Contrast Exclusive: Mark Indelicato

Contrast Magazine met with the always stylish Mark Indelicato to get his take on growing up with Ugly Betty, playing the gay best friend, and his obsession with Alaska Thunderfuck 5000.

We casually chatted about NYU and future plans (he has his eye on the UN) during a smoke break where Mark appears as nothing more than an idealistic college kid with big dreams.
Given the amount he has already accomplished – winning an ALMA award for his role as Justin Suarez on the hit show Ugly Betty, wrapping up White Bird in a Blizzard, and running his own blog The Fashion Gangster – Mark is incredibly down to earth. When asked about fame at such a young age, he replies, “I wasn’t doing it because I wanted people to recognize me. I just really liked doing it. I really liked the actual art of acting.”
Mark continues to follow his passions as they grow and change. He lights up at the mention of his relaunched blog where he covers everything from fashion and art to politics. “I’m really excited about it. It’s been getting great response.” Mark thinks big. He says that he wants to challenge his readers, “It’s frightening to me that young people don’t care enough [about] what’s going with the world and that’s the goal of [The Fashion Gangster] – to give you pretty pictures, and pretty girls, and nice clothes, and whatever, but also to expose people to different viewpoints.”
Mark is clearly on a mission to change the world, but he still has time to gossip with us about RuPaul’s Drag Race. He proclaims his drag queen love for Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, “I want to be Alaska’s drag daughter,” he confesses. “I actually watched five seasons on Amazon Prime in two weeks so that’s something I’m extremely proud of.” Don’t worry, Mark. Perhaps Alaska binges on Ugly Betty. We certainly do.

 

 

              Check out the full interview here.

 

Where were you from originally?

I was born in a small town called Bristol, Pennsylvania outside of uh Philadelphia and um I moved to LA when I was 11.

Eleven? What was the transition like between… they’ve got to be different?

Um I mean I lived a pretty anonymous live in Pennsylvania.. Like my family was just very kind of blue collar American family and uh I moved to LA to start working on Ugly Betty so not only was I in just like a completely different physical place but um I was kind of living a different… I was just getting a lot of attention that I had never gotten before.

Speaking of attention how did you handle that? I’m sure it came out of nowhere  all of that at one time how did you handle that?

Um, I don’t know, I mean I think it was just because I was so young and my mom was always with me um because Ugly Betty was from the time I was 11 until I was 16 so I feel like I didn’t really handle fame in any kind of particular way just because I felt so protected and so safe with my mom.

Just a daily thing for you?

Yeah, and it really… I mean… for me because I was so young, again, it was like I wasn’t doing it because I wanted people to recognize me. I just really liked doing it. Yeah, I really liked the actual art of acting so…

When did you move to NY?

Uhh I moved to New York in 2009, um, because [of] Ugly Betty. We shot the first two seasons in Los Angeles and then they moved the show to New York for the last two seasons so I spent my freshman and sophomore year of high school here in New York.

How did you handle your first winter?

Ummm… Well, I mean I’m from Philadelphia. I lived there until I was 11, so yeah.. I was really used to the winter.

Speaking of winter, Do you have any plans for fashion week coming up?

Uhhh no… *laughs*

You usually go every year…what was it: Duckie Brown?

No… *laughs*… Duckie Brown, yeah. I used to go to fashion week a lot when I was younger but I don’t know, it’s… it’s very overwhelming to me now. There’s just a bunch of people that really don’t need to be there that are there so I just uh feel like maybe I just shouldn’t  be there and just be one less person waiting in line pushing people out of the way.

You mentioned during the Sundance festival that a lot of celebrities let [fame] get to their head. Have you ever felt the fame get to you in any way where you had to stand back and say, “OK. Take a step back,” or were you always just used to it?

I don’t think that it ever really affected me in any way. I think if anything, I always have been really scared of it.

Don’t kill me; I haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet – White Bird in a Blizzard – how would you relate to your character? Were there any similarities? How was that?

Yeah, I mean, uh, Gregg Araki is a filmmaker that I’ve admired for such a long time and um so when he asked me to be in the film, I was obviously elated, and um, he gives his actors a lot of freedom and I really think Mickey is, I guess, he’s just a little bit more of an over dramatic version of myself. A lot of it was improvised. Shailene Woodley, Gabourey Sidibe, and I.. we really clicked automatically, and we play three best friends so all the scenes where we’re in the basement hanging out talking, a lot of that chemistry was already there, and he just let us feed off each other.

