We Tracked Down VOGUE BOY and Interviewed Him
We posted a video to thank our fans for helping us reach 40,000 followers on our Facebook fan page not thinking anything more than just sending out a thanks. We picked an excerpt of the well-known VOGUE BOY video that has been doing the rounds since 2011 on the interwebs, because, well, we were feeling quite fabulous. Little did we know, that 3 days later, we would rack up 2.8 millions views (and counting). People kept on asking us who the boy was, and where he's at now so we tracked him down to ask him a couple of questions, and he was more than glad to give us the low-down:
When did you film yourself dancing to VOGUE by Madonna? What year was it? Did you usually film yourself dancing on a regular basis back then? Who did you film it for? Youtube wasn't a thing yet.
I filmed the video in May 1991 in front of a blue screen in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, a beach community with a famous boulevard packed with tourist attractions. One Sunday afternoon on a day trip there with my family, I got to film a music video at “Star Tracks”, a business that allowed tourists the chance to mime to their favorite songs before a variety of backdrops. In my case, I was making up for very belatedly becoming a huge Madonna fan by putting my all into a performance that I honestly always thought I would enjoy looking back on. I was never very well coordinated and I always lacked rhythm, so I wasn’t really a dancer per se. But I wanted to be a performer, and I didn’t really think in terms of gender roles, and there was no living performer who could excite and inspire me to the extent that Madonna could. And, incidentally, that is still the case.
What was your initial reaction when the video went viral on Youtube/Vimeo for the first time?
When I first uploaded the video, it was partly for the 20th anniversary of Madonna’s Truth or Dare, which was released the same month that I filmed that video, and also to hype the upcoming Venice film Festival premiere of Madonna’s then-upcoming film W.E. The experience of it going viral was immediate and truly amazing, but even more incredible, by far, were the comments that people were leaving on the Vimeo page. The video is a piece of my childhood, but like all home movies, I assumed that its value outside of my family would be purely comical. But a startling number of people who commented were not referencing its laugh value. They viewed it as an affront to kids being pressured into changing themselves or being bullied for not changing themselves or committing suicide rather than live in a world that they feel will never accept them. I was neither as brave as the comments suggested nor as flamboyant, offscreen, as the performance might imply. But I had a sense of security and self-respect that can be attributed 100% to my Mom and Dad. A recurring theme in the comments, which still resonates the most with me, was that I probably came from a very loving and supportive household. No one could know whether I had parents, or how many, but most of the people commenting theorized that I was raised by people who loved me enough to only ever encourage me to be myself, through and through, no matter what. To be the recipient of such kindness and warmth and love from people all over the world when that video went viral, all those years later, was blissfully surreal. But knowing that my mother and father were reading the comments was the best part of my experience. Even when I was nine, I knew just how blessed I was to have such incredible parents. But the older I get, and after the unexpected and devastating passing of my father this year, I appreciate all the more just how much I lucked out when it comes to my Mom and Dad.
Did Madonna's team ever reach out to you regarding the video?
A friend and fellow fan got in touch with Madonna’s team in 2012, when The MDNA World Tour included a Golden Triangle that fans were competing to get into. My friend emailed the tour staff members in charge of Golden Triangle access to let them know I would be attending her Boston show, and I subsequently received an email from her team letting me know that I would have a pair of Golden Triangle passes waiting for me at the show. It was an incredible experience, and I was close enough to Madonna from that vantage point to make eye contact quite a few times, though I cannot imagine she knew who I was. But based on the incredibly generous response from her staff, I gather that the video was well-received by Madonna’s staff, and presumably Madonna herself, and my inner nine year old could not be more proud!
You are so confident in your video. A lot of young kids wouldn't necessarily have the same guts you did back then. What would you tell kids who are shy of expressing themselves so freely?
In spite of the impression given by the video, the truth is that I was and am an extremely shy person. In the years since filming this video, I have been formally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and like many fellow Aspies, I spent years covering up my less palatable “real personality” by playing a (very different) role. In fact, if you look in my eyes as you watch the video, you can see just how intense I am about staying in character from beginning to end. At that age, I often felt shy and awkward and insecure, yet most people remember me as having been friendly and outgoing because I worked hard to seem that way. Somehow, pulling that off came much easier to me as a child. And if I was in front of the camera or on the stage, I could do anything. Ultimately, what I would tell kids battling with social anxiety is that sometimes the best defense is to simply be a star.
Your video got 2.5 million views when we posted it on our fan page. Was it a surprise for you to see it resurface in 2015?
Profoundly enough, the day after the video excerpt was uploaded to the IX Daily Facebook page happened to be the six month anniversary of my father’s passing. It was very surreal to see “Vogue Boy” all over Facebook again, and the reason why is because there had been no one on Earth more proud of my performance in that video than my late father. Not only were he and my mother there when I performed, beaming throughout, but he was subsequently apt to share the video with everyone, from family members to co-workers to all of my grade school teachers. When the video was revived as a viral hit in 2011, he was the most thrilled member of my family. And when I was interviewed in 2014 for the upcoming documentary Mad For Madonna, he was as proud of me as he had been that day at Hampton Beach. And so my main reaction to this video achieving unprecedented virality six months after his passing is that, somewhere in the Universe, my Dad is still my most enthusiastic champion. And my gratitude for that is truly boundless.
Have you filmed any more recent videos since ?
Since this video was filmed, I have segued from performing to writing as my means of expression, and following the initial popularity of “Vogue Boy” in 2011, I began writing a blog. What started as a blog turned into a completed pseudo-autobiography, The Confessions of de Vries, which can be read at robertjeffrey.blogspot.com. I will soon be making my film debut in Matteo Maccarinelli’s Mad For Madonna, a documentary profiling Madonna’s most passionate fans around the globe. But other than that, I am afraid that my music video days are over! I will always be thankful beyond words for that incredible day in Hampton Beach, for the existence of that videotape, and for the beautiful reactions from people that I will neither forget nor take for granted. But after 24 years and several million viewers, it is still first and foremost a memory from my childhood, a day that I am so grateful to have shared with my sister, Jennifer, and our extraordinary parents. Jen and I are so grateful to our Mom and Dad for an incredibly happy childhood, and I hope some of that happiness is shared with the world through the immortality of this video.
“The Confessions of de Vries”: http://robertjeffrey.blogspot.com/