Friendship Awareness Month

I think the time has come to realize that we no longer need *Bullying Awareness Month, because we are more aware than ever that bullying exists. Most recently, it has led to the untimely and most unfortunate death by suicide of a 9 year old (Jackson Grubb) and 13 year old (Daniel Fitzpatrick) boy.

Starting this year (2016), I suggest that we re-name October from “National Bullying Prevention Month”, to “Friendship Awareness Month”.  

At Friend Movement we are shifting the conversation from “anti-bully” to “pro-friendship”, working to prevent victimizing behavior, building self-love/confidence, removing the blame game, focusing on the positive, and finding solutions together as a community. After all, what we focus on expands. So, if we continue to focus on the problem and treat the bullies like villains, then the problem only can get worse. Instead, let’s work together to have a conversation about how we are communicating with one another, what our needs are, and how best to heal through love and acts of friendship.

I hope you’ll enjoy the following interview I did with “Laughing Eddie” Lobo on The Left of Str8 Show/Scott Fullerton (Start at 20 Minutes):

*In 2010, the fifth annual event grew from a week to a month with October designated National Bullying Prevention Month which unites communities nationwide to raise awareness of bullying prevention. The event is expanded to include free, downloadable activities, education, and awareness building for the entire month and the message is realigned to engage, educate and inspire other to join the movement. Educators, students, families, and individuals who care about students access the tools to address bullying in their school, recreational program, and community organizations. Over 700 partners and champions joined PACER Center against bullying join the cause. Yahoo! Kids features the campaign on their site for the third year and Facebook, Demi Lovato and PACER partner to reach millions on a cyberbullying prevention message. The month is featured on CNN’s Anderson Coopers Town Hall meetings. Ellen DeGeneres lists PACER Center as a bullying prevention resource on her website along with several other national media resources, such as CNN.com.

Making you believe, that I believe!

Dear Friends,

This blog is the first time that I’ve been able to say that, “I’m an actor”, and I truly believe it . . .

Back in 2008 I had the blessing of being on a popular reality TV show called, Make Me A Supermodel, on Bravo. It was the beginning of what was going to be a truly bittersweet journey for me. After competing on the show, I moved to NYC from Chicago to follow my modeling career. I walked the runways for fashion week and had numerous successful campaigns, but a defining moment was when I was tapped to pose for PLAYGIRL Magazine. It was edgy, controversial, and everyone had their opinion about why I should or shouldn’t do it. However, with all their opinions in mind and in true Ronnie Kroell fashion, I did it my way …  No regrets.

Soon after that, I was given the opportunity to be a part of Eating Out Drama Camp. I had SO much fun working on this film and at that point there was no denying that I had been bit by the acting bug. I went back to NYC, packed my bags, and started plotting out my move to Hollywood. I went on to act in and help produce a number of independent films, including: Into The Lion’s Den, Scrooge & Marley, Birthday Cake, The Men Next Door, I Hate Valentine’s Day, and Kissing Darkness. However, even with all of these experiences under my belt, there was a part of me that didn’t believe that I was actually an actor.

I know that I’m not alone when I sometimes think to myself, “I’m such a phony” or “I wonder if they’ll catch on”. As artists, we tend to be our own worst enemy. When we get into our head too much, we risk losing contact with reality and the physical world around us. Couple that with the stigma that goes along with being a reality TV show personality and all the shade that can come your way, it can be a recipe for diminished confidence and low self-esteem. That’s part of what happened to me anyway, but somehow I’ve been able to break through to the other side and realize just how talented I really am.

Over the past four years, I’ve lived in Los Angeles. I like to say that Chicago is my heart and that NYC is my backbone, but it it here in Los Angeles that I have been discovering my voice and how to use all of the aforementioned in harmony. My mid-western heart and sensibility were the perfect target for damaged souls and those that sought to use, abuse, manipulate, and take advantage of my light. However, again I somehow have been able to make it out alive (I’m pretty sure I have a legion of Angels on duty at all times). Sure, I’m still licking a few wounds that haven’t healed, but I am grateful for the scars that have formed. They serve as a reminder of the light and dark that exist in all of us and the importance of finding balance, being grateful for the process, and the importance of forgiveness.

