By Gregg Shapiro
You probably remember Austin Armacost from his appearances on reality shows The A-List New York and Celebrity Big Brother. How could you not? Handsome, tall, muscly, and often not wearing much, Armacost first crossed our radar as a fashion model, and subsequently had a romantic relationship with designer Marc Jacobs. Currently, he has a number of projects in the works, and was good enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Gregg Shapiro: Austin, what brings you to South Florida?
Austin Armacost: I have always been a fan of the Sunshine State. The weather, the relaxed atmosphere, the drinks that never stop pouring [laughs]. It has been a favorite destination of mine ever since I can remember. Some of my favorite places include Fort Lauderdale and Key West. [I’m] not a big fan of Miami (unless I am boarding a cruise ship).
GS: In 2010, you made your television debut as a member of the cast of The A-List New York. What was the experience like for you?
AA: The A-List New York first aired to extremely high ratings. The show was my first introduction to reality television. I am a trained actor and have done television and theatre, but never in the realm of reality TV. Who would have thought that show would have led me to the great successes to follow in the UK? I thought to myself. “I actually get paid to go to dinner, clubs, fashion shows, parties and just allow a camera crew to follow me? I’M IN! [laughs].” I made some good friends on the cast and am still great friends with Reichen (Lehmkuhl) and Derek (Lloyd Saathoff). It was strange, however, after the first season being marginally famous and having people come up and ask for photos with me. I was definitely not used to that coming from Southern Indiana [laughs].
GS: Did you always want to work in the entertainment industry?
AA: I would have to say no. I was an All-American athlete in my teens and my main focus was athletics. To be more specific, pole vault (track & field). I started modeling around 14 or 15, after my uncle, who is a successful actor in Chicago, recommended I give it a shot. I went out and got an agent and started working immediately; being booked for commercials, catalog shoots, and eventually, high fashion editorials in NYC. I have enjoyed my run in the business and am so appreciative of the opportunities it has given me – especially in the UK after two appearances on Celebrity Big Brother. First time I was runner up and the second time I came back as an All-Star. I am looking to move away from the business now and focus on my media/public relations business, which I have been running since 2011.
GS: As you mentioned, you are from Indiana. How would you say that being from the Midwest works in your favor?
AA: Being from the Midwest and from a happily married home and a great upbringing gave me the tools to be a well-rounded, respectable, balanced individual.
GS: Are there any ways in which it works to your detriment?
AA: Naivete. There were so many things in “the big cities” that I didn’t know or wasn’t used to experiencing: bathhouses, drugs, anonymous sex, open relationships, just to name a few. I was definitely taken advantage of many times. People were able to manipulate me because they had cruel intentions and I simply didn’t know any better.
GS: What do you think of fellow Indiana-native Mike Pence?
AA: Him, his policies, and political history concern me. He is an openly anti-gay advocate. Having lived in Indiana during the time HB101 was introduced, I was on the receiving end of his political bigotry. HB101 was framed on the “Return to Freedom of Religion Act” which gave private businesses the right to refuse service based on faith. In other words, not serve the LGBT community out of discrimination covered in the cloak of religious protection. He is a horrible man with a tiny mind. Hopefully stepping into the Vice President role will help him to understand the modern world we live in and the broader mindset of people not sheltered in middle America.
GS: As the coming out process goes — would you say that yours was easy or difficult?
AA: Easy! Easy! Easy [laughs]! I was so fortunate and often think about how lucky I was to have gone through the coming out process so painlessly. Most of my dad’s family are in the entertainment business to some degree and we often had gay friends and family over for family holidays. It was an extremely accepting group of people that I was lucky enough to call my family. Having two bad-ass older brothers looking out for me didn’t hurt either. I encourage anybody who is having trouble coming out to get hold of me for advice. I know how difficult the process can be through speaking to youths around the world and helping to counsel them in any way I can. I am proud of what I have done to help young LGBT people through that difficult process and will continue to do so as long as I can.
GS: You have become something of a reality TV staple, as you mentioned having also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. What do you enjoy most about that kind of programming?
AA: I have been very lucky post The A-List: New York to have such a good career in reality TV in England. The first time I appeared on Celebrity Big Brother I was runner-up, beating Janice Dickinson, Jenna Jameson, FatMan Scoop, Alec Baldwin, Teen Mom‘s Farrah Abraham, and several other British celebrities. The second time I went back into the house, in January 2017, I was an All-Star in their new theme “All-Stars versus New Stars” where seven housemates (including me) had been in before and seven housemates were celebrities new to the game. To answer the question, however, I find being able to be yourself the most enjoyable aspect. I guess people find me and my antics entertaining, so why not pop a camera in front of me and get a paycheck for it [laughs]? The shows also are a unique experience in the sense that you live 24/7 with some fascinating people. The show is 30 days and you are literally locked into a house the entire time: no phones, computers, newspapers, no communication with the outside world at all. I don’t intend to actively pursue my reality TV career any further, but will take part in shows as I continue to get cast for them in the future. I think another key element is that the reality TV world does have a lot of money to spend on talent. For example, at the height of Jersey Shore, cast members were being paid upwards of a million dollars per season! I wouldn’t mind that paycheck.
GS: Do you want to act in scripted movies or TV shows, comedies or dramas?
AA: Yes. I have always loved acting and am formally trained as well. I just recently signed with a new agent in London who will be looking after the TV and film side of my career. England is a world renowned for its thespians and I have been able to push myself as an actor working in that country for the past several years.
GS: You are also known for your club appearances. What can you tell me about those?
AA: Club appearances are just a fun opportunity for fans of mine to meet me, have some pictures, and a little chat. Club appearances (meet & greets) are a very big part of my life. I started doing them back in 2010 after The A-List: New York and have continued through my Celebrity Big Brother stint. I get to travel, meet fans, and many times give them an opportunity they may never have to meet somebody from TV. I have heard some incredibly entertaining stories from fans but also some incredibly moving ones. It is an opportunity for me to be unfiltered in a relaxed setting and have my fans ask me anything and everything. Believe me, I have been asked some crazy questions [laughs]!
GS: What’s the one thing you’ve never told an interviewer before?
AA: [Big laugh] I tend to get this question more and more often now and being that I am so open with my life it is getting more difficult to answer. I have openly talked about my struggle with drugs and alcohol, losing my brother, my mom being sentenced to six years in prison, etc. But, if I were to tell you something nobody knows it would be: I have never cheated.