TJ Kelly: TJ Brings His A Game

TJ Kelly, The A-List: New York’s sassy sidekick, gets real about the controversial show’s scarlet letter, jealous haters, and costar Reichen Lehmkuhl’s package deal.



Last year, amid much criticism from concerned LGBT viewers, quippy hair salon manager TJ Kelly — who isn’t even an official cast member — emerged relatively unscathed as a breakout star of The A-List: New York, Logo’s reality series about upwardly mobile, haute-messy gay men in Manhattan like multihyphenate Reichen Lehmkuhl and Brazilian model Rodiney Santiago. With the second season of the glitzy guilty pleasure premiering Monday, Kelly, who turns 29 years old this week, attempts to make some sense of the backlash and defends his gay right to be a vapid queen on national television. I wanted to interview you, TJ, because, to be completely honest, you’re the only person on The A-List: New York that I’d actually want to hang out with in real life. Do you get that a lot?
TJ Kelly: I do. My positioning on the show was really good, and I think I was portrayed really well. That’s what made me relatable — because I was sort of an outsider in a way. I’m flattered that people have taken a liking to me.

When an altercation breaks out between the gang at Therapy bar in the first episode of the new season, all you care about is removing your plate of nachos from harm’s way. In a nutshell, that’s why I enjoy you.
I have priorities, and food is one of them. When stuff like that goes down, sometimes I just don’t want to be around it. I’m usually out for a good time, to have fun, and when things get that serious, it’s time to go, girl. Grab the nachos and let’s go laugh at these fools in the corner.

Let’s start at the beginning. How does a nice guy like you wind up on a show like The A-List: New York?
I was born in Malden, Mass., but we moved to Cape Cod when I was in fourth grade, and I grew up there. I moved to New York about two years ago, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. I moved here to manage Ryan Nickulas’s salon. We’ve known each other for 15 years now. We went to high school together, we came out together, and he’s my best friend. I’m also a nail technician, so I came to New York to further my career in that area as well. Then Ryan got a call from a friend who had heard about a casting for a show called Kept. I actually went with Ryan to that casting, because I was assisting him in his daily routine. They met me, they put me on camera for the audition, we went forward with the sizzle reel, and that show evolved into A-List: New York. Initially, I think they thought I’d be in one or two episodes in the background, but I guess I’m too loud to let that happen.

Tags: television