He ‘s the first to get Iceland into the top ten finals in Mr. Gay World. And now he has a new album coming out next year. We spoke to Troy Michael Jónsson about his music career, the decision to move to Iceland, his passionate battle for lgbt rights and the pressure of taking part in a contest like Mr. Gay World 2014.
So, Troy, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
“Well, I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Then I moved to New York for a reality show and stayed there for three years working on my music career, performing at Gay Pride Parades all over the east coast. After appearing on TV shows like “The Next American Gay” (which had a successful air in 6 countries on the OutTV Network) and “Snooki & JWoww” (a hit show on MTV) I guess I started to feel that I needed a change in my life, a break from all the craziness in New York. So I moved with my other half to Iceland in 2013. I had been here a couple of times before and immediately fell in love with the country on my first visit. What fascinates me about Iceland is how beautiful everything is. There’s also no military. So everybody can live in peace without worry. And for those reasons and more Iceland is a country which I now proudly call home.”
And then you ended up participating on Iceland’s behalf in Mr. Gay World. Why?
“Firstly, I’ve done a few competitions before, representing my home state Pennsylvania in the States and also the US in a different competition, so I’m experienced in that way. But it’s also due to my strong background in politics; I have a degree in Political Science, I’vecampaigned for politicians, like Senator Joe Sestak and President Barack Obama, and I’ve publicly spoken out for gay rights for many years. That combined with an endless desire to succeed always makes me interested in competing for an opportunity to be a worldwide ambassador for gay rights. Marriage equality, the ability to donate blood, suicide prevention – equality for gays in all aspects is basically at the top of my list. That’s what I strive for. My whole life has been based on trying to help others in any way possible. Especially when homosexuality is involved.”
Brains before beauty
The contest is described as a competition for gay and human rights. But isn’t it really just a standard beauty pageant?
“You know, when you think of the word “pageant,” its mainly about beauty. However, not in this case. During this competition we had to pass a written exam showing knowledge of gay rights and a brutal “one minute challenge” in which a journalist grilled us with controversial questions. If we failed we had absolutely no chance of winning. Of course appearance plays a part of it. But it’s not the main part. In this competition it’s brains before beauty.”
So what were the judges looking for?
“A well spoken person who can be the ambassador for their brand and promote what the Mr. Gay World Organization stands for. There were a series of challenges: a cooking challenge, an art challenge, one minute challenge, a private interview, photo shoot challenge and showing off a national costume, formal wear, swim wear and a final question on stage.”
What did you bring to the table?
“I don’t think anyone expected me to do well because Iceland has never been into the top ten. Also because I wasn’t anywhere near in the good shape as some of the other contestants. However, I was confident that I would storm Iceland into the top ten for the first time. You see, I’m very well spoken and comfortable with myself. And even if I wasn’t the most fit, my confidence bypasses what any fitness level can reach. I’m proud of being average. I’m not perfect and I never want to be. I just want to be me. I had no tricks. I just went in there, relaxed and remained myself. I never tried to be someone else. Stayed myself the whole time. That’s how I ended up doing so well.”
“I don’t think anyone expected me to do well because Iceland has never been into the top ten. However, I was confident that I would storm Iceland into the top ten.”
Tell us about the preparation.
“It was insane. I had little sleep due to an intense workout routine, mixing up my workouts with Crossfit and Strength Training and swimming every morning. And in between I met had a unique opportunity to meet with great activists, such as the Mayor of Reykjavik, Dagur B. Eggertsson, and the former Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.”
Any drama behind the scenes?
“There wasn’t really any drama amongst the contestants. But, we were ALL a bit shocked that Mr. India did not make the top 5. Theres something magical about him. His presence just takes you to a new place of happiness after you’ve been around him for 15 minutes. I couldn’t be any happier that he became part of my life. I’m not taking away from the others and I congratulate the Winner and the Top 5. But it’s clearly obvious that Sushant, Mr. India, was the winner. He won the art challenge, the Peoples Choice Award, was chosen Mr. Congeniality and part of the team which won the sports challenge. But he didn’t make it to the top 5? A bit strange to me.”
Apart from snatching the Mr. sports prize, what did you get out of the contest?
“I wanted people to realize what I’m capable of and that I have a big heart. I never focus on “me”. I live my life fighting for equality, focusing on how I can help others.”
But you lost your job because of Mr. Gay World, right?
“That’s correct. I needed a 2 extra days off work to escape the possible volcanic eruption in case it would prevent me from flying abroad. However, I was sent a TEXT message from my boss at Icelandair Hotels Keflavík telling me not to come back to work if I took those extra days off. Given the standard of Icelandair Hotels I thought it was extremely unprofessional. It was also shocking as I never missed a day in work and covered everyone’s shifts if asked, and the manager later told me this had nothing to do with my performance, I was a great employee. All the same I was told to choose between the two. So I chose the competition because it gave me the opportunity to capture a world title and become a worldwide ambassador for gay rights. I would choose equality, human rights, any day over my job, no matter what it is. I still respect Icelandair as a whole, but I cannot support the unprofessional branch in Keflavík.”
Would love to work with Paul Oscar
After digging a bit we found out that you’re one busy bee. Smiles. “I have so many things planned. For now, I’ve taken on a new platform to be able to get gays to donate blood, as it’s still a worldwide issue. I plan to work with various organizations and speak out at events throughout the world on behalf of the gay community to get gays in line for blood drives.”
A little bird told us you’re also working on a new album.
“My music career is about to take off with the release of my very first album, a hip hop album, in 2015. With it I want to spread the message of hope by highlighting my own triumphs and tribulations. I collaborated with a lot of great people on the album. It’s all still a big hush, but I can name R&B Singer NuNu and music producer and rap artist Neptune, both stationed out of Pittsburgh PA.”
On that note, how do you find the Icelandic music scene?
“I would love to collaborate with Paul Oscar and Steinar. I’ve performed with Steinar before and he truly is talented. The goes same for Paul Oscar. I love him. It would be a blast to work with him. To bring a twist to his style, for example by adding a rap verse from me.”
And then there’s a Oprah Winfrey project.
“Yes, I’ve just finalized a project called “The Oprah Effect” which highlights the success story of Oprah Winfrey. It’s an idea for a television series I’m going to pitch to the OWN Oprah Winfrey Network. And if it becomes a reality I’m hoping it will help influence the lives of many. Especially those in need. Other than that I can’t tell you much about it – at least not at this stage.” Smiles mysteriously.
But why Oprah, are you a fan? “We’ve faced very similar struggles in life, which I’m not ready to talk about. Not yet. And because of that I proudly have her birthday tattooed across my ribcage. Some people think it’s crazy and don’t understand my admiration for her. But I just find her so inspiring.”
Seems like 2015 is going to be a very exciting year for you.
“With my upcoming album and possible return to television I believe my future is bright. My ideas keep growing as life goes on. My desire for success is never-ending. So 2015 is it!”
Main photo: Sushant, Mr. India, left with Troy. All photos: Courtesy of Troy Michael.
Click here to see the Mr. Gay World 2014. To see Troy on stage fast forward to 09:50.
For more photos from Mr. Gay World 2014, click here.