Richie Ruperto was a teen when a guest appearance on the Tyra Banks Show in 2008 for a segment on anti-LGBTQ bullying afforded him the opportunity of meeting voguing legend Benny Ninja (coach on America’s Next Top Model). Shortly thereafter, the openly gay teen of Puerto Rican and Italian decent entered the world of hip hop music as Loco Ninja. Now 24 years old, Loco — as he is known by friends and fans — has not only secured a faithfull following of fans, he has also collaborated with such artists as Lumidee and America’s Next Top Model All-Star winner Lisa D’amato. He spoke with xQsí Magazine about his experiences being one of the few openly gay Latino rap artists
XQSÍ: What was it like growing up in East Harlem?
LOCO NINJA: Growing up for me was a nightmare in a way, always felt like someone was out to get me even when they weren’t because I was use to random strangers or students picking on me. But I turned my life around by taking control of myself and how I took on the world. It’s a much better situation now.
XQSÍ: In other interviews, you have described yourself as “obviously gay.” How was being visibly queer received in your community?
LN: Me being gay was never accepted growing up in the Washington Projects located in Spanish Harlem. It was a struggle trying to find my place in my neighborhood and sometimes even at home. My step dad was so masculine and hard on me so I sometimes felt I was cornered everywhere i went. Then i would walk out my apartment building and get called “Faggot, homo, etc”.
XQSÍ: How was coming out to your family?
LN: I first came out to my mom. I was so uncomfortable but I was sort of in a situation where I had to yell it at her when she called me in her room to ask about my lesbian cousin and what she was seeing going on in my cousin’s life, and it turned into my problem which ended with me yelling at her and saying I was [gay] as well and she threw me out her room. She never stopped loving me for a second though. she just needed a moment. She then called me back to talk and comfort me. My whole family is accepting of my lifestyle and its an amazing feeling. I am so blessed.
My family instantly accepted me because they always knew about my sexuality. They felt I was but no one really talked about it till after I came out at the age of 14. They would joke with me about it and say how i wanted to play with barbies more then hot wheels.