I’ve battled the light and dark of others, but it has only been recently that I’ve been able to make peace with my own capacity for light and dark. I no longer see the dark as something bad that I must shake my fist at, but rather a necessary contrast to help me better realize my blessings. By doing so I have been able to not only reclaim my power, but recognize that without the darkness it would be impossible for me to shine. We all have the ability to shine, but sometimes we get caught up in the fact that life gives us the tests before it offers up the lessons. It is at this critical point, where we risk losing hope and want to throw in the towel, that we must keep going and NEVER GIVE UP.

I’ve had the privilege of taking acting classes from greats like Lesley Kahn, Groundlings, Killian McHugh, David Zimmerman, Jack Plotnick, Michael Testa, Jeffrey Tambor, and most recently Hunter Lee Hughs of Story Atlas. Each one of these teachers has gifted me with a bit more insight into who I am, not only as an actor, but as a person. In my opinion, it is impossible to act well unless we are willing to be vulnerable. We must learn to move beyond fear and at times revisit dark experiences that we have buried deep within ourselves; a futile attempt to avoid feeling through the pain. It’s not easy, but from my experience, it has been well  worth going deeper and allowing myself to open-up.

I left Story Atlas tonight with a feeling of true accomplishment! For the first time I can say that I’m an actor, and I truly believe it with every fiber of my being. I’ve worked hard to get to this point and have overcome numerous obstacles that, to the inexperienced self, could seem like calculated attempts by the Universe to tear me down. In reality though, the obstacles were sent to build me up. I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I realize that the negativity and shade that others have/may throw my way has nothing to do with me, rather it is a projection of their own insecurities, a lack of self-confidence, and deeply rooted pain.

So, where am I going with all this you ask?

Well, it all boils down to this simple, yet very complex conclusion:

As an actor, I am faced with the challenge of, “Making you believe that I believe”. After leaving Story Atlas class tonight, I can honestly say that, “I believe”. I am no Meryl Streep quite yet, but I am no longer held captive by my own insecurities, or those of others that get thrust upon me. I have made a serious commitment to myself to acknowledge, develop, and to truly celebrate my talent with the utmost of humility. At the end of the day, my job as an artist is to polish my talent and share it unapologetically with the world.

That is exactly what I plan to do, but with the added commitment to encourage and inspire others to go after their dreams along the way …

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie

 

Hearts for Haikus

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Thank you to everyone that participated in my Hearts for Haikus promotion! Your poems about friendship were truly beautiful to read. I wish I could give all of you hearts, but below are the recipients of the 10 amethyst stones that I have to give away. Each of them have been supercharged with light and love from one of my mediation sessions  🙂

Joey Galon

You are a mirror
Reflecting all that you see
Shining light and love!

Joshua Rex Vanderhoof

To find a true friend
Do not search from sea to sea 
Create, friend, in thee

Erika C Lowenkopf

I was so lonely
You smiled and listened to me
Now I am renewed

Orean Keels, Jr.

Friends like raindrops joined,
coming together as one
great river of change.

Markus Counts

Friendship’s only fee
Love extended with no strings
Hearts bound eternal

Shannon Duncan

Swan on the stream swims;
Ever flows the harmony
One with the other.

Joe Wicker-Welch

Friendship is true love
Hearts and minds combine for life
Creating our world.

Taylor Michiels

Meeting can be fate
All thanks to life’s mysteries
Resulting in friends

Jason

Friendship is a gift
One that should often be used
And always returned.

Aya Nobleza

Time you want to spend
When you’re straight and when you’re bend,
Proud ! You have a Friend.

 

LET’S LOVE LIKE SARAH!

