ProudTimes is Pleased to Announce New Collaboration
By Sebastian Fortino
ProudTimes is excited to announce a new partnership between myself, Sebastian Fortino, Jen Roberton, Rachel Puma, and K. Leroy Schmierer. Schmierer has been at the helm of ProudTimes.com as Founder, Publisher and Graphics/Layout Editor for several years now. In joining forces he–and the new team–hope to expand and develop our mission, outreach, and audience. We’ll be switching to a format which will allow for more direct content sharing–from our page, to your Facebook and other social media accounts.
To tell you about me, Sebastian Fortino, I have functioned as Portland Correspondent with ProudTimes since Autumn of 2018, prior to that I was the Editor-in-Chief of ProudQueer.com. I also appear as a Gay Voices contributor in Metrosource.com, a lifestyle and entertainment magazine based in New York. I also served as the Lifestyle & Features Editor of The South Florida Gay News (SFGN.com) for two years. I’m a lifelong city guy, raised in Philadelphia, and educated in New York City at Fordham University. I am of mostly Italian descent and can make you a spicy meat’a’ball or pasta alla Norma. After several moves, I’m convinced the Rose City is my permanent home and am proud to serve our community through writing and editing. If we meet ask me about the great pickle juice incident of 2003.
Jen Roberton, Creative Director Content & Promotion, is a native of the Pacific Northwest and has been involved in creating and promoting queer events since she came out in 2015. Professionally, she has a business degree in supply in logistics management, and has an extensive professional background in operations. She is the organizer of the LesbiOut MeetUp group and is an electronic music DJ. Recently, Roberton was a featured performer for Out Central Oregon’s PrideFest at Mt. Bachelor. She is also a podcaster for Lavish Clips with Rachel Puma, her creative collaborator.
Rachel Puma, Creative Director Content & Media, is a long-time entrepreneur, as well as a professional sports and entertainment photographer. Puma is a writer and poet with a spectrum of creative talents; including, graphic design and corporate branding. She currently is the co-owner of United Sticker Co. with her brother Kyle, their mission is to use stickers as a tool to join fellow enthusiasts who share the same passions, hobbies, and interests. Similarly, she hopes ProudTimes will also connect our community. Puma hails from New York State, where she developed her love of winter sports, especially snowboarding.
Everyone loves photos of adorable pit bull pups. So what happens when you pair the cutest pooches on earth — who just happen to be in need of forever homes — with beautiful, hunky men? The year’s most buzzed-about calendar.
Photographer Mike Ruiz’s 2019 calendar, “Bullies and Biceps,” is fourteen months of perfection (2 bonus months in 2020) that will put a smile on your face every day of the new year.
Mike Ruiz is a celebrity photographer whose clients include Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and countless others. In addition to his work in Hollywood, Ruiz is known for shooting top male fitness models. “I admire men who have sculpted their bodies into works of art,” he says. “It takes incredible skill and knowledge to form human tissue to near perfection. Photographing their work is quite gratifying to me.”
The men featured in “Bullies and Biceps” are some of the biggest male fitness models working today including Bryan Richards, Michael Dean, Nick Topel and cover-model Casey Christopher. Collectively, they have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. They also are all passionate about animal rescue.
Mike Ruiz, too, is a pit bull rescuer and this year’s calendar is in special tribute to Oliver, his beloved canine, who passed away last month. Mike and Oliver shared six wonderful years together. It was Oliver who inspired Mike to fuse his two passions — photography and pit bulls — together into a calendar that would benefit dogs in need of rescue.
The pit bulls that appear in the calendar were chosen at random and represent only a fraction of those in need. “This is a very sad time to be in rescue,” explains Carla Mohan of the New York Bully Crew. “People are giving up their dogs without remorse. Pit bull type dogs are especially vulnerable because most rescues shy away from saving them due to lack of experience, knowledge and the negative media coverage the beautiful creatures have received.”