I read somewhere that it was filmed in 19 days. That’s crazy. How did that go down?

I was on set for about two weeks and um, again, I mean he hired actors that he trusted. He hired actors that he admired, and he really just gave us the freedom to do whatever we wanted and I feel like that is why it was able to get done so fast because we were given that freedom to play, and uh, and also, he kind of just told us, or me, “Do what you did in the audition. Do what you showed me when you first came in,” and so I guess that it’s easier to get things done when you’re kind of encouraging the actor to feed off themselves and feed off the people around them.

What was the transition from acting on television to acting in a movie? Was it different or was it the same vibe?

It was the same vibe. I mean, I’ve been really lucky to work with people that are really amazing actors and just really nice and down to earth people. And you hear so much about these casts who all hate each other and they are all fighting for more money and all of that bullshit, and it’s-it’s awesome to just work with a great group of people. It makes it easier to kind of just do what you do no matter whether that’s on television, on stage, or on film.

I read that you were doing theater acting before? Did you like that? Do you have plans to do it again?

I admire theater actors so much. I mean I work through a medium I guess that you can just do it over again if its shit. You know when you’re acting on stage, you have to give the audience whatever you have and if you fuck up, then you have to cover it up. I mean you just have to think on your toes so much more. And I think that… I admire stage actors very much and I admire improvisation actors ‘cause that’s something that is very difficult for me to do.

Speaking of characters, you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Who’s your favorite one?

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000.

Why is that?

I don’t know; I watched every season and I actually watched five seasons on Amazon Prime in two weeks so that’s something I’m extremely proud of. *laughs* And uh, I guess just going through, I identify so much with her. Alaska and her whole vibe is just so me, her “HI-EEEEE,” and I think it’s just so funny.

And your Twitter photo…

My cover photo on Twitter is Alaska saying, “HI-EEEEE.”

As a gay male in the film industry has that ever been a hindrance or a help?

Well I think that I’ve been confronted with the whole issue of sexuality from the time that we started filming Ugly Betty. I was getting asked if I was myself gay when I was 12 years old before I even knew that I was, so I think I have been confronted with  sexuality from a really young age. And I think that also playing a character that is gay and myself being gay I do feel like I’ve been like type cast as something, um but then again a lot of people have been type cast and it’s working really well for them.

Do you find that a problem that you have been type cast as the gay male or do you mind?

I don’t think that I uh…  I don’t think that it really has as much to do with my sexuality as much as it also has to do with my physical appearance. I mean I think that there is a very specific archetype of the leading man. There’s a very specific man that leads the cast, I think in a lot of ways, um and for me I’m perfectly fine being the gay best friend. I think that it’s great, and it’s fun, and you know… it’s nice to be able to bring some of myself in to everything that I do too. Maybe in Ugly Betty it was more subconscious, I was subconsciously bringing parts of myself into the character, um, but I have a lot of fun seeing bits and pieces of myself.

What advice would you have for somebody who isn’t sure how to cope with the world judging them or coming at them in a way because of their sexuality? How would you advise them to cope with that? In situations that you were judged for your sexuality, how would you cope with that?

That’s a really hard question. I think that you have to really just engage with it. At least for me when I was trying to hide myself and trying hide my sexuality,  you could kind of see that and people feed off of your insecurities and I think that if you… and now…  I’m now the first person to make fun of myself and make fun of being gay. And it’s not funny, but it’s a coping mechanism and I think that if you get defensive and have to run around and say I’m not gay I’m not gay I’m not gay, people are just going to keep calling you that. Each situation is extremely unique and I don’t want to brush it off like it’s not a big deal because I think the amount of abuse that one experiences also informs the way that they handle it, uh, but for me it really hasn’t been as pervasive in my life as it has been for other kids, and you know, these kids who are taking their own lives. It was never that pervasive for me. But I do think that you know, you can sit there and cope with it and joke about it, but at the end of the day, there’s something that needs to be done about it. I mean, I think that it’s really difficult to change uh people’s beliefs. You can make gay marriage legal and you can put all these laws and policies in place, but the root of the problem is the homophobia that is running rampant in people’s social ideologies in this country and around the world.

