Last week I posted part I of my interview with Ronnie Kroell, the openly gay runner-up from the first season of Make Me a Supermodel on Bravo. This week, Ronnie is joined by his mom, Charlene Sonenberg:
On Charlene’s appearance on Make Me a Supermodel:
Charlene – Well most of the other contestants had their significant others come. I was the only mom, so it was a little different for me but I was very excited because Ronnie had been on the show the entire time and I did not get to speak to him. And if I did, it was through mediators. It was a very emotional time because I’m not used to being that disconnected with Ron. It was a lot to take in all at once…meeting the other models and being in the environment that they had to deal with where you have a camera in your face almost 24/7. I have to say I was amazed at how they handled that because I don’t know if I could. I was constantly aware of what I was trying to say and concerned about what I would say.
On his relationship with his mom:
Ronnie – I’m definitely a mama’s boy and she knows that. I think anyone that knows us realizes that we have a very close relationship. Every family goes through a lot of difficult challenges as they grow together and you know, my parents divorced when I was six-years-old. It was a challenging time and my mom and I lived together for quite a number of years by ourselves so it gave us a lot of bonding time to really get to know one another and support one another. Mom was always there during some of the more difficult times even when my dad couldn’t. She broke a nail teaching me how to play basketball; she was the assistant Weblo Scout Master of my scouting troop; she was never one of those people who would back down from any opportunity to really be involved in my life and she always sacrificed to give me opportunities that she never had. She’s my mom but she’s also a real close friend.
On coming out:
Ronnie – It’s probably been about 11 years now since I’ve been out. I laugh all the time because I actually never really got a chance to come out. I never got to sit down and say “Hey mom, I think I might be gay.” She caught me making out with my first boyfriend, haha!
Charlene – I caught him! Oh, it was one of those situations where Ronnie was going through a period and, you know, he’d have these friends that I didn’t know. Things were kind of strange and I came home one night and lights were on in another room and I went in his room and he wasn’t there and I’m like, “Where is he?” The back door’s open and its like two or three in the morning so I start to panic, not knowing where my son is. So of course I went into the backyard and they were out behind the garage and I came upon them. To be honest, I can’t say it was all roses. It probably just confirmed what I had been trying to deny. Most people say they don’t have a problem with gay people but there’s some hypocrisy in that because what they really mean is “as long as it’s not in my family.” So when it first came about it was a tough few days for us because of my fears, knowing of the prejudices that were out there. But he’s my son and he’s a good, kind person and really, what more could you ask for? I still worry about him…I’m a mom so you’re never going to change that aspect, but we are very close.
Ronnie – Mom has come around since I came out 180 degrees. It’s taken time, but I don’t feel it would be any different if it had been a different issue. I think what mom’s done really well is be able to see that I’m an individual and appreciate that diversity and support me on my crazy adventures. But I was lucky; as heated as some arguments may have gotten I never had to worry if I would have a place to stay or a mom who loved me. There was always love.
Charlene – There are some incredible family organizations out there that I never took advantage of but that would really help anyone who is having a really tough time and can’t move past it. It’s an emotional roller coaster for a lot of parents and some people don’t handle it very well and could use that guidance. I was very fortunate. I reconnected with a long lost friend and found out her son was also gay. This was a friend that I hadn’t seen in 30 years so finding someone who could relate helped a lot. As a mom, my concern is Ronnie’s safety and happiness. As long as his life is going the way he wants it to be, then that’s all that matters.
Ronnie won a fair share of gay fans after appearing on Supermodel. After finding out he also comes with an amazing mom, he should probably brace himself for quite a few more.
If you or your child are struggling with coming, please visit PFLAG for some helpful resources.