Founded by Craig Fields in 2010, New York Bully Crew specializes in the rescue, rehabbing and rehoming of pit bull type dogs. They partner with city shelters around the country to help local animals and have also begun outreach in Puerto Rico, Honduras, Peru, and South Korea.
“Pit bulls are the most loyal and loving dogs,” Carla continues. “They are soulful creatures that can be the silliest best friend ever. I have had many different breeds of dogs in my life, but none compare to pit bulls.”
She hopes the calendar will open people’s eyes and hearts and change misconceptions about this goofy and jolly breed. While shooting the calendar, the pit bulls on set stole the hearts of the super gorgeous male models. “I wanted to take them all home with me,” laughs Casey Christopher.
Every dollar made from the sale of the “Bullies and Biceps” 2019 calendar will go directly to New York Bully Crew for various services benefitting the health and welfare of the dogs. “The calendar makes the perfect holiday gift and also brings awareness to these special animals,” says Mike Ruiz. “Every pit bull deserves a forever home.”
Well Bullies and Biceps, this is another gorgeous calendar and a great cause. Being the proud parent/guardian of 3 rescues: Chihuahua, Dachshund mix, and a live-in house rooster who thinks he is one of the dogs, my heart goes out to all dogs, cats, and other animals who are waiting to find their forever home. If this is not too emotional of a subject, could you tell us if it was Oliver who first prompted you to take on these successful and sexy calendars?
Oliver is 100% responsible for inspiring me to do as much as I possibly can for animal rescue. This calendar is one of the things that I do.
Are you able to tell us a little about Oliver’s story?
Oliver was found roaming the streets of South Central Los Angeles, skin and bones, cherry eye and cysts on his legs. He was dumped off at a high kill shelter where he had 1 day to live before being pulled by Bullies and Buddies Animal rescue. They found a foster who happened to be a good friend of mine. On one of my trips to LA, I stayed with this friend while he was fostering Oliver and it was love at first sight. Within 24 hours, the paperwork was filed and I was Oliver’s dad!
When we rescued Buddy and Lucky I knew firsthand the story and I knew I was going to make sure they had the best home I could give them. With the oddball Rodney the rooster we could not let him fall prey to the elements or predators so we did the only thing we were able to and took him in. For Oliver was it the story that finally helped you make the decision to be his forever family or was it more?
It was my immediate connection to Oliver that literally changed the course of my life. I didn’t know his story prior to meeting him nor did I know much about animal rescue. My love for him inspired me to research everything I could about pit bulls and animal rescue. When I learned how animal shelters are overrun with abandoned pitbulls, I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
Your photography to this journalist is second to none, the way you can capture a model’s unique essence is amazing. I am not just saying this to stroke your ego, I have worked with many photographers and artists over the past 30 years and no matter how good someone is you can always see who has talent and who is gifted and you are truly gifted and your pet calendars show this gift. In your pet calendars Pecs & Puppies, Hunks & Hounds, Heart Throbs & Hounds, and the current Bullies & Biceps you have created gorgeous pairings of human with K-9. I saw in the promo video a little of how you choose the pairing, but I could see that there was more to the process, can you tell us how you decided on the models and the rescues before the photoshoot?
Animal Rescue is all about 2nd chances so I try to find models who are not only pleasing to the eye but who also have stories of overcoming adversity AND who have some connection to animal rescue. Once the models are secured, we basically have the rescue bring dogs who need homes or who make great mascots for the cause. From there, I see where love connections are made between the pups and the models. Aesthetic compatibility is also a consideration. It’s important they look good together and that they connect on some level.
For this year’s calendar Bullies and Biceps, as for the other calendars, once you commit to making it can you go through the hows of how you first start.
It was important to me to have this year’s calendar benefit a pitbull specific rescue since I wanted to honor Oliver, so I decided to benefit New York Bully Crew. Once that was decided, then I had to figure out how I wanted it to look aesthetically. From there, it’s all logistics such as scheduling, casting, getting the puppies scheduled and a million little details that are far too boring to include.