On Sunday July 26th, 2015 a new angel got her wings. Her name is Sarah Friend Amento and she taught us all how to love by example. Friend Movement co-founders Ronnie Kroell & Laughing Eddie Lobo presented her with the first annual “Thank You For Being A Friend” award in 2014 and this is what she had to say …

“Thank you guys, SO much. I met Ronnie before being diagnosed with cancer and I saw what the Friend Movement was doing. I have five children so I grabbed onto it. Ronnie is so amazing and the work that the Friend Movement is doing is saving lives. It’s inspiring others. I’m often told what an inspiration I am and I clearly tell people real quick that I’m not. It’s the love from others that inspired the greatness to fight this disease that I’m fighting. Everyone deserves love like that and friendship like that. The Friend Movement is taking the emphasis off the bullying and putting the emphasis on friends.

A lot of people believe that change can’t happen and I know change can and it can happen with each and every person in here by caring for others. By taking an active role in their lives. When I was told that I wasn’t going to live … When the doctor said with toxic levels of chemo, you will not survive this. I didn’t think about all the things that I’ve never done in life. I didn’t think about all the money I’ve never made and things like that. I thought about the legacy I was leaving behind and I thought about how many lives have I touched?

Each of us has an opportunity to touch and change lives and that’s what Friend Movement is doing, that’s what Ronnie is doing. This is literally life saving. It’s fun to mingle and everything, but this is saving lives. So I hope everyone continues to grab on to Friend Movement and save lives together.”

Sarah Friend Amento
http://www.friendmovement.com

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The Business of Friendship

FopMagRebel

THREE YEARS AGO many people looked at me like I was crazy when I wanted to start a business that focused on friendship. Today, the hard work and passion is yielding incredible results. Those that couldn’t understand the vision back then, are now finally seeing the power of a few dedicated people and their commitment to making a difference. A special thanks must be given to my business partner in friendship, Laughing Eddie Lobo (Co-Founder),  Garland Guidry (Blog Editor), and to our incredible #FriendFamily that have given of their valuable and limited time and financial resources to help us grow.

FRIEND MOVEMENT is a lifestyle brand that is, “Supporting and empowering people to accept and be their true selves.” We are shifting the conversation from “Anti-Bullying” to “Pro-Friendship” and have purposefully chosen to focus on the positive side of the challenges that our communities face each day at school, at work, and at home. Through ART, MEDIA, and EDUCATION we are sharing our message of friendship and openly discussing ways that we can show up in the world as better friends, to ourselves and to others that we meet. Since our emergence into the world in 2012, we have produced powerful photo-campaigns, published interviews with celebs, hosted incredible networking events, fed those in need, appeared on popular TV Shows to share our message, connected with people from around the world via social media, and so much more!

Friendship is universal. It transcends race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, ability, and any other label we have created to separate ourselves from one another. Human beings are naturally social creatures, we want to be connected and actually thrive on the connections we make. However, we tend to focus so much on how we are different, that sometimes we fail to see just how much we actually have in common. Our diversity is to be celebrated of course, but it is our human experience that bonds us no matter where we are in the world.

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Our #FriendFamily is growing stronger by the day because people are resonating with our simple yet profound call to action. We are a grass roots effort that is simply moving through the world with love, kindness, and compassion in hopes that others will be inspired to lend their unique voice. There is so much work to be done, but if we all do our small parts — BIG THINGS happen!

Many things are going on behind the scenes right now to create even more ways for everyone to get involved, but until those are launched the best ways to support are listed below:

1. Add FRIEND as your MIDDLE NAME on social media.

2. Make a $5 or more tax-deductible contribution to our #FriendlyMeal program that feeds the homeless in Los Angeles once a month. https://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=12263#giving_levels

3. “LIKE” and interact with us on social media. Consider sending 1-3 minute videos explaining, “Why FRIENDSHIP is important to you” via dropbox or attachments to info@friendmovement.com. We’d love to post your videos.

4. Are you a writer? We are looking for CONTENT CREATORS and BLOGGERS to join our #FriendFamily and share their unique friendship stories from around the globe.

5. Are you great at raising funds? We are looking for you to help us get our message out and acquire the much needed funds it takes to build and sustain programming.

6. Are you a business selling cool items that would be a good fit for our FM STORE? We want to discuss featuring your products.

