Jai Rodriguez: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

As one of the fab five on Queer Eye, Jai Rodriguez always seemed to capture my attention. Sure, he's gorgeous. But, there always seemed to be something more to his role on the show. While all the other guys performed their roles admirably, Jai always seemed to go for making deep, meaningful connections with the people they were helping on the show and most often connecting their personal story to his function, whereas the others were making kitchen klutzes try to bake and down-scale dressers add more pizzazz.

Since the show ended, he's been seen on Nip/Tuck, and this year will show up in two different reality series, America's Prom Queen for ABC Family and Groomer Has It for Animal Planet, which Jai describes on his MySpace as "Project Runway for dog groomers."

Aside from that, Rodriguez has been putting the finishing touches on his debut album, the first single from which "Broken," you can listen to on his MySpace. He also worked the boards as Angel in Broadway's Rent.

I spoke with him quite a while back, as he was on a train this summer headed to his high school reunion, but finally decided to post the damned thing already. Here's what we said way back when I was significantly younger about Queer Eye, breaking into music, Rent, and coming out:

I was surprised when I heard the sample of Wake Up Call on your MySpace, it was quite a rocking track.

Yeah, don't get too used to that. The thing with being a singer in New York is you have to do everything well. You can't just be 'Well, I just sing what I mean'... well, good luck getting a job, you know what I mean?

And you're writing all the songs?

I'm co-writing. I've never written a song before, so I'm just linking arms with the Grammy Award winners. The problem with having any sort of public name and being gay is like if you're going to say you're going to do something that people don't know you from, then you really have to kill it. It has to be ten times better than everyone else's just to even get half the acclaim. Because I started as a singer, and in New York the top people know me... I was the kid from RENT until five years, and it's been four years with Queer Eye, but now I'm the kid from Queer Eye.

So, it's a very weird transition, but I'm going back to the music thing and it's quite an interesting journey because people are always like, 'Oh my God! Like, you're good.' And I'm like , 'Umm, that's how I fed myself before.' That's why they cast me in Queer Eye. They saw me perform and that was the deciding factor, you know? They fired someone to put me in the show. It wasn't like I was an original hire or a part of the Dream Team from the beginning.

I think you're the third Angel that's appeared in Oasis now.

You had the original Wilson and Jose?

No, it was Wilson Cruz and Robin De Jesus.

Oh, Robin! I just saw him last night, actually, at a party here in New York.

To me that's sort of as good as it gets... if you got to play Angel on Broadway, you can die happy.

That's so funny. I was talking to him last night and the guy who's playing Angel right now, and he was away for a while, so he has a full beard and everything. I was like, hope you enjoyed it while you can. Those beards don't last long when you play Angel.

Yeah, I was trying to get out there and see Anthony and Adam do it again, but it doesn't look like that's going to work.

Yeah, and what's her face is in it, too, now... from American Idol? Tamara Gray! She's in the show right now, too. I was staying at my girlfriend Karmine Alers's house. She played Mimi for a long time and now she's swinging again.

And what's the status of Queer Eye?

Queer Eye's in its last season, and we didn't have any... because there was no supply and demand with Queer Eye. It was constant availability so Queer Eye was always on the shelf. You could turn on Bravo and pretty much watch Queer Eye all day long every day of the week. So, what they did for the last season was create the Sex in the City/Sopranos thing, which is take it off the air for a year and then, when it comes back, make a big deal about this groundbreaking show that put Bravo on the map, and have the show come back and have the proper goodbye it deserves.