Absolutely. Kind of off topic, but out of with all you’ve done, with Ugly Betty and White Bird in a Blizzard, etc. etc. etc. what would be the highlight of your career?

Highlight of my career?

I mean you won an ALMA Award for goodness sake…

*laughs* I don’t know. The highlight of my career… hmm.. I mean I think that the highlight is really still happening for me because it is very gratifying still to this day to be able to talk to people that you know watched Ugly Betty, and you know whether they’re boys, girls, trans, whatever – gay, straight, bisexual, that come to me and just kind of express how much that show and that character informed their lives. And uh…

It’s very relatable to a lot of teenagers.

And I think that the greatest thing about the show, you know, what is so gratifying, is that I can watch it now and really identify with every single character. And I think that’s why people respond to it so well.

That’s why I love the show so much. I literally could relate to every single character.

You see different versions of yourself, and it’s extremely gratifying to hear that it has helped people or informed the way that they handle their problems with sexuality. And I think I’ve had people come up to me to say that the show and my character have changed the way that they looked at gay people and just kind of sexuality in general, and that I think is the most gratifying thing.

What’s it like seeing yourself on TV? During the shoot you said you hate seeing yourself on camera.

It’s so awful in the first two seasons. The first two seasons I had a huge gap in my teeth and braces, and the most awkward years of one’s life are on TV and Netflix now – they’re archived. *laughs* And you can see them whenever you want.

Going back to the drag questions, if you had a drag name what would it be?

Oh man, my friends and I were thinking about this the other day! Oh, God what did we say.. It was something really funny.. Oh shit… Well every Halloween I dress up. I’m one of those….

Well, if you’re a drag queen, you have to dress up for Halloween.

Well I’m not a drag queen so I can do whatever I want. But I guess we named my alter ego Selena. It was something…I want to be Alaska’s drag daughter… so Selena Thunderfuck.. That’s my drag name… cause don’t you take the last name? Is that a thing? Yes, YES it is.

Selena Thunderfuck, everyone!

Watch out Season Eight.

What do you want to do with your life now?

What do I want to do with my life now? I actually just recently relaunched my blog, The Fashion Gangster, and it was originally was just a style diary blog that I had with a bunch of pictures of me with different outfits on self timer in high school, literally, and people really responded to it. And I stopped doing it for a while, and now I just relaunched it and its more of a collective now. There’s a style diary, fashion section, and there’s kind of this culture section where I’m including work of my friends who do fine art, and excerpts of pieces that I’ve written, political op eds etc.… and I’m um really excited about it. It’s been getting a lot great response.

Where would you like to see The Fashion Gangster five years from now?

I mean I would love to see it grow and expand, but for me I think the main goal for the website is to give people visually pleasing content and then also in the same site have the opportunity to see what’s going on in the world and see the opinions of young people. It’s…it’s frightening to me that young people don’t care enough what’s going with the world and that’s kind of the goal of TFG to give you pretty pictures, and pretty girls, and nice clothes, and whatever, but also to expose people to different viewpoints.

So you’re an international relations major at NYU. Where would you like to see yourself with that after you graduate?

I guess my goal would be to be an ambassador for UN Women because I focus specifically on how US foreign policy affects Middle Eastern women in Iraq, and it’s something I’m extremely passionate about. It makes me so happy to…to be in an academic setting and be doing something that matters outside of myself, outside of New York, outside of you know the culture that I’m used to. It’s just I’m so interested and I would love to be an advocate for equal treatment of all people, not just women and men, but I think that the issue of equality is extremely prevalent today, more than it has been in a long time.

It’s a Friday night. What are you up to?

Well this Friday it’s finals week so uhh… *laughs*

Something fun?

*laughs* On a normal Friday night…. Even on a Friday night…I’m like either sitting in my apartment with my roommate with a bottle of wine and a spliff *covers mouth*.. or I don’t know, I don’t really go out in New York that much anymore. That’s something I used to do when I was like 18.

Where did you go?

Like 1OAK, Dream and all those places.

 

Written by Joanna Purpich | joanna@contrastmagazine.net
Features Editor at Contrast Magazine

Follow Mark on Twitter for updates on The Fashion Gangster and any of his upcoming projects. Tell him Contrast Magazine sent you. *wink*

 

Update: 10/28/2016