During your photoshoots of the current and past calendars have any of the models adopted their K-9 companion?
This year, Bryan Richards was inspired to adopt a pitbull. Some of the models wanted to do the calendar because they were already pitbull dads.
If a person is looking for a companion would you tell them to find a local rescue and adopt from them first or to adopt a puppy from a breeder?
I would never encourage anyone to buy from a breeder when there are 2 million dogs discarded to shelters every year, 40% of them are pitbull type breeds. People think that when they pay a bunch of money for a dog that they are getting a better quality dog. This, of course, is absurd. You can find any dog with any characteristics you might want from a rescue or Petfinder. The function of a rescue is to get a dog ready to be adopted by giving them the best medical care and training so that they are behaviorally compatible.
Do you think you are going to create another pet calendar for 2020?
I will continue doing these calendars until I can figure out an even better way to help animal rescue. Not only is my goal to raise money for dogs in need but it’s also to educate people on the great benefits of adopting vs buying. I’m pretty sure the next calendar will be co-ed. I have several gorgeous and very high profile women who want to participate next year so it’ll be men and women. Not sure what to call it yet, maybe “Babes and Bullies”?
This Calendar has a feel as being a memorial for Oliver and if it is I think it is a great way to share him with the world and show him that he was a loved part of your family. To critics who think Bulldogs (Pitbulls in general) should be banned and put down because they are animals that will someday turn and hurt someone, what message do you have?
Sadly the media misrepresents the true nature of bully breeds. Only since the 80’s have they been vilified in the media. Prior to that, Dobermans were feared and German Shepherds before that. For over 100 years, Bully breeds were considered to be the best family dog. So much so, they were coined “Nanny Dogs”. You are more likely to be bitten by a golden retriever or Border Collie than you are a pitbull. Education is the best way to understand something. People should take the time to do a tiniest bit of research before buying into false information. PEOPLE are responsible for animal aggression. Any dog will become aggressive if abused, neglected, beaten, and starved. So would most humans! I always encourage people to spend time with a pitbull before writing them off as vicious attack dogs. I am now dad to another sweet girl named Julia who is the sweetest, gentlest angel, just like Oliver, her brother before her.
To help New York Bully Crew and other rescues around the world as a parent who chose a rescue over adopting from a breeder, what words of advice might you offer?
The best advice I can give is to go on Petfinder. They are a great resource for both people adopting and rescues looking to place dogs. They are a wonderful conduit for making some love connections. I found my baby girl on Petfinder.
The electric front-man of the Scissor Sisters, which has been on hiatus since 2012, has not been idle. In February of 2018 he released his memoir Boys Keep Swinging, which I was lucky enough to review. On Monday, November 12th he takes his latest show to the Wonder Ballroom In Portland. He was raised partially in Washington State, and went to the Northwest School in Seattle. He tries to come back to the Pacific Northwest at least once a year, he told ProudTimes.
As a writer, especially as an interviewer, the first rule when approaching a subject is not to gush. For my recent interview with Jake Shears I have no shame in admitting I broke that rule. Repeatedly, I was total in fanboy mode.
That’s because there was a generation of young gay men who came of age in Manhattan. They frequented the once-gloriously queer Lower East Side. They went to hole-in-the-wall bars and danced, despite a ridiculous ban based on some ancient cabaret law. I came of age then, and so did Jake Spears.
Proud Times: So, first and foremost. How have the crowds been? Do you think they’re coming for the Scissor Sisters or are they coming to see Jake Shears?
Jake Shears: I think they’re coming to see me. They enjoy the Scissor Sister songs yeah, but the crowds have been amazing. These have been very special shows. People have, I don’t know how to put it into words, seems they missed this kind of music and performance. There’s an almost reverential feel at the concerts but it’s been loose and fun. I’ve worked hard on this show to give it an arc. It’s sort of like a piece unto itself. Storytelling, where the story goes, it’s really has a flow to it. The crowds have been so lovely, getting face to face with everyone again. Lots of gay men lot of women in the audience, and I’m very proud to be playing to be playing rock and roll to a lot of gay people. I don’t think queer people get rock and rool in that context.
