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Instinct Exclusive with Burgeoning Actor & In-Demand Life Coach Frank Vignola

If you enjoy the looks and acting skills of Chris Meloni mixed with a side of helping people reach their best lives that they can, then you will probably end up with the super talented and handsome Frank Vignola.

Frank, who is based in the heart of New York City on the Upper East Side, has developed quite the name for himself in the acting world by landing key roles including The Blacklist: Redemption and The Six Degrees of Murder. Don't worry, his acting isn't always on the super dark side as he is able to bring out his comedy angle (which he honed his craft in at the William Esper Studio, T. Schreiber Studio and Upright Citizens Brigade) in roles like the short film Seeking: Jack Tripper.

He also finds himself as a part-time life coach, which works wonders especially in the world of New York City where people can last either a day or a lifetime here depending on how focused you can truly be. 

I sat down with Frank to see why acting is his passion, how Meryl can truly do no wrong (obviously), and how his acting and life coach skills have a way with intertwining with one another. 

So on your Instagram you call yourself an actor and a life coach. Have you ever thought of combining those for an Oscar-winning performance?

Coincidentally, these two roles in my life run parallel with one another. I have implemented so many acting techniques in my coaching, and I have even taught them to clients. Being a great actor means understanding yourself and others on a deeper level, which is such a big part of life...and coaching. And coaching has given me such an insight into character study and character development. It’s hard for me to imagine doing one without the other. They constantly aid and inspire one another.

 What started your love of acting, and who was your biggest inspiration in all of it?

My love for acting probably started as a kid, because I loved movies and often felt very connected to characters. A few affected me so deeply that I formed friendships with them in my head, drew pictures of them and even wrote about them. I want to be able to affect someone that deeply with my work. I want to inspire people, I want to make them laugh, cry...I want to make them think...question themselves. I want to disturb them. 

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve lived a crazy 36 years and that my journey to self-discovery has been all over the place. I’ve yet to be given a role where I haven’t been able to find myself in it...even the darker ones. In fact, the darker ones I often connect to the easiest!

I have so many inspirations, I’ll rattle off a few - I was a huge Bruce Willis fan. I wanted to be Bruce Willis. I collected all of his movies. I used to steal VHS tapes from the rental place and return blank tapes instead. Heath Ledger...man. I get upset when I talk about him. I wanted so much more, and he had so much more to give. Meryl Streep… she still can do no wrong to me. Anthony Hopkins, Bryan Cranston, Jared Leto, Julianne Moore, Emily Blunt, Javier Bardem, Charlize Theron, Daniel Day Lewis, just to name a few. 

Do you find it’s hard for gay men to be taken seriously still in the world of acting, especially when the ones who come out get relegated to roles that often don’t involve romance?

Love is love. I can fall in love with anyone, regardless of gender. Anyone who knows anything about acting should know that. If you’re cast based on your sexual preference, that’s bullshit. Is it hard for gay men? I don’t know honestly. And my career is still a baby. Right now, my guess is I’m going to be cast in plenty of romantic roles with women. And I’m confident that there will never be a fucking nanosecond that someone watching thinks “he’s not really into her” because I will be. Because that’s my job as an actor. Gay men need to be true to themselves and keep breaking these bullshit stereotypes. 

What has been your biggest accomplishment acting wise to date and why has that touched you more than others?

Every time I let myself go deeper than I did the last time, it feels like an accomplishment. As roles go, I once played a husband and father of three who was brutally murdered in his own home by his wife. I was fucked up over it for a few weeks after. I don’t know if it would happen that same way today, because I’ve learned how to dive deep into darkness all the while wearing a harness attached to a rope. 

Do you have a dream actor/actress, director or writer you are dying to work with?

I’m dying to work with hungry, passionate, creative people, and there’s a lot of them out there. Any of the ones I mentioned earlier would be amazing to work with. As far as writers and directors: Tarantino, Fincher, Scorsese, Fede Alvarez, James Wan, Eli Roth... Andres Muschietti did an amazing job in the 2017 It. There’s lots more. 

Tell us about your life coach angle and how you got involved in that.

