American/British reality star Austin Armacost has had a surreal, breathtaking whirldwind of a life, from dating internationally renowned fashion designers, to spending a night at The Beckhams’.
Now he’s using his glamorous platform to campaign for LGBT rights. He sat down with Dylan Jones and they talked partying, pantos and politics.
Hi Austin! So you’ve done a lot of campaigning for gay rights. What first made you decide to use your platform for change?
It was actually a very specific moment in time! We had finished filming season 2 of "The A List New York" and the entire cast was doing The Wendy Williams show. Wendy asked each of us what we were going to do now and one of the cast members Mike Ruiz replied "it’s what we do now with our public profiles that will ultimately define our legacy in this community.” That really struck a chord with me and from that point forward, I knew I had the responsibility to help make a change in this world. I immediately got hold of local, state, national, and international organizations fighting for gay rights, to find out what I could do to help. Also, as I got older and started realizing the inequities in our world, I couldn't sit idly by as our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community were being discriminated against, persecuted, and sometimes even killed.
Do you think there’s still a long way to go to fight for equal rights?
When I’m asked this question I always have to answer it in two parts.
A) In America, yes we have full marriage equality in all fifty states. The problem now becomes convincing the crazy, conservative, religious fanatics that we’re just normal people. We aren't all out having anonymous sex, or luring young boys, or using drugs constantly...most of the gay men and women I know are successful, happy, healthy people.
B) Yes, there is still a lot of work to do in parts of the world where being gay is still considered a major crime. Execution (although rarely used anymore) in some countries is still legal for the crime of homosexuality. But with the state of the world right now and what’s happening to LGBT people in the Middle East and ISIS occupied parts of Syria...I tell gays and lesbians in this country to stop fucking whining! Equal rights will come but it’s going to take time. People are being murdered and we’re complaining about not having a specific bathroom, I find it all a bit out of perspective.
You say you want to fight for acceptance for trans people. What’s inspired you to do this?
I personally have a few friends who are trans but that’s not the only reason I think it’s important. They’re one of the last minorities in the world to gain some sort of acceptance, and understanding. Trans people I feel for a very long time have been an underground, secret, taboo BUT are now coming to the forefront of the media with people like Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Carmen Carerra, etc. Before we can demand equal rights from outside our community, we need equal rights and acceptance within our own community. I still many times see trans people discriminated against by gays, lesbians, and bisexuals...WHY? They’ve been through the same struggle we have and you're just perpetuating intolerance. It's time we stood TOGETHER!
I’m sure you’ve had a lot of cool celebrity encounters. What’s been your best one?
My best would have to be the night I spent at David & Victoria Beckham's house. Marc Jacobs was a great friend at the time and Victoria had just shot the ad campaign for his clothing line. David and the family had also just moved to Los Angeles as he signed with football team the LA Galaxy. It was a very private dinner with only the four of us (plus Marc's trainer) at their home. She was lovely, smiley, giggly, witty, and just a pleasure to be around. David was…well, he’s a good looking lad. The image and persona of Victoria being a complete bitch is totally false!
Do you have any idols who’ve influenced how you behave in the limelight?
I wouldn’t say one person in particular has helped shape my behaviour, but my agent has a lot to do with my public image. Although when I was in the CBB house, it was 100% Austin. Afterwards we had a strategy of which projects I would take on and which ones I wouldn't. I think I have a pretty good public image in the UK and have a lot more fans than haters. I’m a very open and honest person, especially in public and in interviews so people get to see the real me. Opening up about my brother and my mom on CBB was a difficult thing to talk about, but extremely cathartic and necessary for my sanity to get through that show.
So you have a lot of experience of both American, and British culture. What do you think the main differences are?
The main difference between Americans and Brits would have to be the level of patience that British people have in comparison to Americans. Americans are very fast to jump up into an argument, escalate a situation, etc. Brits are a bit more calm and relaxed. Also Americans just LOVE to ask questions. Any chance they get, or any information point they see, they want to ask at least a dozen questions. If I’m at Manchester airport flying home and I hear an American, I walk the other direction. Even though I am one, I am not a big fan of Americans. I have been here for almost seven years so I think I can say that.
Do you prefer living here to America?
A hundred per cent! Now that my husband and I have split up I see myself spending a lot more time here. Even though he is British, he much prefers the US. So at the moment, I am living in our British home, and he is living our US home. Flip Flop!
What do you think of the politics over there at the moment?
It’s nerve-racking to think a billionaire reality TV star could become our next president. I think that Hillary (while hardened and entrenched in politics) is by far the most qualified person to ever run for office. To not only see the first black president take office in 2009, but now potentially the first female president to take office in 2016. I love watching history being made.
Some people find sudden fame quite difficult. How do you think you’ve dealt with it?
My "fame" was in no way sudden. In this country yes I went into the house nobody knowing who I was and came out with a lot of people knowing my name. But I have been around this (celebrity) game for a while. First with Marc, then with "The A List NY," etc. I have friends and family that keep me extremely grounded. I try to lead as normal a life as possible while I’m not "working." I do my own laundry, cook my own food, bloody hell I still take the bus actually! I don't know how to drive in this country.
What do you do to chill out?
There are several things I do to chill out. Exercise is a massive part of my life, not only for my job but also to lose yourself in the gym for ninety minutes, and just escape is a great feeling. I also really enjoy nature; hiking, rock climbing, kayaking…nature calms me down.
And what would be your ideal partying night?
I’m not much of a partier if I am honest (anymore). I’m almost, thirty so those days have come and gone. I used to be at circuit parties every weekend, "partying," and just being a mess...I’ve grown out of that stage a bit. I don't do drugs anymore, but can still go out on the lash every now and then. I actually prefer a good day session. Pub crawl around my local village or a boozy brunch in London!
Finally, what are you up to for the rest of this year? Any exciting projects?
Well, I’m confirmed for PANTO in Rochdale this year with Russell Grant & Chelsee Healey. I’ll once again be playing Prince Charming with Chelsee as Snow White and Russell playing the evil queen. My 2017 calendar will soon be available for autographed pre-order. I’ve just signed with a TV/Film agency in Manchester called Nemesis, because long before reality TV I was a trained actor. So, hoping to get more back into scripted television than reality. I am currently the face of PROWLER and have several campaigns coming out for them including VERSACE, DSquared2, and DIESEL. As well as the new face of jewelry line called Terry Terry. So yes quite busy at the moment! But I love work. I’m also finding a little bit of time to date as well. I don't like being single, so am enjoying getting back out there and finding a good man.