It is unnecessary to say that Mark MacKillop is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous even when he is dressed. You enter a room in his company, and all the eyes in the place turn to him — at least, that was my experience as we were walking to our table in the Lobby Lounge on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. Extremely polite, outspoken and beauty aside, he is just very pleasant to be around.
“It was last year during summer when everything started in Monte Carlo,” MacKillop recalled. “I looked outside the window, and it was breathtaking! I was alone, and I wanted to be part of that view … so it was kinda organic how one thing led to another.”
This “another” thing MacKillop is referring to is his coffee-table book “Rm. XIV,” aka Room Fourteen, a collection of artistic underwear selfies taken with his iPhone using a self-timer app while he was on tour with a 30-piece orchestra and 30 other cast members from “West Side Story.”
Cast as Riff, he traveled all around Europe and had one stop in Tel Aviv on tour with the production. MacKillop started posting his photos on his Instagram account and just like sliced bread, his hotel-room series became hugely popular. “My followers went up from 800 to over 20,000 — it was really intense,” he told TheBlot Magazine about how he initially felt over the reactions to his posts. Little did he know that his artistic vision and bravery would lead him to publish a book and have an exhibit at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York last month.
MacKillop is a 28-year old dancer and model from Canada. He studied ballet in Vancouver, B.C., with Li Yaming of Pacific Dance Arts and spent summers training with the Boston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre in New York, both on full scholarship. In the city, he was represented by Major Model Management. He was very disciplined; over the course of one year, MacKillop never missed any of the 288 performances of his European tour. Such long downtime hours between shows for sure was reason enough to occupy his time, because that’s what truly creative people do — they don’t stop creating.
“Not everybody understood what I was doing, and at times I got a negative vibe,” he replied when I asked how his cast members felt about his photographs. “But at the same time, it was a self-healing phase because those moments taught me a lot about me and how I want to continue to live my life.”
Thankfully for us, he followed his instincts. “Rm. XIV” has an introduction by Tony Award-winning Broadway star Billy Porter and a and foreword by renowned New York artist Robert W. Richards, who is also a board member at the Leslie-Lohman Museum. Clearly, one doesn’t need to listen to others when receiving such solid validations.
In June, MacKillop performed at the 2014 installment of “Broadway Bares,” which turned out to be another transforming experience. “I was so well welcomed by them — they treated me so amazingly that I felt that I also needed to do something in return,” he said, explaining the reason why a portion of the proceeds from “Rm. XIV” is going to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.
Indeed a generous gesture from someone who has found new meanings in his journeys. “I think the best lesson I learned from this whole process is that being happy is a choice. You can choose to sit around and be miserable, or you can create your own happiness. That’s what this series was for me — finding a way to make me happy and connect with friends I felt so far from back home,” MacKillop said.
MacKillop hopes that, in the future, he will work on Broadway and TV and in film … all I can say to him is give it to the universe, and history will repeat itself!