Ross Mathews, aka the artist formerly known as Ross the Intern turned host of Hello Ross! on E!, can now add another title to his ever-evolving resume: grand marshal at San Francisco Pride.
Mathews will share grand marshal duties at the festivities along with transgender rights activist Janet Mock and DOMA litigator Roberta Kaplan starting Saturday, June 28. In addition to Pride, Mathews recently became the spokesperson for OraQuick, the first in-home oral HIV Test.
SF Weekly caught up with the multi-hyphenate to discuss leather and mesh, the importance of getting tested and perhaps a celebrity or two. It's more like 10 but who's counting?
What are your main duties as grand marshal?
My main duties are smiling and waving and I pretty much mastered that but the truth is I take it as a great honor. I have been to Pride all over the country long before I was on television whether it's where I grew up in Seattle or LA and then New York. To be named grand marshal just says to me that the community is seeing the hard work that I'm doing.
I've been on television now for 13 years and I'm unapologetically myself. I always thought when I was a little kid growing up that I wish there was someone that I could point to and say, "I can be that when I grow up: a happy, grown up, successful, openly gay person." I never saw that on television, so I take my role on television very seriously. As much fun as I have, I know that I'm sort of putting out an example to kids across the country and across the world to say, "Hey, I can be happy and never apologetic for being me." Being named grand marshal means that people are noticing and that means a lot to me.
You've covered many carpets throughout your career and have seen the best and worst of fashion. Curious minds want to know what will you wear for SF Pride?
I'm here with my partner Salvador who's my wardrobe stylist for everything whether it's Hello Ross! or the red carpet. Let me ask him because I have no idea.
Salvador, they want to know what I'll be wearing at Pride.
Oh, just a leather bustier. That's all. Mesh and leather. That's totally a joke but it'll be more like a poly-cotton blend and elastic waist pants if I'm choosing it.
Where were you when you found out you'd been selected as grand marshal of SF Pride and what was your reaction?
I was in my house in Palm Springs, because we live there part-time, and I got a call from someone on my team and they said, "They asked you to be grand marshal. Do you want to do it?" And I was like, "Move mountains, move buildings, move whatever it takes. I'm doing it." I was so excited I yelled, "Salvador, guess what? I won best gay."
Do you remember your very first Pride?
I was In Seattle. I think I was in my in my senior year of high school. I lived in a little farm town called Mount Vernon. It's like an hour north of Seattle and so we drove in my friend's Geo Metro and it was the first time that I had ever seen that many gay people anywhere. To me it felt like such a celebration that I didn't even fully understand existed. Of course, Pride has been going on for decades now but back in 1997 it was a shock and I was so happy to be part of that community, still am.
If given the opportunity, which celebrity would you choose to share grand marshal duties with and why?
Maybe Kelly Osbourne because we have so much freakin' fun together on the red carpets. She's basically a gay guy. That's the best compliment I could give anyone by the way. I know everyone would love her.
You're also in SF in honor of National HIV Testing Day (June 27) and you've recently been named spokesperson for OraQuick. Why did you choose to lend your celebrity to this particular product and cause?
So here's the deal. A lot of people bring stuff to me. "Ross do you want to do this?" I usually say no because it's so cheesy. But when OraQuick came to me I couldn't say no. The main reason is because I had no idea that technology existed to know your status in twenty minutes at home without any needles or blood. I did not know that. You look at the statistics and the cases of HIV among gay men are growing. It's kind of unacceptable. You'd think that in 2014 we would know our status. I get it. I know that it's scary to go to a doctor and get a needle and have that week wait. To know your status is so easily avoided just because it's so freaky.
When my partner Salvador and I first got together we got tested and then we said, "We're negative. Good. Let's have some fun." But we had that wait period and it was scary. I just think that people in 2014 should be having fun., should be having sex. Go do you, be safe but most importantly know your status. HIV testing is not the most fun thing to talk about but we have to remove the stigma. You've got to know your status and it's as easy as 20 minutes.
Now let's discuss Hello Ross!. How does it feel to have gone from Ross the Intern on The Tonight Show to host of your very own talk show host?
It feels like validation of a childhood lifelong dream. I've wanted to be a talk show host since I was eight years old. Everything I've done in my life and in my career has been to get to this point. This is just a step along the way. I want that big daytime talk show eventually.
I wanted to make a show that didn't exist when I was a kid. I used to talk back to the TV and think why can't they hear me. And so I made a show where we can. The audience talks back to me when I'm hosting. We're listening and reading online. The online drives the content of the show. It's a show that says, "I love this stuff. You love this stuff. Let's talk it out. I think that there are too many shows that tear down pop culture. I don't do that. I love this stuff and I think a lot of people do too.
Now let's play a game. I will mention one of your E! colleagues and I want you to tell me the first word that comes to mind. Ready?
Ryan Seacrest: Mogul
Giuliana Rancic: Hilarious
Ken Baker: Insider
Chelsea Handler: Big sister. I know that's two words but deal with it.
Jason Kennedy: Sweetest
Joan Rivers: Icon
Kris Jenner: Mama Bear
Bruce Jenner: Gentleman
Kelly Osbourne: I'm going to sound like a grandpa but she's a hoot. I know that so sounds like what your Aunt Helen said that but that's just what she is.
George Kotsiopoulos: Fabulous