I was a teen who used to cut himself and do drugs. I was on virtually every antidepressant and anxiety pill you can name. I had no self worth. I was bullied. After years of getting expelled from multiple schools, incarceration, group homes, rehabs, shelters, institutions and a few near-death experiences, I found my worth. That was a really long story condensed into like three dramatic sentences. But that’s it in a nutshell. I found my worth and fell in love with life. And now I help others do the same. It’s a part of me. I’m coach in many of my relationships in life, not just work. It’s who I am. 

What projects do you have that are currently in the works?

I’m getting some stubborn fat sucked out of my belly in a few weeks. I can’t wait. How’s that for vanity? Oh, and I’m working on an amazing fart compilation. The rest... stay tuned!

Ultimately, what is your biggest life goal that you have yet to achieve?

I’m achieving it. I just need a bigger platform to reach more people.

For more information on Frank Vignola, you can follow him on Instagram here or check out his official website here

One on One With Chef Extraordinaire Jonathan Bardzik!

Gay, handsome and can cook? Sign us up! Jonathan Bardzik has become one of the hottest chefs in and out of the Washington D.C. area, as his farm to table type of cuisine has lit up farmers markets, private gatherings, and even on the shelves at your local bookstore. 

He has developed a wonderful career for himself where he earns his coins by making other people happy and full. And who doesn't like that? He also is the author of three incredible cookbooks:  Simple Summer, Seasons to Taste, and Fresh and Magical Vinaigrettes, all of which are chock full of delicious recipes that you can make for your own friends, family or that special someone all year round.

What's even better about Jonathan is that he tells a story with his food. I've been apart of these types of events that he has hoted that have been nothing short of magical where he invites you into his table and gives you more than what is on the plate. It's a "culinary boner" if you will, as he is able to turn you on in so many ways when it comes to his cooking that you will have no choice but to leave a little sweaty and with a smile on your face.

Jonathan sat down with me at Instinct to discuss his rise in the culinary scene, including his inspirations, his major love affair with his sexy partner and how that began, and where he sees his booming career going in the future. Check it out. 

What got you into the culinary world in the first place?

I love cooking. And I love sharing the magic and joy of cooking with other people. So that’s why I started cooking seriously in my early 20’s. It took me almost 20 more years to figure out how to turn that passion into a career and where I fit in the culinary world as a storyteller, cook, keynote speaker and author.

Did you have any major inspirations growing up that helped shape you into the chef that you are today?

I know everyone says Mom, but it’s true.  Her greatest joy in life was being a mother and a homemaker. We didn’t have much money when I was young, so she gardened to grow most of our produce, Dad had chickens for fresh eggs and meat and Mom baked all the bread I ate until I was at least four years-old.

My first employer after college, Fred Dabney, was also a major influence. He did all the cooking at home and cooked well. I lived with he and his wife for a few months and we’d get to the house from work at 8 or 9 at night and he’d cook these amazing meals. I think it was my first example of someone cooking just because they loved to with no expectation that – as a mother or wife – that they had to.

Kathy Bugbee, the mother of my best friend Sandy, was the first person who demonstrated the importance of technique. I could follow these complex, sexy, foodie recipes, but she would throw a roast in the oven without looking at a recipe. I was in awe of just knowing how to cook something like that, and it’s all about technique.

How would you describe the foodie scene in Washington D.C. where you currently live?

D.C.’s food scene is a joy! This city has grown so much during the 15 years I’ve been here. In addition to the rich culinary history of the black community that has called this city home for generations, there is such an amazing community of restaurateurs and producers making everything from charcuterie to gin. When I travel home to western Mass, which also has a pretty amazing food and farming culture, I realize just how much access I have to cuts of meat, cheeses and so many other ingredients. This is a great place to cook and eat.

Do you find it harder for gay chefs to find their footing in the culinary industry?

I’ve never been a restaurant chef. My sense of that world is that it has been heavily male driven, like so many professions, and being gay, a woman, a person of color, have all presented challenges, but as our workforce changes more broadly I think it becomes easier – not easy – but easier.

For me, my early question was would my audiences accept me as a gay man talking about my husband and my life at home. The answer has been an unequivocal welcoming “yes.”

You've been with your partner Jason for many years now. Do you have a favorite dish that you made him that still brings back some incredible memories?

