Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why I Made Myself "The Vogue Boy"

I knew the whole time I was vogue-ing in Hampton Beach that I was nowhere near as impressive as a trio of teen girls who’d already pulled off an amazing recreation at the same venue. A crowd formed while I was performing, and that’s when I really got going: I needed the audience. I graciously accepted their applause, but I knew that it was those teenage girls deserved the real applause—and they still do.
I ignored friends’ pleas for years to post my “Vogue” video to the internet because, as the little boy in that video, I dreamed of it being one day pulled out to embarrass me on a talk show after I’d become a big movie star. Incidentally, then or now, I would have had to feign such embarrassment.

Showing the “Vogue” video became a pastime when hanging out with my friends in college. I enjoyed playing it for groups, for I knew who would be amused by it: people who never knew I had THAT in me. In March 2010, I tried to upload it to YouTube to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Vogue”, but for copyright reasons I was unable to. I put it on Facebook, and friends told me to give Vimeo a shot.
I promised to do so in Summer 2011, twenty years after the performance. I planned to upload the video on July 10th, exactly five years after I scored a single ticket to Madonna’s “The Confessions Tour” in Boston and found myself in the first row at the end of the catwalk. The most artistically satisfying experience of my life, it is worthy of a separate entry. But when I learned of Madonna’s upcoming film “W.E.” premiering at the Venice Film Festival, I put a new plan into motion. 

I wanted the video to snowball into enough of a viral success that a reporter might show it to Madonna on an iPhone while she worked the red carpet, and I pictured someone sending me a funny YouTube clip of such a moment. I uploaded it on June 7th and sent the link out on June 9th, one year after I saw Diana Ross live in concert for my first time ever, at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. It’s another perfect tonight worthy of a separate entry, but since Diana Ross and The Supremes had been such a reigning influence on that nine year old, it seemed thoroughly appropriate.   

I knew the June 9th upload would coincide with Pride Weekend in many cities, including Boston and LA. I thought this might help it get viewed amongst groups of friends celebrating, but the reaction I expected was NOT the reaction I got. I predicted it would be viewed purely as comedy, for everyone who knew me always got a big kick out of seeing how committed I was to impressing Madonna. I did NOT expect people to tell me that they were inspired, that it brought them back to childhood, or that my performance exemplified a child being raised in a household of love, acceptance, and support. When such words were written to me in the form of comments, messages, and wall posts, I looked at the video differently: it took on a life all its own.


I’m so grateful that the individuals who choose to contact me through Vimeo and Facebook are not only doing so, but doing it in a way that is public to my family members, all of whom are following these comments and are as emotionally moved as I am. It has received well over 800 comments on my Vimeo page alone, and only ONE was negative—I felt sad for the person who wrote it, whose confused reaction to the imagery of self-expression clearly spoke to his own personal struggles. If he ever reads this, I wish him well and send love and hope his way.


  1. Amazing how a simple act of a child can mean so much to so many.

  2. A wonderful read :)
    It was truly an awesome video in the way that as children we have no sense of worry generally towards what people/society think of us and we only develop this as we grow much older. More towards the teenage years. I love your pure energy and enthusiasm and how you were not typical but rather someone whom revealed who he was and what he truly loved at such a young age. So vibrant. SO many people loved watching you and your video now stands for so many people as an example of being who we wanna be and not worrying about the views and opinions of the negative folks, but more being supported by the people who are positively affected!

  3. the fact that you had supportive parents who stood by you speaks volumes about them and the way you have been brought up. you are a fine young man, and i applaud you!

  4. What I loved about your video was how unbridled you were! You were just determined to do right by Madonna! You were so passionate about the music and dance. My favorite parts of your video: 1. The part where you get on the ground and passionately do the leg kick! and 2: The butt shake!

    Your video is hilarious but more than that it shows the innocent passion and heart of a nine year old boy who feels free to express himself! I'm so glad that the video has gone viral!

  5. Now Rob - that's what I'm talking about !!! Glad you are putting the blog up as many more will get to see what became of that little kid who " struck a pose !" so early on on life !!! Love it !!!! X

  6. And so it grows..
    Congratulations and good luck with you new blog Robert !!!

    Michael Pace

  7. oh man, I only just found your vogueing video and it cracked me up, I used to try to learn that routine at 10, too, and I'm guessing it looked just as hilarious. but hey, my mum loved it ;) it must have taken some courage to upload it, good thing you did!

  8. WOW! I'm sorry it took me close to a year to get to reply to all of your beautiful comments!! I'm so thankful to you all not only for writing them but for my good fortune to read them all at once: what a massive burst of positivity that you have all given to me. Thank you all so much for sharing these thoughts with me, as without the reactions people have written online I would NEVER have realized how much the performance that I gave 21 years ago would go on to mean to people. It's truly breathtaking, and a lesson that I am so blessed to learn thanks to all of you. My gratitude and my very best to you, Miro, Mike, David, Jamie, Rozz, Aimee, and Willbesurfing!!! :) xo

    PS. I hope you'll enjoy my other video, going online June 19th: here's a preview! ;)