PT:Your music is–well, so much sound, just so lush. How do you keep up with it when you’re doing your music live?
JS: I do have just absolutely killer musicians on this show, mostly from Louisville my sax player is such a great guy, he is the icing on the cake for this show. The strings are underneath but the show’s definitely got a full sound. I just have some great players with me. There’s so much horn on the record and the sax rounded the whole thing out. Always my dream to have a full time sax player.
PT: You said you didn’t want to turn your back on what you had written before. Did you think you had to veer away from your style to something newer to make it personal?
JS: I think there’s that tendency for me to “Oh what am i gonna do next, what is this gonna be.” I wanted to make music but what form it was gonna be? For instance this album, and the Scissor Sisters aesthetic is what I’m good at writing. You know emotionally semi-absurd theatrical rock and roll. When I realized I didn’t need to reinvent I wanted to continue that body of work. To me I look at all this music and it feels a little bit different, but it still feels like one body of work.
PT: So, was the album like a second coming of age, or even coming out again?
JS: Definitely finding myself & figuring myself out again. I just lost track of what I was supposed to be doing. At least for me every five or six years there is a sort of reassessment shedding of the skin.
PT: Ha, but don’t most gay men do that?
JS: I think so. Especially when your identity is so attached to what you do, what you create. If I don’t pay attention to it, I kinda feel like I am gonna undergo a small change soon. It’s been a massive year for me. I’ve gotten a lot done but at the moment I need to reassess who I am, what I wanna do next, and the best way to get there. Not just float along.
PT: In your memoir, Boys Keep Swinging, you wrote a stunning love letter to the late-90s to early 2000s in New York. You talked about being a gogo boy at I. C Guys, The Cock, and Wonderbar. It was pretty definitive for lots of people. Is there anything you especially miss about that New York?
JS: OH MY GOD! I miss everything about it. The only reason I spend time in NY now is friends, and you know, chosen family, and the theatre world. The stuff that happens downtown, club cumming, off-broadway. That’s why I go there. I hope young people found something similar to what we found. At the millenium it was downtown, that was the place to be. I don’t know where it is but I am sure some kids in NY are still doing it. But I miss the freedom of being that time & that age. You know just to hustle & the possibilities. I think very fondly of that time.
PT: Speaking of the memoir, how long did it take you to write?
JS: It was a two-year process but it was hand-in-hand with the album. They were good to work on together. I’d be in the studio for two weeks then writing for two weeks. I like to have a lot of projects going on at once. I think that keeps things exciting.
PT: What’s it like to be considered a gay icon? And–Big Bushy Mustache–is that talking about your celebrity?
JS: Icon has so many different connotations. I hope I’d made some kind of dent or change in the world with the stuff that I make and write. I’d like to think my creativity has made some kind of a difference for people. If that’s being an icon, that’s cool with me. I was in New Orleans when I wrote it.The core of it is: fags have more fun. That song to me about straight guys sort of standing on the other side of the road and looking at us and wishing they had as good of a time as we do.
PT: Yeah, I just read something that said most straight men settle down after having only 26 partners.
JS: Yeah, and so many of us say thank God I was born gay. There’s a reason for that.
PT: On that note: You said to Seth Myers, “Wow, I’ve slept with a lot of people.”We were pretty much the first generation to come of age when HIV was no longer a death sentence, and today we have Truvada, etc. Do you think it’s your celebrity or your generation that’s allowed you be a so-called whore? But we still have slut shamers. What do you think of that?