7. Are you an artist that wants to be seen/heard and use your talent to make a difference? We want to hear from you and perhaps have you perform at one of our events and/or use your music for our videos.

8. Are you based in LA and great at managing talent? We are looking for you to help us with our MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER PROGRAM and our new TALENT MANAGEMENT DIVISION.

9. Do you have time to volunteer? We always need volunteers to come out and help at community service and networking events. We are also in the middle of creating FM STREET TEAMS to go out into the community and perform, “RANDOM ACTS OF FRIENDLINESS“.

10. Tell us how we can support you in getting this important message of friendship out into your community! Friend Movement is YOUR MOVEMENT and together we can make a difference – – One friend at a time. 🙂

 

 

 

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Photo credit for Ronnie Kroell #RebelWithACause

Lidia Karpukova for Fop Magazine

San Francisco Pride – Steve Grand

After learning of the Supreme Court’s decision to make #MarriageEquality the law of the land, I decided to jump in my car and drive to San Francisco from Los Angeles to celebrate. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with so many new and old friends. I’m especially grateful to Board President Gary Virginia for the warm welcome, to Bruce Beaudette for the amazing conversation about LGBT history, and singer/performer Steve Grand for his amazing performance and friendship. This is definitely going down as one of the most memorable pride celebrations in history . . . Somebody pinch me!

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I’ve been out and proud now for 17 years, but I remember the dark days of  ‘Praying The Gay Away’ and just wishing that I was never born. I was bullied about being a faggot before I even knew what the word meant. My bullies would wait for me after school, torment and beat me, and in the coldest of Chicago Winters — play monkey in the middle with my shoes until I couldn’t feel my toes. In High School, the jocks were my bullies. They would jokingly ask me things in class like, “Hey Ronnie, what’s it like to take it up the butt”? Funny thing is, a few years after graduation, I learned that I could have been asking them the same question as they were all fooling around with one another in the locker room.

 

With the abuse I suffered verbally and physically, I shouldn’t even be alive today. I battled the worst of depressions and always felt like I had a scarlet letter embroidered on my shirt as I moved through the world. For years I did a song and dance for family, friends and strangers to get them to look past my sexuality and see all the other positive characteristics that I possessed. I always felt like I had something to prove and went out of my way to make everyone else happy, but in the end just found myself unhappy and resenting them.

For those of you that know me, you can attest that I’ve committed so much of my life’s work to speaking out and breaking the silence — sometimes even at the sacrifice of my own career goals. Over the years, I’ve supported HRC, GLAAD, GLSEN, Tyler Clementi Foundation, Center on Halsted, Howard Brown, The White Knot, Ali Forney Center, and so many more like them. Beyond that, three years ago I co-founded an organization with Eddie Lobo called, Friend Movement  – – Supporting and empowering people to accept and be their true selves. We feel that by shifting the conversation from “Anti-Bullying” to “Pro-Friendship” that we can truly make an impact and help leverage art, media, and entertainment to lift people up, restore their self-confidence, and know their worth.

I’m truly grateful to be living in a time where we can see the fruit of the labor of all the trail-blazers that have come before us and passed along the torch. People like my late friend and playwright, Doric Wilson. It was because of my interview and friendship with him before giving my speech at the New York Stock Exchange that I even knew what Stonewall was. There are so many incredible stories out there that our youth are missing out on, but it is up to us to teach them and remember that pride is not just about partying, but rather it is about honoring the heroic efforts of those that made this success possible.

In light of the Supreme Court’s decision to rule in favor of marriage equality, I do hope that we can now begin to focus less on our differences and truly see how much more we have in common with one another. I’m a man that happens to be gay, NOT a gay man. I’ve never really liked labels and felt like they were limiting and insulting to all the other talents and value that we have to offer as human beings. There is still much work to be done and many challenges to overcome that impact not just the LGBT Community, but the community as a whole. I’m truly excited to continue moving forward and to creating a more loving, peaceful, and friendly global community in which to live, laugh, and learn.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

– Justice Anthony Kennedy