TJ Kelly: TJ Brings His A Game
BY Brandon Voss
July 25 2011 5:40 PM ET
Have you always had a thick skin, or have you had to develop one because of the show?
My coming-out is what helped me build a thick skin. I came out when I was 15 years old, so I had to learn at a young age to roll with the punches. Not everyone’s going to agree with my lifestyle or what I do or what I say, but that’s their problem.
How has your life changed since the first season?
Well, I’m gaymous now! People recognize me everywhere I go, and it’s such an honor when charity events or other special events invite me to be a part of them. Clubs call me to make appearances and hang out, which is fuckin’ crazy. I also launched my website, OutSpokenNYC.com, and it’s gotten a lot of attention because of my popularity from the show. So life is a little different, but I love it. I love the attention.
Have you used the attention to get dates?
The show definitely upped my getting-hit-on factor, but I have a boyfriend now. After the first season, the hard thing was finding somebody who wasn’t interested in me because I was on the show. All of a sudden, people who wouldn’t normally talk to me started asking me on dates. Then I met my boyfriend, Grant. He’s from Oklahoma, and we’ve been dating for seven months. When we met, he had no idea about the show. One of his friends mentioned that he thought I was on a TV show, but Grant didn’t put much weight in it. Then we were at Elmo for dinner one night, and someone asked me for an autograph, so he was finally like, “OK, what the fuck’s the deal?” But he’s been nothing but supportive.
Will we meet Grant this season?
There was some talk about that, but Grant didn’t want to do it, and we both decided it would be better if he wasn’t part of the show. I don’t want to open up my relationship to the public. He’s mine and I don’t want to share him.
As you’ve noted, you’re still not technically an official cast member. So do you get paid?
Yes. This season I was. No one knew how my part on the show was going to evolve. Once I got on camera, they saw that I was funny or whatever, so they started having me involved a lot more. It’s been a beautiful experience, especially because I got to do it with my best friend.
Pitch me a concept for your spin-off show.
At first I wanted it to be, like, TJ Looks for Love, sort of an I Love New York for Logo where I’m in a house with 10 guys and I whittle them down until I get one. Now, in light of the fact that I have a boyfriend, the perfect show for me would be something like what Paris and Nicole did in The Simple Life. Put me on a pig farm and watch my reaction.
What do you plan to do with your newfound notoriety?
It’s a good question, but I’ve been so busy with work and the show that I haven’t really thought about it. I know some of the other boys are off and running with product endorsements, spray-tan lines, and doing Playgirl, but I’m really happy with my life and what I’m doing. I do definitely want to get more involved with the younger gay community. In high school I used to go around to other schools to talk about coming out, acceptance, and safe sex, and that’s something I’m looking to get back into, because I think I can be a positive role model in that aspect. I have a good message to share with kids about being yourself and believing in yourself, because for every one person who’s against you, there are 10 standing behind you and rooting for you.
Does your A-List costar Austin Armacost have any business posing for Playgirl?
Austin doesn’t have much business doing a lot of things. If he has the courage to get up there and do it, he should do it. But I will not be picking up that issue.
You’ve posed shirtless on a gay magazine cover. Would you ever pose nude?
Maybe if the money was right. I’m a tall, skinny gay man, and for a while I thought about whether or not I should love my body. So I did a series of personal nude photos with a photographer, and it really gave me new insight on accepting my body and looking at it from a different perspective. I love my body now, but I don’t know if I’d want the world to see my nuts and berries.