Austin Armacost - Life After ’The A-List’
It has been nearly two years since Logo’s campy reality show "The A-List: New York" came to an end. The show cultivated a dedicated fan base, and spawned an equally flamboyant sister show, "The A-List: Dallas." Fans will fondly recall the countless tears, tantrums and dramas as cameras followed the lives and loves of a group of six gay men living in the Big Apple.
The show featured minor celebrities such as Reichen Lehmkuhl, and Mike Ruiz - but it was the relatively unknown young model, Austin Armacost, that stole the show.
Born and raised in Indiana, the young Armacost, brimming with Mid-western charm, was previously best known for his fling with fashion designer Marc Jacobs. His direct, no bullshit attitude on the show instigated plenty of drama with his other co-stars, and simultaneously earned him the love and admiration of fans.
And yet, there is certainly more to Austin than sipping on Martinis in elegant New York City bars. Since filming wrapped up on the show, the young entertainer has found himself embroiled in the world of American politics. He campaigned fervently for the repeal of the discriminatory 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act (thanks President Clinton!) - a bill that defined marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution for the purposes of federal law.
DOMA affected Armacost on a very personal level - he was unable to sponsor his British spouse, Jake Lees, for a green card. Consequently, the couple was forced to negotiate a transatlantic, long- distance relationship in the early stages of their marriage. The Supreme Court deemed DOMA unconstitutional on June 26th 2013, but Armacost has pledged to keep fighting for equality. EDGE caught up with Armacost to find out more about this victory, his relationship with Lees, and life after the A-List.
EDGE: So first of all, lets get some background - how did you meet your British husband Jake?
Austin Armacost: Jake was on an international internship from his British university here in the United States, more specifically my hometown of Indianapolis. We were both out at a club one evening, and as soon as I heard his voice I melted! I had never heard such an accent. Since he is from the North of England he does not speak with a typical ’English’ accent that most Americans are used to hearing - a Southern accent that is. He is from Huddersfield which is only 90 miles south of Scotland... you could say that he speaks with more of a Scottish accent.
EDGE: How long have you guys been married? And what pushed you to make the commitment? You are both so young!
Austin Armacost: Yes, we were very young, I was 22 and he was 24. We have been married for three years in July - July 26th 2010 was our wedding day. I was actually in the middle of shooting season 1 of ’The A-List’ and had to fly to the UK, get married, and then fly back for filming. I was only in the UK for four days. I’ll just say, immigration played a big role in our decision to tie the knot... Although, we are both extremely happy!
EDGE: Can you tell us about the marriage laws in the UK? Do you have a green card there?
Austin Armacost: Yes, I do have the equivalent of a green card in the UK. I have my residency, and the same rights as a ’married’ heterosexual couple would have in the United Kingdom. Same sex marriage is currently called a Civil Partnership, but a bill has just passed with overwhelming support from all parties and the Prime Minister that will change the title to MARRIAGE. Yes, the Queen gave her approval, but just to clarify, the Royal Family has NO LEGAL POWER in England. They are more of a tourist attraction bringing in well over 250 million USD each year!
EDGE: How long were you guys roughly apart due to DOMA? You must have spent some considerable time and money traveling!
Austin Armacost: In total, we have spent about 2.5 years apart due to DOMA. That is out of our five years together, so it has been tough. But thank God for SKYPE!
EDGE: You often talked about your love of British culture on the show and in interviews; do you think the UK is more tolerant of sex same couples?
Austin Armacost: Without a doubt in my mind it is easier for same sex couples in England rather than in America. Even in the small village where we live, we have NEVER had an issue.
EDGE: Did you become politically involved in the fight against DOMA? If so, what sort of activism did you become involved in?
