We are constantly bombarded with images of male beauty. From Instagram to advertising to gay media, we as gay men are exposed daily to other men who boarder on aesthetic perfection. Rarely do we have the opportunity to see behind the picture, to meet the men who make us swoon. Model, trainer and entrepreneur Barrett Pall is trying to change that. Through his blog Artisan & King, Barrett give us a glimpse behind the lens in the hope of inspiring young gay men to live their truth. His open and honest posts which discuss his vulnerabilities and insecurities, allow readers to see underneath the underwear and past the 13,000 Instagram followers into the life of a normal guy who, like the rest of us, is trying to make sense of the world. Barrett uses his increasing public profile to share his experiences, proving that social media platforms can be used as a means to uplift and inspire others. After scrolling through Barrett’s writing you become aware that even those who are aesthetically blessed and living the so-called “glamorous life” have to deal with the same issues as most other 20-something year old gay guys.
In this candid Q&A with The Modern Gay Barrett discusses his sexuality, safe-sex and the challenges facing young gay men in 2014.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR BLOG ARTISAN & KING?
Originally, Artisan & King was supposed to be a lifestyle and fashion blog that had both a men’s and women’s section. I would be the men’s counterpart to my best friends female side, who I share my blog with. We saw that there really wasn’t a guy/girl duo and we wanted to fill that void. However, as we were launching, I moved back to NYC in the middle of a break up, enduring my first winter in three years, and just feeling really down. I started writing to get my feelings out of my head, and try to rediscover my positivity, which felt lost in my move back to NYC.
WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS?
My role models would have to be a couple I met a few years ago that have taken me under their wings. Alfredo Paredes and Brad Goldfarb are a gay couple who are extremely successful in every way. Alfredo is Ralph Lauren’s right hand man, and Brad is an extremely accomplished writer. They met when they were 25 and have been together for 25 years now. They are both wildly successful in their careers, and have remembered to give back, stay grounded, and show kindness to all those they meet. They have been the mentors I so badly needed as I had never really had a vision of what I wanted my life to be until I met them. They’ve showed me a life I never knew I wanted, and now the greatest thing I can dream of would be to end up just like them. To top it off they recently had their first child, and have been the greatest dads from day one. I can truly say I love these guys like family.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING YOUNG GAY MEN IN 2014?
I don’t think enough of my generation practices safe-sex. With apps like Grindr, Scruff, and a new one popping up every day the possibility to engage in random sex is so high and easy that sex has become just another activity like brushing your teeth. I think that there needs to me much more care and thought put in when deciding who you are going to take your clothes off with.
I don’t think enough of my generation understand the gravity that things like AIDS and HIV still have today. There seems to be this false sense of security because we have figured out ways to deal with these scary sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Most of my generation wasn’t around, and doesn’t remember the horrific events that took place in the 80’s, and because of that I feel too many young gay men are naive to the real effects these diseases and infections can have.
I also don’t think we as a gay community are as banned together as we possibly used to be because we don’t necessarily have to be. Being gay is becoming more and more accepted, so we don’t feel the brotherhood our community once so strongly held. We are able to mingle in so many different arenas that the bubble has burst in some ways, and gotten smaller in others. I wish more young gay men took time to learn about our history, and make connections with older generations to really grasp how important it is to have safe-sex and see the progress we’ve made, and need to continue to make. Again, these are simply my own opinions.
WHAT DOES COMMUNITY MEAN TO YOU?
Community to me means a coming together of diverse people to create a collective unity of positive thinking, changing negative actions and not only realizing a better future, but making one.
YOU WORK IN AN INDUSTRY THAT IS SO IMAGE FOCUSED, HOW DO YOU STAY GROUNDED?
I have learned that modeling cannot be your main focus when you are a model. I have three other jobs that I put majority of my effort into. I rarely hang out with other people in the industry, and I try to remind myself that I am more than my shell.
If you allocate all your time to being a model, the industry will consume you. Your self-esteem falls low because you are constantly comparing your looks to the most beautiful people in the world, and no matter how beautiful you are, it gets to you because we all have insecurities. I have learned to be open about this as to not fall victim to the constant scrutiny and rejection. For every “yes” you hear, there are probably 50-100 “no’s.”
HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR MODELLING CAREER FITS INTO YOUR DESIRE TO INSPIRE OTHERS?
I hope that people see an image of me and are inspired to get up and change their negative patterns. I have worked very hard for the body I have, and I am proud of it, but it is important to remember that it has been 18 years of hard work. I didn’t just wake up one day and look the way I look. I am also a trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp NYC, and I love being able to help others help themselves. I am aware that we live in a world where sex sells, and if a picture of my body introduces you to my other passions like my blog, my training, or a new health food I am working on than so be it. I look at modeling as my introduction to the rest of my story. This is my one page cover to a very long novel.
SOME MAY SAY THAT YOU HAVE IT EASIER IN LIFE BECAUSE OF YOUR APPEARANCE, HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR LOOKS HAVE IMPACTED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A GAY MAN?
I know my answer isn’t going to be super popular, but in some ways I think it has made my experience slightly harder. I think it is important to remember the grass is always greener, and while I am thankful for my genetics because they have opened many doors, there have been many times that my looks have made things harder in ways many people at first don’t understand. Many people just see my exterior and think because of the way I look, and the pictures I am in for part of my career that I am going to be someone they can just hop into the sack with. Hearing the word sexy and my name in the same sentence is so funny to me because I do not see myself in that light. In my head, I am still a skinny kid with glasses, braces and trying to figure out my role in this world. I am someone that loves love, thinks relationships are beautiful, and wants to find my special someone. We all have moments when our sexual urges are strong, but empty sex ends up leaving you feeling even emptier than before. I’ve been welcomed into circles because of the way I look, but at the end of the day I feel most at home with my college friends, most of who are straight.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF COMING TO TERMS WITH YOUR SEXUALITY?
The hardest part for me was simply allowing myself to understand that all the negative connotations I had had with being gay were falsities embedded in my head from people, who were uneducated, unhappy and confused themselves. Once I was able to simply be who I wanted to be, being gay was not scary, it was amazing. I have said this before, but coming out of the closet is such a freeing experience, and there are so many wonderful people waiting for you with open arms. You may not know them yet, but they are the people who teach you what family truly means.
WHAT MAKES YOU THE MOST HAPPY?
Being outside under the sun, by a body of water with my loved ones. Having the wind blow, and knowing that my loved ones and I are profoundly ok.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I have, for a long time had a laundry list of things I wish I could change about myself, from my nose to my height to my outty bellybutton. However, as I’ve gotten older I have learned that these things are all part of me, and in some ways have shaped me. I have had to work that much harder with gaining success in modeling because I technically shouldn’t be a model. My nose adds character, and is the result of three good stories of being broken. My bellybutton is the lifeline that connected me to my mother. I am learning to love every part of myself outwardly because in the end, it is what is inside that counts most, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t mind being bumped up to 6’2.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE 16-YEAR-OLD YOU?
I actually wrote a letter to my younger self (read it here). I was going through my journal, which I have kept since I was 12, and I came across countless entries of being sad and feeling broken by others hurtful words. My advice was to stay true to yourself. Know that it not only gets better, but it gets beyond amazing. Be kind to yourself. Love everyday the way you have always tried to do. Swimming takes you farther than you can imagine, so while you may feel burned out, keep pushing. Keep dreaming, loving, and being light in a dark place. P.S. NYU is really really expensive.
YOU LIVE IN NYC, DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR YOUNG GUYS HOPING TO MOVE TO THE BIG CITY?
Do it. New York City is a hard city. It will eat you up and spit you out if you let it, but if you come here and understand that your dreams require hard work, you can truly have everything you’ve every dreamed of. It is an amazing place to come and feel accepted, meet like-minded people and have fun like you’ve never had fun before. I have traveled a decent amount, lived abroad in Paris and always concluded that NYC is my favorite city in the world. Be forewarned, it is extremely expensive, and if you do not like to work, this is not your city.
Visit Barrett’s blog by clicking here.
Images by Marco Ovando