JS: It’s not my celebrity, and I’m making a wisecrack, I was having a lot of fun. I think gay guys have always been doing it. Sex was something very different than it is today. I think PrEP is amazing, I use it, I think all sexually active queer people should have access to PrEP. It’s a different world now. I am happy that I lived in a time without cell phones, no internet and I’m happy I came from that time. I feel like a got a good glimpse of what gay men went through to get where we are now.
PT: Continuing in that vein: When I hear a gay musician singing about sex or love or heartbreak I feel pretty empowered. Would you say you’re conscious of this, that it’s going to have intrinsic value to your gay fans when writing?
JS: I don’t think about it too much when I am writing. I do my best and hopefully, inherently, that gay and queer people coming from that perspective appreciate it. But I really try to make universal music. I want my music to have a universal feeling, to have anyone be able to listen to it, and access certain feelings, even coming from a certain perspective, or sexuality. I try to make it for everybody. I think about my mom when I make this music, I think about my mom’s friends. It’s just my personality. I think, for me it’s important that my music have a strong point of view yet be accessible.
PT: I guess a lot of people turn to your music because it’s always makes you feel pretty swell. Yet, Play a Sad Song Backwards is about turning your troubles inside out. Is it therapeutic? Or does it come naturally to craft songs that pretty much get you singing and smiling?
JS: I think the therapeutic part of it, for me, is when I’m on stage performing. When it’s good, bringing it to a stage. That’s why I make this music, to go into this part of my head. That’s where you know, it cleans the cobwebs out of my brain. I like that even the sad stuff has a life-affirming feel to it. I think that’s kind of a good word. Even the sad songs, they do have this life-affirmation. Not taking life for granted, not having a sinking feeling even when it gets to be the worst.
PT: Last and loaded: what’s happening next?
JS: I don’t really take breaks. When I am writing stuff–songs or making a book–I tend to need open space, like blank days. I am doing a book outline, and starting to write more songs again, I am constantly still working. My hustle is still on, trying to create and accomplish new fun things. I have to buckle down and start again. I am really excited to start a new musical. You plant your seeds, you tend your garden, and see how it grows. That’s how I do it.
When asked about a reunion, or project with the Scissor Sisters, Jake said he’d never rule it out. “But, he added, “I’m really enjoying this though. I’m really enjoying the freedom that I’ve got at the moment. For the moment I want to keep going like this. I am sure we’re gonna make another record. It has to be about something. It has to be inspired.
The album is called Jake Shears, and it’s the best thing about 2018. Check out tickets for the show at the Wonder Ballroom on Monday, Nov. 12th. He has upcoming shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and the El Rey in LA.
Miguel Cobian of Cobian Consulting is a leader in marketing and public relations. He grew up in Salem and has made his home in Portland for almost a decade. Miguel is always busy, it seems, and we are lucky he had time to be interviewed. He was recruited by Apple while still in college and he likes to bring “big-brand ideas and philosophies to smaller businesses,” in what he says has been a successful strategy.
ProudTimes: I know you’re in public relations. How would you best like to describe yourself professionally?
Miguel Cobian: I’ve had my own PR and Communications company for three years. I went to school for Marketing but never really got the hang of it until I worked for Apple for five years, there I learned all about branding, communications, aesthetics, visuals, etc. I would say my business style is easy going—yet at times corporate. I’m a Gemini, and I like to bring big-brand ideas and philosophies to small businesses, which has been a successful strategy.
PT: What have been your greatest successes as a person of business in Portland?
MC: Staying in business! It’s not easy being a single-owner small business—especially in this town and especially with more and more small business owners trying to do their own marketing and communications in-house. I think our success story is being able to go to a business and show them what they’re doing, how it could be streamlined, and helping them grow.
PT: Any collaborations which have not been successful?
MC: We don’t name clients that we’ve cancelled or have cancel with us, but we did try working with a local publication that was unsuccessful…
PT: That’s sad to hear.
MC: Yeah, guess we won’t do anymore print or online publication stuff.
PT: How do you combat or deal with any misconceptions the public may have about you? Mainly your age, as a young entrepreneur?
