Mike Ruiz and Fitness Photographers Urge the LGBTQA+ Commmunity To
Flex Your Vote
Eight of America’s leading fitness photographers have joined forces on “Flex Your Vote,” a new campaign that aims to encourage the LGBTQ community and its allies to the polls this November. “It’s painfully clear why this is the most important time in our lifetimes to vote,” says Mike Ruiz, the campaign’s organizer. “We are being engulfed by a pandemic, millions are unemployed, the government is riddled with corruption. We need to change the direction of this country or we are headed towards a dictatorship where we will be stripped of our rights.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Mike Ruiz and Michael Downs for this Hotspots exclusive interview:
How did Flex Your Vote come about?
Ruiz – I was initially inspired into action when it came to my attention that many of the American fitness models that I helped to make famous were supporting policies that directly undermined my liberties. I reached out to my photographer colleagues in the fitness industry — Pat Lee, Ulrich Oehman, Jorge Freire, Abel Cruz, Eric Wainwright, Allan Spiers and Michael Downs — for ideas on how they could effectuate change somehow. Collectively, they concluded that rather than try to change the minds of the indoctrinated, they would try to inspire the LGBTQA+ community to register and then vote in the upcoming election.“1 in 5 LGBTQA+ people are not registered to vote.
Why do you think 1 in 5 LGBTQA+ people are not registered to vote? Is it because they lack interest or that they don’t think their voices will count?
Ruiz – They just don’t think they matter or their vote matters. A lot of them live in Cosmopolitan areas where they assume the next guy will get it done. Years ago, I had been guilty of those things.
Michael – I agree 100%. I think it’s because there is no urgency. I came out in the early 90’s when HIV was a thing so there was urgency, and people were doing everything they could to educate people. I think people are blinded to what’s going on and not realize their rights are being eroded.
How did you come up with the slogan Flex Your Vote?
Ruiz – Eric Wainwright devised the “Flex Your Vote” slogan and the campaign was born. In it, the eight photographers are posting images to their Instagram and Facebook accounts and encouraging fans to share them with the hashtag flex your vote. “I’ve made three posts so far and have had six people reach out to me telling me that they registered to vote as a result of seeing my posts.
Was it hard or easy to get the photographers to commit?
Ruiz – It was super easy. When I reached out, it was less about doing something proactive, and more about doing the right thing. It happened after I found out a couple of my models were Trump supporters. It boggled my mind as they make their living from us gay photographers and it seemed like they didn’t care about our rights.
Michael – My background before photography was politics, so it was great for me to be back involved.
How were the models chosen for the campaign?
Downs – I reached out to guys I have worked with who I felt were supportive of LGBTQ rights, and 100% of the guys I reached out to said they were in.
Ruiz –We just started working on this about a month ago, and we didn’t want to put anybody in jeopardy with Corona, so we used what we had. I had a lot of existing images that were perfect for this campaign. Of course we asked everybody and got their permission before using photos.
Why must LGBTQA+ show their strength and flex their vote in November?
Ruiz – It’s pretty much a life or death situation at this point. If this administration gets back in office for another 4 years it’s pretty much going to be a dictatorship, and 45 will roll back any of the progress that has been made in this country. This is my top priority. If we are not successful in doing this, then none of us have a career, etc.
MIchael – I think what’s happening is the Trump administration has done this clever thing where they simultaneously reach out to the gay community and say they are pro LGBTQ, but at the same time they are rolling back all our gains.
How many extra votes would you hope “Flex Your Vote” will encourage?
Whatever 20% of this community is, and I imagine its millions. We are very aggressively trying to get the word out.
How exactly does the FlexYourVote campaign work to encourage the community to vote? Is it simply a reminder to get up and do your civic duty?
Ruiz – We are posting pics with swipe up which reminds people to register to vote. We are aware that we are only going to catch the demographics that likes hot guys, and we are ok with that.
We also have a Flex your Vote Instagram and Facebook page, and we are doing a ton of interviews and PR.
Michael – We have less than 100 days to go, so I think between now and then we are going to pick up the urgency more, and come out with more innovative ways to get the word out.
Ruiz – We have just started it but we have gotten a lot of interest so I think it’s going to explode soon.
What’s the message you hope to gain form Flex Your Vote?
Michael – The message is for the LGBTQ community to get educated, empowered and register to Vote. They also have to realize what’s at stake if they don’t. What will happen is: opposition to the Obama era and things will get rolled back that were initiated to protect us. We could go back in time, like Hitler did in Germany, and the next thing you know it could be disastrous.
Ruiz – I Concur.
For more information, visit: Instagram.com/p/CCV_b28FfUv/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link.