(This story was published in 2003).
Article appeared originally in April 2003 issue of Genre magazine
It wasn’t so long ago that Ryan Allen Carrillo was a Bible-carrying, roller-skating, good Jehovah’s Witness boy living with his parents. His life revolved around school, church and roller-skating practice. He was one of the best young roller-skaters in the country, able to twirl girls on his outstretched arms and perform precise tricks like a figure skater.
In 1990, Rollerblades arrived on the scene, the sport of inline skating was born and, with that, Ryan’s personal scene began to change. Several years later, at 21, he ditched the Bible, shelved the roller-skates, moved out of his parents’ house and started living life.
While roller-skating was the safe world where parents could send their kids to learn the rewards of hard work and discipline, inline-skating became the club where boys found an outlet for their young rebellion. For Ryan, the inline skating brought him into close contact with drugs, dance clubs, and his growing sexual feelings for other men. It took only six months after coming out to grow tired of the drugs, though his exploration of his newfound sexuality continued.
For those six months of initial exploration, Ryan temporarily abandoned inline skating. After that, he came back determined, becoming a three time Southwest Regional Champion, World Team Member ranked 8th, U.S. National Champion and U.S. Silver Medalist. He has appeared in a number of movies and music videos. He was a featured entertainer at the Super Bowl this past January. He even gave Gwen Stefani a personal skating lesson just a couple hours before a performance of hers a couple years ago.
Carrillo is one of the very few openly gay professional athletes in the world. He has even taken it a step further than Billy Bean or Dave Kopay ever did – he is openly gay while still competing; and many of his fellow skaters don’t like it. On several occasions, Ryan has come close to a fistfight with another skater after hearing nasty remarks aimed Ryan’s way.
“Most of the guys are really homophobic,” Ryan says. “I intimidate some of them because I am not shy about my sexuality and I am completely confident.”
Fist fights? Nasty remarks? What else would you expect from a world where, as Ryan says, you have to be a little crazy to participate. Throwing yourself into the air and upside down at high speeds, jumping off metal rails onto concrete, driving yourself to near exhaustion for four hours of nonstop skating then buying some beer and getting smashed with your fellow skaters, tearing apart hotel rooms, running around naked, blasting loud music to the tune of complaints from people in nearby rooms, staying up to the wee hours of the morning only to get up the next morning to practice again.
“It’s like living Jackass 24 hours-a-day,” Carrillo says.
To be sure, he has felt the brunt of homophobia in his competitions.
At an event in Fresno, Calif., a couple years ago, Ryan skated an exceptional performance. He was also noticeably gay, with an entourage of several very attractive men in tight clothes carrying his bags. In that competition, four of the five judges scored him first or second. The fifth judge scored him eleventh.
“I wanted to kill the judge,” Ryan says. “I have no tolerance for ignorant people. Most people kiss up to the judges no matter what. I wanted to track him down and tell him a few things. I guess I am a little crazy too.”
Soon after the competition in Fresno, Ryan decided to stop competing and focused on doing professional shows full-time. He went to the Far East, many trips to Orlando, Las Vegas and, ultimately, Branson, Missouri, where he was featured at the Osmond Family Theatre skating for Tony Orlando and the Osmond Brothers. In the entertainment world post-September 11, 2001, that was the best that was available.
In the middle of his run of performances in Branson, Ryan got word that New Line Cinema was casting for a roller-skating scene in their upcoming Austin Powers installment,Goldmember. Anxious to get out of Branson, he jetted to the club Arena in Hollywood where they were casting. Despite showing up late to the audition, Ryan was immediately singled out and got the gig.
Eighteen months later, Ryan is keeping busy with shows from coast-to-coast, trying to build a future for himself beyond his own skating.
“Hopefully I will be able to do some skating for the next 10 years. I want to have my own show. Sort of a ‘Cirque du Soleil’ show on skates. Maybe do a little teaching.”
He presently has no plans to become a Jehovah’s Witness again.