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FEATURE

Mike Ruiz - photographer and director


September 09, 2008

Mike Ruiz with RuPaul
Mike Ruiz makes his feature film directorial debut with the release of the madcap espionage adventure thriller, Starrbooty, starring RuPaul. Hailing from Montreal Canada and now based in New York, Ruiz is best known for his high-impact, colorful celebrity photography.

He frequently shoots the hottest new stars for major U.S. and international magazines including Vanity Fair, Interview, TV Guide, Flaunt, The Source, Conde Nast Traveler, and others.

Among the impressive list of subjects that have stood before Ruiz's lens are Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Kirsten Dunst, Lindsay Lohan, Beyonce Knowles, 50 Cent and Jessica Alba. Oddly enough, the man who has made a career glorifying beauty grew up a self-described ugly duckling. "I was a chubby and unattractive child," he explains. "I suffered years of having sand kicked in my face. Then one day, I decided I couldn't take it anymore. I lost my baby fat and began weight training." His new physique eventually led to Ruiz appearing in local fashion shows at malls around Montreal. At 19, he flew to Paris, France to pursue a professional modeling career. He landed campaigns with Versace and International Male, but found the work uninspiring. "I always felt like I had more to say than wearing buns underwear in fashion catalogs."

He tried acting – starring in the classic cult independent film, Latin Boys Go to Hell – but again, found the work unsatisfying. "After the breakout success of the film, I was asked to audition for several major studio films but my heart wasn't into it," he acknowledges. "I wasn't passionate about acting and it showed."

Discovering one's passion is a gift that sadly, not everyone receives. Ruiz, however, did and his arrived as a Christmas gift. "At 28, I found a camera under my Christmas tree and within minutes, I was obsessed. I began shooting everything in sight. I taught myself the intricate mechanics of the camera but it was several years before I realized that I could actually make a living with my work."

Indeed, Ruiz has turned his passion into a prolific career. In addition to his work with celebrities, he has shot high profile advertising campaigns for Sean John, MAC Cosmetics, Candies, Jacob the Jeweler, Reebok, Wrigleys' Gum and Bongo Jeans, among many others. He has worked with television networks such as Bravo, UPN, and USA-TV and music labels including RCA/Arista, Interscope, EMI, Universal, Sony, and Warner Bros. Records.

He contributed to Dolce and Gabbana's Hollywood book and Iman's The Beauty of Color beauty book and he helped Lil Kim create the image for her Royalty watch line.

Most recently, Ruiz shot the ad campaign for Heidi Klum's Project Runway and created the cd packaging for former Destiny Child's Kelly Rowland's new album as well as directing the video for the first track "Like This" featuring Eve off of her new cd.

"I'm lucky to be at a point in my life where I can concentrate on projects that I find interesting and fun," he explains. It is the reason he chose to work with RuPaul on the new Starrbooty film. "Rupaul's irreverent and wacky sense of humor is very similar to mine. In fact, what attracted me most to Starrbooty was that it gave a voice to every inappropriate thought that I have ever had." Starrbooty marks his feature film directorial debut, but Ruiz is no novice to the medium of film. He has directed several music videos, most notably with Traci Lords, RuPaul and dance superstar Kristine W.

"Many people seem surprised to see my name attached to Starrbooty, but truthfully, I don't see the film as a far departure from my past work," continues Ruiz. "Similar to my photography, the film is based in fantasy. I've created a life for myself that is in every way an expression of my fantasies. Reality is not really somewhere I want to live so through my work, I try to see everything through rose colored glasses.

"That is what art means to me."

Mike Ruiz is a founding partner of Miauhaus, the elite Los Angeles photography complex featuring four full-service photo studios.

Mark Ruiz and RuPaul will both be attending the premieres of Starrbooty in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The Starrbooty Film Premieres on Thursday, October 2nd – Ster-Kinekor Classic, the Zone, Rosebank, Johannesburg. Friday, October 3rd – Cinema Nouveau screened by Fish Eagle, Brooklyn, Pretoria.

Tickets for the premieres of Starrbooty are priced at R150 per person and also include free entry to the Therapy Viva La Glam Pride After-party. Tickets can be purchased at Ster-Kinekor Classic The Zone and Cinema Nouveau Brooklyn box offices, by calling TicketLine 082 16789 or at www.sterkinekor.com.

The Cinema Nouveau screened by Fish Eagle Pride Film Festival takes place at Rosebank (26 Sept - 4 Oct), Brooklyn (26 Sept - 3 Oct), V&A; Waterfront (3 Oct - 11 Oct) and Gateway (3 Oct - 9 Oct). – Issued by Project Publicity, Inc


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