On our first anniversary I was in the middle of a ten-day business trip to Omaha, Nebraska, working 14-18 hour days. I sent a text message at about 10pm wishing him a happy anniversary. I never sent flowers and I returned home without a gift. Every year now I make up for that by making pan con tomate y jamón – Spanish tomato bread with ham, which was a favorite of Jason’s when we spent our honeymoon in Spain. I use $150 per pound jamón Ibérico de bellota – because that’s what you do every year when you forget your first anniversary. It’s a treat for us both.

What has been your proudest culinary moment to date?

Gosh, I have new ones all the time: catering a wedding for 150 on a farm without a kitchen, cooking at National Geographic and USDA, nailing a perfect Hollandaise sauce… My proudest might be the day my Mom and Dad looked through the PDF of my first book with me. It was truly a love letter to them and their marriage. We were all crying by the end.

Any chefs you are dying to work with?

So many! Every time I eat in a restaurant or watch an episode of the Mind of the Chef I think, “I would love to spend a couple hours, days, weeks in the kitchen or the office learning from them about cooking or business.” Local chef and restaurateur, Aaron Silverman of Michelin-starred Rose’s Luxury fame would be a pleasure to spend a few hours talking with how he develops plates and took the risk to open such unique and uniquely priced venues. Though not a chef, I would love to talk with Martha Stewart about personal branding and creating joy for others through food and entertaining.

Ultimately, what is your biggest goal in your culinary career and are you hopeful that it will come to fruition?

I would be proud to follow in the footsteps of people like Julia Child and Martha Stewart who have fundamentally changed America’s relationship with food. Specifically, I believe that life can and should be lived well, and that living well is within reach – across many economic levels - each and every day by preparing a simple meal, setting a table and sharing it with those you love, even – and maybe especially – when that is a table for one.

We broadly see food and cooking from perspectives of fear and competition. Learning is wonderful and rewarding, but we don’t need to be chefs at home, we just need to have fun! And food should stop being looked at as lethal or medicating – we’re all looking for the next miracle or life-threatening ingredient. Real food, whole ingredients, enjoyed in a balanced diet with moderation is healthy. The rest just needs to be delicious.

For more information on Jonathan Bardzik, please check out his official website here.

Mother's Day Doesn't Have to Be That Difficult If Your Own Has Passed

The loss of the person you call "mom", no matter what your personal relationship is with her, is something that leaves a profound impact on one's life when they pass on. For some of us, we are left with happy memories as the relationship we had with them ended on good terms. For others, it can lead to a lifetime of questions as there were too many issues we had with one another that weren't resolved prior to her death. And for many of us in the LGBTQ community, we had mothers who didn't approve of our lifestyle and we never really got to wonder if they ever came to terms with who we are before they died.

Mother's Day can easily be the roughest out of the entire year for anyone who has lost their own mom, or "mum" or however you would like to refer to her. From my personal experience, it is tougher than the holidays, her birthday, my own birthday and many others as it is a day designed specifically for the mother in our life, and the constant distraction of Hallmark cards, social media posts and friends checking in to see if you are OK can be completely overwhelming.

It has been over a decade since my own mother passed from cancer, and the pain of her loss still resonates greatly with me today. Often times I wonder about the hypothetical "road not taken", except in this case it was a road that I was unable to turn onto as I couldn't become that superhero of sorts and get that disgusting cancer out of her body.

She was a fantastic woman, great parent, sister, daughter... you name it. She had a lot of issues with my sexuality when I told her I was gay, but as time went by she accepted me for who I was and it's pretty much a "mental" guarantee that she would be super supportive of me so many years later if she was here in the physical world.

Yet, when I wake up on Mother's Day, I get this overwhelming sense of grief that only happens a couple of times a year at this point. A friend of mine put it best: "Losing your mother is like a knife. The blade dulls, but it can still cut you at a moments notice." For someone like me, I never want to wake up feeling sad or think about going through the day in a depressed state, so how do you actually get through Mother's Day without having to go through either of those?

Something I have done over the past couple of years, especially if you are active on social media, is to make a post about her a day in advance of Mother's Day. Because come Sunday morning, your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc will be filled with endless photos and posts about your friend's mothers that are incredibly heartfelt and touching. For me, I see it as something that emotionally exhausts me, and you never want to put yourself in that situation. Post about it a day in advance, and if you really can, stay off social media for 24 hours. Consider it a detox of sorts.

