By Denny Patterson
Some of America’s top fitness photographers have joined forces to create a new campaign called “Flex Your Vote” that aims to encourage the LGBTQ+ community and its allies to vote in the upcoming November election.
Organized by Mike Ruiz, he says it is painfully clear why this is the most important time in our lifetimes to vote. “We are being engulfed by a pandemic, millions are unemployed, and the government is riddled with corruption,” he said. “We need to change the direction of this country, or we are headed towards a dictatorship where we will be stripped of our rights.”
Ruiz was initially inspired when it came to his attention that many of the American fitness models that he helped make famous were supporting politics that directly undermined his liberties. He reached out to his photographer colleagues in the fitness industry, including Eric Wainwright, Allan Spiers, and Abel Cruz, and they brainstormed on how they could effectuate change. Collectively, they concluded that instead of trying to change one’s mind, they would try to inspire the LGBTQ+ community to register and vote.
In the “Flex Your Vote” campaign, the eight photographers are posting images to their Instagram and Facebook accounts and encouraging fans to repost with the #FlexYourVote. There have already been thousands of shares. OutClique had the opportunity to chat more with Ruiz about the campaign, what more we can do to make people realize that voting is important, and what he thinks will happen if Trump is reelected.
Denny Patterson: Hi, Mike! Thank you for taking some time to chat with me. How are you doing during these unprecedented times?
Mike Ruiz: Thank you so much for including me! I am actually holding up remarkably well. I have been using these strange and isolating times to do a lot of introspection. Also, I have been getting healthier than I have ever been. With so much time on my hands, I work out two hours a day minimum. The unprecedented circumstances in this country and the world have forced me to think of new ways to function both personally and professionally. It has given me a whole new set of skills that will serve me well in the event of another apocalypse!
DP: That’s great. I am glad you are doing well. Now, can you tell us more about this new campaign you organized called “Flex Your Vote?”
MR: The campaign is targeted to the LGBTQ+ community. I was shocked to find that one in five people in our community is not registered to vote. I felt such urgency to change that, so I reached out to some of my peers to start this campaign. They are all amazing fitness photographers, so it made sense to use them as a collective to do a sexy, eye-catching campaign.
DP: You believe it will be very beneficial in regards to the upcoming election?
MR: Personally, I have received dozens of messages on social media saying that the campaign has inspired people to register. That makes it a success in my eyes.
DP: Have you always taken an interest in politics?
MR: I was born and raised in Canada, so U.S. politics did not really become of interest to me until I realized that policy in this country affected me directly and my participation in it made a difference. Now, my entire life hinges on what happens in politics. So, I feel a tremendous responsibility to not only vote, but to do what I can to encourage others in our community to do the same.
DP: Why do you think it is such a challenge to get LGBTQ+ and young people to vote?
MR: I think it’s two things. One, people tend to pass the buck. They are lazy and think that the rest of the community will pick up the slack when it comes time to vote. Two, people feel like their vote is insignificant. They tell themselves that one vote less will not make a difference. Sadly, when we add up all of those single votes, the total is in the millions.
DP: What more can we do to change this perception and make people realize that their vote matters? Even more, that voting is a privilege and that it is incredibly irresponsible not to vote.
MR: I think this current administration has been a huge wake up call to all of us. I have a feeling that we will vote in record numbers to avoid another four years of this absurdity. With that said, I take nothing for granted, hence the “Flex Your Vote” campaign. I think if anyone with any platform at all did their part, the perception will be changed this time around. That is the key, though. Not a single one of us can be complacent right now.
DP: Do you recall what was going through your mind when Trump was elected?
MR: I was in genuine disbelief. I worked with Melania a few years ago and witnessed first-hand the adolescent behavior of her husband. As a result, I dismissed him as a viable candidate from the get go, all the way through the election. I guess massive corruption and intervention from foreign powers can get anyone elected. Even someone as painfully incompetent as Trump.
DP: I dread to even ask this, but what do you think will happen to this country if we by chance get four more years of him?
MR: It will not be good. It will be the end of American dominance in the world. We will alienate the rest of the globe, the economy will be stripped, the progress we have made sociologically will be rolled back 50 years, and we will all be driven back into the closet to avoid persecution.
DP: Would you ever run for political office?
MR: I would not. I do not have the stomach for it. I will never stop being political, though!
DP: Before we wrap up, is there anything else you would like to add?
MR: Make sure you all have an exit plan!