With the 2020 election for U.S. president a mere year and nine months away — and though it feels like the country no longer leaves ‘campaign mode’ — Democratic candidates of all stripes and sensibilities have emerged, gunning for support of the American people. One of the latest to throw a hat into the ring is Ronnie Kroell, a name raised more among the modeling industry than political circles.
But this runner-up and fan favorite of Make Me a Supermodel Season 1, a competition series that ran on Bravo in 2008 — and openly gay man — is seeking to change that conversation as he sparks a campaign for the highest office in the land, President of the United States.
Disenchanted by the 2016 U.S. elections and the leadership of both the country’s political parties, Ronnie Kroell is looking to be the change he wants in Washington. Under the slogan “Meet me in the middle,” he’s running as an unaffiliated candidate.
Over the years Kroell has worked with organizations seeking to make a difference for the LGBTQ community specifically — having partnered with ACLU, GLAAD, HRC — but also organizations like the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the American Cancer Society. On the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Ronnie Kroell spoke on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and rang the closing bell alongside the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
In 2012, Kroell co-founded an organization called Friend Movement, aiming to bring light to bullying among the younger generations. As the face of the organization he has discussed the challenges of bullying and suicide with various schools and businesses, and through a “Friendly Meal” program the organization works to feed the homeless in Los Angeles.
Hornet sat down with newfound candidate Ronnie Kroell, still fresh in his campaign for office, to discuss his entry into the field. We’ve asked him about which issues facing the American public he feels are most pressing, how he hopes to overcome claims he’s lacking in political experience and whether he feels a 2010 cover shoot for Playgirl magazine could hinder his chances at high office.
Here is Hornet’s conversation with Ronnie Kroell, candidate for U.S. President in 2020:
What inspired your entry into the world of politics?
Simply stated, I’m tired of the current political climate of fear, ego, greed, hatred, prejudice and pain. I feel that I have something special to bring to the conversation.
What kind of feedback have you received so far?
Like with anything in life, it has been a mixed bag of positive and negative responses. I’ve learned a couple of things over the years about putting yourself out into the public eye: Don’t buy into your own hype, but also don’t be brought down by the disparaging and hateful things the “keyboard bandits” have to say.
In your mind, what are the biggest issues facing the country now?
I believe that we’re all responsible for the mess we find ourselves in at the present moment.
Instead of pointing fingers of blame toward any one person or party, it’s time to share that responsibility and shift into a solutions-based mentality. It’s imperative that we learn to LISTEN to one another, explain our frustrations, share our needs, compromise wherever possible and to co-create solutions that will help us all thrive as one nation.
Without a doubt, the three biggest issues are these: First, mental health and health care. Second, the expanding gap on key issues between the Democratic and Republican party machines that has caused a critical breakdown of communication in Washington, D.C. (from 15% points in 1994 to 36% points in 2016). And third, campaign finance reform and holding our representatives accountable to the people, preventing them from being completely bought out by corporate lobbies and special interests.
If we work on these three issues first and foremost, then I strongly believe we can rise to meet any challenge that presents itself. The time is now to lead with love, logic and empathy with the interests of the people at heart.
The narrative that we write next will not be a Republican or Democratic one, rather it will be an American one.
What do you say to those who think you running for president isn’t legitimate, or that it’s just for attention?
Anyone who asserts this is an ego-based attention grab clearly does not know me at all. Attention is a fleeting and overrated experience, but when attention is leveraged properly and funneled into the right causes, it can be life-changing and life-saving.
And what do you say to those who say you lack the experience?
What I lack in experience, I make up for in friends. From Chicago to New York City to L.A. (and everywhere I’ve traveled in-between) I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with passionate, smart, talented and experienced individuals from all walks of life. One of the most important qualities of a leader is the ability to inspire, but more importantly it’s their ability to recognize and manage human capital. In other words, to surround themselves with people smarter than themselves and to delegate responsibilities accordingly.
I’m not a perfect person, nor do I claim to have all the answers, but what I do have is the passion to find those answers with the people I’ve come to know and trust over the years.
Obviously you first entered the public eye as part of the modeling world, and after Make Me a Supermodel you were one of the most famous models to appear in Playgirl magazine. You might be the first-ever presidential candidate we’ve seen fully nude. Do you think that’s a hurdle for you, or do you think it might actually benefit you in some way?
When I made the decision to pose for Playgirl Magazine in 2010, I called all my family and friends and asked for their opinions. Ultimately, I made the decision as an artist to pull the lever — I have no regrets. The human body and our sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when the content that we created [for Playgirl] was artistically designed, produced for a mature audience and harmed no one.
If you ask me, the ways in which we have suppressed sexuality in this country and made it “dirty” is unhealthy and deplorable. We seem to have this double standard of being OK with exploiting the nude female body for profit, but for some reason — as a whole — the heteronormative white male society seems to be afraid of the penis.
I think that my posing for the magazine will be an asset — pun intended — but ultimately that’s up to those who may consider supporting my candidacy to decide for themselves. Jokes aside, I believe it will show the American public that I have nothing up my sleeves. I plan to be vulnerable, honest and completely transparent along this journey because, quite frankly, we don’t need another fake smile political puppet on the campaign trail.
What we need most is a candidate who is wiling to be themselves, even if it means they are shown not to be a perfect person, which doesn’t exist.
It is with a humble spirit that I ask my fellow Americans to consider me for the job — “The People’s President.”