08/15/2014 06:38 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Meet Mike Ruiz, One Of The World's Best Celeb Photographers

Brooke Shields photographed by Mike Ruiz

In Mike Ruiz's candy-colored world, stars are both beautifully captured and nearly unrecognizable creating a magical moment for the ages.

When it comes to Mike Ruiz, what you see isn't necessarily what you get. Ruiz, a close friend of mine for almost two decades, is unquestionably one of the best celebrity photographers in the world.

The first time I ever laid eyes on him he was walking towards my Park Avenue office in New York City. I noticed a tall, ridiculously handsome man (who was even more ridiculously muscled) fill out his T-shirt and my office doorframe. For a moment -- just a moment -- the photographer I had heard so much about didn't speak and slowly glanced around the room assessing the landscape before saying, "You must be Richard!" in the sweetest, friendliest, most disarming voice possible. Given the wrapper this package came in, this kind and pleasant specimen was not at all what I was expecting. No macho bravura BS from this tower of muscle. I realized in an instant that Mike Ruiz is genuinely nice -- as in really, really nice -- and is genuinely talented -- as in really, really talented. We've been friends and frequent collaborators since that very first day.

The roster of powerhouse celebrities Ruiz has photographed is in and of itself impressive -- Prince, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Nicki Minaj, Raquel Welch, Ricky Martin, Debbie Harry, Adam Lambert, Kathy Griffin, Dolly Parton, every Kardashian and on and on -- but it's how he handles those assignments is what makes Ruiz such an in-demand master at the very top of his game. Widely known for his stunning hyper-realized, color-saturated, fantastical portraits of the planet's most recognizable people, Ruiz transcends the all-too-predictable celebrity portrait and wills it into something else entirely: something delicious, something unexpected, something subversive -- and the finished product transports the viewer to a different world, a more beautiful, severe, unblemished world, that makes all of us want to pack up all of our belongings and head straight there.

Ruiz, who's also a celebrated music video/feature film director for the likes of celebritydom's biggest divas--Vanessa Williams, Kristine W, Kelly Rowland, Jody Watley, RuPaul--has been a fixture on a number of reality competition shows including America's Next Top Model and The A-List, has launched an award-winning brand (signature book, interactive iPad app) called Pretty Masculine and boasts some of the biggest corporate names on the globe as clients including the likes of L'Oreal, Donald J. Pliner, Garnier and many, many more.

Later this year, Ruiz -- the dedicated purveyor of perpetual celebrity gorgeousness -- himself enters the "Look Who's 50" club. And for someone who looks as great as he does, who's as talented and celebrated as he is and who's just as nice if not more so than the day I met him, the next half century is starting out beautifully for this amazing visual phenom, this celebrity photographer, this man called Mike Ruiz that I'm so very happy to be able to say is my friend.

Give me the "elevator pitch" for Mike Ruiz (30 seconds or less to describe yourself).
Not unlike everyone else, I'm experiencing the joys and aches of life. As I continue traveling my path, I gain greater insight into who I am and how I relate to others and how they relate to me.

Defining moment from your childhood.
The moment I had an epiphany and realized that I had the power to prevent people from "walking all over me." This somehow coincides with the first time I saw Olivia Newton-John as Sandy in the movie Grease. [Laughs]

What's been your happiest day?
Today. And, when asked again in the future, that would be my answer for every subsequent day.

And your saddest?
When my mother passed away.

Tell me about your favorite celebrity moments.
For such a broad variety of reasons that it would take too long to mention (but many of them are for the simple fact that they were the icons I looked up to in my formative years). That being said, I would have to include in the list of my favorite celebrity photo shoots Prince, Debbie Harry, Rod Stewart, Betty White, Brooke Shields, Sir Ian McKellen, Patricia Clarkson, Morgan Fairchild, Raquel Welch. Richard, I told you I couldn't stop! [Laughs]

What makes a Mike Ruiz portrait different is...
My imagery is a reflection of the entirety of me. My art evokes a sense of hopefulness, which emanates from my underlying sense of optimism.

What challenges that lie ahead excite you?

You know what, Richard, I haven't the faintest idea, which excites me in and of itself.

What's your mindset around joining the 'Look Who's 50' club?
Wait, it's still six months until I turn 50 for me! [Laughs] I can't truly say without being presumptuous whether I'm now a veteran at this thing called life, nor can I say that I'm necessarily scared by the proposition of aging. If my life experiences so far are any indication of what's to come, I eagerly await with child-like wonder to see how the rest of my life unfolds.

Your tombstone will say...
"Guess." No, really -- that's what it will say. [Laughs]

Is this the best moment in your life?
Yes. As I was alluding to earlier, this is but the apogee of many best moments in my life. Being part of the photography industry, I'm lucky to have a bird's-eye view of what is influencing and motivating what I call the newest generation. Young people today are expressing ideals of inclusion, individualism and freedom. I ardently believe that these qualities will win over derision, fear and ignorance. I'm just happy to be alive to see this. Actually, I'm just happy to be alive, period. [Laughs]

See more of Mike Ruiz' photography at

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