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.

BY Brandon Voss

July 25 2011 5:40 PM ET

TJ A LIST NEW YORK 4 X390 (ANDREW WERNER) | ADVOCATE.COM

As popular as it is, few TV shows get the gay community as riled up as The A-List: New York. What is it about the show that makes haters so vocally upset?
People say it’s a bad representation of the gay community, which I find ridiculous. I dare you to look at our cast and tell me that one of those people doesn’t remind you of a friend or somebody you know. Besides, we’re not representing anyone but ourselves. When we behave badly, we’re not acting poorly as gay men; we’re acting poorly as human beings. Because it’s the first all-gay reality cast since Queer Eye, that’s what got people going. But look at the Real Housewives, Jersey Shore — they still get hated on, and it’s really the same concept. Also, I think it’s about jealousy.

Haters are jealous of you and the other guys on the show?
For some people, yes, I think jealousy is a factor. I also think people get angry when they see something reflected on television that reminds them of themselves. Whenever I meet someone I don’t like, it’s usually because I’m seeing something in them that I don’t like about myself.

Reichen got angry and wrote a lengthy response last year when Dan Avery, an editor at Next magazine, referred to him as a “vapid queen.” Is it productive to battle that sort of criticism in the media?
No. It’s like when you have a bully — you don’t want to feed into that bullying and give them the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve riled you up. But on that note, can we honestly say that we’re not all vapid, shallow, and materialistic at times? Everyone displays those qualities at some point or another. So when a reporter calls Reichen or any of us “vapid,” maybe there’s a little truth to it. We do come across like that on the show, so to fight back is silly. I’d just be happy that someone’s fuckin’ talking about me.

If you don’t have that kind of attitude, the A in A-List: New York can be a scarlet letter that makes you an easy target for ridicule and contempt. Have you experienced that downside to being on the show?
Yes, but I have a good way of turning people around. People have definitely approached me with negativity, especially out in public, but when people take a moment to actually talk to me, they say, “You’re actually not that much of a bitch.” I also lucked out because I wasn’t one of the main characters and I never claimed to be A-list. At the same time, I think we’re all A-list in our own right. If you live a great life, have beautiful friends, and are striving to be a better person, then you’re A-list. I might live in Brooklyn with four other roommates and take the train to work every day, but I’m still A-list.

Has anything you’ve read about yourself hurt your feelings?
No. Nothing. One of my favorite blogs is TomAndLorenzo.com. Last season they did a recap of the show the day after it aired — I’m praying they do it again — and at one point they called me a “useless monkey bitch.” I’ve never laughed harder. If you can’t laugh at yourself, that’s when you’ll get hurt, and I think that’s what happens sometimes with Reichen and some of the other cast members. I don’t take myself that seriously.

Tags: Television

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