, often a difficult year to buy. Buyers who are interested in a particular home, or even in a specific neighborhood, often find themselves facing stiff competition to have offers accepted. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that many buyers haven’t had successful and rewarding home buying experiences—just that doing so often means making an extra effort and taking helpful steps to make an offer the most competitive that it can be. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few helpful tips for buyers in a seller’s market:

  • Plan ahead with mortgage pre-approval: While there are certainly a wide variety of strategies that real estate agents and financial advisors may recommend, and while those strategies might vary depending upon the buyer and the circumstances of a particular market, one thing almost all experts agree on is that obtaining a mortgage preapproval is a smart decision. A mortgage preapproval is an ideal way to reassure sellers that a reputable lender has verified your credit and approved your buying power up to a certain limit. If you’re caught in a bidding war with another potential buyer, having preapproval establishing that you are ready, willing, and able to buy just might give you the advantage you need in a competitive market.
  • Be willing to look under budget so you can bid higher: In this highly competitive market, many home buyers find themselves in a situation where they are in a bidding war with another—or even several other—buyers. In that situation, you may find yourself having to make an offer at, or even in many cases, above, the asking price. This means that you may want to adjust your budget—and bidding—accordingly. Choosing to make an offer on a home that has an asking price that is already at the top of your budget may mean that you simply don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to making an offer over that price. Choosing a home slightly under the top of your budget means you’ll have more flexibility to make a bid that is more competitive and likely to be accepted.
  • Consider offering non-price-oriented incentives: Without question, making a highly competitive offer is going to be the key to increasing your chances of having that offer accepted. It’s important to remember that there is more to an offer than just price, however. Buyers may want to consider increasing the appeal of an offer by supplementing it with other incentives beyond just the dollar amount itself. Examples of such incentives might include things like foregoing the seller-paid home warranty that is often offered as part of the process, offering a shorter closing period, not making the purchase contingent upon the sale of a currently-owned home, or other such incentives. Doing so may give you the edge you need to have your offer selected over other competitive bids.
  • Retain the right real estate agent: Often, for LGBTQ buyers, especially in a competitive market, this piece of the puzzle is particularly important. In many, although certainly not all, cases LGBTQ buyers are drawn to specific areas of a city or community where other LGBTQ individuals live. That means that in a market where inventory is already limited and going quickly, there can be even fewer homes available upon which to bid. When that is the case, you will need a real estate agent who knows the community that you’re interested in, and who can quickly help you identify and take action toward making offers on homes that fit your needs. Having the right agent can make all the difference between a smooth and successful home-buying experience, and a stressful one

Jeff Hammerberg (he/him/his) is the Founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526, [email protected] or GayRealEstate.com

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Dining

Jane Jane brings throwback joy to busy 14th Street

Cocktail bar characterized by warm Southern hospitality

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(Photo courtesy of Deney Lam)

There is no standing at Jane Jane, the new classic cocktail bar in the heart of 14th Street. Its 850 square feet is for sitting and savoring, drinking in the relaxed retro vibe and the thoughtful craft cocktails. 

At the foot of the mixed-use Liz development where Whitman-Walker is the major tenant, Jane Jane’s creative use of a shoebox-sized space brings throwback joy to a busy thoroughfare. 

In the pre-COVID days of 2019, Whitman-Walker approached the Jane Jane owners, hospitality veterans Jean Paul (JP) Sabatier, Ralph Brabham and Drew Porterfield, all gay men, to make good use of the vacant parcel, and ensure it would be run by LGBTQ entrepreneurs. “It required some gymnastics because of the layout,” says Brabham, “but we came up with this cozy classic cocktail concept.” 

The hangout spot is an effort by the trio to “celebrate hospitality. We want everyone who walks into the space to feel like friends of ours we are having over for drinks or a bite. Its a cocktail party in our home,” he says. They felt connected to the idea of a tiny bar—a space where they would want to have a drink.

Named for Brabham’s mother, Jane Jane is as alluring and lively as it is intimate, each detail in the experience characterized by warm Southern hospitality—right from the bowl of spiced nuts that swiftly appear at each table at the beginning of service.

Sabatier, who has held stints at D.C. institutions like Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Maydan, and Compass Rose, oversees the bar and cocktail program, organized by spirit. (For their part, Brabham and Porterfield, romantic partners, also act as co-owners of Beau Thai and BKK Cookshop; Porterfield is also the current Curator and Director of Long View Gallery in Shaw.)

Sabatier has presented classic cocktails with a few noteworthy nods to current zeitgeist, as imagined by his lengthy experience behind the bar. The booklet-like menu includes a broad selection of familiar favorites like a Negroni, Manhattan, martini, but also features Sabatier’s handpicked favorite classics like the Boulevardier (a whiskey Negroni), Last Word (gin married to herbaceous green chartreuse) and Air Mail (rum, honey and cava). Drinks fall in the $13-$16 range; a “Golden Hour” runs daily until 7 p.m. featuring beer and wine specials and a punch of the day. 

Sabatier’s creative juices flow on the first page through cocktails like the vividly named Tears at an Orgy, with brandy, orange and maraschino, as well as the best-selling, highly Instagrammable Crop Top, a gin cocktail with a red-wine floater—and a name that matches the look of the bi-color drink. “It’s fun, delicious, and speaks to the space,” says Sabatier. He notes that their vodka of choice comes from Civic, a local, women- and LGBTQ-owned distillery.

Sabatier, a classically trained chef and Culinary Institute of America graduate, also oversees the small selection of bar bites (the space has no kitchen, part of the required “gymnastics” to make it functional.)

Beyond the complimentary vessel of rosemary-flecked mixed nuts, other bar snacks run from pickled vegetables to a Southern-style Pimento cheese dip and an onion dip creamy enough to make your grandmother blush. The “Jane’s Caviar” dish is a spread of trout roe and crème fraiche and comes with a towering mound of shatteringly crisp chips. A weekend brunch is in the works, which will serve goodies from local bakeries.

The retro-style interior recalls both California and the South, with only 32 seats inside and a 14-seat patio. Cozy booths done up in a hunter green as warm and inviting as a cool aunt are slung below walnut-wood walls and bar. Bright patterned tiles run the length of the floor; the back wall has playful cocktail wallpaper. A charming needlepoint by the restrooms kindly requests of guests, “please don’t do coke in the bathroom.”

The owners note that while Jane Jane is not explicitly a gay bar, its location in a traditionally gay-welcoming institution means that it has LGBTQ in its bones.

“Supporting LGBTQ people, businesses, and causes has been in Jane Jane’s ownership’s DNA at every establishment at which they have been involved,” they say, having supported local LGBTQ+ organizations like Casa Ruby, Victory Fund, SMYAL and the Human Rights Campaign, among others. 

Porterfield says that they were surprised that, given the locale, people assumed Jane Jane was a gay bar. “It’s not a gay or straight bar, just a fantastic cocktail bar that welcomes anyone to hang out with us,” he says. 

Nevertheless, the owners have taken into consideration the significance of being in the Liz development, as both gay men and as part of the hospitality industry. “It highlights the lack of representation as gay owners in this bar and restaurant world,” says Porterfield. They note the lack of women, LGBTQ and BIPOC representation. 

“It’s very special to us that we opened in this space,” says Porterfield, “so we want to show that we have opened a place that is all about inclusivity.”

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