Another tip that I always find works is to search for things to make you laugh. That is the best distraction, no matter what relationship you had with your mother, is in order to really enjoy your day without the worriment that you'll be reaching for the tissues. Heck, reach for the tissues for a completely different reason there (wink, wink)! Whatever you can do to keep yourself upbeat ultimately will relieve you of the stress that is this day.

If you are someone who recently lost your mother, let's say five years or less, you are gonna get a lot of texts and calls asking "Are you OK?" Here is where you are in control. If you aren't OK... tell them! Tell the people you know will be there for you. Don't give them a PC answer of "Oh yeah, it's just another day," talk to the friends and family who will do whatever they can to make you happy. Heck, they may even take you out for a drink or dinner to cheer you up, and who can turn that down?

The bottom line is, don't be stuck in grief. Don't be stuck in misery over something you cannot control. At the end of the day (Mother's or not), it's simply not worth it.

This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject. 

5 Music Videos That Helped Me Figure Out I Was Gay

I consider the generation who was born in the mid to late 80's the last ones who really grew up without the emergence of technology (iPhone, iPads, Macs, etc) taking over our lives.

Yes, we had television, movies, and all of that, but there was an innocence that we got to experience that this generation doesn't. The ones growing up today also doesn't really appreciate just how amazing music videos were back in the day and how they shaped not only the lives of the artists who made them but also for a lot of people who identify as LGBTQIA. 

What I mean by that is there has been hundreds of music videos made that has helped many of us on the sleigh ride to our sexuality.  Maybe it was a beat, maybe it was a shirtless guy, maybe it was an icon that we were so drawn to that it brought us to another level in determining who we were on the spectrum of LGBTQIA.

Music, for me, will always be my greatest love. It has given me moments, when I was growing up, that helped me truly figure out my sexuality at a time when being gay wasn't the "in" thing yet. A lot of these videos aren't necessarily "gay", nor are they sung and acted out by people in our community, but from my point of view, they helped me come out when I was in high school and were a big part of why I have been an out and proud gay man for almost two decades.

Here are five music videos that helped me along the path to being happily gay.

LL Cool J- "Doin It"

LL will be my eternal crush, as he exemplifies so many traits that I find hot in a man. It was around 1996 when I was starting to really understand my attraction towards men instead of women, and when I saw this video, it pretty much pushed me over the edge to really grasping that I may just be gay. 

Madonna- "Vogue"

I was entranced by this video from the moment I saw it. The dancing in it was a technique that I had no idea about, and learned where it was inspired from when I first saw the movie Paris is Burning back in the late 90's. After seeing that film, I understood why this video had such an impact on me as a gay kid growing up in this decade, as these people represented freedom and evolution in a time where homophobia was still rampant.

George Michael- "Faith"

His butt in those jeans. Nothing more needs to be said.

Spice Girls- "Wannabe"

Here's what I love and continue to love about The Spice Girls. Their whole presence in the 90's was about "girl power". When I was figuring out my sexuality, I was able to loosely translate what they were doing and find the "girl power" inside myself that really was just being able to be an openly gay person without fear of what other people would think. I still to this day do not think they have a clue as to the impact they have made on the LGBTQIA community twenty plus years later.

Ricky Martin- "Livin La Vida Loca"

I like all types of men, no matter what their background is. However, Ricky was my first true crush outside of LL Cool J, and seeing him in this video solidified that. Call me sometime, Ricky (I know you are married, but I can dream.)

This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject.

Top 4 Most Amazing Moments From the GLAAD Awards are Here

The 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards took place this past Saturday night at the New York Hilton Midtown.  The event was hosted by the one and only Ross Matthews, and had several celebrity guest appearances including Nyle DiMarco, Laverne Cox, Lea Michele and more.

The event celebrates another wonderful year of all the incredible things that GLAAD is doing for the LGBTQ community as well as awarding major movies, magazines, television shows and more that have impacted us in a truly positive way.  

It was a true honor to be there that night, as the room itself was electrified with so many amazing moments that showcased how amazing our community can be when we all get together and try to do something.  Here is a recap of the four best moments from the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.

 

 

Adam Lambert and Melissa Etheridge, who are not exactly wallflowers when it comes to how they perform, literally brought the house down with a mind blowing performance of her 1993 Grammy-nominated hit "I'm The Only One." I definitely wasn't the "only one" who noticed just how amazing these two are on stage, as their energy with one another was nothing short of electric.  