Austin Armacost: I was heavily involved with the fight against DOMA. I have been working with several organizations including The DOMA Project and Immigration Equality - helping them to raise money, spread awareness, and educate people who have never been exposed to this struggle. Many people are not discriminatory out of choice, but out of ignorance. The times I explained the problems my husband and I faced in a pre-DOMA US, 99% of the time people were sympathetic to our fight. I feel that simply sharing your story is very important in our struggle for equality. As I travel so frequently, I am always chatting up people in the airport, and DOMA would always become the topic of conversation. After I explained why it was such an awful law and how it affected Jake and I, almost everybody would say ’I never knew that.’ Education is vital!
EDGE: So now that DOMA has been struck down, what does it mean for you and Jake? Will he get his green card soon?
Austin Armacost: Since same sex marriage is still called a Civil Partnership in the UK, he is not eligible through that relationship with me. We have to marry in one of the 13 states that allow same-sex marriage. After that, he will immediately be eligible for a green card. It is a long process that has many steps, but yes, I can now sponsor him to come live and work in the United States. We are very excited to start our life here in America!
Back to the U.S.
EDGE: Do you think you guys will settle permanently in the US? If so, why, given the more hospitable social climate in the UK?
Austin Armacost: We LOVE to travel, so I don’t think that we will ever truly be ’settled.’ But, yes we would love for America to become our home. England itself is smaller than the state of Georgia, so there is not much of a ’change of scenery’ when traveling around the country. In America, we can be on the slopes of Colorado one day, and the beaches of Florida the next. We love the diverse geography of the US.
EDGE: Your advocacy for marriage equality was great, but as I am sure you are aware, there is still some way to go in the fight for full equality. Do you think you’ll get more politically involved in the future?
Austin Armacost: I am currently still heavily involved. The LGBTQ community has a great momentum going, I’ve spoken with legal strategists and they do have a plan on moving forward to our final goal of complete Equality nationwide. I will continue to do whatever I can to help the fight!
Back to The A-List
EDGE: What are your general plans for the future now that the A-List is over?
Austin Armacost: The show just started airing in several different parts of the world including Western Europe, parts of Australia, and Canada. Derek and I continue to do club appearances and events throughout those areas, and we still have endorsements with several companies. I have also worked with several magazines around the world doing editorial spreads for them including Instinct, DNA, and Gay Times. I am looking forward to starting my education in the spring of 2014 where I will also compete on the track and field team. I am actually an All American Pole Vaulter, [laughs] no joke!
EDGE: Can we talk on a less serious note about The A-List? What was the highlight of that experience for you?
Austin Armacost: Being able to examine my relationship and take an in depths look at things that needed to be changed between Jake and I. When you look back on certain situations, you may recall it differently from how it actually played out. I was able to watch my reactions every Monday night and learn from the mistakes that I had made. I found a best friend in Derek as well. Since the show ended we have traveled the world together. If I am not with my husband, chances are I am with Derek. Also, after gaining a more public profile, I have the opportunity to travel A LOT more than I ever did before the show.
EDGE: And do you miss working on the show?
Austin Armacost: I do, it was such a blast and the whole cast and crew was great! Well, there were a few cast members that weren’t (great) but I just ignored them! Having the opportunity to reach young gay people across the country and now around the world and show them that being gay is OK - well it was and is still very rewarding. Now, I am not naïve, yes we fought, bitched, and moaned about each other, but it was REAL! And as far as people saying we were a "bad representation of the gay community" ... how the FUCK are 6 men supposed to accurately represent a community made up of millions? IMPOSSIBLE!
EDGE: Do you keep in touch with the rest of the cast? Your on/off friendships with Derek and Reichen were certainly entertaining, are you still close with them?
Austin Armacost: I am still close with both of them. Reichen and I are going to Tropical heat together in Key West this summer and I also went with a group of friends to Vegas at the end of 2012. Derek has become my closest friend and we also do a lot of traveling together. When Jake, Derek, and I are all together, madness ensues! I still talk to Ryan & Mike on occasion, but other than that no.
EDGE: Thanks Austin, and the best of luck for the future!
For more on Austin Armacost, visit his Facebook page.