MC: Well some people think I’m older than I look—a lady never tells her age—but I have come to realize that sometimes people go “who’s this kid trying to tell us what to do?” or “why is he here?” I let our strategies and contributions do the talking.
PT: That being said, how have you overcome any misconceptions about working with a young entrepreneur? How long ago did you start the business? Is there anyone in the community who you credit as a mentor?
MC: I think with a lot of millennial business owners, especially those who are LGBTQ, who like to dress well and travel a lot, some people might think that we’re doing this “on the side”, “as a hobby,” we’re “not legitimate” or that we don’t need a job—that’s not accurate. We have to hustle for what we do, go to a lot of events to meet people, etc., and more. One of my early-on mentors, Terry Bean said once, “I only work on and invest on what I know”. So why would I go work at some other job that I’m not passionate about? I like to get people’s message out— and helping their businesses be successful—that’s why I started CobianConsulting.com, here in Portland.
PT: I know you are active with the Human Rights Campaign and are on the Board of Governors for HRC. How did you become involved with them?
MC: Back when I was working with Apple, Terry Bean, the co-founder of HRC asked me “Do you want to work for the President’s re-election campaign?” That’s a question you don’t get to hear very often so I said YES. After Obama won—and I had left Apple—I got involved with planning HRC’s local annual gala. After many successful years I got asked to join the Board of Governors, which represent 33 cities and communities across the United States.
PT: Any guess as to how much time you devote to HRC and how much time you devote to Cobian Consulting?
MC: Oh Lord. I would say currently, 50/50. We have so much work to do in the political sphere— and it’s all volunteer work. We pay our own travel to DC a couple times a year and of course are asked to donate and fundraise. If I devoted more time to my business I guess I’d be richer! But I love the volunteer work we do.
PT: By the time this goes to print, the Mid-term Elections will already have been decided. What part of your experience as a member of the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities informs both your professional and HRC work? What are you most looking forward to with the election? What are you most nervous about?
MC: During these mid-terms, we want the real America to speak out. By this I mean millennials, Muslims, men, women, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, the elderly, Christians, atheists, etc. When we speak, we get represented. I hope that Oregon speaks and we re-elect our Democratic Governor Kate Brown. I hope that we win back the House and the Senate and make our President accountable. I hope that we pass the Equality Act and the Dream Act. My fear is that the GOP keeps their hold on both chambers and things continue like they have the past two years. If Knute wins the Oregon race, well my little beach house in Puerto Vallarta will look just a bit nicer.
PT: With so much going on as an entrepreneur and a professional do you ever see yourself running for office in Portland or in the State of Oregon?
MC: Not currently—I’d like to develop Cobian Consulting more.
PT: I just learned the owner of Nike tossed a million dollars to the Knute campaign–despite Nike standing with Kapernick. How do you think, in a liberal, largely Democratic city like Portland, many employed by Nike, this speaks to values that locals hold.
MC: Well one person can’t speak for the community. Phil Knight may be Chairman Emeritus of Nike, but Nike and its employees stand with Kate Brown and most of the Democratic party. Knight has put over $4M into our State race. That’s just crazy to me. What did Knute promise him?!
PT: As we approach the holidays, and the New Year, are there any projects you’re excited about for 2019?
MC: There’s a West Coast Real Estate development company we just quietly launched this year — I’m excited to make them public and start promoting them throughout Oregon and California. They build some stunning homes.
PT: Anything else you’d care to add?
MC: Yes! The Human Rights Campaign will host their annual Summer Gala in the Lewis & Clark Estate Gardens in July 2019. Anyone that wants to get involved and help plan or sponsor this event, can contact me!
Make sure to follow Miguel Cobian on his Instagram, @mcobian, and on Twitter at @cobianconsult his website or email him firstname.lastname@example.org.
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with anyone else you think should be profiled as a local or regional business person.
Miguel Cobian’s interview in November 2018 Proud times Digital Magazine Below