 

 

Orange is the New Black and Handmaid's Tale star Samira Wiley was the recipient of the Vito Russo Award on Saturday night, and took the opportunity to discuss her coming out story as well as her incredible marriage with her wife Lauren.  She also had a very important message to give to our LGBTQ youth while on stage: "You are loved. You have a community that is here for you. Is dedicated to protecting to you. And accepts you for exactly who you are, right in this moment."

 

 

Jay-Z's mother Gloria Carter received a special recognition award that was presented to her by legendary journalist and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts. Her son featured her on his song "Smile", which tells of his mother’s struggles and of his unwavering love and support for her: “Mama had four kids, but she's a lesbian. Had to pretend so long that she's a thespian. Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate. Society shame and the pain was too much to take. Cried tears of joy when you fell in love. Don't matter to me if it's a him or her. I just wanna see you smile through all the hate." 

During her speech on stage, she discussed the impact of what coming out has had on her family and several others across the world. The most powerful moment from her speech came when she said "“Love gave me the courage to take the power that I allowed other people to have over my life for fear of them revealing my secret.” 

 

 

The most emotional moment of the night, at least for me, was when NBA star Reggie Bullock came to the stage to discuss his transgender sister Mia Henderson, who he lost to fatal violence back in 2014.  The whole speech brought tears to my eyes, but when he mentioned how he wanted to be the first NBA player to wear a rainbow jersey, I nearly lost myself. 

For more information on GLAAD, please check out their official website

Racism in the Gay Community isn't Going Anywhere Anytime Soon

During my time living in New York City, I have heard about racism happening over and over again, which you think wouldn't be as prominent here.  The exact opposite should be occurring in such a multicultural city, right? Everyone should be "team equality" at this point, but that seems to be the furthest thing from the truth. 

Several friends of mine have told me consistently that men will block them on apps if they are a certain skin color, or men do not feel comfortable talking to them in public. One even said the following to me: "A guy told me I'm his type, but wouldn't know how to introduce the situation to his friends as they think I'm only into white guys." Wow.  

For all the men out there who say that racism is a thing of the past in our community, I strongly urge you to take those rose-colored glasses you have off your head and wake up to what is going on in our world right now.

Racism has no problem presenting itself at gay bars and events all around the country and even world.  A popular event that occurs each summer that I've attended has about 88 percent white dudes, 7 percent Latinos, 3 percent African-Americans, 1 percent Asians and 1 percent every other type of race. The white dudes barely interact with the other races unless they are hot or have a "preference" for them (see that debate here), and the men who don't identify as Caucasian who show up to these events either feel unwanted or unsure of how to infiltrate a simple social situation as they fear they'll be rejected because of their skin color.  

Racism is something that is beyond noticeable in every facet of our lives. It's occurring when queens on RuPaul's Drag Race are being called the N-word on social media by people who of course have a fake avatar and no real information about themselves.  It's also happening when black men in gay porn are sick of their privates being only referred to as "BBC" as well as when white porn stars using absurdly racist lingo with no worriment on repercussion (NSFW link as proof).  And of course, its happening when there is generally one black or Asian dude cast on a horrible Bachelor ripoff (you know what show I'm talking about here).

Is there a solution? The sad thing is, I'm not sure when the racism switch will be turned off and when people will get down to the nitty gritty of why this is still an issue. It's almost to the point where you don't know what to do, as much of this is happening online and that is an animal that will never slow down no matter how much you try to stop it.  In real life, you can't exactly do a whole "kumbaya" thing and bring everyone together for the sake of doing so, but does that mean that men of color in this community are ultimately screwed because of who they are? 

What can we do? I think a lot of the gay men who are on the right and narrow and accept everyone for who they are should speak up when situations like these occur.  Some know what they are doing and don't care, while others are blissfully unaware of how ignorant they are and need a wakeup call from someone they call a friend. 

Regardless, no one should be made to feel lesser than because of what demographic they were born into.  We as a gay community want to be accepted for something we were born with, so why can't that ring true for all races who coexist in our very own rainbow family?  


This article was created by one of Instinct Magazine's writers and doesn't reflect the publication as a whole.